7 Things I Learned in 7 Years as an Indie Author

Some of you have asked what it’s like to take the indie author road instead of traditional publishing. So I’ll tell you. It’s a bit like typing in Spanish with one hand and Greek with the other, while you’re blindfolded and going fifty-five on a hoverboard. Except with less nausea and bloodshed. I kid, of course. It’s worse than that. Why do it, then? Because I can. Because I like to be in control of my work. I’ve been self-publishing for seven years now—long enough to learn a few things, and also long enough to realize there’s a lot I still don’t know. Here are a few things I’ve learned in my seven years of independence.

1. It helps to stay current.The publishing market is always changing. Sales outlets change; advertisers change; Amazon algorithms reallychange. What worked like gangbusters for one author one day might be a flat bust for another…or even for the same book two months later. This is why I read a handful of publishing blogs and bother my colleagues with questions about what’s working—and not working—for them. 

2. Reviews are for readers. A hard lesson I learned was that once I publish a book, I have no control over what readers will say about it. Zip. Zero. I still hope for reviews. They make me feel good, especially when readers like my work, but I stopped getting hung up over the “negative” ones. Because, really, reviews are for readers. They tell other readers if a book is worth their precious leisure hours that they could be spending with Netflix or crafting avocado toast. If you hate first person, present tense stories about vampire mermaids with serious alpha billionaire issues (spoiler alert: this is not what I write), you’d want to see that reflected in a review, yes? Saves you oodles of time and frustration.

3. Goodreads is also for readers. Other than doing giveaways (which are now honking expensive so I stopped) I was never really comfortable wearing my author hat there. It felt kind of spammy and stalky to be lurking around. But I do like the site as a reader, with my shelves and to-reads and discussion groups and all that. Once in a while, I’ll mention a new book or a promotion or whatnot, but I try to keep it low-key.

4. Patience. Patience. Patience.I publish a book. I open my handy spreadsheet of bloggers and reviewers and send out queries or review copies. I wait. I wait patiently, I wait professionally. I wait…happily. Not that I’m sucking up or anything, but book bloggers and reviewers are gold. They are wonderful people who love books and want to talk about books, but they are BUSY. They don’t get paid for what they do, so they have jobs and stuff. So once I send, I don’t bother them. Ever. If they choose to review my book, I thank them; I share their blogs and try to get them more traffic.

5. The Oxygen Mask Rule. There’s that announcement in airplanes that if the oxygen mask drops, put yours on before assisting others. Promotion and marketing can take a lot of time and energy. I went out guns blazing when I started, and within a few years I was dragging. I had to make a tough decision: back away from promotion so it wouldn’t kill the joy I get from writing. When I was ready to return, I had a much better perspective on how I was balancing my time.

6. Play well with others. The internet truly is forever. So are a lot of readers’ memories. I cringe when I read public posts from authors bashing other authors, complaining about Draconian editors (not me, of course), or whining about book reviews. It makes them look like jerks. 

7. Do my own thing and be happy. As I said before, writing is one of my great joys and I like to have control over my work. So I want to write and publish in a way that makes me happy. If another author’s version of happy is publishing six romance novels a year or winning the Pulitzer or making a boatload of money, then I wish them well. Life is short and we all deserve a shot at being happy with what we make.

Thank you for being part of my adventure.

A Year of Reading Indie

IU-reading-challenge-ksb-300x205Happy New Year!

If one of your goals for 2016 is to get out of your reading comfort zone, Indies Unlimited has cooked up a little challenge for you. And I’m really looking forward to this. Twelve months, twelve books, twelve indie authors.

Ready to make your first choice? IU minion, author, and super-reader Candace Williams explains the challenge here.

The World Inside a Book

6a0148c76e8722970c0147e3cfb865970b-300x300Reading is a huge part of my life. I have my parents to thank for that, because they always encouraged us to read and value books. They read to my two brothers and me when we were small, and there were always books in the house. When I buzzed through my school’s and community library’s collection of “age appropriate” books, I’d pick up whatever my mom or dad had started and left on the coffee table, taking care to keep the bookmark at their place. If there was a book they didn’t want me to be reading, they knew to keep it out of my sight! (Most of the time.) Continue reading

