Ekta R. Garg: Six books into indie publishing
Without a doubt, self-publishing is a growing medium in the publishing industry. Ekta Garg knows this, and she has already published six books by taking advantage of it. She has a lot to organize and work with in her life filled with kids, writing, and managing multiple websites, but she has agreed to share a bit about her experience as an indie author and much more.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I’m running after the kids. :> I’m also editing—I’ve been a freelance editor a lot longer than I have been an indie author. Because my husband has an incredibly demanding career, I also spend a lot of time running the house. In the middle of all that, I’m reading, always reading, because reading, editing, and writing form the trifecta of the way I see stories and interact with them.
How long have you been editing? When did you start?
I started editing in 2005. When I got married, I moved to Portland, Oregon, for my husband’s job, and I got a job as the editor for the contract publishing department of a local publishing company there. Basically, any special projects that came through the company were under my supervision, and I spent about three-and-a-half years managing the freelancers and coordinating with advertising and design departments for a variety of magazines. After I had my second child, I made the decision to quit for the short term so I could focus on my children.
In 2010, as the mother to two little ones, I knew if I didn’t find a way to ease back into the publishing game that I’d never be able to find a place in it. I began freelancing, both writing and editing, and I began blogging on a regular basis as a way to get my writing chops sharp again. In 2011, I started spreading my network even more and educating myself about the publishing industry in general. Since then, I have had the opportunity to work with many talented writers on a variety of really interesting projects.
What made you start your publishing company? How long has it been live?
In the summer of 2014, I began considering what to do for the fifth anniversary of my main blog. Every year, I try to challenge myself by adding more features or changing small things on the blogs to keep myself and my writing relevant. By 2014, I had learned enough about publishing, both traditional and indie, to know that I should give it a shot. I’d studied and read so much about the field that I knew I had all the information and tools on hand to plan for a launch, which is what I did. I formally launched Prairie Sky Publishing in December of 2014 but released the first book with the Prairie Sky logo in February of 2015—the fifth anniversary of The Write Edge.
What is your goal as a publisher?
I want to release books that engage readers and entertain them. I want to share stories that are compelling and offer them at a reasonable price. Eventually, in the future, I would love to take on the challenge of publishing the work of others, but I want to make sure I’m viable on my own before I take any risks with anyone else’s work.
Do you have a different goal as an author?
Yes and no. The big-picture ideas are still the same—offering readers compelling stories that will stay with them. But the author side of me is the artist—the person who sits by the window and dreams in the drowsy summer sun of new characters. The publisher side of me is the businesswoman, and even though I know I probably have more to learn, I don’t ever delude myself into thinking that publishing is solely for the sake of art (insert snooty accent here. :>) It’s as much about profit and loss as anything else.
Do you have anything you’d like to share about the publishing end of things?
Anyone who wants to jump into indie publishing needs to arm themselves with information first. Last fall, I attended a writers conference in Chicago, and I met several other writers who either wanted or had gone the indie route. It shocked and dismayed me how many of them didn’t know some of the most basic information about their chosen field. Why would they go into a new venture completely blind?
Good stories will wait for the right kind of presentation. Don’t disrespect your writing by not preparing for its presentation to the world. Get yourself a professional editor and cover designer, and take yourself seriously. If you don’t take yourself seriously, no one else will either.
What is one of the main mistakes you notice with authors who self-publish?
The biggest mistake I see indie authors make is trying to jump into the game either before they’re ready (i.e., their story really isn’t completely vetted by an editor and/or beta readers) or they think they can slide into the game without professional help. Editors and cover artists and formatters are expensive. I get it. But if a person really wants to be a professional author, then s/he needs to take himself/herself seriously and treat the books like a business. Because that’s what publishing is.
When did you start writing?
When I was eight, I wrote a poem for my father’s birthday, and that’s the earliest memory I have of writing something original. After that, I wrote short essays and stories for my own amusement all throughout elementary and middle school. When I got into high school, I started looking at my writing and tackling it with more intention, and I’ve done what I can to up the ante every year ever since.
What are you currently working on? How did you begin working on it?
Unfortunately, I’m not actively working on a new project at this time. In September 2015, we began building a new house, and we just moved in over Memorial Day weekend. The house sucked up major chunks of my writing time; when it wasn’t taking up my time, it left me too exhausted to devote any creative energy toward new stories.
Because I launched my publishing company, Prairie Sky Publishing, and my brand new fiction concept, Stories in Pairs, in February 2015, this setback in my writing and publishing journey has really disappointed me. But I knew it was a short-term setback, and the result is a new home and a writing studio. My own space to write and edit and spread out my stuff and not worry about anyone complaining about the mess. I first dreamed about a writing studio at the age of fifteen, so the fact that it’s finally a reality definitely has prompted me to stay open to story ideas again.
