In a brave post to kick off our Writing posts for 2015, US indie author Samantha Warren recounts her experience of learning from her self-publishing mistakes and the highs and lows of her journey so far, generously sharing her conclusions for the benefit of author-publishers everywhere.
Failing sucks. There’re no two ways about it. No one wants to fail. Yet we all do, often miserably.
My self-publishing journey started in March 2011. I was shooting for a trad-pub deal at that point. I got three rejection letters (yes, only three). They all said “It’s good, but we don’t think we can sell it.” I thought I could, so I jumped head first into self-publishing. Maybe it wasn’t the most well-thought-out decision, but it’s a decision I don’t regret and I never will.
By late 2011, I had a handful of books out, most of them in a novella series about a vampire named Jane. The first book was crap, if I’m completely honest. Still is, despite a rewrite, but readers love the story and overlook the faults. It’s also my bestseller since day 1.
My Lucky Break
In October, the self-publishing gods got me a feature on Pixel of Ink. I had four novellas in the series out and they sold like gangbusters. I published the fifth in December.
I earned about $12,000 thanks to that one ad. I was flying high. I had made it. I still had a full-time job elsewhere, so that $12,000 was total icing on the cake. I took vacations and bought lots of stuff. But I neglected to do much for the actual writing end of the deal. Sure, I found a really fantastic cover artist and updated all the covers for the series, and I released the sixth book in the series in April. But when sales started to flag during the summer, I didn’t up my game. I didn’t know I needed to. And I didn’t release another book in that series until January 2013. I was naive. I thought it would all be okay and I’d soon be living off my writing.
Where I Am Now
I’m still not living off my writing. I make about $300 a month off 25 books. It’s not great, far less than many of the authors I know, but it’s enough to feed back into my writing. And I’ve made several life changes:
- First and foremost, I try to follow what’s happening in the publishing world and with my books.
- I take classes instead of vacations.
- I buy better covers and advertising instead of stuff.
- I joined several writing associations that are amazing and help me more than I could have hoped for.
- I moved out of the situation I was in before and into a better one where I make less money (a lot less), but I only have to work part-time to make ends meet. The entire first half of my day is now dedicated to writing and I publish about once a month.
I’m still not making what I did during 2012, but I’m confident I’ll get back there with some hard work. I’ll never get the break I got before, but I’ve learned so much from my experiences, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. (Okay, that’s a lie. I’d totally like to be a bajillionaire, but we can’t all have what we want, right?)
Why Indie Authors Should Take Heart
So why share all this? Because you’ll make mistakes, too. You’ll screw up and spend nights on end wishing you’d done something different. We’ve all been there, whether we admit it or not. We’ll all be there again. Even the most well-known authors write bad books. They squander opportunities, make mistakes. We’re human. It’s what we do. The only thing that matters is that we come back from our mistakes stronger than we were before, more equipped to handle the future. And that we keep on writing.
Huge thanks to Samantha for sharing this personal, sensitive and candid account. If you'd like to try some of her books yourself, head over to her website or search “Samantha Warren” at your preferred bookstore. The first in her series are currently available to download for free – and if you enjoy her books, please do consider posting a short review.
OVER TO YOU
What mistakes have you made that you'd like to share for the benefit of other authors? What facts about self-publishing have you learned the hard way? Are there any mistakes that you have made that you'd like to share for the benefit of other indie authors? What's your favourite piece of advice for those starting out on their journey as an author-publisher?