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E-book authors Lorinda and Guy Donovan recently wrote and published their first e-books.

Northwood couple self-publish their first novels

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News Dickinson,North Dakota 58602 http://www.thedickinsonpress.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/fieldimages/32/1024/0922-selfpublish-copy.jpg?itok=vRizVVtI
The Dickinson Press
Northwood couple self-publish their first novels
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

NORTHWOOD -- Self-publishing an e-book wasn't at the top of Lorinda and Guy Donovan's bucket lists. In fact, writing a book wasn't on their list at all. But when they quit their jobs in the film industry and moved from Los Angeles to Northwood for Guy's new job with the federal government, the Donovans longed to do something creative again.

"If you are an artist, and you go a really long time without doing anything creative, it kind of drives you insane," Lorinda said.

"We decided the best thing we could do to still be creative but still stay where we were was to start writing again."

For several years, they worked on separate novels. Both in their 40s, the Donovans felt they didn't have the time or patience to wait for responses from book agents and publishers, so they took the future of their writing into their own hands with self-publishing. Now, husband and wife are both self-published e-book authors.

Developing their stories

Lorinda's book, "Children of Earth," is a science-fiction adventure that explores the age-old question, "Are we alone?"

After Pluto was demoted as a planet, Lorinda said she became interested in the topic and wondered, "If Pluto isn't a planet, what is it?" She decided to use NASA's New Horizons probe, which will arrive at Pluto in 2015, as the basis for her novel. Her story is about the mission and what happens after they arrive.

The idea for Guy's novel actually came from a spec script Lorinda had written for a Barbie direct-to-DVD movie.

"I had written the pretty standard, fairytale Barbie story with a dragon and a princess, and Guy took the idea and ran with it," she said. She added that the similarities end with the dragon and the princess.

Guy said it started as Lorinda's 97-page script and turned into a 1,500-page trilogy titled "The Dragon's Treasure."

'Disappointing'

The couple self-published their novels but said that wasn't their first option.

"We always kind of figured we were going to have to do it," Lorinda said.

Guy added, "Like everyone else, though, you try for the golden ring. Everyone wants to be the next Stephen King."

The couple sent a maximum of 10 query letters each to book agents and publishers. When they didn't receive a response, they decided to move forward with self-published e-books.

"It comes from being ignored by agents and publishers," Guy Donovan said. "We gave it a shot; nobody bit; we e-published."

Guy said he was ignored by nine of the 10 publishers and agents he reached out to; the other replied with a simple, "No thanks. Not interested."

"It was disappointing," she said. "How long do you decide to torture yourself with getting rejected by every publisher in the business before you decide to say you know what, my story's good enough that it doesn't really need the approval of a bunch of businesspeople?"

For the Donovans, the answer was "not long."

"(Publishers) try to tell you that you're not a real author if you haven't had 100 rejection letters first, but in our age -- we're both in our 40s -- we just think that's ridiculous," Lorinda said. "You don't have to wait. If you have work that you want to get out there, you can do that."

'Everyone can do it'

The Donovans took the success of their novels into their own hands. After thoroughly editing their work, they created cover art.

For Guy's novel, he took a photograph of his daughter, wearing a Hannah Montana wig, on a hilltop looking over the flat area in the distance. Then, he found a photograph of Wales and used Photoshop to combine the two.

Lorinda had a graphic designer friend help create her book cover.

Once their covers were complete, they logged on to Amazon.com and self-published their books for free. They also uploaded them to Smashwords, a website dedicated to self-published e-books.

Lorinda's book hit Amazon and Smashwords in February; Book One of Guy's series, "The Forgotten Princess Mona," was published in July. Both works are $2.99 on Amazon and Smashwords.

"The best thing about e-publishing is also the worst thing about e-publishing -- everyone can do it," he said. "It's like YouTube. You can upload it, and boom there it is."

When the books are first uploaded to Amazon and Smashwords, Guy said the sites give them a little highlighted area as the newest published book. But 30 seconds later a new book takes its place, and your novel is lost among the thousands of other titles.

"The hardest thing is distinguishing yourself and just letting people know that it's there because there are so many," Lorinda said.

Lorinda has sold 30 to 40 copies of her novel, and Guy has made about 12 sales. They agreed sales are very, very slow, but they are working on marketing their books to receive more reviews and, in turn, make more sales.

The largest sum of money they've spent on their books has gone to Kirkus Reviews, which Guy said is the "Hollywood Reporter" or the "Variety" of the publishing industry.

"They're that kind of respected magazine," he said.

The Donovans took a chance paying $425 and submitting their books to Kirkus for review. Lorinda said paying doesn't guarantee you will get a positive review, or any review for that matter.

"It would be really nerve-racking to pay all that and not get a review," she said.

Fortunately, both books received positive feedback.

"It was really nice to get the reviews back from them because you're not getting validated from anywhere else," she said. "Sometimes, you think to yourself, 'Am I just kidding myself? Am I wasting my time?' ... At least you know that Kirkus thought it was good."

Despite the fact that they haven't made many sales on their books, Lorinda and Guy said they're already working on their next novels.

Their books are available at barnesandnoble.com, smashwords.com and Amazon.com.

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