One Year Indieversary
By Vicki Keire
One year ago today I released my first novel, Gifts of the Blood, independently through Amazon. I didn’t really think of myself as an Indie author back in those days; I made the decision while sitting in a writing workshop that had cost me hundreds of dollars. I hoped that this class, and others like it with similar price tags, could teach me something about a mystical process: actually getting published by a traditional publishing house. The teacher responded to questions about self-publishing by saying no one ever took such writers seriously, and then went on to warn us about the dangers of vanity presses that can charge thousands of dollars. I got hit with a kind of lightning bolt: wasn’t I paying large sums of money in the hopes that taking writing class after writing class was going to help me somehow get published? That’s when I began to wonder if the money might not be put to better use hiring my own editor and cover artist and risk putting myself out there.
I didn’t know much about publishing, either indie or traditional; I thought of the book I uploaded as “practice” for the magnum opus I would write someday. So right from the beginning I had made a near-fatal mistake: not taking myself, or my book, seriously enough. I did a few things right, though. I immediately joined an online writing community. We stated our goals and held each other accountable through biweekly blog hops. I also met writers who became good friends and beta readers. We traded back-of-the-book excerpts and generally shared what knowledge we had. It was good to have support, because around March of last year my book really took off, jumping in Amazon ranking and bestsellers lists until I was out-earning my teaching job.
When I spent a couple of months on fifteen different bestseller’s lists, I began to believe. I broke into the Top 20 in all my favorite genres: Romance, Fantasy, Children’s, and even Teen. I started appearing on sub-genre lists, like the Romance category Fantasy, Futuristic, and Ghost, and Children’s Love and Romance. I learned that there are “hidden categories,” and the only way to get on them is to sell books. There seem to be a lot of these in Teen; imagine my shock when I hit those lists, too. I was already deep into the sequel to the first book, and suddenly I started getting not only fan mail, but also somewhat edgy demands that I hurry up with the next one. By the time I released the sequel to Gifts, Darkness in the Blood, I realized I had sold 10,000 copies. There was no way I could refuse to see: I was a real writer, with the possibility of making my living solely from writing.
I got a wakeup call in the midst of all of this and started doing a few more things right. I looked into the Indie Book Collective, fascinated by the idea of a proactive collective of indie writers who supported each other. I wish I could say that my book remained a bestseller forever, but while it continues to sell respectably, its rise isn’t the norm. That’s why the IBC’s Sustainable Sales idea has been such a lifesaver: I learned to strive for a solid backlist with a steady fan base rather than the instant bestseller.
To date, I’ve written four books since I first nervously pressed “enter” on Amazon a year ago. Two are forthcoming with a small press that approached me. I sometimes think back to that moment in the writer’s workshop over a year ago. I am very glad I’m not still sitting there, trying to figure out what “trick” might get me noticed by an agent. Instead, I’ve learned to take my work and myself seriously. I may not be a household name, but I get deep satisfaction by doing something I love.
Not to mention the royalty checks. 🙂