What inspires your writing?
Truthfully, I’m inspired by a variety of things. Good writing by other authors inspires me. When I read something that really touches my heart or fires my creativity, my first thought is, “I wish I’d written that.” My second thought is, “What can I learn from this?”
Art in other forms inspires me. Visual art; music; dance; all art forms, when done well, make my eyes well up and fill me with gratitude for the opportunity to be a word artist.
Closer to home, I find inspiration in the things right around me. The stories that go across my first two books, Two for the Heart and More for the Heart, came from little lightbulbs of inspiration I received while watching TV. The stories in my third and fourth books, Two for the Road and More from the Road, were inspired by real-life events. The novellas in the fifth book, Two for the Holidays, were inspired by the season and people who need help while they think they’re giving it to others.
I just keep my eyes and ears open, allow my mind to play the “What if” game when something catches my fancy, and, when in doubt, eavesdrop on conversations in Starbucks or the grocery store. :>
Give us insight to your main character. Who is he or she? What is his or her purpose?
As I mentioned I’m not actively working on a new project; I just have some half ideas floating around in my brain. But I’m happy to share about the main characters from my last book, Two for the Holidays.
To understand the book, I feel it’s necessary to explain the concept of Stories in Pairs a little bit. I designed my series so that every book contains two novellas, each anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 words. The novellas are stand-alone stories. They can be read, and hopefully enjoyed, separately. The key here, however, is that we meet people every day—in the post office, at PTA meetings, through work—and our life stories connect with theirs during those meetings. Most of those connections happen for short periods of time. The length of the meeting, in fact. But occasionally the meetings come to mean something more, and those people come to mean something more, too.
In Two for the Holidays, the first story called Take A Breath goes into the story of Marisa, a medium who is gearing up for a major Halloween Day reading. Readers learn about Marisa, how she became a medium, the people she’s helped and some she can’t. They also find out why this reading is such a big deal and why Marisa needs it to go well.
The second story, called The Truth About Elves, tells about Curtis, an elf who doesn’t want to work the upcoming Christmas season because of a personal tragedy. Unfortunately Mr. C.—yes, the boss—changes the schedule, forcing Curtis to work the season’s main shift. Readers find out why Curtis wants Christmas off so badly and what he’s willing to do to make that happen.
There is a singular connection between the two . . . but you’ll have to read the book to find it.
What is the biggest mistake you think you make while writing? How do you overcome it?
I have a tendency to over-complicate things, and I have to remind myself constantly to follow the K.I.S.S. principle. For some reason, my brain just automatically adds several knots and snarls to what ends up being a simple matter. My editor is a cracker jack at smoothing out those knots and gently pointing out where I could keep the threads straight and clean. I’m working on it, forcing myself to use the editor side of my brain when I see those unnecessary complications creeping up, and I’m getting better at it.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and my parents still live there. I also attended the University of South Carolina (at the main campus in Columbia, S.C.) for my undergrad degree, a B.A. in broadcast journalism.
Were you always good at writing?
Is this the part where I get to sound immodest? :> I’ve had a long-held interest in stories and language and words. I started reading, unassisted, at the age of four and competed in spelling bees as a kid and into my teens, so words themselves have been a part of my life for a long time. At some point along the way, studying all those words instills a sense of how to use them and a desire to use them in all sorts of interesting ways.
What do you hope to achieve with your writing?
With Stories in Pairs, I want to reach people, make them look at one another a little differently. Hopefully for the better. In this day and age, with all the crazy events happening in the world, I hope maybe my stories can make even one person encounter someone different and not flinch right away because of those differences. Maybe, if we all took a little more time to understand one another, we wouldn’t have so many tragedies on a global scale.
Do you have any advice you’d like to give other writers?
Write as if your loved ones are dead. In other words, no fear. No shame. As long as you’re not actively promoting hate and violence toward any one group or entity, don’t be afraid to share the story you thought your Grandma Agnes or Aunt Millie might find scandalous.
What books or writing projects have you completed/published in the past?
I’ve published six books: One of them is completely free to download, and the others are really affordable. They’re in e-book format only for now, but I do plan to release in them print in the future. Here are the links to the books:
How can readers and fellow writers discover more about you and your work?
Other: The Write Edge Bookshelf is where I post book reviews. Prairie Sky Publishing (above) is where I post information about my books as well as where I blog about the publishing experience. Every week on The Write Edge Writing Workshop I post brand new short fiction. Lastly, I blog about my experiences as a parent on Growth Chart.
Amazon links for all books for Kindle or Kindle app: