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Self-publishing Success Stories: Jane Steen

Self-publishing Success Stories: Jane Steen

photo of Jane Steen at her laptop

Jane Steen, historical novelist and proud Professional member of ALLi

Historical novelist Jane Steen shares the story of her rise to Professional Member of ALLi as a historical novelist, encouraging fellow indie authors to emulate her success. Her top tips include:

  • keeping calm and carrying on, no matter how daunting each task as an indie author may seem
  • reading voraciously to stimulate ideas for your own books
  • recognising that you don't need to be writing numerous books a year to be successful

(Jane Steen is always very generous with her advice to other authors and has written many previous guest posts for ALLi n the past, some of which we link to at the foot of this page.)


What’s your proudest achievement to date as an indie author?

I’m proud of having earned my first £100,000! Not all in one year, but I can certainly say that the hard work’s paid off.

Of course being an author is about a lot more than the money, but being able to say that you’ve earned a “proper” wage from writing is a great way of getting people to take you seriously.

What’s the single best decision you ever made?

cover of Lady Helena Investigates by Jane Steen

One of Jane Steen's historical novel series is in the mystery genre

Obviously the decision to go indie, especially as I made it just after a couple of agents had requested a full manuscript. Nothing ever came of those requests, but I could so easily have used that “encouragement” to keep me on the hamster wheel of submissions. I weighed the options and saw that the indie route suited my personality and life choices better, and never doubted I could succeed even in the years when I seemed to be getting nowhere.

What’s been your biggest surprise as an indie author?

How easy some aspects of indie publishing are.

However daunting a project looks, I’ve found that if I just keep calm and tackle the issues one step at a time I’ll get there.

What’s your greatest challenge – and how do you deal with it?

My two greatest challenges are (non-writing-related) stress and managing time. I don’t deal with stress well, so anything out of the ordinary can just shut me down as a writer, and of course dealing with the stressful situation sucks up my time. I’ve learned, though, that once I’ve dealt with the situation, my writing mojo will return, and in the meantime there are plenty of things to do in an indie business that don’t involve actually writing.

How do you get/stay in a creative mood?

I try to read as much as I can, since reading always gives me ideas and inspirations I can feed into my writing. I also find that exercise helps, and getting out into my garden. And just not pushing myself too hard.

I’ve accepted that I can only manage one or two books a year.

How do you remain productive/motivated?

I think one of the joys of indie life is that you don’t have to be constantly productive or motivated.

Some days I’m definitely unproductive and unmotivated! But I write at my own schedule, so I know that switching off for a couple of days isn’t a disaster. I think it’s a normal part of creative life to crave change and variety.

What’s your favourite thing about being an author–publisher?

The readers, of course! I write to entertain people,and I’m always imagining them there on the other side of the page. I love it when readers write to me or contact me on social media or leave lovely reviews.

I don’t even mind the unflattering reviews, because they’ve at least allowed me to take up a few hours of their life.

What are your top tips for other ALLis?

Don’t worry if nothing seems to be happening in your writing career. Very little happened in mine for the first five years.

Study up: there’s a ton of good advice and examples out there, and everything I’ve learned has come from reading blogs and books and listening to podcasts.

I’ve realized, though, that success builds upon itself, so at the beginning you’re not going to get the amazing results that those other writers achieved because they’ve built those results on top of previous, smaller successes. So set your initial goals low and celebrate the small wins.

photo of House of Closed Door series by Jane Steen

Jane Steen's House of Closed Doors series

What’s next for you?

At the moment I’m not expecting to do anything more than:

  • consolidate the gains I’ve made
  • write more books
  • gradually improve everything I do

I’m very committed to being an indie fiction writer so I don’t see myself jumping off in another direction.

My 2019 goals are to continue pursuing increased non-Amazon, non-US sales so that I’m less exposed to just one market, and to work on more income streams and new ways of expressing my creativity within the fictional worlds I’ve created.

I love new challenges.

#Indieauthors - like to hear top tips from one #selfpub writer to inspire you to emulate her success? (£100K income!!) Catch our exclusive interview with @JaneSteen here Click To Tweet

From the ALLi Author Advice Center Archive

Author: Jane Steen

Jane Steen is the author of the House of Closed Doors mystery/saga series set in 1870s Illinois, and of the Scott-De Quincy Mysteries; the first in that series, Lady Helena Investigates, is now available. Born in England, she spent 16 years in Belgium and 19 years in the USA before moving back to the south coast of England. Fun facts: she was named after Jane Eyre, and contrary to all appearances she has a black belt in karate. Be warned. She blogs at www.janesteen.com and reviews and writes features for the Historical Novel Society.


This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. Thanks Brenda! It helps to have goals, doesn’t it? I’ve decided now that my main 2019 goal is to DOUBLE my non-Amazon income. It seems impossible right now, but then my 2017 and 2018 goals also seemed impossible at the start of the year and I hit them. I’m already formulating a strategy to help me hit my 2019 target.

    I’m glad to hear you’re doing the same thing. You’re right, it’s a step by step business. Wherever you are in your indie career, you can figure out some attainable achievement you can be proud of by this time next year.

    1. Good to hear you’ve been hitting targets! I’m doing good with my 2018 goals being met, and look forward to working toward the 2019 ones.

      As you said, success does build on success! I’m seeing growth outside of Amazon in book sales as well as income from presentations. I write for middle-graders and I see lots of possibilities in this area.

      Continued success to you Jane!

  2. Thank you, Jane, for sharing your insights. Though we write in different genres, it appears we share many similar ideas as far as being indie author-publishers. I was just setting up thoughts on goals for next year…and your words echoed my thoughts. Step by step…keep on keeping on!

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