Entangled Thorns by Melinda Clayton: Book Review

Entangled-Thorns-Melinda-Clayton-207x300By accident I started reading Melinda Clayton’s Cedar Hollow series out of order, but it didn’t reduce the experience for me in the slightest. After the well-defined characters, what I like most about this series is how the sense of place becomes a character as well. It feels especially powerful in Entangled Thorns. I can almost smell Rugged Creek and feel the shock of the cold water and hear the whine of the mosquitoes. The vegetation, the land, the very humidity in the air…I can practically taste it. And yet it doesn’t become overwhelming or feel like too much detail. I know when I start highlighting passages on my Kindle about the quality of the sunsets or the texture of the night skies, it’s something I’ll be hard pressed to put down.  Continue reading

Appalachian Justice by Melinda Clayton: a review

ImageLet me tell you about this book. First I need to tell you that Melinda Clayton is a fellow minion at Indies Unlimited. But I’m certain I would have picked up this book regardless, because the subject and the description intrigued me, and I’d heard about her writing talent. I also read a discussion about Appalachian Justice before I read it, mostly concerning the dialect used. Dialect is dicey in fiction. There’s a fine tightrope act between “not enough” and “Jar Jar Binks.” (No offense meant to Star Wars fans.) But dialect can come off a little strong and alienate a reader, sometimes because it can be difficult to understand, sometimes because it can touch a stereotypical nerve. And, I admit that when I started reading Appalachian Justice, it took me a bit to get into the West Virginia dialect used in first person by the main character, Billy May Platte. But after a while, I grew comfortable with her manner of speaking and grew to love her for her quiet strength and authenticity.

The events of the story are not always pretty, but neither is real life, and the author does a fine job portraying these “broken” characters, laying out who they are through their dialogue and actions and allowing the reader to have empathy. I felt so strongly for these characters, the ones who were trying to get on with their lives after some horrifying experiences, the ones just trying do good and right old wrongs, some only going by the limited information they were able to glean from each other. I loved how Ms. Clayton handled Billy May’s sexuality: it was just a fact of the character’s life, although very realistically for the time period and the community, other characters saw it as a threat.

Appalachian Justice is a great example of how a skilled writer can bend writing “rules” and make it work. Ms. Clayton mixes first and third person, employs multiple points of view even for minor characters, goes back and forth in time, and it all works, in my opinion, to give the reader a full context for the core drama that runs through the story. I love how the story builds in tension and how the author metes it out, pulling me in deeper and deeper until I had to stay up far past my bedtime to see how it all came together. Once I got hooked I had a hard time putting this down. Now I’m on the hunt for Melinda Clayton’s other books.

Celebrate Teen Reading Week, Indie Style

3327179Launched in the US in 1998 by YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association), Teen Reading Week is, you guessed it, an initiative to encourage adolescent literacy.

This is an excellent program and I’m all for getting more kids to read. As a child and a teen, I spent hours disappearing into my favorite books. Without these literary friends, my life might have turned out very differently. I still enjoy reading, editing, and celebrating young adult books.

With that goal in mind, a couple of my indie author friends, Greta Burroughs and Vickie Johnstone, have organized an “Inspiring Teens” blog hop. See below for a list of all the authors you can meet this coming week. You might also win some books or an Amazon gift card.

Enjoy!

Monday, Oct. 14

Blogger – Kate Bainbridge  http://read2review.com/
Author – Vickie Johnstone

 Blogger – Sharon Ledwith http://sharonledwith.blogspot.com/
Author – Jennifer Loiske

 Blogger – Armen Pogharian https://armenpogharian.wordpress.com/
Author – Ey Wade

 Blogger – Candice Conway Simpson    http://booksforboysreviewsandfun.blogspot.co.uk/
Author – Sharon Rose Mayes

Blogger-Cedar Sanderson http://cedarwrites.com/
Author – Kim Mutch Emerson

Blogger – Maria Savva –http://www.mariasavva.com 
Author – Ed Drury

 
Tuesday, Oct. 15

Blogger – Kate Bainbridge http://read2review.com/
Author – Greta Burroughs

Blogger – Jennifer Loiske    http://jenniferloiske.wordpress.com/
Author – Cedar Sanderson

Blogger – Lisa Cresswell www.lisatcresswell.blogspot.com
Author – Tim Flanagan

Blogger –Debra J Jameson Smith http://creationsbydjamesonsmith.com/blog/
Author – Sharon Ledwith

Blogger –David Lowbridge  http://indieebookreview.blogspot.co.uk)
Author – Amanda Haulk Taylor
 
Blogger –Wendy Strain – 
http://www.writeonwendy.com/
Author – Greta Burroughs 7:45-8:45 PM CST 
This is a five minute fiction contest open for all participants to write a short piece using a prompt provided by Greta Burroughs.  A prize will be awarded to the winner.  It’s a lot of fun and an exciting way to show off your skills at writing.
 
