Addicted to Self-Publishing and Chocolate: Guest Post by Steena Holmes

Connecting with fantastic, driven artists is one of my favorite things about being a writer in the digital age. Today I’m thrilled to share my blog-stage with one of its superstars—Steena Holmes. She’s as sweet as chocolate and has some awesome insight to share about the work and decisions that have contributed to her award-winning indie-author career.

Take it away, Steena!


Hello, my name is Steena Holmes and I’m an addict. Not only to chocolate though, but also to self publishing.

I have a confession to make. The moment I met August and discovered her website and blog, I fell in love! Didn’t you? I mean here is this beautiful woman who has such an open heart and she loves chocolate! Hello! Match made in writing heaven! August – you are an absolute darling and thank you for having me on your blog today! (Mutual, darlin’! Thanks for being here. :))

It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year now since I made a decision that changed my life. It was an eye-opening experience for me, something that I never expected, not in a million years. You know that heart pounding, stomach churning, teeth clenching, hand shaking type of feeling you get when your life does a complete 180 without you even realizing it?

That’s what happened to me when I decided to enter the world of self-publishing. For years I had been seeking the right agent, the perfect agent to fall in love with my story. I perfected the query, trampled through writing a synopsis. Joined critique groups and did everything I could to garner the interest of someone who would help me fulfill my dream. Little did I realize that I was looking in the wrong direction. I should have been looking to myself to fulfill that dream, not someone else.

Going indie a year ago took a lot of courage. For me, it was akin to deciding to do a chocolate fast – except with indie publishing, I actually went through with the decision! LOL

Why do I like indie-publishing? Because it means taking control of my dream and being the one responsible for seeing it come true. It means taking what I’ve learned and using that to empower others. It means being able to prove to myself, my family and my friends that yes, I can write and yes, I’m good at it. It means seeing a monthly pay cheque that rivals what I make with my full-time job and actually being able to quit my full-time job so that I can write more! (I made a cake the day I gave my notice … Go figure).

There are so many roads now for those seeking publication. With the rise of self publishing there has been a ‘doom and gloom’ attitude when it comes to traditional publishing. I hope that attitude goes away one day. What I love about this journey we’re all on is that there is no ‘one way’ that will work. We can still go after that traditional publishing dream, we can still work with the awesome e-publishers out there and even self publish while we are at it. There are so many choices and it’s now up to us to decide which choice works best for us individually.

A few months ago I made the decision to take a novel that had garnered quite a few agents’ attention and pulled it so that I could self-publish it. Talk about a hard decision, but one I’m so glad I made. This is a story that is from my heart. Finding Emma – the story of a mother who will do anything to find her kidnapped daughter. I’ve partnered with an agency – The Missing Children’s Society of Canada – and will be donating proceeds from every book sold to this charity. I want to help them reunite families that have been torn apart. I’m excited that I can do so. Finding Emma made the bestsellers list within two weeks of being released and stayed #1 in it’s category for over a month. It has even won the 2012 National Indie Excellence Award for Fiction.

My little success story isn’t the only one out there. If I can do it, anyone can. All you need is the determination, the dedication and the ability to write a story that will reach the hearts of your readers. This is true whether you go the traditional publishing route, the e-publishing road or venture off into the wild unknown path of self-publishing.

Now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear your stories. Where are you on your journey? What path are you taking? Is there a way I can help you see your dreams become reality? Shoot – I’ll even share my chocolate with you. 😉

Isn’t she terrific??? To learn more, visit Steena’s website and follow her on Twitter: @SteenaHolmes. You can also visit her blog today for my (practically) instant whole grain chocolate recipe, and 5 simple ways to eat your cake and stay healthy, too.
Leave a comment


  1. Hi August, Hi Steena,
    Thank you for this interview. Even though I have decided not to go the indie route with my first book, anything could happen in the future and it is nice hearing someone talk very positive about indie publishing. I wish you all the best and most of all, more bestsellers.

    • Thank you Patricia! What I love is that this journey we take as authors – there’s a road suited for everyone and eventually they all meet together 🙂 I wish you all the best on your journey and I know you’ll be successful!

