Shelley Sly on Self-Publishing (and a free E-book giveaway!)

Some of you may remember Shelley Sly from my interview last year when she released her debut novel, Wishing for Washington. Well, she’s at it again and about to release her second book One Hundred and Thirty Stars. 

Here’s the back cover summary:

Eleven-year-old Kelly “Birdie” Knotts has the perfect summer vacation planned: she’s finally going to visit her dad, Arthur. Birdie hardly knows him, but she has high hopes that he’ll be the one family member who understands her.

Too bad her vacation is nothing like she imagined it would be.

Arthur’s plans for their father-daughter visit revolve around a video game convention, where he dresses head-to-toe in costume and makes a boisterous scene every chance he gets. When he isn’t shouting gleefully in the hallways, he’s belting out off-pitch tunes in the karaoke room. Birdie’s new plan? Hide under a rock for life.

It’s impossible for Birdie to get to know Arthur when he insists that he’s a video game character. And if he doesn’t step up and start acting like a dad, it might be game over.

Shelley Sly lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area with her husband and their chocolate lab mix. She writes middle grade novels about friendship, family, and figuring out where you fit in.

In our last interview I focused more on Shelley’s writing and the reasons she chose to self-publish. Even though her new book is amazing and I love the characters and find the premise of her story equally hilarious and amazing (a Cosplay convention—come on, that’s hilarious!), I want to talk more about her journey as a self-published author and get some answers to the questions that plague many writers in the query trenches and the reasons many have hesitations when it comes to self-publication.

Now, the first thing I want to say is, Shelley, your book covers are AH-maze-ING! When you first revealed the cover for Wishing for Washington, I was floored. It was gorgeous (still is!) and the quality was beautiful. I really didn’t know if you could pull it off again, but all I could say when I saw it was, Wow! Really.

Here, take a look at these gorgeous covers:

One Hundred Thirty StarsWishing for Washington

See what I mean?????

So, because you’re self-publishing, you obviously have a lot of say in what the end product looks like. I’d like to ask how and where you found the cover design artist for both of your books? And how much information did you give him/her and how much leeway did you give him/her to design the covers?

First of all, thank you for having me here today, Kristi, and thank you for the compliments on my covers! Even though I have all creative control, I still attribute both of my books’ gorgeous looks to the talented cover artist, Steven Novak ( He is absolutely awesome to work with. I found him via word of mouth, after hearing that other self-published authors had him create their covers and loved what he came up with. Overall, word of mouth is a powerful thing for an indie author. It’s how we find our best resources, and it’s how our own books are discovered.

For my covers, I shared all my ideas with Steven, but told him truthfully that I wasn’t particularly attached to them. I just wanted to try things out and see how they’d look. He designed everything exactly as I asked (and came up with some good ideas of his own), and he was super patient when I kept changing my mind about whether I wanted a retro video game-themed cover, or a more girly looking-up-at-the-stars cover for One Hundred Thirty Stars. (I went with the latter.) It’s one of the most exciting parts of publishing.

Speaking of the end product, have you hired a professional editor or do you do all your own editing?

For Wishing for Washington, I hired an editor in addition to having a bunch of critique partners read through it. I recommend hiring an editor, but when it came time to prepare One Hundred Thirty Stars for publication, I couldn’t afford an editor. So, I just found even more critique partners, all of whom I trust and fully believe have given me the perspectives I needed in order to make edits. What’s funny is that both books went through the same number of drafts (10) before being published.

The other worrying issue when considering self-publishing is marketing. We touched on this briefly in our last interview, but I’m wondering how you get your book out there. Especially now that you are in the middle of a big move—how do get your book out into the world? Can you get it in libraries? How? Do you walk into an independent bookshop and hand them a stack? (See, I’m naïve… I have no idea. These are just the things I imagine in my head.)

Ah, well, my moving situation (relocating from east coast U.S. to the southwest) makes marketing a challenge for me, because I’m no longer living in my hometown, but haven’t yet moved to my new city. But, assuming other writers aren’t in this situation, my biggest marketing suggestion is to physically get yourself out there. Talk to people in your community who may have an interest in your book. Librarians, teachers, small bookstore owners, even contacting your local paper. My old town featured self-published authors in the paper all the time. I happened to be lucky enough to have connections to an elementary school, where I’ve done a bunch of presentations.

I admit that I fell behind when Wishing for Washington was first released. Marketing just didn’t happen. I got too involved in other things. But in the eight or so months that it’s been out, I’ve started catching up. I contacted my (former) county library, and they did order a stack of copies of my book for circulation. (It was a process that took many months, though, because self-publishing is complicated like that.) I did a Goodreads giveaway, and did more school visits after WFW was released. And I’m already making a list of bookstores and libraries to visit once I move to my new city.

How have you utilized social media to aide in getting attention for your book?

I’m very active on Twitter. I’ve also been blogging for five years. I took frequent breaks from blogging in the past, but lately, I’ve been making a good effort to blog regularly. Visiting other writers’ blogs is a lot of fun. I also have a Facebook page and a Goodreads profile. The key is to use social media the way it’s intended (to be social) instead of spamming people about your books. I’ve gotten a lot of support and promotion from people I’ve become friends with online.

