Melissa Ohnoutka- Self Published And Lived To Tell About It

By: Stacey Purcell

And by the way, everything in life is writable about, if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.  ~Sylvia Plath

I enjoyed Jennifer’s article last week on what it took to prepare for jumping in the waters of self publishing. It made me curious about the actual jumping and what happens after the first splash. What is it really like to try and pull together your manuscript, your baby, and put it out there on the internet? Did you truly edit as much as you could? Did you choose the right font? Can you survive formatting hell? Will you have the fortitude to weather bad reviews? The questions go on and on. So many, my head starts to spin.

My very good friend, Melissa Ohnoutka, has just published her first novel. After much deliberation, she decided to retain all of the control and launch it herself. Faithful Deceptions hit the internet mid February and soon became a top seller on Amazon. I decided to pick her brain about the nitty gritty of this monumental decision and a two part post was born!

Melissa Ohnoutka

Thanks so much for having me today!  This has been one wild and crazy ride, but the support and encouragement from family, friends and the writing community has been unbelievable. 

When did you decide to self-publish? 

Melissa:  I’ve been thinking about going Indie for a long time. After reading Joe Konrath’s blog and his take on traditional vs self publishing, I decided to quit stalling and give it a shot. The “what if’s” were just too loud to ignore.


Did you query agents and editors before taking this route?


Melissa:  Yes. I feel like I paid my dues and did my time on the query-go-around.  I entered contests for feedback, revised and polished until I couldn’t see straight anymore, attended conferences, had several requests for partial and full manuscripts and it was always the same outcome.  Some loved my stories and writing and others just didn’t get it. The self-publishing route seemed like the next step for me.  I’m a bit of a control freak anyway.  Having so much say over important decisions like my cover, the page count, the release date, promotion and the direction I want my writing career to take really sweetened the deal for me.

Would you ever consider going with a traditional publisher now?


Melissa:  It would depend on the contract.  I would never give up e-book rights now that I know I can do a lot of this on my own and what a huge opportunity it is.  A wise friend (wink, wink) made an excellent point the other day.  The traditional publishing route would be an excellent marking tool. J


Is there something you learned along the way that you would do different now? 

Melissa:  That’s a big Yes. I would have started making my presence known a lot sooner and researched in great detail the marketing options available.  I’m finding the marketing to be a huge learning curve. But it’s one of the most important aspects of the publishing industry and can’t be ignored.  People can’t buy what they can’t find.


I also plan to give myself more time for the formatting and designing book covers.  This part is very time consuming and you must know what you’re doing.  There is no learn-as- you go option.

Looking back now, are you pleased with your decision? 


Melissa:  Oh, yes. It’s working out better than I ever imagined. I have only two regrets.  That I  didn’t do it sooner.  And that I didn’t have more than one of my manuscripts ready for distribution.  I’ve read the magic number for this publishing game is 6 months and 3 books.  That’s where I am now.  Working my tail off to polish up the next two books and get them out there.

What would you like your readers to know about you? Any advice you’d like to offer?

Melissa:  I love my family and friends with all my heart. That one was easy. J Hmmm…what else?  My favorite color is red. I love a great belly-laugh, you know the ones that make you cry. Oh, and I enjoy shooting my Px4 Storm 9mm way too much. LOL


For advice:  Take those risks and “Never” be afraid to Dream!


This was so much fun! I’m going to give away one free e-book copy of “Faithful Deceptions” along with a $10.00 Amazon Gift card, so one lucky commenter can buy more books! It’s a “thank you” for stopping in to say hello.

For more information About Melissa and her books, please visit:

Direct Links to buy her books:

Amazon – Kindle

Barnes & Noble – Nook

51 Responses to Melissa Ohnoutka- Self Published And Lived To Tell About It

  1. Victoria Zumbrum says:

    Melissa I think it is very neat that you did everything yourself. You are very talented and I can’t wait to read your first book. Please enter me in contest.


  2. jbrayweber says:

    Great interview, Stacey.
    Melissa~ I know just how big a leap of faith this has been for you. It’s scary and exciting at the same time. AND a lot of work. But, oh, how satisfying. Congratulations, again, you pistol-toting, crazy belly laughing, control freak. 🙂



  3. I think it’s pretty neat that she did everything herself as well! I’m still struggling as to what route I should take- I’m so glad it has worked out well for her! Her short story and follow up book should be out very soon.


