Advice to Indie Authors
Ten years ago I embarked on the dream of becoming a published author. In February of 2009, I landed a contract with a major international publisher offering a five figure deal for my epic fantasy saga. Sound the trumpets and send up the fireworks, I’d beaten the odds and won the lotto! I was over the moon with joy, but after three short months the dream devolved into a complete nightmare. After two torturous years, I reclaimed the full rights to my saga, escaped from the major publisher, and formed my own company. To date I’ve published the first three books of The Silk & Steel Saga, (The Steel Queen, The Flame Priest, The Skeleton King, and soon to be published, The Poison Priestess) as well as a collection of short stories entitled The Assassin’s Tear. My books are getting great reviews, I have awesome fans around the world, and I can honestly say I’m thrilled to be in control of my own destiny.
Having experienced both sides of the publishing business, I thought I’d pass on some hard-won tips to other indie authors.
First and foremost, you need to write the very best book you can. An essential element of good writing is getting feedback from critique groups, from alpha and beta readers, and from professional editors. The more ‘eyeballs’ you get on your work, the better. Search for alpha readers in your neighborhood, at parties, at coffee shops, at bookstores, or even on-line. I had fifteen alpha/beta readers for my first book and they gave me invaluable feedback. Some of them became my biggest fans.
Secondly, the sooner you start promoting your book, the better. Authors need to build an audience before their book is published. This might sound like putting the cart before the horse, but major publishers promote their authors for over a year in advance. If it’s important for the majors then it’s absolutely critical for indie publishers. For The Steel Queen, I started two years in advance with Facebook and then progressed to a website and other forms of social media. Be creative, be entertaining, and use the social network to spread the word.
A picture is still worth a thousand words…that’s why covers are crucial. Eye-catching artwork, even when reduced to a postage-stamp size, is the very best marketing tool an indie author has. A cover is your calling card on Amazon, on Facebook, on your website, so make sure it’s a great one. Covers should look professional and they should reflect your genre with a single glance. Commission your cover as soon as possible so you have it for advance marketing. Get the most out of your covers by branding their designs, so all your books are easily recognizable.
Word-of-mouth is still king when it comes to selling books, so encourage your readers to write and post reviews. The best gift a reader can give an author is a review, but indie publishers also need professional reviews. Search for book reviewers on-line and offer them a complimentary copy for an honest review. Unfortunately major publishers are also chasing reviews, so they flood established reviewers with their own books (my publisher was going to send 50 advance copies just to Amazon US reviewers!). Since most reviewers are swamped, indie publishers often need to discover new emerging reviewers. Once a review is posted, multiply its value by spreading links through the web.
Most likely ninety percent of your sales will be e-books, but spend the extra time and money to publish your books in a print format. Don’t miss out on the thrill of actually hold your book in your hands, and you’ll need paperback copies for many professional reviewers and for Goodreads giveaways.
And last, but not least, keep writing. The more good books you publish, the greater your chance of success. Write a saga or a series and publish new books at regular intervals. Keep writing good books and your audience will multiply. Best of luck to you!
Here is the blurb for The Poison Priestess, the fourth book in The Silk & Steel Saga, to be published in late Nov 2012:
While Kath and her companions chase the Mordant into the far north, the southern kingdoms erupt in Flames. The Lord Raven marches south, unleashing a holy war against Lanverness. Vastly outnumbered by a ruthless enemy, Queen Liandra spins desperate gambits in a dire struggle to save her kingdom.
New alliances and new awakenings hatch deeper levels of intrigue. The Oracle Priestess and the Lord Raven form a tenuous alliance, while deep in the Southern Mountains the Kiralynn monks stir, revealing more than prophecy.
Armies clash, battles rage, and cities fall, as lives, loves and crowns hang in the balance, but swords are not the only way to wage war. Treachery, deceit, assassins, and the power of seduction will face-off against steadfast courage, forgotten magic, and the power of truth. The Poison Priestess is the fourth book in this epic tale of Light versus Dark.
Pick up the entire series: