then vs. now: lessons learned publishing as an indie author

When I published my first book Still Life in March 2010, I had no clue. It was a risk. There were countless unknowns. Everything was new to me: 1) Writing a novella – I had only written short stories and poetry. 2) Sharing my work  – other than writing professors and fellow students, I never allowed anyone to read what I wrote. 3) The self-publishing process – back then, it was still relatively new, resources and options were scarce and often sketchy.

There was one thing I knew, however. I was hooked.

As of today, I have 12 books available on AMAZON (9 Novels and 3 Series Box Sets). Include (1) fiction novel project and (1) non-fiction project, and I am slated to add 2 more books to my official lineup by the end of this year.

Writing and publishing books has always been “the” dream for me, but never did I imagine I would be living this dream every single day. I know I am fortunate to pursue something I enjoy. Yet still, there are times when I struggle and question my chosen path.

With every new project I look ahead with optimism and excitement for what might be. But at the same time, I am a realist and cannot help but look back with caution and appreciation for what has been.

It comes as no surprise – there are incredible differences between my first release Still Life (3/2010) and my last release Everything She Has (10/2016). Writing style. Level of detail. The process. My intent. It is impossible to stay in this industry this long and not learn or alter something.

Truth is, I would have never made it to the NOW without the THEN.

  1. THEN: Lack of confidence. I was not sure I could publish on my own.

NOW: I got this. I navigate the countless steps of publishing with relative ease. I do it all: outline, write, edit, format, cover design, pricing, marketing, social media, websites, blogging, financials, copyrights, etc. With every new project I have a structured plan, a checklist of what to do and when. I also have credible and dependable resources I trust and rely on to stay up to date with the ever-changing trends. Please don’t get me wrong, though. I may be more efficient and have a nice library of content, but I am constantly learning and finding my way. There is always a new method, a change of technology, a better path to write and sell. I welcome any knowledge on how to streamline the process or improve my craft and often tweak my plan from book to book as a result. Still, I have no fear of publishing on my own. What I don’t know, I know I can learn.

2. THEN: One hit wonder. I thought I would publish only one book.

NOW: I cannot stop. My original intent was to publish Still Life as a legacy for my son. I wanted him to have a book written by me, something tangible that I created. I had always wanted to be an author and now I could proudly say I was. But once I finished, something shifted inside me. I had another story (and another). There was a desire to go through the process again (and again). I admit there are times when I think I might be done writing – the most notable being February 2012. I had just published Spiritwas diagnosed with breast cancer a week later, and felt certain that was the end. Thankfully, I came through it and am in remission. Better still, the stories keep coming. I realize there will come a day when I have nothing more to share and the desire is gone. But for now, I embrace the unbelievable opportunity to do what I love and am not about to let that go.

3. THEN: Get a job. I thought I would self-publish as a means to obtain a publishing house contract.

NOW: I am the Boss. I realized early on that working for someone else was never my actual goal. Back in 2010, the mainstream public and book industry looked down on self-publishing. There was a cloud of stigma surrounding it. Indie authors were not taken seriously and their work was often considered “less-than.” As such, most writers sought to sign on with a big publisher. Initially, I believed I should want that, too. But in reality, I did not want to do what someone else told me. I wanted to establish my own terms, make my own rules, and have the freedom to create what I wanted regardless of profit potential. My purpose is not validation by any literary crowd or even to sell to the masses – it is to write what I know, entertain, and hopefully inspire. After the first year, I never considered submitting to an agent. That being said, if I was ever approached by a publisher, I would feel incredibly honored. 😉

4. THEN: Jack (or Jill) of all trades. I believed I had to follow every piece of advice from every resource in order to be successful.

NOW: I do life on my own terms. There is a ton of information out there: some excellent, some good, some terrible. Self-publishing is a haven for scams. From the beginning, I was careful and methodical, but I was also hungry for information which led me to follow too many blogs and websites. I quickly became overwhelmed (and exhausted) and finally narrowed it down to a few credible sources. Today, I am extremely selective about who I listen to and the products I invest in. I perform extensive research and do not fall for every new tip or sales gimmick. I know when something sounds too good to be true and have a clear understanding of what I am willing to do and pay to reach my goals. I may not do the trendy or more profitable things to sell my books, but I am fine with that. Compromising my work and family is not something I wish to do. I know what I can handle but more importantly, I know what my life can handle.

5. THEN: $$$$$$. I thought I would make more money.

NOW: $$$. A handful of indie authors make a decent living selling books, but the stark reality is most do not. Though it is possible, the few who hit it big with best sellers and publishing contracts are not the norm. The bulk of indies hold a regular job and write on the side. This market is becoming increasingly saturated, incredibly competitive, and tougher to break into. In the first years, there were months when I did not make one cent. With a great deal of commitment and perseverance, I now earn an extremely modest monthly income. I work hard for each sale and appreciate the fact someone chose to spend money on my book. Every reader matters. I see the big picture – clearly – and it has little to do with a hefty check. Being realistic about my primary goal (to share stories with others) helps me stay focused on creating quality content for my reader. Loving what I do and doing it with purpose? That has made me rich.

BONUS THEN: Comfort zone. I tried to follow the rules (I really did).

NOW: I make (and break) the rules. My current work of fiction is a departure from what I typically publish which makes it all the more fun to write. And my other blog Inspired ME, Joyful BE (which serves as inspiration for the pending novel) provides a unique outlet for me to create.

I did not realize THEN how much I would be happy with the NOW. Sometimes looking back provides a sentimental and timely reminder that the patience, hard work, and overall struggle have been worth it. Our past can motivate, give the gentle nudge we need to keep moving forward.

Of course, I am in no way finished with this journey, and it is still an uphill battle. But I do know that I can push myself to keep climbing — because I have done it before.

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