Many readers of this blog will have enjoyed frequent guest posts by US indie author Karen Myers, usually on technical aspects of the production and marketing, drawing on her own experience as a seasoned self-publishing author. We are delighted to feature Karen as this week's guest in our new series profiling the different routes that indie authors take into self-publishing and the way their careers develop. For more information about Karen, please visit her website: www.hollowlands.com.)
Please describe in a single paragraph your indie author journey, from starting point to the present day.
It started early one morning in the spring of 2012, as I was driving with my husband to a meet of the Blue Ridge Hunt where I planned to spend a few merry hours taking pictures of the foxhunt at work. We were driving along one of the many beautiful scenic roads in Virginia along the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. As we were talking about what we would do when it came time to retire, my husband suggested we retire to Elfland – surely they hunt and fish and read books? From out of nowhere, the notion of a Virginia foxhunter who passed through a portal to the Otherworld and became the huntsman for the Wild Hunt seized me, and a few months later, To Carry the Horn was born. Eight books and three series later, my business, Perkunas Press, and my writing are going strong, and I'm having the time of my life.
Where did you first learn about self-publishing?
For self-publishing in its modern sense, I can no longer recall, exactly, but it wasn't more than a year or two before I published my first book in 2012. Back in 1993, I had self-published (we didn't call it that then) Harmonious Companions, a songbook of one hundred traditional tunes, arranged for several voices, to memorialize sing-ins I hosted with my friends. I sold some, but more ended up in the proverbial boxes in my garage, and the business I created to do it sat mothballed for almost two decades until I revived it for my new self-publishing career. That wasn't a vanity release. I did all the work myself, including the music score production, and then hired a short-run printer and sold it directly and to catalogues, so it was an early self-publishing venture in the modern sense.
What was your first self-published book, and when and how did you publish it?
To Carry the Horn, book 1 of The Hounds of Annwn (October 12, 2012). I went wide from day one, releasing it on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, and Google Play (and to iBooks via Smashwords), as well as hand-selling it to local tack shops that carried books targeted to the high-end riding crowd. Since I was already doing photography for the center of foxhunting in America, I had a built-in initial audience of whom some were intrigued by the description, and that was my starting base of buyers and fans. To my nervous surprise, they liked it!
Name three things you know now about self-publishing that you wish you’d known when you started out.
- How things worked in the traditional publishing industry: the logistics of distribution and library acquisition, in particular. Reading about it wasn't enough, since I lacked common referents for background.
- Ranges of what to expect for an author like me at different points in my still very young career: series uptake for multiple volumes, fall-off in sales after initial releases, what constitutes a critical mass of works in terms of building a fan base. Setting expectations more rationally would be a great stress reliever.
- Finding the best resources, organizations (like ALLi), blogs, workshops was (and is) time-consuming. It's better now, but when we were all groping around for guidance, I wasted a lot of time. There are many with advice, but not all of it is good. There are very few with deep knowledge of the traditional industry who are now actively guiding indies. I am still trying to muster the best advice for marketing and put it into (better) practice. The transparency of the self-publishing community is wonderful, and shared learning is essential.
What has been your biggest surprise as a self-published author?
As an author, how much fun writing would turn out to be. As a self-published author, how much fun running a business this small would be. (I used to build and run software/services businesses from 10 to 1100 employees). I love the control, making all the decisions, however flawed they may be as I continue to learn.
What is your proudest achievement as an indie author?
When people tell me how much they've enjoyed a book. Of course, I want to make a living at it, so I need to write more for them to buy.
How do you describe yourself and your books – self-published, indie, or something else?
I tell people I'm an author. If the question comes up in conversation (which almost never happens unless the other person is in the industry), I tell them I'm an independent author, an indie. On my author website I maintain two blog areas, one for everyone, and one for writers. Self-publishing is rarely of interest to my readers, so while it may get referenced in passing when I talk about release dates or cover reveals, it's not important there. In the writing area of my blog, I post articles about all aspects of writing and publishing.
What are your future ambitions as an author?
Productivity and craft improvement. Four books/year reliably (I'm managing it this year) is one key target. In terms of craft, I've gone from bright amateur to respectable in other artistic fields before (music, photography, etc), so I have some idea of my learning curve before I am reasonably pleased with having reached a certain journeyman level, suitable for further improvement. For me, that's usually been five to eight years, so I keep reminding myself it's early days yet for fiction-writing, and I've been lucky in my first books at having started relatively high.
How different do you think the self-publishing landscape will be in five years’ time?
- Worldwide distribution will have matured, and some of the worldwide lagging markets will have begun to get over their denial regarding both indie authors and ebooks.
- We will still all be struggling to find useful channels for discoverability. Metadata will still be a mess, and only a few forward-thinking retailers will serve their reading customers well in this area.
- Many of the early participants will have dropped out, though others will of course join in. There will be many more successful career writers, documented by industry tools like AuthorEarnings.
For more information about Karen Myers and her books, please visit her website: www.hollowlands.com.
RELATED POST – one of Karen Myers' previous guest posts for the ALLi Author Advice Blog:
Meet @Hollowlands author Karen Myers, sharing her #selfpub #author journey on our blog today Click To Tweet