Thursday, March 22, 2012

Interview with Carol J. Alexander

As part of the Good Friends Old and New Blogoversary theme, I'm pleased to share an interview with Carol J. Alexander. Carol is a talented author and blogger, and one of the first people I met through blogging. She's been a wonderful inspiration and all around supportive friend.

Carol is the author of several ebooks, so I thought it would be nice to hear about her experience with this process.

Karen: Welcome to Write Now, Carol, so glad you could stop by!

Carol: Thanks so much for asking me, Karen. I don’t think I’ve been interviewed before so this is a bit exciting for me.

Karen:
I'm glad to host your first interview! It IS exciting. :) You have several ebooks under your belt. What made you choose this format?

Carol: First, I want to say that I am still finding my way in all this. I know what I know, but I definitely don’t consider myself an e-publishing expert.

That said, I chose electronic format for my books for several reasons. First, I was looking for something I could put together quickly to sell on my site to make money. Last year I made about $37; so this is not my idea of a get-rich-quick scheme. :) Secondly, my e-books are not full-length books, but booklets or workbooks; so I didn’t think the traditional publishing route made a lot of sense. 

Karen: It sounds like a smart move, given your circumstances and the popularity of ebooks now. Did you use any special format or software to create the ebooks?

Carol: Not really. I simply laid them out in OpenOffice and then converted them to PDF format. I used OpenOffice because the version of Word that I had last year said in big, ugly letters at the top of the screen “Non-Commercial Use” and that intimidated me. (As an aside, I found OpenOffice slow and cumbersome and do not recommend it for large files that include graphics and pictures.)

I have not gone the Kindle route so far for a couple reasons. Planning a Homeschool Graduation is a workbook with worksheets for a parent to print out and use in their planning process. When I put it together, I was told you could not print from a Kindle. More recently, I learned that you can, so I will explore that option more fully this year.

Lessons from the Seed Catalog and Lessons from the Hen House are booklets in their own right; but I have plans to make them chapters, or sections, of a larger work called Lessons from the Homestead. Just a few months ago I started the Lessons from the Homestead e-newsletter for parents that have trouble getting the chores and the homeschooling done. It is full of ideas and encouragement for them to use life on the farm as part of their schooling; integrating both lifestyles into one. I also set up a website for this product which includes a blog. The larger work Lessons from the Homestead will include chapters or sections titled Lessons from the Hen House, Lessons from the Dairy Barn, Lessons from the Tree House, Lessons from the Wood Pile, etc.

Each of these booklets will include at least 50 lessons that a parent can use in their schooling centered on the given topic. For instance, in Tree House: “Research the toxicity of different types of wood—pressure treated, oak, etc.—and the relative precautions for each.” And for younger children, “Take a trip to a hardware store and introduce them to hammers, screwdrivers, hand saws, etc. Ask an employee to explain the difference between a coping saw and a hacksaw, and a Philip’s-head and a flat-head screw driver for instance.” I envision a parent being able to purchase the appropriate chapters for their family, print them out, hole punch, and store in a 3-ring binder.

Karen: That Kindle info is good to know - I hadn't thought about that. As a former homeschool mom, your books sound like my kind of resource. (Note: I read Carol's Planning a Homeschool Graduation. I highly recommend it!) How long, on average, did your books take to write from start to finish?

Carol: I spent the greater part of a year writing Planning a Homeschool Graduation. I interviewed a lot of parents that held graduation ceremonies for their children, or those that coordinated large events for their homeschool support groups. This booklet can be used by either the single family, or a group coordinator, and has worksheets and ideas appropriate for both. I also had several parents read it over and offer their feedback. This whole process took a lot of time.

I wrote the rough draft of Lessons from the Seed Catalog from my recliner with my family sitting around me in about two evenings. Many of the lesson ideas in this book came from my husband and kids. However, I took several weeks after that editing, tweaking, and doing the layout.

Karen: There's a lot more that goes on behind the scenes in the writing process, isn't there? What advice do you have for someone who is considering writing an ebook?

Carol: While working on both of these books, I was taking classes from Christina Katz and she gave me the best advice: pay for professional editing. I did, and I am so glad. My editor found little inconsistencies that I missed and had me looking at things at angles I had not thought of. I wouldn’t put out another book without her.

