Every Sunday we interview a highly successful self-publishing author happy to share best practice and top tips for indies at every stage of their careers. Today we welcome US author-publisher Richard G Lowe Jr, who explains how he has diversified, combining many the opportunities and outlets offered by modern self-publishing, including ghost-writing, making audiobooks, and devising courses, to earn a good living from his busy and multi-faceted writing career.
His thoughtful advice includes how to:
- prioritise and plan your work to avoid overcommitment and overwhelm
- dramatically boost writing productivity by using voice recognition
- remain motivated and creative in the midst of a busy writing life
What’s your proudest achievement to date as an indie author?
My biggest achievement as an author is to be able to consistently make a living, paying all the bills and then some, using my writing skills.
I have over 60 books on Amazon of all different genres under my own name, plus a number under pen names. I make money from those month after month.
I also was smart enough to take the advice of another author and published 26 audiobooks, and those consistently bring in a small amount of money each month – but I don’t have to do any work for it. It just appears in my bank account.
But my real pride comes in being able to accept a book project on any subject, as long as it doesn’t violate my own moral and ethical standards and bring it to fruition.
I’ve ghostwritten books about the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality – all highly technical subjects. I’ve also ghostwritten or coached books about retirement, dentistry, cleaning, and property management among others. The most interesting of them all was the memoirs of an Afghani politician who had to flee Afghanistan just before the Soviets invaded several decades ago.
I’ve also helped over 300 people with their LinkedIn profiles. This is very fulfilling because it helps them with their careers and their businesses.
Currently, I’m writing a series of courses designed to help fiction authors understand how to write and promote fiction books and different genres. This has turned out to be something which I’m especially proud, because it helps writers of all levels communicate their message to others.
My current project for my own gratification is a ten-volume science fiction series based a million years in the future. I think you’ll find this to be a very interesting set of books.
What’s the single best decision you ever made?
In 2013, I had been working in technology for over 33 years, with 20 of those at a major retail chain. The stress was causing problems in my life – everything from headaches to physical symptoms including severe pain. I was on call 24 x 7, which meant that I can be called on the weekends, in the evenings, or anytime. The computer systems that I managed were highly unstable, so I would get phone calls at all times of the day and night. I eventually started hiking in national parks, and one of the reasons was that cell phone coverage didn’t work so I could truthfully say that I didn’t get the call.
In October 2013 I decided to leave my job of 20 years and become a professional writer. This turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. Sure, I’m not making anywhere near the amount of money that I was making at that job, but I am making more than enough to pay the bills and live a decent lifestyle.
There is stress, don’t get me wrong. As a freelancer, every month there is the stress of getting enough business to cover everything. But it’s an entirely different stress than having the CEO, three VPs, and half the business standing over my shoulder, asking why the computer was down and inferring that it was all my fault.
I’m much happier now doing something that I enjoy and having the opportunity to fulfill my passion.
What’s been your biggest surprise as an indie author?
I think what surprised me most is an indie author is three things.
- How much control I have over my books. For any book, I create a cover, and I can change it at will at the drop of a hat. If the books not selling, I change the cover, and that often makes the sales pickup. I’m in charge of promotion of my books. That required that I learn how to market and promote myself and my work. I’m in charge of writing, proofreading, editing and every other phase of creating books. In other words, I am the master of my destiny as an indie writer.
- The other side of the coin: I am responsible for creating and selling my books. If I don’t do what needs to be done to make them sell, then they don’t sell, and I don’t make any money. There’s always a constant juggling to promote books, write new books, handle freelancing clients, work on social media, and every other thing that needs to go in to having a successful career as an indie writer, a ghostwriter and a freelance writer.
- How much I love writing books. When I started as a professional writer, I would take on anything to make money. After all, this is my career. But I quickly narrowed down to books. I love writing books. That’s my passion. So, all aspects of my freelance career are now aimed at writing and selling books in one form or another. This aligns with my goals in life.
For the first time in my life, I am fulfilling my goals and working towards my passions.
What’s your greatest challenge – and how do you deal with it?
My greatest challenge has been being too creative and too able to do too many things.
I frequently bite off far more than I can chew. I write very quickly, sometimes as much as 14,000 words in a single day – and that’s ready to publish. That tends to make me over-commit, and by writing that much I have no downtime, no time to relax.
What I had to do was:
- become more realistic at what I can accomplish without burning myself out
- learn to schedule everything on a calendar and stick to that schedule
When a client calls up saying they want something, I put it on the calendar. When that time comes, I work on it.
How do you get/stay in a creative mood?
I’m always in a creative mood. I love to write. In fact, sometimes I must force myself away from the keyboard because sitting for too long is bad on the back.
- I make a point of getting up for 10 minutes every hour at least.
- Walk around the block a couple of times.
- Get outside and look at things, talk to the neighbors, whatever.
Another thing that I found that’s really helping with my creativity is voice dictation. In fact, I’m dictating the answers to these questions right now. This increased my productivity and removed the barrier – the keyboard – between me and getting my thoughts into the computer.
I didn’t realize how much of an effect voice recognition software would have on my creativity and my ability to write. It’s been dramatic.
The third thing that I’ve done to help my creativity is I’ve begun interviewing other authors. It’s fascinating learning about their challenges, successes, and motivations. This has caused me to think in new ways and help me understand that I am not alone and that there are other authors out there who are willing to help or be helped. This is greatly motivating. (Catch the Author Talk with Richard Lowe interview series, which will feature many ALLi author members, at www.fictionmasterclass.com/index/blog/.)
