INTERVIEW WITH A SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHOR
- When did you start self publishing and what inspired you to start?
I self published my first novel in 2012 – I wanted to write a book, and once I had written it, I wanted to make it available for other people to read. I never considered approaching an agent; self-Publishing looked easy. With little knowledge or forethought I leapt into launching my own book.
- Was Amazon your first choice of medium to self publish or did you consider others? If so why did you choose Amazon?
I did look at Lulu first, but Amazon’s self-Publishing process seemed the obvious choice, as they are the main online retailer of books. Publishing through Amazon, which was then through Createspace for paperbacks and KDP for ebook, would get my book directly into the major online retailer with an option to expand the distribution to other booksellers such as Barnes and Noble, and the process was easy to follow. Amazon seemed like the no-brainer.
- What pitfalls did you experience self publishing? What advice would you give to those looking to avoid them?
I was very lucky when I first self-published, as I spent a lot of time on Twitter and knew some people who also had a large following. My marketing plan was non-existent – I didn’t even know I needed one. I released my book and tweeted about it, and then asked everyone I knew to retweet and buy it. I ended up with a bestseller and an agent approaching me to represent me. I wasn’t ready for any of that. When I released my second book, seven years later, I thought it would be that easy again. I launched “Derelict” without a marketing plan, and wondered why people were not rushing out to buy it like they had with my debut. I didn’t have the online presence anymore and I had basically thrown my book into the void. Planning the release of my fourth book, I now have an advance reader team of 300 people, and a six month pre-release marketing plan.
- How much of your time is structured between marketing and writing? Do you find it difficult to manage the two?
I am currently spending 90 percent of my time marketing my most recent release and its associated audio-book and working on the pre-release marketing for the next book. I have a work in progress that I want to release by next March, but I have to focus on the planning rather than writing at the moment. I would love to have more time to write!
- What inspired you to study your current MA in Creative Writing and Publishing?
I wanted to learn more about the publishing side of being a writer, and learn some more skills that will help me to self-publish. Unfortunately the disruption of Covid-19 has meant that I am not getting the hands-on experience of the software I wanted to improve my skills with. I also wanted to do the course to provide me with increased motivation to write. As I have launched book three, “Ghosted”, and written book four while I have been studying, I think that has been successful.
- What are your career goals? Do you hope to continue self publishing as long as you can, or are you hoping to transition to something else entirely?
I plan to keep writing and publishing on a regular basis. I would like to study my PhD. The world seems like an uncertain place right now, so I’ll see what happens!
- What would you say to those hoping to self publish for the first time?
Be prepared to put in a lot of work to market your book if you want to sell. There is so much help and support in the online writing community that you should definitely be engaging with other writers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. One other absolutely crucial point I’ve learned is that you should be aware of your genre and audience when you are writing the book. From the outset, be clear in your mind how you will market your work. If you don’t know what genre your book will fit into, it will be incredibly difficult to market it. If you know who will buy it before you begin, you can focus your writing on the audience you are targeting.
- Do you think that the competition in indie publishing makes it difficult to stand out? How do you make yourself and your books known?
With a good product, well-written blurb and well-designed book cover, if you know what your target audience is and how to reach them you can make your book stand out in the crowd. There are so many self-published authors, sure, but a polished, edited, engaging story will still get readers if it’s presented and marketed effectively. Once you start to sell copies, Amazon will pick up on your book and start to promote it organically too, because they want to push the work that’s making them money. Get the momentum going, and Amazon will help.
- What are your thoughts on social media marketing and how do you utalise it when self publishing?
Social media is essential in building a platform, both from linking with other authors and bloggers, and from finding readers. I gathered my advance reader team from social media, and I use paid ads on Facebook as my main platform for advertising along with Amazon ads. To be a successful indie author (if success is measured in sales) I believe you have to use social media.
- Do you think self publishing is enough to sustain a life long career?
It’s important to see self-publishing as a long-term plan. Building a platform and building a body of work are the two crucial elements for success. Once you have these, all you need to do is find your readers. Whilst that’s not as easy as it sounds, it’s not as difficult as you might think. It can be done, and lots of people do it. If you are committed to writing and publishing and are prepared to spend a lot of time, and invest some money, you can make self-publishing your career.