  2. August, where do you find these wonderful writers to interview?? Congratulations on your indie success, Steena! One of the things I’m so grateful for as a writer in the digital age is being able to write the story we want to write. Not having to cater to “the market” is so freeing and I believe makes us better writers. Like you said, you wrote a story “from your heart” which is where the best stories come from.

    Exciting times! Oh, and that brownie picture is just cruel…lol!

    • Sweet of you to say, Shannon! I met Steena through IndiesUnite4Joshua—a campaign helping an indie-author’s family through his son’s battle with leukemia. So touching…

      I love having free range to share whatever stories we wish, however we so choose, too. It’s like the Wild West, without the shoot outs. lol

    • I’d apologize for the brownie image but I can’t 🙂 I keep looking at it and thinking I need to make it – but then … August was so lovely in naming a chocolate cake after me on my blog yesterday that I know I have to make that one first 🙂 I can’t wait!!!

      Writing for our heart – I have 12 stories published but Finding Emma is my first ‘heart’ one – and if anything, I’ve learned a huge lesson here. When I write from my heart – my readers catch it and open their hearts to me more.

      • That cake is so you, Steena! And I’m with you—no regret or guilt over chocolate fervor. 😉 Write from your heart and savor chocolate. Fab advice all around.

  3. Congratulations to you!
    I am in the process of rewriting my first book which may become a series. Did you enter your book into contest for the award?
    I am still on the fence with traditional or self-publishing. If I decide to write a series, then I believe I have to have the whole thing done before sending it out and that may take too long….
    Great interview August!

    • Hey Susie! I can address part of that. You don’t need to finish the series before submitting books to agents or publishers. If you land a contract with the first, you could get an advance to fund your work on the rest.

      Like Steena said, it’s important to do what’s best for you. I knew I wanted to go the traditional route from the get-go, but saw self-publishing as an invaluable alternate. You could always query and pitch to see what the responses are like first. Or if you’re totally pumped about the indie-route (which I bet you’d rock at…), you could head directly there. Choices choices, right? 😉

      • That is such great news! I had heard the opposite. I would like to try traditional first and see what I am offered…(being positive) Then I can always go the indie route.
        It is still evolving, but that is a very good thing…:)

      • Evolving is definitely great. 🙂 If you need any pointers once you start agent-seeking, let me know. I learned a lot from the process last year.

      • Hi Susie! Yes – I submitted at the very last minute – I believe my book got there the day the contest closed…and I’m so glad that I did 😉

        August is awesome and has some great advice for you! And being on the fence is a good thing … there are so many out there who are only one side or the other and it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s a personal decision that can change as the market changes. We tend to focus so much on the ‘choices’ and forget to see the end picture – which is making our dreams come true by being published … which ever way that happens!

  4. What a great story, but for some reason it left me craving CHOCOLATE for breakfast!
    Thanks! Z

  5. Thanks for bringing us such a great indie author! I’ve decided to go indie after my debut with MuseItUp, not because of a bad experience with them (they’ve been great!) but because of many of the reasons Steena listed.

    I have to ask – what did you find worked best for getting the word out about your book? Marketing and the business end (taxes, etc) are the main things I’m worried about in embarking out on my own.

    Adding your book to my to-read list as well!

    • Congrat’s Stacy on your debut with MuseItUp! I have a friend who is with them as well and speaks highly of them 😉

      Goodreads has been a phenomenal venue for getting word out about Finding Emma when it was first released. I’m at the end of a blog tour where we had a Scavenger Hunt theme and that seemed to work as well – I used Pinterest (thanks to August’s post on that!!) to help with it. I created a Facebook fan page that has kind of rocked my word – I never thought to have one before but the people I’m meeting and the readers … I love it! But I think the best thing I’ve done is add a little blurb at the back of all my stories about reviews. If the reader enjoyed the story and wanted to leave a review and let me know, then I would add them to my mailing list and they would get my next release for free as a ‘thank you’.

      I hope you enjoy it!

      • Thanks! I’ve had a good experience with MuseItUp, and I’m glad your friend has as well. I’m going to have to browse your website and learn more about this blog tour – sounds like a great idea. And Pinterest is definitely becoming a great tour for writers. Interesting about the FB fan page – I can never tell if mine is really worth it or not. Now, that’s a great idea about the reviews at the back of the story. Genius!