Also, marketing your book is a key to its success. I attribute my $37 profit last year to lack of marketing skills. Also, after spring both of those books were no longer “in season;” so I spent the rest of the year reading up on marketing techniques. Now, I’m timing my social networking posts and article writing to correspond with the season for these books. For instance, this spring I have an article coming out in regional parenting magazines about the learning opportunities found in your seed catalogs. In the bio after the article is a link to my blog where they can purchase their own copy.

Karen: I wonder if marketing isn't most writers' weakest area. Thanks so much for the insight and tips; I appreciate you sharing your experience with us. It's been a pleasure, Carol!

Carol: Thanks for asking me, Karen. I’m glad to have the opportunity to share what I’ve learned.


More About Carol: 

http://everythinghomewithcarol.com/
Freelance writer Carol J. Alexander has been homeschooling her children for 18 years, homesteading for 10, and still has enough energy left over to tell you about it. She has served as the leader of her local homeschooling support group and hosted homeschooling co-ops in her home. Her family has kept milk goats, chickens for eggs and meat, and pigs on their modest acreage in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. When she isn’t in the garden, Carol can be found writing on homeschooling and homesteading topics. Her articles have appeared in Home Education Magazine, The Old Schoolhouse, BackHome Magazine, Grit, Urban Farm, Hobby Farms, and various regional parenting publications. She is also a regular contributor to NaturalHealthEzine.com and ChristianPF.com.

In an effort to help homeschooling parents that struggle to juggle the farm and the family, Carol recently started a free e-newsletter, Lessons from the Homestead. This newsletter (with a blog of the same title) contains encouragement and tips to help parents find the learning opportunities a homestead has to offer so that they can spend less time in the textbooks. She’s also written a couple e-booklets with more than 50 lessons for math, language, art, science, and more—Lessons from the Seed Catalog and Lessons from the Hen House. Other titles in the series will follow.

You can read more of Carol's tips and encouragement on growing children and food naturally at her blog Everything Home with Carol.

Don't forget to enter the Blogoversary Giveaway - the prize includes chocolate! Need I say more? Check out Monday's post for details.

Quick reminder: The Coffeehouse for Writers classes begin March 26. Lots of great offerings including - Blogging for Profit, Basic Boot Camp for Writers, Character Development, SEO Savvy, Social Media, and more. Click here for more details.

Do you have any questions for Carol? Have you published an e-book? Have you considered it?

Have a great weekend!

Blessings,
Karen

29 comments :

  1. Thank you, Karen, for asking me over to your blog digs. I really enjoyed sharing and hope the info helps and inspires other writers.

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  2. Lovely interview. I enjoyed reading how you produced your e-books.

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  3. Carol,
    You are so welcome! It's been great fun to have you here. I learned a lot about the ebook process. Thanks so much!

    Donna,
    It's great to meet you! Glad you liked the interview. Thanks so much for stopping by today!

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  4. Very interesting, Carol and Karen! There are so many options for writers now, and I enjoyed hearing about this particular one.

    Rhonda, rschrockmt@yahoo.com

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  5. Thanks Karen and Carol, sweet interview. Glad to learn a bit more about you Carol. Way to go with your ebooks.

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  6. Interesting and informative read, ladies.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  7. Rhonda,
    Thank you! Carol is a wealth of knowledge! Thanks for stopping by!

    Marja,
    Glad you enjoyed it! Carol is a treasured friend. :)

    Jen,
    Thanks for coming by. Always good to see you!

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  8. Great interview! I think it is so nice that authors can now publish their own books in e format. I also think it was wise of her to use an editor first as that would really make them more professional.

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  9. I bet she sells a lot more this year! Didn't know you couldn't print Kindle books until recently. What about those who have the Kindle app on their computer?

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  10. Thank you, everyone, for your kind words! I'm so blessed to be part of such a community of writers that encourage and uplift each other.

    Alex: I tried to print from my desktop Kindle...no go.

