We're delighted to welcome the spirited indie author RJ Blain to the blog today, to share the hard work, dedication and creative thinking that have elevated her to USA Today Bestseller with a vast and growing catalog of novels self-published under various names.
Her top tips for other authors include:
- daring to add an unusual and personal twist to her genre (romantic comedy – with a body count)
- working phenomenally hard – that's how the ‘miracles' happen, folks
- engaging with readers at a personal level – a quick reply to a Facebook comment can secure a fan
What’s your proudest achievement to date as an indie author?
This question is hard for me. Writing for a profession has been a collection of little achievements that gradually grew over time. Every milestone I hit was an accomplishment I’m proud of and worked hard for.
But, at the heart of it, I think the day I was able to go writing really is my only day job is the one I’m most proud of.
My husband works for Apple doing computer thingies. I’m an author doing writer thingies. We both contribute (about equally!) to the household, and that makes me so proud because once upon a time… he kept giving me swift kicks in the rump to make sure I actually got somewhere with my career of choice.
What’s the single best decision you ever made?
I think my best business decision was to go ahead and try a gamble on something that wasn’t a ‘norm’ for my chosen drama. Romance, check. Magic, check. Humor, check. Body count… also check.
Usually, you get one, two, and sometimes three of those things. But doing all four was a heavy gamble.
As my editor at the time said, “You can’t just go off killing people! You’re writing a romance.” To which I said, “Well, my romance has a body count!”
Let’s just say the series name came into existence because of that conversation.
What’s been your biggest surprise as an indie author?
Like so many others, I really believed that if I worked hard enough, I’d (eventually) succeed at the whole writing thing. I wouldn’t want to call it an ego about it, but rather this deep-set ‘American dream’ sort of mentality. Of course if I worked hard enough, it would eventually happen… right?
Life doesn’t work that way, but if you do work hard enough at it, you have much better odds of making it happen than if you sit around and wait for a miracle.
Yeah, miracles can happen in this business—but not to me. So, when miracles did start happening as a result of busting butt and working hard, you better believe I was pretty surprised. I still am.
What’s your greatest challenge – and how do you deal with it?
Reaching new readers is always my biggest challenge. I’m an introvert. I love hiding out in the back somewhere and doing my own thing. I’m like that kid at the back of class with her nose in a book… uhm, well, not like. I totally am. That’s me.
I’d rather be writing.
The only way to reach new readers is to get out there and talk to them. When I run advertising campaigns, especially on Facebook, I make a point of replying to everyone who is friendly to make them know I saw their comments. It helps a lot. Even something as simple as liking their comment is helpful.
Readers notice when you give any time to them, and that can stick with them. I’ve had people approach me weeks after an ad drive and thank me just for replying to their comment.
It always surprises me when that happens, too. I was really just trying to be polite, and they’d taken the time to comment about my book!
Fortunately, it doesn’t take too much time to do this, especially when I keep up with it, but when a post of mine does get a lot of comments, I’ll do a new comment to thank everyone in a larger context since it’s hard to go back and reply to everyone individually.
But I strayed there…
Leaving my comfort zone and reaching new readers will always be my top challenge, but it’s gotten easier with time. (But it’s never going to be easy for me. I’m an introvert. I’d really rather be writing.)
How do you get/stay in a creative mood?
This is a lot like riding a bike for me. I’m creative every day, so I feel really odd if I don’t do something creative. I always have a writing journal or iPad with me to do something creative.
Creativity is like exercise but better. The more creative you are on a daily basis, the easier it is to be creative all the time.
How do you remain productive/motivated?
This is the one answer that sometimes gets me a lot of side-eye. It’s really simple: I like food. My pets like food. My husband likes food.
No work, no food.
This is my day job, and if I don’t work, I don’t eat, and as I really like eating, I work. I’m very food-motivated.
(I love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, steak with mushrooms in cream sauce, and I will do tricks for tacos. Want to hear me bark like a dog? Tell me I will get a taco if I do so. But you better be ready to pay up, because tacos are serious business.)
What’s your favorite thing about being an author–publisher?
The freedom to control my content.
Getting good covers is expensive and often time consuming, and it also requires the willingness to gamble on concepts or a lot of market research, but nothing beats the moment when all the choices I made in bringing a book to life results in (what I view as a) success.
I try not to be petty, but sometimes, I just want to snap my fingers at the people who told me there was no way I could be a writer.
What are your top tips for other ALLis?
1) Don’t give up.
Writing is hard, but if you give up, you’ll never climb the mountain. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get the job done. As often as not, the journey is just as important as the destination, but you’ll never experience the journey if you quit now.
2) Save your pennies.
It takes money to make money, and some of the best gambles you can make in this industry (see: Bookbub) cost a lot of pennies. But they’re worth those pennies. Just spend them wisely.
What’s next for you?
According to my planner, I’m working on five books right now. In good news, I’m spending an hour or two on each book a day. In bad news, I’m spending an hour or two on each book every day… which doesn’t leave me a lot of time for anything else.
I just released Cheetahs Never Win: A Magical Romantic Comedy (with a body count) on January 2. At the end of February, I’m releasing a boxed set of three of my first books, which have undergone some editing and given a new lease in life preparing to finish both series (there are two in the set) in the new few years. Lastly, I’m working on Storm Called, which is a book under my pen name of Susan Copperfield. (The Royal States novels just didn’t fit well with my other books and were better off in their own little playground.)
I’m thinking the next two to three months of my life will be called RJ Blain and the Quest for More Sleep.
Thanks for having me!#Indieauthors - find inspiration & top tips in this romantic comedy writer @RJBlain's exclusive interview about her #selfpub success story Click To Tweet