Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR QUICK START GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING and to be notified when the 3rd Edition of the Indie Author Survival Guide releases!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Publishing in 2014: Being Indie For The First Time

Over the past two days, I've shared new releases from previously-published author Jessica Keller and debut author Charity Tinnin, both of whom are new to the indie publishing world in 2014. See their lovely books below!
Sometimes I feel like I've been indie publishing forever, with my first indie book having come out over two years ago now, in Nov. 2011. But the landscape keeps shifting, so I also feel like I'm always learning new things about this crazy publishing business. The constant throughout has been the Indie Culture of sharing what I've learned along the way. The rewards of that are manifold, not least the stories I get to hear of my author-friends' journeys, including their decisions to leap into indie publishing. Each one reaffirms for me why I went indie in the first place: to take charge of my own writing career.

When I learned that Jessica and Charity were both taking the leap into indie in early 2014, I was very curious to hear their take on starting an indie career today... and whether it was different from my reasons two years ago, when the weeds were a bit thicker, the path less trodden, but the information-sharing-culture of indie publishing already prominent.

What I found was they each had their own unique reasons, and yet, they were the same as mine. To me, this speaks to the power of this option for writers, one that's only continuing to grow.

Check out their stories... and their books!

Unique Narratives

by Jessica Keller and Charity Tinnin

Charity: No two stories are the same. This is true in fiction and in publishing. Some critics of indie publishing promote the idea that writers who choose to self-publish do so because they don’t want to pay their dues. They want to type “The End” and immediately put it up for sale. While these people do exist, I don’t know any of them personally.

Self-publishing has come into its own in the last two years, and this validation shift has birthed a wealth of knowledge and resources. New Indies, like Jessica and I, benefit from the transparency of those who have gone before us, and this more than anything allows us to make the choice that is right for each one of us. Individually.

Some people choose self-publishing to list their backlist or retain creative control while others do so in order to step outside of a brand or publish a book that doesn’t fit in a neat category/market. And yes, some make the choice for financial reasons.

While most of these played a part in my choice to indie publish my YA dystopian series, the tipping point for me was my chronic illness. Throughout my time querying agents then working with my own, one concern kept cropping up. Would I be able to meet a publisher’s demands and deadlines with my chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)? I wasn’t sure. Then my CFS worsened, and it became clear—to keep my writing at all, I needed it to bring in a little money. Not much mind you, but enough that I could cut back my day job by five-ten hours a week. That would balance my responsibilities with my energy reserves.

This week marks the launch for Haunted, the first in my State v. Seforé series, and already I know I made the right choice. I control how quickly (or slowly) to publish new projects. I set the deadlines. I decide on what kind of marketing I can commit to. These things alone confirm my decision.

Which is just that, my own decision. Jessica’s reason is different; however, it too is unique. But I’ll let her speak for herself.

Jessica: What’s led me down the indie road? Like many, I don’t like being labeled.

In high school I didn't fall into one of the cliques—I played sports, ran the literary journal, helped with props during the play, ditched mandatory homecoming float building time, rocked AP classes, and TPed homes on the weekends. I never fit with one defined group, and I've always been okay with that.

So I should’ve known this would be the story of my writing career. I was very green when I attended my first writer's conference. In one of the very first sessions the speaker discussed the importance of writing to a specific brand. She said (and I can quote because I wrote it in my journal), "If your first book is a thriller, you had better be ready to write ten more thrillers. If your first book is a cozy mystery set in Nebraska, you better have ideas for a bunch more mysteries happening in the town you made up."

That’s about the time I started questioning if the writing industry was for me. Because—being me—I didn't have just one type of book that I wanted to write and I hated the idea of being stuck in one sub-genre for the next ten years.

But over the next year, I was told by everyone I encountered—and I mean everyone—that I wasn't allowed to write what I wanted. Whatever sold first would determine what I'd write for the rest of my career. Unless I became a NY Times best seller, then I might be allowed to break out and write something else.

In the midst of this, I made my first sale. A sweet contemporary western romance that was a project I'd attempted to see if I could write a formula romance. I signed on the line ... then started freaking out. I am NOT a western writer. I didn't want to be known as the girl who writes about cowboys. That couldn't be my brand.