  6. Raani York

     /  June 28, 2012

    This is an extraordinary blog post – and so familiar!!! Steena is apparently a hard working person reaching her goals, once they’re set. – And she’s encouraging others to follow the same path which I think is great!
    Thanks for re-blogging this August!!

    • It’s actually a guest post—Steena wrote this specifically for us! (How lucky are we, right? :)) So glad it resonated with you, Raani. She’s an inspiration, no doubt.

    • Hi Raani! I’m a tad bit vocal about self publishing so you might have read a post similar where I can’t say enough about this journey…I’m a strong believer that if I want to be successful I need to help others first 😉

  7. Steena, thank you for giving us an insight into your decision process. Hooray for both trad and indie, but if control is important to an author, indie is the way to go. Congrats on the success of “Finding Emma”!
    Thanks for having Steena over, August.

  8. Such an incredible and empowering story of inspiration Steena. Amen to you and thank you for sharing…I’m feeling all pumped up on possibilities now. Here’s to your continued uber success…MUAH!

  9. Elena Aitken

     /  June 28, 2012

    Great post, ladies!
    Steena, you deserve every bit of your success and you truly are a shining example of how it’s possible to make a living as a writer in today’s market. You’re living your dream, girl! Celebrate. 🙂

    • Thanks Elena. Although – here’s some honesty – you have been a HUGE inspiration to me in this journey and I’m just trying to follow in you wake 🙂

  10. Thank you for posting this – very inspiring! Steena, congrats on the success of your novel!

  11. Kourtney Heintz

     /  June 28, 2012

    August thanks for introducing us to Patricia! Patricia could you share what was it that gave you the final nudge into indie publishing?

  12. Kourtney Heintz

     /  June 28, 2012

    Sorry, I meant Steena! Huge apology, I’m so sorry! I’m not as clear thinking as I should be. I think I saw patgarcia’s comment and decided the blog was written by Patricia!

    • No worries Kourtney 🙂 The final nudge … I had Finding Emma out with agents and I had just finished epubbing under my pen name and realized that I wanted more. I tend to be a bit greedy that way … I’m not a very patient person and when I realized I could self publish and not have it hurt my career, I decided to jump in head first.

      Self publishing Finding Emma was actually my 8th indie book … I wanted to make sure I could do it right…and it was still out with agents so I didn’t want to mess things up with this book.

  13. Great interview! There’s a small part of me that still wants to try the traditional route first when I finish my current novel. But a growing part is leaning towards e-publishing from the beginning. The key to either is a good, well-written story that people will enjoy reading. And even though the early “rush” of e-publishing is past, I think a good writer can still break through in the digital realm.

    The key is, as you say, to write a good story!

    • Write a story that appeals to hearts and you’ll break through no matter which way you go! Go with your gut – it won’t steer you wrong. Good luck!

  14. Great post, Steena! I like you, am not a patient person. And for once my impatience has paid off, literally. Last summer I was just starting to query agents about the first book in my mystery series, and getting polite rejections, if that. This summer, I have three books published and am making money off of them to finance the publishing costs for the next two. The promotion is a lot of work, but from what I hear, traditionally published authors are doing a lot of their own promotion these days.

    My goal is to be making a nice supplemental income for my pension by this time next year, and from your success story, I’m thinking that is a reasonable goal.

    To Susie, I found that getting several books in my series self-published before doing a big promotional push to be the best combination. Now readers have more books to go buy once they’re hooked by one of them. And if you’re still on the fence about which path is best for you, it doesn’t hurt a bit to query about the first one while you write a couple more. If you get a contract, great; if not, you can take a hard look at the indie path. Best of luck to you!

    Thanks for having Steena on your blog, August!

  15. Thanks August and Steena. I’m a fence-sitter when it comes to whether to trad publish or go indie. My co-writer and I are definitely aiming for the traditional route (probably small press) for our novel, but when it comes to what I’ll do when I write my next solo project, I’m just not certain. I really like the control and freedom that I could have going it on my own, but I have reservations about whether I know enough about what I need to do to market my work.

