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Successful Indie Authors Share Their Secrets. How I Do It By Rebecca Cantrell

Successful Indie Authors Share Their Secrets. How I Do It by Rebecca Cantrell

Rebecca Cantrell,  is a New York Times bestselling author, recently became the first indie author to win the prestigious International Thriller Writers' Award with her novel The World Beneath. Here she shares her top tips for success as an indie author and her experience of reaching the top.

headshot of Rebecca Cantrell

Rebecca Cantrell, bestselling and award-winning indie author

What's the secret of your success?

I’ll tell you when I get there. But for the success I’ve had so far, I have to credit having an insane work ethic, persistence, and a lot of good luck. Writing is a tough gig—hours alone in a room listening to the voices in your head without any idea of whether what you’re writing will ever make any sense to anyone else. And that’s just the first day. After that, it’s all about how to keep going. Write pages. Write more pages. Pile them up, edit them, and share them with the world. If you’re lucky, sometimes those pages will connect with readers. It’s no secret, just hard work.

What's the single best thing you ever did?

Became a mother. That’s the best thing by far, and the source of my deepest joy.

But if you want a writing answer, I’d say it was following Julia Cameron’s advice in The Writer’s Journey. Early on, she talks about taking your writing work as seriously as you take anything you do for money. Once I switched into that professional mode, things started to take off.

Did you get lucky? What happened?

Photo of Rebecca on stage at the awards ceremony

Rebecca Cantrell accepting the International Thriller Writers' Award

I’ve been tremendously lucky. I’ve worked hard and done my best by my writing, but I know many talented writers who do that and never get lucky. I’ve gotten lucky on so many fronts.

For the novel that won the International Thriller Writers’ award, I had this idea about a man living in the subway. It was just a vague thought that I had when I went down to catch a train “Subway tunnels breathe…” I was lucky enough to notice that and follow that thought to a book. After I was done, my agents took it out to a short list of publishers, and they all turned it down. That seemed unlucky, but it gave me the impetus I needed to publish it myself. I was lucky that it did well, lucky that a year before ITW had created the award category that I could enter, and very lucky indeed to win.

All that said: luck doesn’t happen unless you are ready for it, and being ready for it means putting in the hours and doing the work.

How do you get/stay in creative mode?

I have deadlines, both mine and my publisher’s, that keep me focused. Writing isn’t something I do when I’m in a special creative space. I do it all the time and everywhere. I write in bed, on the couch, at cafes, at airports, on planes, standing up in the subway. I write while listening to music, garbage trucks, people yakking on cell phones, airplane noise, the cat yowling. I write when I’m tired, sick, happy, angry, hungry.

I write. Because if I don’t, I miss it so much that I become impossible to live with.

How do you prioritise?

Family first, writing second, marketing third. Laundry, sadly, often doesn’t make the list at all.

What's next?

Cover of The World Beneath by Rebecca Cantrell

Rebecca's award-winning novel

I’m just finishing up the third book in the Order of the Sanguines series that I co-write with James Rollins. It’s called Blood Infernal (subject to change) and will be out in January 2015. Then I’m moving on to the next in my award-winning Joe Tesla series, The Danger Below, which will be out in late 2014/early 2015.

What's your top tip for other indie authors?

The same as for any authors: read, read, read, and write, write, write. And have fun!

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“How does she do it? Award-winning indie author @RebeccaCantrell tells all to @IndieAuthorALLi https://selfpublishingadvice.org/Cantrell/”


This Post Has 8 Comments
  1. Congrats about the success and I wholeheartedly agree with you: “luck doesn’t happen unless you are ready for it, and being ready for it means putting in the hours and doing the work”. I have to read Julia Cameron’s advice. By the way are you a hybrid author – NYT bestselling list, publisher? Just to clarify: you first published the books by yourself, then the publishing house connected with you, right?

    1. Thanks! I’m a hybrid author. My first four books were published by Macmillan, then one by Sourcebooks, and two by HarperCollins. I’m still publishing traditionally and on my own.

  2. Thank you Rebecca

    I agree that writing is a constant condition. I write in the shower, mentally .My best creartive time is wle relaxing in bed at 3:00am and watching the orbiting blades of the ceiling fan. I hop out and boot up the computer to change or insert a word, or a phrase. It’s a crazy business, and I love it.

    Best of Success.

  3. Nice to see I’m not the only one who leaves laundry off the list.

    But seriously… How do you manage to write standing up in the subway? I mean physically…

    1. I hold on to the pole with one hand and type into the phone with the other. That’s just for notes. When I write books in the subway (which I did with the Joe Tesla book–every time I was stuck I’d ride around in his world for a while), I’d just grab a seat and write until my battery ran down. Worked like a charm.

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