I found myself stuck: my mind was bursting with ideas for speculative fiction, YA fantasy, and romances that didn’t “follow the rules,” But everyone I approached with my ideas told me I couldn’t write them because they weren’t a part of my brand.

After three years of shoving those stories to the side, they revolted and clamored for attention. The characters were keeping me up at night and walking through my mind throughout the day. So I decided to write them even if it meant they would never find a publishing home.

The idea of going indie hadn’t really crossed my mind. Then I started bumping into indie authors and talking with them. I found three things to be true about all of them:
  1. They were happy in their writing.
  2. They were free to write what they wanted.
  3. They were open and willing to share about their experiences.
Number three has made all the difference in my journey—it’s the main reason I’m an indie today. People like Susan, Konrath, and Howey have been trail blazers in this industry, but instead of running to the top of the mountain and camping there, they’ve graciously left guideposts and have come back down the trail time and time again to lead tours and cheer the rest of us along. I have the ability to do this because they did it before me.

Because of the trailblazers, Saving Yesterday, the first in my YA time travel/romance series, released last month! And yes, I’m still celebrating. *Hands kazoos and party hats to everyone.*

Now since we’ve shared ours, we’d like to know. What’s your unique narrative?

Jessica Keller: A Starbucks addict, avid reader, and chocolate aficionado, Jessica Keller is multi-published in both Young Adult Fiction and Romance. When she’s not dancing in her car at a stoplight, you can find her at or on Twitter.

Charity Tinnin’s fascination with dystopian lit began with Brave New World, so it’s no surprise that her debut novel, Haunted, would be a YA dystopian. In addition to authoring the State v. Seforé series, she’s a freelance editor and semi-professional fangirl. Join her on Twitter or her website.


  1. this is wonderful, thank you Susan, Jessica and Charity for sharing your stories -- as somebody who's just about to embark in my own self-publishing adventure, this is very much appreciated! best of luck, your books are on my list!

    1. Thanks E.E. and best of luck! The Indie road is a bumpy one--but I always think that makes for most fun/memorable rides! Just make sure to wear a seatbelt and bring a couple trusted friends along for the ride. And snacks. Every writer needs a drawer full of good snacks :)

      Make sure to connect with me online and let me know what you thought of Saving Yesterday when you finish it!

    2. So excited to hear another author's joining the indie ranks, E.E. It is definitely an adventure! There's lots to learn, try, fail, redirect, and succeed at. Hope you find the path that's right for you. Don't be afraid to ask questions. The indie community does a great job of walking alongside writers in whatever stage they're in. :)

      And I second Jess' request, I'd love to hear what you think of Haunted once you've read!

  2. Great reasons from both of you. I get sad when I hear people thinking self-pub is a shortcut. Maybe for a few authors, but more and more polished authors are joining the ranks--authors who've thought long and hard about the industry and their careers. Just like you, Jessica, I didn't want a label and I don't want to be limited to one genre (so far, one histfic out...contemp mystery releasing this year...who knows what's next!). And I agree. Indie authors are SO well-informed and up on the industry, and happy to share their info with others. We don't have to protect agency protocol or keep our numbers hidden. I'm one of those happy indies and I know you two are too! Congrats to both of you--you know I LOVE your cover art!

    1. Thanks Heather! C and I have both been so happy to start a friendship with you and are excited to be on this indie path with you as a traveling companion. :)

      And YES - my experience has been than Indies, most Indies, are not using this route as a shortcut. In fact, many go above and beyond to make certian that their finished product can stand next to a trade back and no reader would know the difference. Its an exciting time to have made this jump.

      Love not being labeled (it does present a marketing challenge, but life is full of challenges...why back down from that one?!). Looking forward to your mystery! My next book out in May is a historical romance with a mix of humor and spy adventure through in for good measure.

      I downloaded your book last week and have added it to my TBR list (it got bumped up in front of many others!). Looking forward to it.

    2. Sorry for the errors - typing too fast for my own good!

      *my experience has been THAT Indies

      *and spy adventure THROWN in for good measure.

      This is why I employ a professional editor ;)

    3. Heather! So happy to see you over here, and a big fat "yes" to everything Jess said. I've enjoyed getting to know you in the last two weeks and have your book sitting in my TBR pile for the minute I get some reading time.