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  11. This was inspiring. Thank you, ladies. I see so many changes in our industry that it really helps to get a perspective on one aspect, creating an ebook. We have a community of home-schooled children just northeast of here in Smithers, Terrace, Telkwa. I met a lot of writers who home-school their children at last year's writer's conference. I was in awe of their patience. I raised 5 boys, and honestly, I barely had enough energy left over to take them to their games on the weekend. Kudos to you, Carol, for making a difference.

    Hi, Karen!

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  12. Thank you, Joylene. Hopefully, my ebooks will show parents how to conserve some energy by combining the homesteading chores with the homeschooling lessons.

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  13. Terri,
    I know, I agree. Our options are broadening. I think it's exciting!

    Alex,
    I think she will too! The Kindle info is good to know.

    Joylene,
    Glad you liked it! Carol really is a wonder and an inspiration! :)

    Carol,
    You have such great ideas, and I so glad you are here to share them with us! :)

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  14. Great interview. I always wanted to know more about e-books.

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  15. Homeschooling and homesteading are fascinating topics. Glad that she took things into her own hands.

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  16. Rachna,
    Thank you! Hope Carol filled in some of the gaps for you. :)

    Lydia,
    They are! I like the idea of teaching resourcefulness, and this is one way to do that, you know?

    Happy weekend,
    Karen

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  17. Lydia, Homeschooling and homesteading are fascinating topics. It's the combination of the two that really fuels me. Thanks for coming by.

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  18. What an awesome interview, Karen and Carol!

    You're a busy lady, Carol. I'm in awe. When do you find time to sleep? Wishing you the best with all your books.

    Have a great weekend!

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  19. Nice interview. So interesting to see what writers are up to.

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  20. Great interview, ladies!

    Carol, where do you get so much energy? Do you attribute it to some special homemade elixir (the non-alcoholic kind)?

    I admire homeschool parents, who also write. They're both full-time jobs.

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  21. This was so refreshing! I am in total admiration of Carol and her dedication to her family and her writing gift.

    Blessings, Karen- have a wonderful week-end!

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  22. Lynn,
    Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. Yes, Carol is an inspiration! I think she manages her time better than I do. :)

    Annie,
    Thanks a bunch. It is nice to see what others are up to!

    Susan,
    Homemade elixir - yes, you've got to wonder! :D

    Cheryl,
    Glad you liked it! Carol is one dedicated lady!

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  23. Thank you for this interview. I wanted to know more about ebooks and how one went about it. This was helpful to a great degree.

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  24. Joy,
    Good to see you; hope you've been well. Thanks for coming by. Glad this was helpful!
    Blessings,
    Karen

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  25. I agree that we fall down in the marketing area most. But we usually don't realize we need this skill until we're already addicted to writing. It's a learning process, isn't it?

    Great interview, ladies--thanks!

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  26. Thank you everyone for your kind words.

    @LynNerdKelly: When I first started writing, I didn't sleep. I got very sick and was diagnosed with sleep deprivation. That was 5 years ago, but I still have to be careful.

    @Susan: Most days, I don't feel energetic. But when you've created so much responsibility for yourself, you do have to follow through. :-| My only elixir is green tea--4-5 cups a day with an occasional dose of chocolate.

    @Jeanette: Most of life is a learning process, we just have to make good students.

    @Karen: I'm horrible at managing my time. Why did I EVER sign up to play Words with Friends on FB? Now I have a game invite luring me away from work. Whatever happened to the day when the biggest distraction was staying out of the fridge???

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  27. Jen,
    So glad you could join us! Thanks for your kind words and for weighing in!

    Carol,
    Had to laugh - now see, there's a game I've stayed away from. My downfall is playing Tetris on my son's old Game Boy. I keep it stashed out of sight, and for the most part, don't often play. But every once in a while it grabs me.:) Thanks again for letting me feature you here!

    Blessings,
    Karen

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  28. Great interview! Carol, I do enjoy your blog. And that was awesome advice Christina gave you.

    Marketing will be my downfall. I stink at doing it for myself. Thanks for the advice. :-)

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  29. Robyn,
    I thought maybe you might read Carrol's blog. She's got great stuff there. I know, marketing kind of makes me cringe, so I'll take all the advice I can get. Thanks for coming by!
    Blessings,
    Karen

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Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your input. Have a blessed day!