    • Marcy – if you are hesitating due to the marketing – just remember – whether you go indie, traditional or small press, the majority of the marketing will still rest on you. The resources out there right now for marketing are phenomenal. Melissa Foster is a great venue. Chuck Wendig, Bob Myer…there is an indie yahoo group where over 1000 indie authors have grouped together to help each other succeed in their journey…

      Don’t let one small aspect (even though it looks monumental) keep you from succeeding 😉 One thing about us writers – if its a passion, then we never give up!

  16. All fabulous advice. Great to see you again, Steena! I am still on the fence. I may be in the same place as Susie. I am in the process of doing some serious rewriting of my first book before I start rewriting my second book in my trilogy. I feel the need to try traditional first, but a few people close to me have encouraged me to go indie because they don’t want to wait. LOL. I can understand that. I’m not a very patient person either. I see a lot of advantages in the indie route, but I see advantages in going traditional as well. So… on the fence.

    I had really hoped to be querying at this stage, but changes came up and with the kids and their schedules.Things never happen as quickly as I would like. Sigh. I’ll eventually get there

    Thank you for hosting the lovely Ms. Steena, August.

    • Debra, do what makes sense for you 🙂 The great thing about this – it’s not going anywhere! So finish the rewrite on your first book and start querying while rewriting your second. It sounds like you have more patience then I (although I waited 2 years with Emma before I pulled it from agents to self pub it). No matter what you do – I know you’ll be successful and I’d love to be one of you cheerleaders 🙂

  17. great interview ladies – I am so lucky to have Steena almost next door to me. lucky me. continued success Steena. couldn’t happen to a nicer, more deserving woman.

  18. August, darlin – thank you so much for having me on your blog today! I loved the interaction and learning about everyone’s individual journey! This is such a great group and just reiterates what I already knew about you – that you are fabulous and lovely – both inside and out 🙂

    • The thanks goes to you! You have been such a gracious guest, Steena. Thanks for inspiring all of us! We’re cheering for you and wishing you loads of continual success—and, of course, chocolate. 😉

  19. Reblogged this on Steena Holmes and commented:
    I’m over at the lovely August McLaughlin’s bog today talking about my addiction to both self-publishing and chocolate!

  20. Thanks for another fabulous post, Steena. We are all so proud of you and your well-deserved success. Your generosity in sharing your experiences and your willingness to help others of us who are choosing to self-pub is SO appreciated. Finding Emma is an excellent story that touches readers in so many different ways and I recommend it to friends and other readers whenever I can. Write on, girlfriend!
    Thanks for bringing Steena over to your blog, August!

  21. lynnkelleyauthor

     /  June 28, 2012

    Huge congrats to you, Steena, on your success, and for your positive outlook and inspiration.

    Thanks for hosting Steena, August. Her upbeat personality jumps off the page! I love it! Lots of great comments here, too.

  22. I couldn’t put Finding Emma down. It’s such an emotional, uplifting tale. Kudos to Steena for a lovely book and for the encouragement she sprinkles over us all.

    Great post, ladies. Thanks!

  23. August and Steena, sorry I did not get to this yesterday. Steena, I loved reading your journey to self-publishing. I have recently decided it’s the path for me as well. I hope to have my debut release late this fall in time for the holiday season. 😀

  24. fivereflections

     /  June 30, 2012

    Nice to meet you steena

    Thx august

  25. Guess I’m late to the party! Hi Steena! *waves* It’s been fun watching you on your journey! Great post! 🙂 Hi August! 🙂

  26. Finding Emma was a great story! Steena, you’re a wealth of information about self-publishing and so generous about sharing what you know. I’m going to continue to blow your horn–Steena also does book cover design, website design and editing over at Authors Red Room. She’s doing my book covers–just wait til you see them!

  27. Steena, thanks for the great share! and August – for sharing you blog so I could have exposure to Sheena’s words.

  28. Running from Hell with El

     /  July 4, 2012

    Great interview. Thank you for sharing your infectious enthusiasm!

    I am at the beta reading stage for my novel, Ripple, and working at a furious pace to throw together my memoirs about running. I believe I will get attention from agents, but I want to make sure I make the right decision (for both books). Thank you for giving me some serious food for thought, and good on ya!

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