  4. Melissa says:

    Thanks again for having me today! I’m popping in to say hello and let everyone know I’m on my way out of town this morning. I’ll check by on Saturday and pick the winner! 🙂

    Hey, Victoria! Thank you so much! Love your name! I grew up in Victoria, TX. I’ve got entered in the drawing! 😉


  5. William says:

    Melissa she makes it look easy…:) I cannot wait to see what happens next!

    Great interview, madame!


  6. Ruby Johnson says:

    I’ve seen traditionally published authors lament over the fact that they had no control over a horrible cover for their books and the amount of promotion they still have to do to sell books. The promotion and marketing requirements authors have to do after their books are published seems extreme.I really don’t know how they do it. Congratulations on the success of your book and please put my name in the hat for your book.


  7. Tess says:

    Great interview!! Love Melissa’s book!!!!


  8. Tara Wood says:

    What a great interview! I was glad to hear that you went the traditional publishing route before going indie. I think so often it’s presented to new writers that all you have to do is crank out books and plaster them online and you will be an instant hit. Instead, the market is flooded with poor craft which makes it hard for readers to find the quality work. And that leaves some writers (like myself) a little leery of self-pubbing.

    That being said, your interview keeps me focused on the craft part of this deal. Create a good book, the best you can, and then figure out how to “sell it” before really selling it.

    Excited to read it! Please enter me for the chance to win!!!


  9. jeff7salter says:

    Love the expression, “Query-go-round.” I’ve also done a few years (three) of the contest grind and (partly) concurrently nearly two years on the query-go-round. I have a couple more submissions to make and if nothing comes from any of them, I may go the indie route as well.
    An agent currently has the ‘full’ of my 4th ms. and a small publisher currently has a query of my 6th ms.
    Keeping my fingers crossed.
    Oh, BTW, I don’t have a 9mm, but I have a shooting range directly behind my house nestled in five acres of woods with a 25 ft high horseshoe-shaped earthen formation for safety. I can walk to my range in less than three minutes!


  10. Andree says:

    I know you’re heading out of town, Melissa, but if you get a chance, would you tell us what kind of marketing you are doing to promote your book, before and after (besides this blog)? I’m curious how much an online presence influences e-book purchases. Thanks!


  11. Kristen says:

    I’m sure this is my newbie ‘slip-showing’ moment, but what exactly is the 3 book 6 month formula?

    And how hellish was formatting?



  12. Look who’s talking about being a pistol toting, belly laughing, control freak!!! That’s like the pot calling the kettle black. HAHAHA
    It is a total leap in faith to put your hard work out there for others to read, but the good news is that you’re putting your faith in yourself- not an employee half way across the country. Scary? YES! Satisfying? YES!


  13. Hi Ruby- Thanks for stopping by today. You are definitely correct when you say that the marketing requirements after being traditionally published seem extreme. Dollars in that arena are being cut dramatically from what they once were and the responsibility falls to the author. This is one of the reasons why so many have switched to self pubbing. If you have to do all the work anyway, why carve out a hefty chunk of your profits to give to a publishing house? We now are required to wear the creative writer and the entrepreneur hat no matter which route we take.


  14. I am so proud of you for having the nerve to jump into the Indie world. I wish you loads of sales! (and I’m so glad you’re a blog partner)


  15. Tara- I’m speaking for Missy here since she’s on her way out of town with her family. I hope I do her justice.
    Missy made the rounds with contests and conferences, she had several request for fulls and partials and she worked with folks on the editing of her manuscripts. I truly believe that she put out the best product she could and the results are coming in. Next week, we talk about the really scary stuff–like how many books has she actually sold and where does she go from here. Stay tuned!!


  16. Hey Jeff- I “met” you when you had Jenn guesting over at you terrific blog!
    I love the term “query-go-round” as well. Very clever. Isn’t that just what it feels like sometimes? It wouldn’t be so bad if you knew that meant your book just wasn’t viable. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that at all! Many books are passed on, not because of poor writing, but because they don’t fit into a convenient marketing slot and that’s a shame. How many wonderful books have there been that have never seen the light of day because of that glitch? Good luck on your future- stop by and let us know what avenue you decide to take!
    P.S. Missy, Jenn and I all like to shoot! We even organized a field trip for our chapter to the shooting range!


