The craft and business of writing and self publishing

Indie Author 101

 

Kaylea Cross was a full-time author with a traditional publishing house before making the plunge into self-publishing. She is a firm believer in the healing power of love and writes romance  “to foster and promote positivity and give my readers a safe place to lose themselves within the pages of my stories.” Since publishing independently, her income has quadrupled and she loves the flexibility of being her own boss. 

Kaylea Cross is a #KWLWonderWoman—a savvy entrepreneur building her writing career into a successful independent business. Follow the stories here and on Instagram. Do you have a story to share? Tell us here.

By Kaylea Cross

I didn’t dive into indie publishing waters until 2014, and for me it was a steep—and scary—learning curve in the beginning. But all that lovely control, and higher royalties! Now I wish I’d been brave enough to go indie sooner.

I’m still learning and evolving as an author with every book I write, but here are some things I’ve learned along the way that I hope you might find useful in your own journey as an author. Bear in mind that this is based on my experience within the romance genre, so your mileage may vary.

This is a marathon, not a sprint.

Romance powerhouse Liliana Hart says this all the time, and she’s absolutely right. The current state of the indie market puts a lot of pressure on us to write and publish quickly if we want to make a steady income and satisfy our hungry readers who are eager for our next book. It’s a double-edged sword. Don’t let it cut you.

I know authors who churn out completed books every 2-3 weeks without ever seeming to burn out. I can’t do that. I’ll never be able to do that, and sometimes my current schedule of publishing a book every 2-3 months without a break seems like a grind. Push yourself too hard for too long, and you run the risk of burnout, or publishing work that isn’t anywhere near your best. That might cost you the hungry readership you’ve worked so hard to cultivate.

Publishing quality books in a consistent release schedule that you can maintain over a long period of time is the key to having a lasting career. Better to be that slow, stubborn tortoise and keep plodding along than to be the hare that sprints ahead, runs out of gas before the finish line, then collapses by the side of the road and gets eaten by a hungry coyote. If you are a dead hare, you can’t write any more books.

 

Stop comparing yourself to others.

This is a big one, and I still have to remind myself of this on occasion. It’s not always easy to avoid it, but for your mental health, be aware of this trap.

You are you, and no amount of wishing or cursing or struggling can change that. Therefore, you can’t be exactly the same as another author, and trying your best to force that is bad news for you and your writing career. You have to find your own way in your career, and figure out what works best for you. Every author will be different.

Write what you love, using whatever methods/processes work for you, and publish the very best books you can every time. For some of us that means writing a book in a few weeks. For others, it might mean completing one or two books a year. If you’re in the latter group and wish you weren’t, comparing yourself to the former group is eventually going to kill your self-confidence and make you miserable, because you’ll start to feel like you can’t measure up. Tough to be focused and creative at the keyboard when you’ve convinced yourself you’re a talentless hack compared to every other author in your genre. (Been there, done that, didn’t buy the T-shirt because that T-shirt sucks.)

Have a plan.

I’m a plotter. A big time plotter, so I outline a lot. I can change as I go through a draft, and often divert from my detailed outline here and there as the story progresses, but I need that initial road map showing how to get from chapter one to The End before I can start a book. It keeps me focused and sane. (Well, mostly sane. But I hear authors hearing characters’ voices in their heads is pretty normal.)

The drafting phase is always the toughest for me. It’s like trying to carve a statue out of a block of solid marble. The draft is the initial shape that you bring to life from nothingness with a hammer and chisel. It’s hard. Daunting. Sometimes you want to burn the whole thing and start over. But once that rough form is done, the hardest part is behind you. Then the fun begins and you can refine and add all the details that turn a hunk of stone into a polished form that your readers will enjoy.

I’ve also found that the more I know about my characters and a particular scene before I begin it, the faster I can get it down on the page. Outlining detailed chapter and scene notes saves me a lot of time in the long run, and helps prevent me from spinning my wheels because I get stuck less often.

 

Look ahead.

While you’re working on your current project, make sure you figure out what comes next before you reach The End. In my experience as a romance author, series sell better than single titles.

So while you’re working on one book, come up with a plan about what the next book will be about. Or better yet, have the entire series mapped out ahead of time and tweak it as you go. And before you finish one series, see if there’s a way to link it to the next, so you can build a bridge for your readers to follow you into your next adventure.

 

Have your work edited.

In the rush to put out books quickly, some authors will finish a draft, do a read through to clean up typos, etc, and then hit publish.

Don’t do it. You only get one chance to make a first impression with a reader, and one sloppy book can lose you readers and hurt your reputation as an author. Editing done by professional, impartial eyes is key to making your book the best it can be. Editors will catch things you simply cannot, because the author is too close to the story to see them. You know what you were trying to convey in a scene, but is that coming across as well as it could to your audience?

In my case, in addition to having a critique partner who reads and gives feedback on each chapter I complete, I have a developmental editor who gives me notes on big, sweeping structural revisions needed for a story. Once those are completed I send it to my line editor, who will mark any awkward phrasing, repeated words, things that don’t make sense, etc. Finally, I send the book off to my copyeditor/proofreader, who catches pesky things like typos, dropped words, and continuity errors. And even with all those steps, sometimes mistakes still make into a published book.

My point is to do your best to ensure you’re always putting your best foot forward with each book you send out into the world.

 

Have a newsletter.

In my opinion, this is your number one marketing tool, since the effectiveness of social media and paid advertising seems to change every week. So have a newsletter, and make sure that link is in the back matter of EVERY SINGLE book you publish, so that readers who have fallen in love with your characters and storytelling brilliance can sign up right then and there to be alerted to future important announcements. Then, each time you send out a newsletter to announce your newest release, you’re sending it directly to the readers who are most interested in buying your next book.

Those are my top 6 tidbits of advice, and I hope at least one of them will be helpful to you. Happy writing!


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NY Times and USA Today Bestselling author Kaylea Cross writes edge-of-your-seat military romantic suspense. Her work has won many awards, including the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence, and has been nominated multiple times for the National Readers’ Choice Awards. A Registered Massage Therapist by trade, Kaylea is also an avid gardener, artist, Civil War buff, Special Ops aficionado, belly dance enthusiast and former nationally-carded softball pitcher. She lives in Vancouver, BC with her husband and family.

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