I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Carrie Beckort today to talk with me about her self-publishing experiences. Carrie has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University and a MBA from Ball State University. She spent seventeen years in the corporate industry before writing her first novel. She lives in Indiana with her husband and daughter.
Carrie, when did you decide you were going to self-publish?
After I finished the manuscript for my first novel, Kingston’s Project, I started researching the publishing process. I didn’t know anything when I started since I had not planned on writing a novel, let alone publishing one. Early in my research, I went back and forth on what I felt would be the best path to take—traditional or self-publish. Ultimately, my decision to self-publish came down to two factors: (1) I’m too impatient for the average traditional publishing timeline, and (2) I’m too much of a control freak to hand over my work to someone else.
What has your experience been like along the way?
Self-publishing is the scariest thing I’ve ever done, including the times I’ve skydived! Each time I release a new book I go through a ‘What am I doing?’ phase. Despite those moments of panic, I know I’m doing what I was meant to do. While it’s the scariest, it’s also the most rewarding. I’ve learned so much and met so many wonderful people.
What are some of the challenges you have faced?
I could talk about some of the common self-publishing challenges, such as finding and connecting with readers, but I wouldn’t add anything new to that discussion that hasn’t already been pointed out. Instead, I’ll focus on my challenge of accepting my identity as an author.
Many authors have expressed that they started writing about the time they could hold a pen. Some talk about the years they spent trying to get an agent. Then there’s me—I didn’t start writing until I typed the first word of Kingston’s Project in 2012. I know I’m not alone, but I do think I might be in the minority. I didn’t spend years dreaming of being an author. Really, it found me rather than me seeking it out. It’s taken me a long time to accept that I’m not only an author, but I’m a pretty good one. I’ve struggled with the ‘imposter’ syndrome more than any other challenge self-publishing has brought my way.
What have you learned in this industry?
I’ve learned that the best thing (for me) is to just follow my instinct and forget most of the rules. I was thinking about this the other day. It’s similar to the first time I ever played golf. I borrowed my roommate’s clubs and went out to play a round with a few of the other summer interns. It was the best game of golf I’ve ever played. I didn’t focus on the rules, because I didn’t know any of them! I didn’t stress myself out over how I was holding the club, or if I was using the right one. I just picked up a club, looked for the hole, and swung. Years later when I took lessons, I became weighed down by all the rules. It became frustrating, and I ultimately decided golf wasn’t the game for me.
It’s the same with my writing. When I didn’t know anything about writing a book, I just wrote from my heart. I used my instinct and the knowledge I held as a reader to guide my process. By the time I got to writing my third novel, I worried about certain things I’d read—such as word counts and level of descriptions for the characters/settings. I felt as if I were losing the connection with the story that I had with my first novel. I took a short break from writing to release my dependence on the rules, and my writing is so much better as a result.
What are the do’s and don’ts of self-publishing?
Figure out your budget and then allocate to the most important aspects (cover, proofing, editing, etc.) I think some authors get so caught up in the appeal of publishing a book for free that they don’t think about what that really means. I have enough experience in marketing and sales to know that if you’re not willing to put money into making your product the best it can possibly be, then it will be difficult to convince customers to spend their money to purchase it.
You should always network as much as possible. Reach out to other authors. Develop relationships with book reviewers and your readers. Attend conferences or writer’s groups. Visit your local book stores. Nothing operates in a vacuum. Contacts and connections are needed to not only grow your business, but to also grow you as a writer.
Always be professional. You may get a review you don’t like. You may deal with a rude blogger. You may not agree with the results of a contest. You may be frustrated with someone who isn’t responding to you in the timeframe you feel is appropriate. That’s all OK. What’s not OK is responding in a way that’s rude or disrespectful. If you remain professional and treat everyone with respect, then you will earn a positive reputation—and that’s something that will take you far (both in the literary world and in life).
You should never sign up to work with anyone without researching them first. There are so many people out there trying to take advantage of self-published authors, assuming they’re easy targets because they don’t know anything about the process. If you are contacted by someone (publishing company, graphic designer, web developer, etc.) who is promoting their services, always find out more about them before you agree to anything. If you can’t find any information on the Internet, ask around or post on author forums. It’s likely that someone will know something that will help you.
Never lose sight of why you became a writer in the first place. It will help you though the low moments of the process.
What advice would you give to a writer who is considering the self-publishing route?
You have to be willing to put in the work. Self-publishing is not easy, especially if you’ve never managed any type of business. Because that’s what you’re doing when you self-publish—you’re managing a business. You are responsible for all aspects, from production to distribution and everything in between. It’s up to you to determine how much of it you do yourself and how much of it you will contract out to others, but you still own the entire process. If you want to be successful, you need to be willing to accept full ownership and accountability.
What are the promotional techniques you use via social media and how much time a week do you spend promoting your work? What are the different sites you use to promote your book?
I don’t track how much time I spend per week on promotion, but I probably should because it’s easy to spend too much time at either end of the spectrum: some days I spend too much time on it and other days I don’t spend enough. Rather than tracking time, I’m a fan of check-lists. I make a list of all the things I need to do and try to get a many of them done in the week as possible.
I have a dedicated website for my author business, as well as a Facebook page, a Goodreads author profile and a Twitter account. I am on Instagram and Pinterest, but I haven’t yet used them to promote my books. I’d say I spend the most time on Facebook, even though I know there are limits to who can see my posts. Right now it’s an easy way to share information, and that’s where most of my readers are. With my third novel I did pay for a Facebook ad the week it published. They jury is still out as to the success of the promotion. Beyond Facebook, I spend a lot of time on Goodreads. I host giveaways, post answers for their ‘ask the author’ questions, and interact in some of the reader groups. I’m least active on Twitter, mostly because I don’t really ‘get it’! I’m trying though, and have set goals to post more than just the automatic feeds from my Facebook page.
I also blog on three blogs: my author blog, my health and fitness blog, and on a blog with several other authors. Some authors don’t want to get involved in blogs for fear of it taking up too much of their writing time, but it’s been a great success for me. I’ve gained readers as well as strong connections with other writers.
Another way I try to promote is through book bloggers. I research and then reach out to those I think might like to read my book(s). This is a great way to not only reach readers, but to also gain an honest review of my work.
Finally, I occasionally have a sale on my ebooks. When I do this, I promote through some of the on-line services that are dedicated to spreading the word about discounted ebooks, such as Ereader News Today, Bargain Booksy, and Book Sends.
Where do you see this industry in five to ten years?
I think that we will only see more growth in the self-publishing industry. I envision there will be more tools and services to help self-published authors produce quality books, making it even more enticing than it is today. Yet, it’s hard to predict the exact direction this industry will go. It’s clear that Amazon wants to be the sole service provider for ebooks, which is where a lot of self-published authors focus their efforts. Personally, I think the landscape of the future is dependent on whether or not another company is willing to put in the effort to keep this from happening. If Amazon becomes the only ‘easy’ option, then the self-publishing industry will look very different than it would if we had several to choose from.
If something can be improve upon in this industry, what do you think it should be?
It seems to me that a wide gap still exists between the traditional publishing world and the self-publishing world. It’s as if it has to be one or the other, with only a few authors trying to function in both worlds. Unfortunately, there is a stigma that still exists implying that you have to be traditionally published to have any ‘credibility’ as an author. It may be better than it was before, but it’s still there. I’d like to see more traditionally published and self-published authors working together and helping each other succeed.
I agree with you completely, Carrie. There definitely too wide of a gap still…
How long have you been an indie author?
I published my first novel in February of 2014, so just over a year! It’s been an amazing journey so far, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.
For other locations, please visit Carrie’s website