I'm so happy to have Jill Archer visiting again today! She's sharing her experiences with indie publishing her new release, Pocket Full of Tinder. It's the fourth book in her terrific Noon Onyx urban fantasy series. Be sure to check out her book and also there's a wonderful giveaway at the bottom of this post.
The first three books in my Noon Onyx series were traditionally published by a fantastic publisher with the help of an editor I’d love to work with again. But sales weren’t what we’d hoped for. By the time my third book came out, it seemed as if urban fantasy (which was what my publisher was marketing the series as) and mass market (which was the format the publisher had picked) were dying. (Whether they did, still are, etc. is a topic for another post).
White Heart of Justice was published in June 2014 and I waited another six months before I committed (to my readers, not my publisher) to doing two more. So my first, best, and last advice to any writer should probably be “have your s--- together more than I did.” Writing is tough work and anyone who doesn’t think that, isn’t doing it.
In an effort to make self-publishing less daunting to anyone who is considering it, I’m offering up eight key things I’ve learned.
1. Wear two hats
Self-published authors need to be both writer and publisher. You need to come up with a great hook, compelling characters, a well-built world, engaging story, and series arc. You need to research, write, and edit. But you also need to do all of the things a publisher typically does: design the book cover, hire a professional editor, format the text, determine distribution channels, choose formats, set pricing, pick a release date, come up with a marketing plan, etc. The only way I kept my sanity was to focus on one piece of the project at a time. Otherwise, it was too overwhelming.
2. Define what a “successful” release means to you
Some authors write for money. Others write because they have stories in their heads and they are driven to fix them in a tangible medium. Still others want to win awards or make a list. Just as every author’s path to publication is unique, every author’s idea of success is unique. And that definition should be tailored to fit each book you release.
3. Be organized
All writers have to be organized. Even if you’re a pantser (someone who does very little plotting before starting to write), eventually you’ll have to edit and that means tracking storylines, growth arcs, settings, character descriptions, and the like.
Self-publishers, however, need to keep track of mundane business stuff. There’s nothing exciting about budgets, timelines, distributor contracts, contact lists, or detailed checklists. Keeping track of all that requires even more discipline than meeting daily word count goals.
4. Self-publishing is harder than publishing traditionally, but also more liberating
With traditional publishing, it was nice to have an advance, a larger team of professionals helping me, and automatic distribution in brick-and-mortar stores and libraries. But self-publishing is undeniably refreshing. Managing all of the business aspects is as empowering as it is tedious. There’s a boundless, can-do attitude in self-publishing that stems from the pioneering, sometimes rebellious spirit of the writers who do it.
5. Experimentation is good
Experimenting (and sometimes failing) seems to be more accepted in the indie community. Maybe it’s because the pace of self-publishing is faster so mistakes today aren’t remembered tomorrow. Or maybe it’s because people who self-publish are DIYers and DIYers are people who understand that projects never quite work out the way you envision, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – just ask the inventor of silly putty!
I tried a few new things with this release, including:
Co-hosting a Facebook party – Fun, but probably not worth the time I put into creating the materials and the money I spent on prizes. I really enjoyed interacting with the readers who came, but I doubt hosting the party had any direct effect on sales. Why? Reasons that are obvious in hindsight. (1) I don’t Facebook a lot so it’s not a natural fit for me; and (2) the book wasn’t on sale yet, it was only up for pre-order.
Reaching out to readers via an author newsletter – Moderately steep learning curve, but worth it. It’s been nice to be able to communicate directly with readers who signed up because they like my books.
Scheduled promo tweets on Twitter – I started this experiment through an “announcement account.” It’s something I wanted to try, but I have no idea how effective it’s been. Luckily, it took less than an hour to set up the account and schedule the tweets + tweeting is free, so the time and money spent was almost nothing.
6. The indie community is an incredibly generous one
I’m constantly amazed and grateful for the tremendous amount of information sharing that takes place in the indie community. The more experienced authors are very generous with their time and knowledge. I belong to two indie Yahoo groups and a Facebook group. Discussion is fairly constant and new ideas are shared all the time. My local library hosted a program for Indie Author Day this past October and it was inspiring to see how excited everyone was while sharing their experiences.
7. It’s the story, stupid
As James Carville did with his pithy phrase about the economy in 1992, it’s important to remind ourselves what’s most important to the people we serve. Regardless of how a writer publishes their work, what’s important to readers is a satisfying story. A writer can be fantastic at performing all of the publisher responsibilities, but if their story is lackluster or doesn’t deliver on its promise, it’s unlikely the writer will achieve their definition of success.
8. Honor Thy Readers
Write a good story – and then give it away (within reason). Reward your most loyal readers with free copies of your book. Thank them in the acknowledgements – and every other place you can think of. They might be only part of why you WRITE, but they are 100% of why you PUBLISH.
Thank you, Marsha, for inviting me to guest blog today. Best wishes to you and all your readers!
Noon Onyx #4
Publisher: Black Willow, LLC
Date of Publication: December 15, 2016
ISBN (ebook) – 978-0-9979138-0-4
ISBN (print) – 978-0-9979138-1-1
Word Count: 90,000
Cover Artist: Rebecca Frank
Noon Onyx is back! In this long-awaited fourth installment, Jill Archer returns readers to the dangerous world of Halja, where demons, angels, and humans coexist in an uneasy state of détente.
Maegester-in-Training Noon Onyx feels like she’s done it all – mastered fiery magic, become an adept fighter, learned the law, killed countless demons, and survived having her heart broken by both love and an arrow, but now she’ll face her greatest challenge yet…
Far to the north lies an outpost famous for its unrest – Rockthorn Gorge. The town’s patron has specifically requested Noon’s help. Her assignment? Help the neophyte demon lord build his fiefdom and keep what’s his. The problem? Lord Aristos – Noon’s new employer – is her erstwhile lover, Ari Carmine, the aforementioned heartbreaker. And the number one thing he wants is her.