Wednesday, Oct. 16

Blogger – Kate Bainbridge  http://read2review.com/
Author – Debbie Manber Kupfer
 
Blogger –Maria Saava   http://www.mariasavva.com 
Author –Linda Deane

Blogger – Debbie Manber Kupfer – http://debbiemanberkupfer.wordpress.com/
Author – Randy Attwood

Blogger – Ey Wade http://dna-bloodtiesandlies.blogspot.com/
Author – Armen Pogharian

Blogger – David Lowbridge  http://indieebookreview.blogspot.co.uk
Author –Helen Daly

Blogger – Robert DeBurgh http://robertdeburgh.weebly.com/blog-blogging-through-the-mire.html
Author – Christine Hughes

 
Thursday, Oct. 17

Blogger – Kate Bainbridge  http://read2review.com/
Author – Hugo Jackson 

Blogger – Vickie Johnstone (Vixie’s Stories) – http://vickiejohnstone.blogspot.co.uk/
Author  – Paul Plunkett

Blogger – Kim Mutch Emerson http://masterkoda.com/category/master-koda-blog-tour
Author – Donna Dillon

Blogger – Karen Pokraz Toz  http://kptoz.blogspot.co.uk
Author – JR Simmons

Blogger – David Lowbridge http://indieebookreview.blogspot.co.uk/
Author –Saoirse O’Mara

Blogger – Brenda Perlin http://homewreckertheblog.com/
Author – Charlotte Blackwell
 

Friday, Oct. 18

Blogger – Kate Bainbridge  –http://read2review.com/
Author – Tianna Scott

Blogger –Tim Flanagan  http://timflanaganauthor.wordpress.com
Author – Catherine Stovall

Blogger – Sharon Rose Mayes – http://www.notyourmomblog.com/
Author – Wendy Siefken

Blogger –  Cassie McCown http://gatheringleavesreviews.blogspot.com/
Author – Alan Tucker

Blogger –David Lowbridge http://indieebookreview.blogspot.co.uk/
Author –Michael Chulsky

 Blogger – Wendy Siefken  http://siefkenpublications.blogspot.co.uk/
Author – Juli Caldwell

 
Saturday, Oct. 19

Blogger – Robbie Cox www.themessthatisme.com
Author – Patrick Robbins

Blogger – Jonathan Gould  http://daglit.blogspot.co.uk
Author – Sibel Hodge

Blogger – Donna Dillon  http://authordonnadillon.blogspot.com/
Author – Debra J Jameson Smith
 

Blogger – Greta Burroughs http://booksbygretaburroughs.weebly.com/-a-new-day-has-begun.html
Author – Chris Baker

Blogger – Cassy Wood http://reviewmetwice.blogspot.com
Author – Vicki Kinnaird

Blogger – Vickie Johnstone –  http://vickiejohnstone.blogspot.co.uk/
Author – Lisa Cresswell

Wicked Awesome Indies: Vote and Win!

RCABPnominee

Have you voted yet for your favorites in BigAl’s Books and Pals Readers’ Choice Awards? Fear not. Voting continues until March 31.

You may have (ahem) voted for a certain novel in the contemporary fiction category, and I thank you for that down to my toes. But there are lots of other categories, and each vote gives you a greater chance in the drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card.

MrPFor instance, K.S. Brooks has been nominated in the childrens’ book category for Postcards from Mr. Pish:  East Coast Edition.

About the book: Mr. Pish, the lovable Jack Russell Terrier, leads readers on an expedition down the East Coast of the United States in Postcards from Mr. Pish Volume 3. With each new discovery, the traveling terrier sends a postcard with full-color photographs and engaging text geared to promote outdoor learning and literacy. Mr. Pish’s enthusiasm inspires young and old to read, explore and learn in a fun way.

music-speaks-187x300In the Short Story Collections/Anthologies category, my author and editor friend, LB Clark, has been nominated for her anthology, Music Speaks. It’s a pretty fabulous undertaking for a charity that helps musicians, and it includes short stories by two of my favorite writers, JD Mader and David Antrobus. Learn more about the book and the foundation here.

DavidAA pretty commanding author and editor himself, David Antrobus also received a solo nomination for his outstanding memoir, A Dissolute Kinship. Read my review here.

LynneHave you read Lynne Cantwell yet? She’s been nominated in the Speculative Fiction category for Seized, the first book in her Pipe Woman Chronicles. I’m well into this fascinating story and eagerly anticipate starting on the rest of the series. This book is currently in the running for an ABNA award.

