I started my career as a traditionally published author with Red Sage, Ellora’s Cave and Samhain Publishing. I’ll forever be grateful that those publishers had faith in my writing ability, but in today’s publishing world, I believe it’s smart for an author to protect their career by investigating indie publishing as well.
A few years ago, self-publishing was transitioning from “vanity” press into something a lot less negative, rebranding itself as “indie” publishing. I belong to several author loops, and I began to hear about writers who had success self-publishing… both traditional authors who’d gotten their publishing rights back from older stories, and other writers who had “niche” stories that the big publishers had rejected because they didn’t think they would sell. I was happy with my traditional sales, but because I’m a pragmatist, I decided to try this new publishing avenue.
My most recent book is a contemporary romance called Fear Of Flying, and it’s my “write what you know” book. Yes, I’m afraid to fly. And yes, a psychic once told me I’d never die in a plane crash, just like a psychic tells my heroine at the beginning of this story. And yes, I was a book publicist for two years just like Jessie Jordan in the book. I travelled the country helping non-fiction authors promote their new releases: cookbooks, art books, travel books.
This thinly-veiled autobiography was easy and fun for me to write, and I thought it was a good book to experiment with indie publishing.
Frankly, when I hit the “publish” button for that book, my hope was simply that anyone Googling Erica Jong might also find my version of Fear Of Flying and be intrigued enough to buy a copy. But an unexpected thing happened. In September, Erica Jong released a book called Fear Of Dying. Immediately, my sales of Fear Of Flying took off, and they’re still pretty good month to month!
So this was not an objective indie experiment, per se. I was lucky, but if you’re considering self-publishing, there are a few things you should know:
-Series sell better than single titles. Romance readers are voracious, and when they find an author they like, they’ll buy everything you’ve written. If you can hook them with a series, you’ll have a guaranteed readership.
- Readers DO NOT CARE if you’re traditionally published or self-published, they just care that you’ve written a good book. Or let me clarify… a good, grammatically-clean, and copy-edited book. Self-published authors should have your book edited by an outside person, because nothing looks more “amateur” than misspellings, bad grammar and incorrect punctuation. Even if you’re absolutely convinced you’re an English maven, you as an author are so familiar with your story that you’re likely to miss obvious errors. And if you’re unsure that your fiction story WORKS… with Goal, Motivation & Conflict and your basic 3-act or 6-stage plot structure… you should consider hiring a content editor as well.
-Your cover and your blurb are (almost) the most important parts of your book. Just like traditional publishing, the cover is the first thing that will draw a reader’s attention. Number two is the blurb… if your book doesn’t sound interesting in one or two paragraphs, a reader isn’t going to buy it. Then, as long as your story is satisfying, you’ll have a devoted reader. So hire a cover artist. And hire a professional formatter. You want to have the most professional product you can produce. In today’s crowded marketplace, you need to take advantage of every opportunity to stand out.
I’m sure there are a million other tips indie authors could give, but those are my top three. And as for me, I plan to keep a foot in both publishing camps (traditional and indie) because I believe it’s smart not to put all my career eggs in one basket.
What do you think of indie publishing? Read any good/bad books?