When Rockthorn Gorge’s viaduct is destroyed by Displodo, an enigmatic bomber, killing a dozen settlers and wounding scores more, Noon sets off early to aid in the search and rescue. Ari is listed among the missing and the suspects are legion. But Noon’s search is just the beginning. Her journey forces Noon to confront not only those she loves, but also enemies hell-bent on destroying them.
Book will also be available on Nook and CreateSpace on or about the release date.
POCKET FULL OF TINDER
Noon Onyx #4
The claw-and-ball had been chewed clean off. It lay on a patch of sunny parquet floor, just to the right of an antique, aubergine wool rug now covered with the splintered remnants of an eleventh century pedestal table and one very large, ghastly looking, somewhat repentant barghest.
Nova’s head rested on her front paws as her gaze shifted warily from me to Miss Bister, Megiddo’s dormater, or house mother.
“Megiddo’s lobby is not a kennel, Miss Onyx. That”—she motioned dismissively toward Nova—“beast can no longer be housed here.”
I opened my mouth to respond, but Miss Bister continued speaking, her tone rising only infinitesimally, her back as stiff as Luck’s lance must have been, and her expression just as hard. She pointed toward the previously priceless, three-footed piece of furniture that was now a worthless, two-footed pile of kindling.
“No amount of money – or magic – can fix that, Nouiomo. It’s beyond repair. I warned you. I made an exception to my ‘no pets’ rule because you never cause trouble. You never forget your key; you promptly pick up your deliveries; you change your own light bulbs; you double bag your trash. You leave nothing behind in the bathroom; you don’t monopolize the washing machines; you are exceedingly polite to the lift operator; you don’t sing in the shower.”
I suppressed a sigh. After a year and a half of painstaking efforts, harrowing experiences, and endless hours of education, my worth had just been measured by the fact that I could change a light bulb. I’d mastered fiery magic, become an adept fighter, learned the law, killed countless demons (one regrettably, the others much less so), freed myriad immortals from an accursed, tortured bondage, and survived having my heart nearly destroyed by both love and an arrow, yet none of that meant bupkis next to the fact that I double bagged my trash. And yet…
I couldn’t really argue with Miss Bister either. Everything she’d said was true. And who was I to tell her what she should deem important? I respected that she valued domestic order and antiques. I did too, if not nearly as much as I valued the thing that now threatened our continued access to such. I glared at Nova, who swept one paw over her eyes as if she could hide from me and the evidence of what she’d done.
Barghests are giant hellhounds. They’re bigger than bears, fiercer than rabid raccoons, and uglier than naked mole rats. Their teeth are the size of railroad spikes, their claws as sharp as a sickle, their breath as foul as sewage gas. But they are also affectionate, brave, and loyal. What barghests lack in magic, they make up for in devotion. And even though I was plenty mad at Nova for chewing up Miss Bister’s table, I also knew it wasn’t Nova’s fault.
It was mine – for thinking the lobby of a demon law school dormitory would be a good place to keep her.
“Miss Bister, please,” I said. “I’m truly sorry. I know I can’t replace that exact table. But if you would just allow me to—”
“No,” Miss Bister said simply. “Either the beast goes… Or you do.”
I stared at the small, frail, magicless woman in front of me, trying desperately to think of some way to fix this problem. Wasn’t there something I could do, or say, or offer her that would make amends and convince her not to kick us out?
But all I could think of was how useless some of the things our society valued most were. As Miss Bister had pointed out, neither magic nor money would help. If I was going to repair the table, I’d need to find another way. Which would take time. And that meant I’d need to find somewhere else for us to sleep tonight. Because if the beast was going… I was too.
“Yes, Miss Bister,” I said. “I understand.”
She narrowed her eyes, slightly suspicious of my now gracious defeat since I’d just spent the last half-hour trying to persuade her to accept various forms of reparation. But then she nodded, handed me a couple of paper bin bags, and left.
I slid one bag inside the other and stooped down to pick up the slobbery remains of Nova’s mangled chew toy. When I finished, she came over to me and nudged my arm with her head. She let out a woofy whine.
Was she sorry? She darn well better be!
I gave her a scratch behind the ears.
“Now that you’ve sharpened your teeth on my former dormater’s furniture, are you ready to eat some real food for breakfast?”
Jill Archer writes dark, genre-bending fantasy from rural Maryland. Her novels include Dark Light of Day, Fiery Edge of Steel, White Heart of Justice, and Pocket Full of Tinder. She loves cats, coffee, books, movies, day tripping, and outdoor adventuring.
Discussion Questions: http://jillarcherauthor.wordpress.com/book-clubs/
Two prize options:
#1 – an Etsy “Book Lover” prize pack (https://www.etsy.com/people/archer48/favorites/pocket-full-of-tinder-book-lover-prize-pack), which includes a book hoarder dragon poster, a dozen book page flowers, six book wine charms, and a pair of book earrings. (U.S. Only for Option #1. If these items are no longer available on Etsy, winner will receive Option #2). Or #2 -- $50 worth of fantasy books from Book Depository and a $25 Etsy gift certificate.
JOIN MARSHA'S MAILING LIST and receive a free copy of her paranormal romance story RULER OF THE NIGHT.
Read Marsha's COON HOLLOW TALES of paranormal romance and her ENCHANTED BOOKSTORE LEGENDS for adventurous epic fantasy romance. For a FREE ebook download, read her historic fantasy, LE CIRQUE DE MAGIE, available at Amazon and Smashwords.