How do you remain productive/motivated?
I think one of my greatest motivational techniques is to use voice dictation.
That increased my writing from 5,000 words a day to as much as 14,000, and sometimes even 20,000 words in a single day.
The dictation is pretty good, and only requires a light edit afterwards to be publishable. As you can imagine, this dramatically increased my productivity.
As far as motivation goes, the biggest problem that I have is trying to do too many things at once.
This causes the, how shall I put this? it seems like the entire universe is trying to smash into my head at the same time. I’ve had to learn to reel it back, and do one thing at a time, and not balance between projects constantly.
The biggest motivation of all is knowing that I have control of my destiny.
If I continue to write and produce books and other things on a good schedule, I make more than enough money to survive and pay the bills. If I goof off, then I have to scramble. The point is I have only myself to blame, which gives me total control over my destiny. That is a great feeling.
I call it the writing life:
- I get to make decisions about my life that I’ve never had the freedom to do before.
- I can decide if I’m going to work today, or not. I can work in my pajamas.
- I can take my laptop and go down to the pool and tie from there.
- I can use voice dictation without worrying about bothering anybody else.
- I can sell my books in any way I want.
- I can write in any genre that I feel like writing.
- Basically, except for clients, no one can tell me what to do as far as my profession goes.
- I have no boss, other than clients. One of the keys to surviving as a freelancer and a ghostwriter is to ensure that I have enough clients that I can walk away from any two of them immediately without putting anything at risk. That’s important. You should never depend on just one or two clients. I like to ensure that I have six at least at any one time.
As I’ve said before, writing books fulfills my passions, and is causing me to achieve my goals in life. I love the writing life more than anything I’ve done before in the past.
What’s your favourite thing about being an author–publisher?
My favorite thing about being an author and publisher is having total control over my own books. I sell 60 of them on Amazon, 26 on audible, and about 30 as downloadable copies from my own website. I recently removed all my books from Amazon KDP Select to give me the freedom to try out publishing on Smashwords, Draft2Digital and iBooks. I get to choose what I want to do, and it’s up to me to make it happen.
That can be very frightening to some people. It’s something you must come to terms to if you’re in the author. You are in control of your destiny, but on the other hand, there is nobody else to blame. You are responsible for your success or failure.
I love being in that position.
What are your top tips for other ALLis?
The biggest tip that I would give any author or aspiring writer is to decide if you’re doing it as a profession or hobby. If your goal is to turn your writing into a career or profession, then you must treat it like that. If it’s a career or profession, it means it’s a business, and making money is an important part of every business.
If you’re going to treat it as a business, that means you need to set aggressive goals. You can’t make it as a writer setting a goal of “writing when you feel like it”, or “writing 500 words in a day, maybe three days a week”. You’re not going to make it if you do that.
The key to success as a writing professional is being able to produce quality writing that people want to buy.
You must produce it at high velocity. Your first novel almost certainly won’t sell well, but you’ll learn the ropes. You’ll understand how to create a novel and promote it. Your second novel probably won’t sell well either. But you learn even more. By the time you published your third novel, you’ll probably start seeing some sales. As you publish more and more books, your writing will become smoother and better, your fan base will increase, and you’ll find your sales improving.
- If you’re writing quickly, you can get past these initial books quickly. You can build your fan base very fast. You can learn the lessons at high velocity.
- On the other hand, if you are writing slowly, then the whole process takes longer.
So, my biggest advice is to write every single day, but take one day off per week at least:
- Set aside a certain number of hours in those days that is your writing time, turn off social media, turn off your cell phone, and make it clear to the family and friends that you are not to be interrupted except for dire emergency. And don’t tolerate any interruptions.
- Now, sit down and write. Set an aggressive goal for the day – 2,000 words is a good goal for beginning writers. Increase that goal regularly, until your writing 4000, 5000 or more words per day.
Equally important, is do not edit while you write. Do your writing first, then go back and edit. If you edit while you write, then you’ll write yourself into writers block very quickly and you won’t get much done. This is the primary reason why many writers can’t write more than a few hundred words in a day. They’re trying to make those few hundred words perfect. Don’t do that. Just write them. Then go back and edit them.
What’s next for you?
I’ve begun creating a series of training courses for all fiction writers (plus a couple for freelancers) to help them with different aspects of writing. I have four genre specific training courses available now for fantasy, science fiction, romance, and mystery. Each of these is a 20,000+ word, very focused training package that describes everything you need to know to write, edit, publish, and promote short Kindle e-books in that genre. I’m also writing a series of similar training packages on various aspects of the promotion of books.
My goal is to help writers learn their craft of writing and become the best that they can be, so they can produce books that communicate their message to their audience.
Of course, I will also continue freelancing and ghostwriting, and I’m always looking for new clients. I enjoy coaching a business person through the process of writing a book that will help them expand and grow their company. It’s quite a process and is quite fulfilling.
You can find me at the following:
https://www.thewritingking.com – My main writing site
https://fictionmasterclass.com – My training courses
https://www.linkedin.com/in/richardlowejr/ – LinkedIn profile
Thanks for the opportunity to talk a little bit about myself, my passions, and how I can help other writers.inspiration & smart advice for #indieauthors from the diverse and highly productive @RichardLoweJr on how to be a #selfpublishing success Click To Tweet