Rachel Amphlett decided to strike out on her own in 2011 after being told by a Big 5 publisher that there was no market for her action-adventure thriller. As a novice in the publishing world, she learned from her early mistakes and in 2014, sat down to write a business and marketing plan for the following year. She hasn’t looked back since and is now a full-time independent writer.
Rachel Amphlett is a #KWLWonderWoman—a savvy entrepreneur who built her writing career into a successful independent business. We’ll share more stories here and on Instagram. Do you have a story to share? Tell us here.
When I first started out as an indie author in the latter stages of 2011, I had no idea what I was doing, and it showed. Sales were abysmal, I was watching my peers go from strength to strength, and all that kept me going was the pure enjoyment of writing and publishing each book.
That all changed in mid-2014 when I was approached by an Italian publisher for the foreign rights to my debut novel. It made me sit up and take stock: if someone like this publisher could find me by accident, what could I achieve if I took a more strategic approach to my writing?
This new attitude enabled me to reduce my full-time job to part-time at the end of 2016, and when I was made redundant from my role in mid-2017, I didn’t bother looking for a new one.
I became a full-time writer with a sustainable income.
So, how can you give yourself the best start as an indie author rather than wasting time like I did when I began this journey?
Have a business and marketing plan
This, in my opinion, is the single most important step to take. It will make you sit down and focus on what your goals are and how you’re going to achieve those around other commitments such as family, a job, and your health.
In 2015, I had a marketing plan for the whole year that I revised on a regular basis. By the beginning of 2016, I was writing quarterly plans—this industry moves so fast, a yearly one wasn’t doing the job any more. I write and publish a new book every four months, so it made a lot of sense to have a plan that encompassed each launch as well as all the peripheral stuff that goes on around me with regard to writing.
There are plenty of free templates for business and marketing plans online—simply download one and tailor it to suit your publishing business.
Conduct a competitor analysis, budget your expenses, have a cash-flow forecast, plan each book launch, and then analyse what works and what doesn’t at the end of each quarter and incorporate what you learn into the next plan.
Find your readers – and then keep them
Like many authors before me, I didn’t appreciate the importance of a mailing list when I started out, and that was a huge mistake.
I started building mine at the beginning of 2015 using the first in series book as an enticement for readers, but saw increased growth once I started using Facebook advertising (thanks, Mark Dawson!) to build that list. It took me ages to get Facebook advertising to work for me, but I persisted and found new ways to test ads without spending a fortune like I did when I started learning in 2015.
Once you have those readers on your list, don’t forget about them. I have an automation sequence set up for each of my lists, first welcoming subscribers and then sending out a note every 2-3 weeks with behind the scenes information about the series, my writing life, favourite crime reads, and the like.
The best part is getting emails from readers after they receive one of these automated sequences – it’s important to respond (but not straight away – train them that you’re not constantly checking your emails, even if you are 😉 ) and you may find some of these supporters will in turn become super-readers to whom you can send Advance Reader Copies of your new books in exchange for honest reviews.
It sounds silly, but maintaining a daily (or weekly) word count is vital to your success. I’ve seen too many indie authors go full-time in the past couple of years, and get so tied up worrying about how to get their adverts to work or about other authors’ success stories that they forget to write.
Before they know it, they haven’t published anything for ages, and then they wonder why they’ve lost momentum.
The first thing I do after I’ve walked the dog in the morning is to dictate or type my daily minimum word count. That way, if I do get distracted by other elements of my business, I know I’m pushing forwards regardless and I keep my production schedule on track.
When I used to commute to work, I would write on the train. We all have different circumstances, and you don’t have to have a huge word count—if you can manage fifty words here and there in between juggling a job, kids, pets, your health, and everything else that life throws your way, then that’s great.
Those fifty words are progress, and you won’t have a successful indie author career without them.
Before turning to writing, Rachel Amphlett played guitar in bands, worked as a TV and film extra, dabbled in radio as a presenter and freelance producer for the BBC, and worked in publishing as a sub-editor and editorial assistant.
She now wields a pen instead of a plectrum and writes crime fiction and spy novels, including the Dan Taylor espionage novels and the Detective Kay Hunter series.
Originally from the UK and currently based in Brisbane, Australia, Rachel cites her writing influences as Michael Connelly, Lee Child, and Robert Ludlum. She’s also a huge fan of Peter James, Val McDermid, Angela Marsons, Robert Bryndza, Ken Follett, and Stuart MacBride.
She’s a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, with the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold sold to Fanucci Editore’s TIMECrime imprint, and the first four books in the Dan Taylor espionage series contracted to Germany’s Luzifer Verlag.
A keen traveller, Rachel holds both EU and Australian passports and can usually be found plotting her next trip two years in advance!