Independently Wealthy? It’s an aspiration

Independently Wealthy? Exploring the Alchemy of Self-Publishing

by Megan Haskell

The Set Up

Approximately ten years ago, I began my first foray into creative, or at least non-work related, writing. I was a nine-to-fiver, commuting from Long Beach into Downtown Los Angeles on the Blue Line. For those that don’t know, that’s one of the above-ground subway lines for LA. It’s cheap, and not particularly fast, but at least I didn’t have to drive in rush hour traffic.

At the time, I worked for one of the consulting branches of a major accounting firm. Specifically, I was an Associate (read: entry-level) in the Forensic group. That might sound interesting — it sure did when I took the job, and I suppose at times it was — but it could also be mind-numbingly tedious.

For one investigation, I sat in a windowless conference room for weeks, sifting through seemingly endless boxes of bank account statements to manually review the transactions and enter them into a database. Why? Because that’s what the lawyers on the other side of the dispute provided in discovery, and we needed to “follow the money.”

For another job, I worked on massive Excel spreadsheets to recalculate discounts that individually amounted to pennies difference (or less!), but on the whole accounted for potentially millions of dollars owed to consumers.

Yeah…lots of numbers. I needed a creative outlet.

Right Brain Exercise

It began with a pen and paper, making up stories about the people on the train. The homeless woman who smelled bad and talked with a really high-pitched voice, but was always kind, never pushy. The woman in the seat near the front, who never looked up from her phone, until it was ripped out of her hand and out the doors just as they closed. The man across the aisle who fell asleep within seconds of sitting down. You get the idea.

Over time, the desire to write grew. I’ve always been a voracious reader, particularly in the Fantasy genre. I started a book review blog, hoping to force myself to slow down my book consumption (and spending) by taking the time to write out my thoughts on character, plot, setting, romance, and genre. It was good practice and helped me analyze the good and the bad of the books I was reading. But eventually, I wanted to be the author not the reviewer.

I wrote my first novel between 2009 and 2011. It sucked. Well, there were pearls of greatness in there, but the plot meandered, I didn’t have a strong enough conflict, and ultimately I didn’t think the story was worth the time it would take to dig out the pearls from the rotten carcass of the clam.

Meanwhile, my day job was progressing nicely. I’d climbed my way up the ladder to manager and taken a position internal to the firm. I had decent hours, a lovely paycheck, a great boss, and some level of autonomy. I was content. Not passionate, but content.

Life Turns on End

Everything changed in February 2012, when I gave birth to my first daughter. That summer, I quit my job to be a stay-at-home-mom. And secretly, I hoped to pursue this writing thing a little more seriously. In November 2012, I participated in NaNoWriMo (didn’t win) and started drafting what would become Sanyare: The Last Descendant, which I self-published in February 2015.

Indie publishing is not for the faint of heart, nor the disorganized. As Greta alluded in her post last week, it takes a lot of work. You have to be professional. You have to make tough choices and look at your art as anything but. A book is a consumer product, one that needs the proper packaging and a solid marketing plan to be successful.

I made the choice to go indie because I wanted to run my own business. I want to be an ‘authorpreneur’. If you’ve been paying attention, you can probably understand why. As much as numbers can be mind-numbingly dull at times, I actually enjoy playing with Excel spreadsheets and auditing my accounts at the end of each month. Seriously.

Plus, there’s money in going indie. On a per unit basis, I make more than my traditional counterparts. But until you build a solid platform with thousands of true fans, you’re still just making coffee money each month.

I’m still just making coffee money each month

To be fair, I drink a lot of coffee. But that’s beside the point.

I have two published titles (Sanyare: The Last Descendant, which is Book 1 of my series, and Pixie Tamer, the short story prequel) and a third about to launch in September. I’ve hired editors and cover designers, spent money on ads and promotions, and generally done my best to produce the best book possible and market that book to the right audience. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve learned a lot.

This is where I’ll be sharing everything I have learned and everything I have yet to learn.

For now, I’d love to know: What’s your number one burning question about indie publishing?

Tell me in the comments! I’ll be taking notes, and if it’s a quick answer, I’ll share what I know right then and there. If not, I’ll try to write a post about it in the future!

***

Megan Haskell, Author of SANYARE: THE LAST DESCENDANT

Megan Haskell, Author and Program Director for O.C. Writers

Legend has it, I was born with a book in my hands. Thirty-ish years later, I’m a stay-at-home-mom who prefers a good story over doing the dishes. Only now, I’m building my own fantasy worlds! Sanyare: The Last Descendant is my first published novel. The sequel, Sanyare: The Heir Apparent is set to release in September 2016. I am also the Program Director of O.C. Writers, A Network of Published and Aspiring Authors, located in Orange County, CA. You can find me on my website at www.meganhaskell.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

*O.C. Writers is a member of Amazon Associates. By clicking the book links on this site, the network earns a small commission from your purchase.

8 thoughts on “Independently Wealthy? It’s an aspiration

    1. Ha! No, I’m definitely a fantasy writer…but my books do get a bit dark at times…like in the first five pages. 😆

  1. I loved Girl on a Train, which is besides the point. I’m in, Megan. I can’t wait to vicariously experience all your adventures. These days most serious authors will end up independently publishing at least some of their work, and all serious authors need to understand the “business” of writing.

  2. I am so incrediby excited about this blog. It’s exactly what I need. It’s beautiful! I was just ready to run down to Uber to forget everything and start driving (which I may still have to do), but reading this was inspiring. This is what a blog truly should be. Re: “building a platform of true fans”: What are the most successful ways you’ve done that or did it occur organically because of your story?

    1. Thanks Billie! I’m glad you were inspired. So many indie authors have inspired me, I’m thrilled to finally be able to pay it forward a little. 🙂

      As for the platform of true fans…this is a tough one. First and foremost, you have to get visibility. For a debut author, that means giving books away for free.

      Some of my most dedicated fans have been book bloggers who I queried for reviews of my book, offering a free digital or print copy in exchange for an honest review. The print books cost money for me to buy and ship, but it was totally worth it. I’ll be talking more about how to professionally approach the review process in a future post.

      Another way I’ve found a lot of fans was by giving the book away for free through KDP Select free promotion days. In the five days I listed my book free, I had over 6,000 downloads, and nearly tripled my newsletter mailing list.

      Which is the last point, you HAVE to start building a mailing list. You don’t have to be pushy about it, but you should definitely have an ad in the front and back of every book you publish, offering something special for newsletter subscribers. Mine get a free copy of the short story prequel plus two free deleted scenes, and each month I send a newsletter which includes exclusive snippets of my work in progress.

      In a nut shell: first you have to find them, then you have to keep them engaged and entertained.

      More details to come in future posts!

    1. Yes, I’ve advertised with the email newsletter sites as well as run a few Facebook ads.

      The email newsletter sites do great when you have a deal, not so great when you’re advertising full price. You also need to be careful to pick sites with big lists specific to your genre(s). They should publish their subscriber numbers on the advertising section of their website…if not, be warned, results may be limited.

      Facebook ads take a lot of work. You have to start small and try lots of variations until you get one that gives you the ROI you want. I haven’t had the time or money to work on it much, but I play with them every once in awhile. In fact, I’ll be running an ad for my free short story for newsletter subscriptions this week! I’ll let you know how it goes.

      This week I’ll be working on the marketing plan for the launch of Book 2 in September. Facebook ads and email newsletter promotions will be an integral part of the launch. More info to come! 😉

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