My last post about the Five attributes an Indie Author needs really struck a note with readers, so I thought I’d start exploring other aspects of what it means to be a self-published author.
First up, I thought I’d share my story. There have been some ups and downs, and I’ve still got lots to learn, but I hope you can pick up some good tips from what to do (and not to do)!
My story … it’s a slow one
For years, I wanted to make a living as a writer but never took any steps to make it happen. I couldn’t get over the mental block of ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘that’s an impossible dream’.
I’d been writing fiction for years (since childhood actually), but hadn’t managed to get published. Then I self-published my first Epic Fantasy, The Children of Isador, with a small-press in Australia in 2007 – an expensive and slightly depressing experience that made me wonder if I should just try harder at finding an agent/publisher.
A few years later, KDP publishing came on the scene, and I started self-publishing in 2012. Since then I have published 15 books under my two author names (Sam J. Charlton and Jayne Castel).
Around that time, I also made a shift from doing office administration (a slow death) and part time language teaching (enjoyable but exhausting) to starting up my own copy writing and web writing business. I got two short-term contracts to help me cut my teeth and then a year and a half later I struck out on my own with my business, Take My Word. Becoming a writer (albeit not a successful fiction author … yet) was a huge shift for me.
Suddenly, I could call myself a writer.
However, although I was publishing novels on Amazon I was still treating it like a hobby. I was still ‘playing’ at it, and I was also still trying to find my voice as a writer.
I initially wrote only Epic Fantasy under the name Sam J. Charlton, but then branched out under the Jayne Castel pen name into Historical Romance. My shift came as after visiting the Sutton Hoo burial site in England. The amazing historical site gave me the idea for a story set in Anglo-Saxon times, centered around the last year in the life of King Raedwald (the king thought to be buried in the Sutton Hoo longship). However, since a love-story was central to the book, and I’d be writing in a different genre, I thought I’d better use a different name. Dark Under the Cover of Night was published a few months later.
People sometimes think authors choose a pen name because they’re embarrassed about friends and family knowing what they write – but that was never the case for me. It was more an issue of not muddying the waters, and confusing readers.
Interestingly, five years on and my Jayne Castel books sell MUCH better than my others ever have!
Recently, I won a national award for one of my Jayne Castel novels. Here’s a pic of me looking very pleased with myself at the RWNZ (Romance Writers of NZ) conference, around three weeks ago. I won a Koru Award (Short, Sexy category) for my novel, Italian Undercover Affair – ironically the only contemporary romance I have ever written!
I was also a finalist at the conference in The Great Beginnings contest with my Epic Fantasy Romance, Ruled by Shadows.
Contests are great for validation … however, they don’t have anything to do with sales. It gets your name out there in the writers’ community, but it’s readers you want to reach.
These days, five years on from starting my indie author journey, I feel like I’m just starting to hit my stride. I’m branching out with Jayne Castel, not just writing Dark Ages Historical Romance, but Epic Fantasy Romance too. It’ll be interesting to see how readers react to these new books. Sam J. Charlton is on the back-burner for the moment – I’m focusing instead on building the platform I’ve built for Jayne Castel.
Last year was crucial for me. I went from being paid every three months, to getting paid every month. Currently, my monthly Amazon income pays for my monthly groceries. My next step is to get it to pay for all my monthly expenses!
In many ways, I feel that I’m just getting started … although it’s exciting to finally be gaining a little traction. That’s one of the things I love about self-publishing: the constant learning curve!
In my next post, I’ll go into some of the things I’ve implemented over the past year which have really helped sales.
But until then … what about you? Is your journey similar to mine (i.e. slow but steady), or have you recently had some amazing breakthroughs? Please share! 🙂