  17. Hi Andree!! Waving at you from Spring, Texas-
    Again, I’m taking over for Missy since she’s on the road with her family.
    The simple answer to the question of publicity is that you can never do enough. I’m not privy to everything she’s done, but I know a bit. She has a web site, 2 blogs that she contributes to, a FB page, twitter, linked-in, and she belongs to a very unique group called Grass Roots Marketing Co-op. She’s also done a few other guest spots online besides this. Melissa, at the strong pushing of 2 of her friends-me included) have convinced her to host a book launch in June at a coffee/dessert spot we frequent. The owner is very writer-friendly and is willing to help with advertising etc.
    I believe her efforts have made a difference. She told me last week that when she guest blogs somewhere else, she sells books on that day.


  18. Hey Kristen-Welcome back!
    That’s not a newbie question at all. I didn’t know about this formula either! Apparently, you build momentum if you publish 3 items in a 6 month period. It’s another way of saying “Strike while the iron is hot”. If you put out a book and someone reads and likes it, you want to be able to give them something else quickly so they don’t forget about you. The more product you have to release, the better off you will be in holding a fickle audience’s attention.


  19. Hey Arkansacyndi- You are a lucky woman to have Melissa as your blog partner. I think she has done a good job of figuring this whole thing out on her own. She’s got a lot of chutzpah.


  20. Kristen- I forgot to answer on just how hellish the formatting is….you descend into the bowels of hell itself. Is that too strong? I don’t think so, but I’m not a tech person. From the comments Missy made over many mugs of coffee- I’d say it was extremely hard to figure out. That being said, I’ve found another blog that I like.( ) He goes over all kinds of stuff about publishing your own books. Take a look at it and let me know what you think.


  21. Suzan H. says:

    Hey, Missy!

    Don’t enter me because I already have Faithful Decptions. But for the rest of you–even if you don’t win it, please go buy it. It’s a fabulous read (with the lights on), and I’m someone who’s very picky about romantic suspense.

    Now get some more books out, girl!


  22. Hi Suzan-
    I know Missy would be blushing right now after your compliment! It really is a good read and I’m also waiting for the next book to come out. In fact, she will publish a short story first and then bring out her second novel. The short story will be the bridge between the two. Oh the marketing possibilities with that! Maybe she could offer it for a free read on Kindle to publicize Target of Betrayal coming out later this summer.


  23. jeff7salter says:

    Stacey, I remember reading about that session your group had at the firing range. I thought it was a terrific idea to pull together folks all interested in similar background research … and give them safe and thorough exposure to a firearm.
    You and your buddies sound like a lot of fun.


  24. Terri says:

    Congrats on the book. Good luck with it and thanks for sharing your info with us. Please enter me in the contest. All the best with your next two books as well.


  25. Jeff, I have to say we do have a terrific group of writers that know how to have fun! Why don’t you hop a plane and come to our meeting this weekend where we have an ordained voodoo priestess coming to speak! We’d love to show you some Texan hospitality!


  26. jeff7salter says:

    Stacey, your cordial suggestion is one of the best invitations I’ve received in a long time.
    And, if I still lived in Shreveport, it might be a possibility.
    However, it’s over 800 miles from here to Shreveport … not even counting however much farther to y’all’s meeting place.
    All that said — thank you kindly for the invitation!


  27. Hey, Melissa. You know I’m a fan. I admire your courage and hope to be asking for help from you soon. I can’t wait for the next of your stories to be available.


  28. A great blog, Stacey! Melissa, I wish you the best of luck and congrats for taking the Indie Plunge. Hope it’s successful. The cover is great, and that will help draw people’s attention. Now, where’s book #2?


  29. Joan Reeves says:

    Great interview, Stacey! Melissa, that’s a stunning book cover. Kudos and congratulations to you on your ebook success!

    Best wishes,
    Joan Reeves


  30. Kristen says:

    Belated thanks very much stacyapurcell!

    Three books! Geeze. I have a hard enough time finishing one! 🙂


  31. Melissa says:

    Finally back from Tulsa and exhausted! LOL Thank you so much to all my writing buds for your continued support! Without you, I’m not so sure I’d be at this point right now. Fear and self-doubt are pretty hard to overcome on your own. I don’t recommend it at all!


  32. Melissa says:

    Ruby, you are so right and bring up a great point! The promotion and marketing requirements for authors who are published by traditional publishers still have to do a tremendous amout of promotion on their own. It’s crazy! Thanks so much for stopping by! I’ve got your name in the drawing, which I’ll be annoucing soon! 🙂


  33. Melissa says:

    Hi Tara! The craft is something that improves over time. And I find that with every workshop or conference I attend, I’m still learning and improving. I love looking back at older manuscripts and seeing just how far I’ve come. Although, I also cringe, because when I entered those same stories in contests years ago I thought they were pretty darn good. Yikes! LOL


  34. Melissa says:

    Hey, Jeff! Best of luck with those submissions! I’ve got my fingers crossed for you too! 🙂 Sure wish I could walk out back and shoot whenever I wanted. I’m so jealous! LOL


  35. Melissa says:

    Andree, Stacey pretty much covered it. Thanks, Stacey! 🙂 But I will add that an online presence makes all the difference in the world. Blog, comment, join writing groups and build those relationships now. It will save alot of precious writing time and really kick start your sales when you get your work out there.