This is book 2! Do you feel like you know what you’re doing or are there different issues with each book?

Hmm… for the most part, it was easier with the second book. Print formatting was a much quicker process the second time. E-book formatting was still a challenge, but mostly because I added images to my second book (the first book didn’t have any besides the cover), which presented more challenges. For the second book, I had a clearer idea of the time frame—how long it takes to publish, and how many months in advance I want to begin promotion, etc. I’m predicting that with every book, it becomes easier overall.

One last question, when you tell people that you’re an author how do they react? How do they react when they hear you’re self-published? I kind of image that people who know anything about publishing might be kind of snobs about this, but a person not privy to the confusion of agents and the publishing process—traditional or self—might think your situation is quite the norm.

Good question. I get mostly positive reactions, actually. Family, friends, former co-workers, and friendly acquaintances have all been very supportive. Even the ones that are familiar with traditional versus self-publishing haven’t really been snobby about my choice. Kids have treated me like a celebrity, which is adorable. But, sure, I’ve encountered a few people who have made not-so-supportive comments about my choice in publishing path, but it hasn’t affected any of my decisions. They’re entitled to their opinion, right? What matters most is that you enjoy what you’re doing—whether you traditionally publish (or are aiming for it), self-publish, or just write for fun. And I can honestly say, I love my job the way it is.

Thank you so much, Shelley, for sharing all these great tidbits with us. Good luck with the launch of this book. If you are interested in buying either or both of Shelley’s books here are the links to find her and her amazing books: (for all things Shelley Sly-related), and to learn more about WISHING FOR WASHINGTON and ONE HUNDRED THIRTY STARS, check out her Goodreads page:

Now, for the exciting bit—
Shelley has graciously agreed to give away a free e-book.
You want it? Well, here’s how you can get your hands on it:
Add a comment below with the name of the video game character you would dress up as 
if you were headed to a Cosplay convention.
A winner will be selected randomly using Rafflecopter.

Here’s an example from both Shelley and myself:

Me: Yoshi. The only game I ever really got into was Super Mario Kart
and I was always Yoshi.

Shelley: Medli, from The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. She’s an adorable bird-girl, so cute that I named my dog after her.


  1. Kristi, thank you so much for having me! It was fun to answer your questions, and I hope that my experience with self-publishing will be helpful to anyone who is curious!

    1. My pleasure, Shelley. It's always fun to chat about books with you. I agree, I hope lots of people find this helpful if they've been considering self publishing. x

  2. I agree, the covers are gorgeous, and what a fun interview! I'm not entering the giveaway since I already won a copy (take THAT! HA!) and it's on my list. After I read the few library books that are due soon, I can't wait to read it!

    1. I saw that you just won over on Shelley's blog. Congrats! Thanks for coming over here. x

  3. Whether self-published or traditionally published, Shelley Sly is DA BOMB. I've already read Shelley's books, so no need to enter me into the giveaway. But mark my words, this girl is going places.

  4. Tiana - Haha, thanks! I'm doing the same thing, trying to finish library books before reading writer buddies' books. :)

    Linda - You are awesome and an amazing writer yourself! Thank you!

  5. I own the book so I don't need to win one, but I would dress up as Leia . . . it's old school and I'm not sure that anyone dresses up as Star Wars characters anymore, but there it is.
    Great interview, Shelley! I agree that getting yourself out there is important.

    1. I'm so glad you already have this book! Thanks for stopping by-- AND Star Wars will live on forever. x

  6. Tyrean - Thanks! And I think Leia would be a fun character to dress up as!

  7. Great interview. :-)

    I'm glad to read that people are so supportive of your self-publishing efforts, Shelley. It's a good sign, I think.

    As for who I'd dress up as: Probably a female Assassin as from Assassin's Creed.

    1. Thanks! I'm so glad to have a lot of support. And that's awesome; my husband has played the Assassin's Creed games, but I haven't yet.

  8. They definitely are wonderful covers!!! Steven Novak truly is gifted. We use him at WiDo for nearly all our cover designs. Good luck with your new release, Shelley!

    1. Thank you! Steven really is gifted. I'm so happy with how my covers turned out!

  9. Great interview! Steven Novak does such impressive And I couldn't agree with you more about social media. As important as it is to promote, making connections with others is just as vital, if not more so, not to mention fun!

    1. Yup, it must be boring (and annoying to others) to just spam people with "buy my book" links all the time. I'd rather make friends. :)

  10. I've found honestly most people have no idea whether an author is trad vs. self published. If people are worried about what their high school friends will think, they should get over that quickly--a good cover and saying your new book is out will impress the pants off of them! NOBODY asks, "Who's your publisher?" ever unless they're also an author.

    1. So true! And personally, I think having a traditional publishing deal and self-publishing WELL (vs. just uploading crap and sticking a bland cover on it) are both impressive.

  11. I echo Stephanie. Congrats again Shelley. You seem to be on the right marketing track. All the best.

  12. Great interview! And your book sounds great shelly!
    I'll enter the book drawing with a costume Link to stick with the Zelda characters. Wish I was as good as him with a bow and arrow IRL!
    All the best with your launch!

  13. I have both of Shelley's books. The covers are great. They are both enjoyable, so the polishing and editing were great, too.


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