Guest Post: “Self-Publishing: How I Came Full Circle” by Elana A. Mugdan

Author Elana A. Mugdan picture.jpgMeet Elana A. Mugdan.

Elana A. Mugdan is an author and semi-retired filmmaker based in New York City. She has received many accolades in the film industry, including a number of awards for her feature film Director’s Cut, which she wrote, directed, and produced by herself. Currently she is working with a production company in California which has optioned her newest screenplay, a sci-fi action triller called Paradox.

In 2016, Elana’s debut novel, Dragon Speaker, was published in the U.K. Dragon Speaker has enjoyed critical acclaim, and is the first in a 5-book Young Adult epic fantasy series entitled The Shadow War Saga. The second installment, Dragon Child, will be published worldwide in May of 2019. She is currently doing her final round of revisions on book three, Dragon Blood, which has a projected release date of March 2020.

An avid reader, Elana is a lifelong fan of fantasy stories – particularly ones which revolve around dragons. She is described by her friends and family as “the weirdest person I know”, and wears that weirdness proudly on her sleeve. Some of her favorite authors include J.R.R. Tolkein, Peter S. Beagle, and Robert Jordan.

Elana currently resides in New York, living a quiet but eccentric life with her adopted pet snake, Medusa.


Dragon Speaker Cover - Web.png

The Guest Post.

Self-Publishing: How I Came Full Circle

Back in 2015, when I had just put the final-FINAL-really-final-for-real touches on my manuscript, I decided I would go the self-publishing route. I’d spent a couple years in the query trenches and I hadn’t gotten any good bites. The few nibbles I had gotten hadn’t panned out, and I was tired of waiting. Self-publishing, I reasoned, would ensure that my book would get out into the world and be found by readers near and far.

This was a terrible idea for a whole host of reasons, the main two being that (a) I am not good at marketing, and (b) I am not good at socializing. But hey, I had a Facebook account and that should be enough! Surely the book would sell itself, right? All I’d have to do would be to throw up a link to the thing on Amazon and people would flock to it.

Oh, how naïve 2015-me was.

Fortunately, I was saved from the agony of self-publishing just in the nick of time. Shortly after I came up with my brilliantly bad idea, I linked up with a small press publisher based in the U.K. He loved my book, and in 2016, he published my debut novel, Dragon Speaker, Book I of The Shadow War Saga. My publisher and I worked closely together for the next two years, organizing reading events across England, recording an audiobook, and preparing for the release of the remaining books in the series.

But alas, the best laid plans of mice and men will often go awry. Despite my publisher’s best efforts, he wasn’t able to bring the book out in America (he only had the rights to publish in the U.K.), and we also failed to achieve a release of the second book in the series. 2018 was fraught with roadblocks and disappointments, and I learned a series of hard life lessons.

But not all was lost. I remembered that I’d once thought it a good idea to self-publish, and I decided to revisit that concept. I’d learned a lot over the two years I’d spent in the world of traditional publishing. More importantly, I’d gotten an inside look into the world of marketing, and I now had a much better understanding of how to make that process work for me . . . and how much work I’d actually have to put in if I wanted to see tangible results.

Thus, I began my research. A big step forward was attending the annual Writer’s Digest conference, last year hosted in my hometown of New York City. There I connected with IngramSpark – a printing company only slightly more expensive than Amazon’s CreateSpace, which offers comparable quality and is infinitely better to deal with. Through IngramSpark, I self-published Dragon Speaker in America and worldwide last October. Finally, my book was available to all audiences!

Also during the Writer’s Digest conference, I linked up with a company called DartFrog, which is a purveyor of “outstanding independent books and talent”. Since they were also experts in marketing, and marketing was my major weakness, I figured it would be a good idea to work with them. Through them I was able to gain additional exposure for my book and my brand. Not only that, DartFrog helped place Dragon Speaker in 50 brick-and-mortar independent bookstores nationwide.

I have now gotten in touch with many of those stores, and have been cultivating my relationships with them – something that has been difficult, but very rewarding, and undeniably invaluable to my progress. I’m pleased to report that I single-handedly organized a book tour spanning from January to May. I’ll be stopping at The Next Chapter Books & Novelties (El Dorado, KS), The Book Rack (Cincinnati, OH), A Freethinker’s Corner (Dover, NH), and Cupboard Maker Books (Enola, PA), which are just a few of the DartFrog stores currently stocking Dragon Speaker.

On the surface, it seems like things are going swimmingly. Compared to last year, they are. But I know the road is long and the war will be bloody. This is a marathon, not a sprint. I will need to market (shudder) and communicate with people (oh, the horror!) if I want to continue gaining momentum. And while self-publishing has certainly had its downsides, it has its perks, too. The best thing about self-publishing is that you are your own boss. Your fate is entirely in your own hands. You’re on no one’s schedule but your own, and that gives you the most wonderful sense of freedom. It creates a lot of anxiety and stress, too, but personally I think the trade-off is worth it.

You must be prepared to work harder that you ever have before. Your success – or failure – is riding on  it, after all. But if you go into the process knowing that, then you stand a fighting chance. 2015-me was not prepared to make this journey, and she would never have survived it. I’m not sure present-day-me is adequately equipped for the cutthroat world of marketing, but she’s doing a damn fine job pretending she is.

Despite the anxiety, the sleepless nights, and the crash course in marketing that I never wanted, I’ve ultimately enjoyed this process. I’ve learned many useful skills along the way – by necessity rather than choice – but I believe the hard work has made me stronger. While it’s still difficult to tell if any of my efforts have improved visibility for the book, I can say without hesitation that they have improved me as a person. I am older, stronger, a little wiser, a lot tired-er, but unarguably better.

And that has made it all worthwhile.


Thank you Elana for sharing your journey with us!

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