  36. Melissa says:

    Kristen, the 3 book and six months is the formula to maximize your sales potential. 6 months is the time frame for your work being out there and three books seems to be the magic number for getting the most exposure for you. If someone likes your book, you don’t want them to forget about you before you get something else out there for them to read. 🙂

    And formatting….let’s just say be ready to learn a new language. Although frustrating at times, I beleive anyone can do it. All it takes is time and patience. Which I was running pretty short on by the time I was finished. LOL


  37. Melissa says:

    Cyndi – Thank you so much! I love blogging with you, girl! Congratulations again on your first sale!! 🙂

    Suzan – Thank you! I’m trying real hard, really I am. Just need to convice the kids and hubby I have work to do. LOL


  38. Melissa says:

    Thanks so much for stopping by, Terri! I’ve got everyone entered so far! 😉


  39. Melissa says:

    Autumn, Robin and Joan! Thanks so much, ladies! I loved making the cover way too much. LOL Even though there are so many little things that tie it into the story that probably no one gets but me, being able to do just that was awesome!


  40. jeff7salter says:

    Melissa, you and Stacy can grab your shootin’ irons and drive up to Possum Trot and I’ll help y’all blast holes in targets.
    Free root beer after we’re done shootin’.


  41. Melissa says:

    LOL Jeff! Be careful, we might just take you up on that! 🙂


  42. Melissa says:

    So sorry for the delay!

    And the winner (according to my trusty random winner picker) is:


    Please email at: with your email address and I’ll get those prizes to you!

    Thanks again to everyone for stopping by!
    Wishing you all the BEST!!


  43. jeff7salter says:

    bring your own ammo …


  44. Hey Everyone-
    Be on the lookout this Thursday for the follow-up to Missy’s interview. I’ll be asking a whole lot more questions! Be thinking of your own to throw out there to her as well.


  45. Kathie Leung says:

    This might have been asked and answered, but about how much capital did you need up front to publish this book – and do you happen to know roughly how much you should have if you were to have utilized the craftsmanship of others, say a cover designer, ebook format person, etc.? I just want to know so I have an idea of how much lead time I’ll need to invest in trying to win over my husband or at least recoup the max allowance in the insurance settlement. 🙂


  46. Hi Kathie-
    The difference between being self published and vanity published is partly the price tag.
    A vanity press will charge you a significant amount of money to print up a run of books. Self pubbing is e-books online and the cost is little to no money if you do it mostly yourself. (You can also have a print on demand option and they will print a book should your customer want one.)
    I know Melissa did everything on her own so her up front costs were fairly low. I think it cost her more to host her web site than to publish her book. Of course, as with anything else, you can drive the cost way up if you hire out a bunch of the stuff.
    There’s a web site that has all kinds of information to help you publish- he also hires out to design and format your manuscript. I have no idea what it costs, but you might take a peek and see if the info is listed there. You can also hire a professional editor and they charge anywhere from $2 to $8/ page. Etc.
    This Thursday, I will host Melissa for the second round of interrogation…I mean questions so we can learn a bit more about the experience she had and how she plans to do things differently this time around.


  47. Melissa says:

    Hi, Kathie. Since I did everything myself, there was little cost up front for the ebook. I knew from the start I was taking this route, so I have no idea how much it might cost for cover design and formatting. Sorry. For the print copy, after purchasing the photos, and copyright fee, I only had to buy two proof copies for under $10.00 to make sure it looked like I wanted it to. All this for roughly $50.00. Hope that helps. 🙂 Best of luck!


  48. Thank you for being so honest.

    May good fortune walk with you!


  49. You’ve inspired me so much Melissa, and answered a few burning questions I’ve had. Thank you for this interview, and thank you Muse Tracks for hosting it!


  50. Melissa says:

    Thank you Carolyn! 🙂 Wishing you all the best!


  51. Melissa says:

    Hey, Heather! It’s been a wild ride. LOL There is just so much to learn. Feel free to pick my brain anytime. 🙂


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