  3. I so appreciate Susan's efforts to help us "newbies" along.

    A couple of years ago, I thought I'd hit the jackpot when I decided to write a middle grade book, The Island of Lost Children, based on Peter Pan but set in modern times and with one of Wendy's brother having autism and a connection to Peter's island. I researched; no one else had done anything like it. The Peter and the Starcatchers series had been out for a while, but that was still Victorian. And one agent at a conference confirmed that she didn't know of a PP set in modern times for middle grade. So I set out to market it to agents and here's what I heard: With the original story, and the follow up commissioned by the Barrie estate and Starcatchers, there's no room for another PP retelling. One agent said, "I'd like to see a PP retelling with no magic and no flying." I recently questioned another about how to know a concept was tapped out: "Well, with the original, the follow up commission by the Barrie estate, and Starcatchers (last book, 2011), that's enough. So maybe three is the maximum number." In the next few months, there will be 2-3 PP movies, NBC is presenting a live production at Christmas, there are two plays in production, and Kathy Rigby, who has been flying the part for decades, has been through Dallas at least twice in the last five years. But apparently, there's no interest in the story.

    Thank you for the opportunity to vent a bit, but also the opportunity to connect with the indie writer community.

    1. I am sorry about all that, Kim! But yes, this is a good plan to vent and connect. :)

      I ran into something similar with Haunted. I wrote it before Hunger Games, Divergent, etc., but by the time I got an agent and started talking with editors, their dystopian lots were filled. For years or for good. I didn't want to shelve it indefinitely. I knew there was still interest from readers for dystopian lit, but that would be narrowing as the market became even more flooded. So I decided to take a chance and get it out now, not 2-10 years from now.

      I don't blame the agents or editors for this; they have to make sound decisions for their business. Indie publishing allows me to do the same! If you've got an original idea, write it, work it, research your audience, and get it out there. It's hard work, and I can't tell you that you'll make tons of money, but having your beloved story in excited readers' hands? Almost nothing beats that!

    2. Thanks for your comment - every writer's journey is valuable and deserves to be shared. What you're experiencing is frustrating, but I agree with C. The Agents/Editors are in business and must do what they believe is best for business.

      And that's the joy of this indie thing - you can write the story on your heart and find the readers that'll love it.

  4. Susan, Jessica, and Charity, much enjoyed this post! What marketing tools would you recommend for an indie author? I'd love some advice on this. Thanks much!

    1. I'm going to let Jess or Susan weigh in on the marketing ideas as my book's not been out long enough for me to tell you what's been productive for me. But thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    2. I've got a whole book on that. :) Well, not the whole book is on marketing, but you can check out the relevant parts on the writer's tab above.

    3. I was going to recommend Susan's book! It's a MUST for anyone thinking of doing this indie thing (I'm contemplating wallpapering my office with it's pages just so the information is always right there at my fingertips).

    4. Thanks, Ladies. I was already eyeing Susan's book and will definitely be getting it. Appreciate the support. When you go the indie route, it's easy to feel alone at first. So nice to know we're not. Thanks much!

    5. Oh, that wallpapering idea is a brilliant one. Must get on that. ;) But seriously, Gina, I consult Susan's book all the time. It's one of the best I've read.

  5. Welcome to the Indie world Jessica and Charity! Love both your covers. They look fantastic!

    1. Thanks for the warm welcome! We were both fearful that our jump to indie might make us lose the ties we had to so many writers (many of them trade), instead its only strengthened our friendships with other writers and open the doors wide to so many new indie friends. It's been a wonderful realization.

    2. Thanks Laura. Speaking of fantastic covers, I pretty much drool over every one of your Circle of Spies covers!

  6. Charity, I love your camping metaphor. So true! Congrats to both of you. I'll be making my indie debut on Monday. I'm excited to see where it leads!

    1. How exciting!! Welcome aboard this beautiful ship and best of luck with your book launch.

    2. How exciting Sherrie! What's your debut about? :)

  7. It's a middle grade novel, called Wish You Weren't, about a boy who wishes his little brother away. I know I would have loved to do that at least a few times during my childhood :)