Voting automatically enters you into B&P’s giveaway. You can learn all about that here. Voting ends at midnight, April 1, and final results will be announced the morning of Wednesday, April 3.

Thank you!

[Voting notes: The form doesn’t like Internet Explorer. Once you get to the site, log in with Facebook or your e-mail address. Click on the downward-facing arrow in each category to see the books nominated. Click the open circle to the left to make your selection and “Enter” to register the vote. Clicking on the title will give you more info about the book.]

A Wicked Good Cause

164414_10151540378282269_288214114_nMost of you might have seen video or print coverage of the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Sandy on the metro NY tri-state area last fall. Some of you have lived it. Some of you are still living it, long after the reporters packed up and went home. Heck, some of us up in the Hudson Valley are still recovering from Hurricane Irene, which literally wiped two small towns off the map in August 2011.

Yes, lives were destroyed. Businesses. Homes. Schools.

Libraries.

Who really thinks about the libraries? They’re just…self-perpetuating, right?

Turns out that raging floodwater, mud, and books don’t mix so well. Imagine how multiple branches of a large metropolitan library system would fare.

Last November, author K.S. Brooks, now stationed in an undisclosed part of the Pacific Northwest and who once lived in these parts, had an idea. She founded Indie Authors for Hurricane Sandy Libraries.

“This is a great opportunity to connect libraries in need to authors willing to donate books. We work closely with the library systems to make certain they receive the genres they need,” says group founder K. S. Brooks.

Along with almost a hundred other vetted authors from all over the world, I was happy to be able to donate copies of Drawing Breath and Don’t Tell Anyone to the cause of rebuilding the libraries’ inventory.

Learn more about Indie Authors for Hurricane Sandy.

My Year of Living Indie

poetry_readingJacqueline Hopkins-Walton, a member of a Facebook group I belong to, recently asked us to kick in our “top ten” favorite books we read in 2012. Five immediately came to mind, several others I can’t name because they’re not officially published yet or I had a hand in editing, and the rest resulted from a quick consultation with my Kindle.

Only one book was put out by a large publisher.

In fact, a further consultation with the K-dude revealed that with the exception of The Maltese Falcon, nearly every book I read in 2012 was written by an indie author.

Curiosity? Solidarity? Poverty?

Yes, all are true. When, in late 2011, I started testing the waters prior to self-publishing my second novel, Drawing Breath, I met a bunch of great, funny, quirky, generous authors who’d decided to chuck pitching to the Big Guys and go their own way. Curious, I read a bunch of affordable—and frequently free—books that didn’t have a flightless waterfowl on their spines. Some needed some work. Some were good. Some were pretty amazing.

I didn’t consciously make a choice to avoid the big names. A few of my favorite trad-published authors, like Michael Chabon, Joyce Carol Oates, and Ian McEwan came out with books this year and I will read them, eventually, when the budget allows. (Before you suggest my local library, I am a big fan, although Marion the Librarian does not care for my slow reading pace, which resulted in my returning Ian McEwan’s Solar only halfway done under threat of large fines and manual dispossession.)

My TBR indie list sort of…evolved. Friends came out with new books. Other authors recommended their favorites. One thing led to another. My involvement with Indies Unlimited brought me closer to inspirational, heartbreakingly talented, funny, smart authors from around the world.

Doesn’t mean I won’t sink into a big-name book again. In fact, two are waiting on my nightstand: Jeffrey Eugenides because I’ve adored him since Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides, and Jane Green, because I won her latest in a Goodreads Giveaway.

This year in reading just happened. And I’m very happy about it. It’s a lovely feeling, looking down my Kindle directory and seeing so many friends’ names.

So, in no particular order, these were my favorite books I read in 2012:

Jimmy Mender and his Miracle Dog by Leland Dirks
Joe Café by JD Mader
Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip by David Antrobus
My Temporary Life by Martin Crosbie
Upgrade by Stephen Hise
Bad Book by Stephen Hise, KS Brooks, and JD Mader
Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines by Carol E. Wyer
The Sable City and Death of a Kingdom by M. Edward McNally [from the same series; The Norothian Cycle, so it counts as two!]
Charmed Life by Susan Bennett

What were some of your favorites?

Disclaimers:

1. I am a relatively slow reader, and it’s been a busy year.
2. Which means I probably read about thirty books.
3. So I do what I can. And this only one reader’s opinion.
4. There are many, many wonderful authors I’ve yet to read.
5. Even ones I know.
6. Your actual mileage may vary.