Those Who Have Gone Before: Words from a Successful Indie Author
Do you ever wonder what it takes to become a successful indie author? How much work (other than the actual writing) goes into increasing those sales? I definitely do.
Last weekend during my local ACFW meeting, I had the opportunity to learn at the feet of someone who has gone before me and has successfully navigated the self-publishing waters—Tamara Leigh. And since she warned us to check out someone’s credentials before we took their advice, I did just that.
Tamara Leigh is ranked in the top 100 authors in the Religion and Spirituality fiction category on Amazon (considering this category includes traditionally published authors, Leigh is hanging out with the best of them). She’s doing so well in fact, Amazon reached out to her about offering her books in paperback in addition to her digital books. And no, most of us aren’t going to have the kind of success where Amazon notices and contacts us.
So what has Leigh done to reach this level? She shared her QQSP formula
Your books should include
- Well-developed characters
- Ruthless editing
- Professional, eye-catching covers
- Vibrant back cover copy
- Genre specific series and book titles
Yes, you are going to have to pay for some of these items but the adage You’ve got to spend money to make money holds true in the self-pub world.
Keep feeding your readers habits.
While Leigh admits she’s not as prolific as some indie authors, she still strives to put a new title out every six months. I’ve heard many indie authors say you should be offering your readers something new every 60-90 days.
Does that scare you? Consider having your entire first series ready to go (edits, covers, etc) before you put your first book out in the world. I wish I’d gone this route with my first series and this is definitely the formula I’m using with my next one.
And speaking of…
Allow your readers to remain in the world you’ve built.
This one is simple:
A writer writes
Keep in mind the word FUTURE. It could take ten years or more to make a living as an independent author.
One thing that Leigh shared that surprised me was that when she is asked whether to go indie or traditional with publishing, she always says traditional. Let the publishing house help you build your audience. When you’re ready, you can pull that story out of the drawer that no one wanted and self-publish it.
BUT, if you’ve been shopping your stories around for a year or two with little nibbles of interest and no action, maybe it’s time to consider self-publishing.
Also keep in mind that in today’s world of eBooks, getting publishing rights back from traditional houses will take years (if you get them back at all).
I’ll be the first to admit I have a long way to go on my indie journey before I become successful at it. I’ve made mistakes along the way (the biggest one? Jumping into the waters too soon).
It’s encouraging that authors who have gone before are so willing to share their secrets of success for those who follow. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about authors over my four-year writing journey, it’s that they don’t begrudge the success of other authors. We’re a family of writers.