Many of our readers will have read about Scottish-born, London-based Ian Sutherland's expertise on the best ways for authors to use Twitter as an author, but first and foremost he is a self-published author of a slick (and growing) series of thrillers about internet crime. We're delighted to hear more about how these two strands of his writing life have cross-fertilised each other. Read on to be inspired and informed by Ian Sutherland's particular indie author adventure…
Please describe in a single paragraph your indie author journey, from starting point to the present day
After years of reading books about the craft of writing (also known as procrastination), I finally knuckled down in 2012 to write my debut novel, a thriller called Invasion of Privacy. I completed it two years later just as indie publishing was getting going and decided to go for it, not even considering approaching an agent or a publisher. With a background in IT sales and marketing, I had enough self-confidence to attempt this, but knew I’d only be successful if the book was well received. Fortunately it has been.
Where did you first learn about self-publishing?
The credit for this goes to Catherine Ryan Howard’s blog and her book, Self-Printed: The Sane Person's Guide to Self-Publishing. After this I quickly discovered Joanna Penn’s podcast and then ALLi, signing up for membership before I’d finished my debut novel.
What was your first self-published book, and when and how did you publish it?
My debut novel is called Invasion of Privacy, which I published in August 2014. However, by then I’d learned that it was a smart move to have a free giveaway to encourage people to take a risk-free chance on a new author. Thanks to my editor, I had a whole 10,000 word prologue stripped out of the novel, which I then wrapped a parallel story around and released as a prequel novella called Social Engineer. I actually launched both books on the same day.
Name three things you know now about self-publishing that you wish you’d known when you started out.
- I didn’t focus on collecting email addresses for over 18 months. Once I learned how important that is, I changed everything to focus on this and now have a 6,000 strong list and growing, most of which came through Twitter. This is going to be a massive factor in the launch of my next novel, Taking Up Serpents, in October.
- Cover and blurb are everything. I wrote a technothriller hidden inside a serial killer mystery. My original cover and blurbs focused on the cybercrime based technothriller aspects, naively believing my audience were IT-savvy males between 20 and 40. Despite good reviews, the books didn’t sell that well. After analysing my reviews objectively, I repackaged the books as contemporary thriller mysteries, with new covers and blurbs. They now sell very well and, thanks to Facebook advertising, I now know that my readership are predominantly females over 40.
- Marketing is hard work and a major time suck. But to succeed as an indie author, you need to wear both hats and manage your time well. It’s taken me far too long to write my next novel, most of which has been because I was far too distracted by marketing the first book.
What has been your biggest surprise as a self-published author?
Writing is well-known as a solitary pursuit (apart from the multiple personality disorder I seem to experience while writing!) But thanks to ALLi it doesn’t have to stay that way. I love attending writers' events and ALLi meetups with other authors. They were invaluable to me when I started out, and I love giving back now that I know so much more. But even now, I still learn something new every time I meet other authors.
And the best part? The market’s big enough that none of us are really in competition with each other, so everyone is so willing to share what they learn.
What is your proudest achievement as an indie author?
It’s an amazing achievement to even complete a novel. But it just feels so damn good when people read it and tell you they enjoyed it. I’ve had some wonderful reviews which has led to amazing interactions, on email, social media and in person, with readers all over the world. I love that!
How do you describe yourself and your books – self-published, indie, or something else?
I describe myself as an indie author. My oldest daughter, 23, is an indie musician having recently launched her debut album and my youngest daughter, 21, is an indie fashion designer working towards launching her first collection. If my family is anything to go by, the indies are taking on all the creative industries!
What are your future ambitions as an author?
If I can maintain the same sales levels and quality, I’m probably three books and three years away from going full time, my real dream. But I’m also turning into an authorpreneur, about to launch a new service for other authors called Author Platform Sidekick where I will nurture their author platforms on their behalf, initially focusing on growing their Twitter followers and email subscribers. This has come about because I mastered Twitter early on and published my first non-fiction book called Advanced Twitter Strategies for Authors which was very well received.
How different do you think the self-publishing landscape will be in five years’ time?
I hope that the industry finds a way to crack the stranglehold that the traditional publishers have over the bookstores. There are signs already, with indie-exclusive stores popping up and ALLi’s focus on helping indies get into bookstores. But then it will come down to discoverability, and I think that within five years, someone will launch an independent recommendations engine for readers, based on matching to similar content and style, rather than merchandisers choices or automatic recommendations based on other buyer's behaviours.Inspiring interview with indie #author @IanSuth on our #selfpub blog Click To Tweet