You can find Michelle online at: her website, her blog, the Literary Lab blog, and the Facebook Fanpage for CINDERS.
Can you give us a quick summary of what CINDERS is about?
CINDERS is Cinderella's story after she gets married. Nothing is turning out like she expected, and she's starting to remember a stranger she fell in love with years earlier. Her fairy godmother is imprisoned in the castle, and she's left on her own to discover true love untainted by magic.
Your other work has been contemporary. What made you decide to write fantasy instead?
My daughter kept watching Disney movies over and over. Cinderella was one of them, and the idea for CINDERS just popped into my head. I originally wrote it as a flash fiction piece (just the first tiny section of the book), but then I kept getting story ideas and finally expanded it into an outline and eventually the novella.
I find it interesting you chose to tell the story of AFTER Cinderella got her prince. Why did you start the story there, instead of earlier? You do use flashbacks to show some of Cinderella's past--why did you feel this was better than starting the story sooner?
MISS AUSTEN REGRETS: "All the interesting stuff happens after the wedding."
In the end, Cinderella's happily ever after isn't that happy. If you could have your readers walk away with only one message or emotion from your story, what would it be?
CINDERS is, in every sense of storytelling terms, a tragedy. I was honestly afraid people would not react well to the story even though it ends on a positive note. However, many tragic stories stay with us longer than happy ones, and that's what I wanted to do with CINDERS. The message of CINDERS is about asking ourselves what love is and what it means to us - how much we will sacrifice to get it, and whether or not that sacrifice is at the very center of love to begin with.
On your blog, you talk about other WIPs that you've worked on. What made you decide that CINDERS was the book you wanted to publish versus your other works?
This is a great question! I've written 4 novels, total, CINDERS being the fourth. I think each novel has taught me some valuable lessons in writing, and by the time I reached CINDERS I felt confident enough to write it just for me. I wrote CINDERS with the specific intent to self-publish it, and that seems to have made all the difference in my writing. Everything about this experience has given me the courage I need to pursue any publishing path.
Did you try for traditional publishing with CINDERS, or did you go straight to self-publishing? Can you take us through your thought-processing on the production of CINDERS?
As I said earlier, I wrote CINDERS specifically to self-publish it. In fact, when I decided to expand from a flash fiction story to a novella, I intended it to be part of a project for the Literary Lab. Scott, Davin, and I are planning on self-publishing a collection of three novellas just for fun. I mean, what else do you do with a novella? Most traditional publishers won't even look at them unless you're already published. Small presses might, but we each thought it would be fun to put the novella ideas we had to some use. However, when I was halfway through CINDERS I realized that I wanted to sell it on its own instead of part of a collection. No worries, though. I have another novella/novelette in progress for the collection.
Would you be willing to talk numbers with us? Numbers of copies printed, number of sales, profit? There is a lot of stigma and misunderstandings associated with self publishing...
Hmmm, numbers. I'm always hesitant to talk numbers in a public setting, but I'll share a little bit here. I initially ordered 100 print copies of the novella, and then realized that would not be enough and ordered 25 more copies. Out of these 125, I've sold most of them either directly through my author site or as presold copies for my release party on the 21st of August.This does not include what I've sold online through Amazon and Smashwords. I've also sent out free copies to reviewers, as well as free copies for giveaways. I read in my research at one point that giving away copies is generally a good idea, and with my marketing strategy it looks like it is working well so far.
CINDERS cost me a bit of money to publish - not through the POD publisher, but on my own terms. The cover cost almost $300 because of the dress and props and the purchased background. I've had bookmarks and business cards, and I've had to cover the cost of all the free copies I've given away. I will have to pay for food at my release party, and shipping alone has cost a fair amount of money for supplies and postage. All in all, though, I have broken even and made a little extra money so far. I expect to keep making sales, especially ebook sales, and even if I don't get rich or sell over a 1,000 copies, I'm still thrilled with the entire process!
Do you ever want to seek traditional publishing, or has this experience made you favor self-publication exclusively? What are your ultimate goals as an author?
I wouldn't trade this experience for anything, even an agent and a publishing contract. Seriously. I wouldn't. I've learned way too much, and it definitely suited this project well. One of the reasons I wanted to self-publish is because many readers of the Literary Lab ask us about self-publishing. As you stated above, there is a huge stigma against self-publishing, and I really wanted to be able to answer reader's questions with actual experience backing me up. In a way, it has been an experiment. I think self-publishing is fantastic for certain projects and certain people. It has its place, as does traditional publishing. There are pros and cons to both, and neither one comes without a lot of work and dedication and talent.
As for my publishing future, I am currently planning on self-publishing two more novellas that go hand-in-hand with CINDERS, but I also plan on publishing some of my novels traditionally , either with an agent and a large publisher or a small press.
One thing that really impressed me with CINDERS was the beautiful cover design, and the matching marketing materials--the same model is used with the trailer and your bookmarks. Could you tell us a little about the production of the cover and these materials?
One of the reasons I feel self-publishing works for me is because I happen to be a photographer as well as a writer. This means I can create my own cover all by myself and have it be as professional as any traditionally published book covers. I strongly believe any self-published author should put some serious effort and/or money into their book cover. It says a lot about how you feel about your work. You can either purchase professional photos from stock sites, hire a photographer and designer, or do the work yourself if you're able.
Melissa Zenandrea-Tice is the model featured on the cover, and she was kind enough to volunteer not only herself, but her talents as a seamstress. She made the dress herself! Yes, I know, amazing. It was a lot of fun to go shopping for the material, watch her make the dress, and do the cover shoot. Every step of the way I kept thinking "WOW, I could never get this any other way besides self-publishing." Being in complete creative control has been thrilling!
When all is said and done, even if CINDERS had only sold 10 copies, I'd still be happy with what I've accomplished. Self-published works usually always remain small in selling numbers, and I think that can be a great thing. I feel much more able to send out queries and manuscripts to publishers and agents. I feel more confident in writing stories without worrying what others will think. If we as writers stay true to ourselves and ideas, amazing things will happen no matter how we decide to get our work out there.