Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Tips From an Indie Journey

with guest Carol Moncado.

Good morning, Seekerville!!! I’m so incredibly honored to be here! Some people say they’ve made it when they land an agent, or a three book deal. Nope. Not me (though landing an agent was awesome and I wouldn’t turn that deal down). For me, it was being asked to post on Seekerville! I've dropped by to share about my journey with indie publishing! Here are ten things I've learned. 

1. Make sure you’re ready

 Is that very first manuscript ready right out of the gate? Probably not. But if you’ve been at this a while and have been doing well in contests, have an agent and have been going to pub board (or been turned down by them for reasons other than the writing itself), then maybe it’s time to consider going indie. If you’re not sure if your writing is good enough yet, then there’s a good chance it’s not. Take some time to learn your craft. Read. A lot. Many writers/mentors say it’s more important to read good (and some not-so-good) books than it is to read craft books. Many people will get more out of seeing the practical applications of what we’re trying to do than we will reading about it. Be don’t compare Mary Connealy’s 400th book (isn’t that about where she is by now?!) to your first. Even if your most recent manuscript is ready, go through old ones before publishing them. I have completed thirteen manuscripts and released #5, #10, #8 (CANDID Romance series), #7, #12, #13 (The Montevaro Monarchy series). I’ve got plans to release all but one of the others eventually, but some are going to need a lot of work to get there.

2. Get advice

Talk to friends and mentors in the business. You need to talk to someone who knows publishing, specifically indie publishing. At last year’s ACFW conference, I spent part of my time talking with trusted mentors about my “going indie” plan. One of them told me later she’d gone into our meeting asking God how to talk me out of it. By the time we left, she knew it wasn’t an impulsive “my agent can’t sell this ONE MANUSCRIPT” reaction. Rather, it was a well-reasoned, well-researched decision. She then asked what she could do to help.

3. Learn

All of us, traditionally or indie pubbed, need to keep learning about what works or doesn’t. With indie publishing*, it’s much easier to see what marketing strategy works with some immediacy. For instance, on April 21,  I released the second book in my second series. On April 24, I had an ad scheduled with Ereader News Today (ENT) for my debut. It “went free” a day early in case Amazon glitched. The day of the ad, that novel and the first novel in the Montevaro series were free (the third Montevaro was up for preorder). I could watch, in nearly real time, how many people were downloading which book for free and what, if anything, that was doing to sales/preorders of the others. I’ll just say this here – the ad cost $30 to give away a free book. It was worth it.

The CBA world is a wonderful mix of not just competition but cooperation. The indie world is built even more on that cooperation. There are email lists and Facebook groups out there devoted solely to helping indies. One of the best groups is the Facebook group Christian Indie Authors** (CIA). You can often get answers in minutes. You can learn about KDP v. KDPS, Draft2Digital, etc. are and how they can affect your choices. There’s CBA indie heavyweights in the group (like Randy Ingermanson, who taught on indie at last year’s ACFW conference, and Traci Hilton, who is teaching this year). 

4. Set up separate finances and budget

This varies by state. In my state, I’ve started with DbA  (Doing Business As) and will likely upgrade to a corporation of some sort when it makes sense to do so financially. Registering my DbA of CANDID Publications cost about $7, and I was able to take that paperwork to the bank to open a checking and savings account specifically for my business. At the beginning, the money in the account came from our family finances as “seed money,” but it has quickly become self-sustaining. It will pay for all of my writing related expenses this year (and then some), and all of the payments I make (to ACFW for conference registration, the hotel, gas, paperback orders from CreateSpace, etc.) all go through that account.

When starting out, figure out your budget and stick to it. Indie can be done on a shoestring by learning to do things yourself or trading services. Almost everything but the writing itself can be hired out. It’s up to each author which things they want to learn and which to pay someone else to do. At the same time – know yourself and what you are and are not capable of. I do almost all of it all myself and trade out a couple things. Sometimes “good enough” has to be good enough. My covers won’t win any prizes, but I like them and they’re good enough for now. I want to get new ones made and have another really good proofreading pass done on the first few books.  I put out the very best product I could with the funds I had.

As my husband reminds me Every. Single. Time. I mention money,consult a tax professional for more information.

5. Get Recommendations

If you are going to hire out some of the work, get recommendations from people you trust who have worked with those vendors. The CIA group keeps a running Rolodex of people that are recommended and those who aren’t. While there will always be a person or two who have a less than satisfactory experience with a vendor, knowing which ones to avoid is important.

6. If doing preorders, make sure the manuscript is nearly ready

Last summer, Amazon let indies do preorders up to 90 days before the release date. You do not have to have a finalized manuscript in order to set it up, but you do have to have a final version uploaded ten days ahead of time. And that tenth day? It’s at midnight that MORNING. So if it’s due the 10th, it’s really due at midnight the night of the 9th (which is also midnight the morning of the 10th). There are consequences if you fail to upload a final version, though they are limited to losing any preorders you have and not being able to do another preorder for a year.

If you are going to do a preorder (which can be a great way to build some momentum, especially if it’s the next book in a series), be sure you can have it done. Deadlines are a great way to kick it into high gear (ask me how my April was /roll eyes/), but at the same time, life happens. Which leads to…

7. Under promise and over deliver

Be careful not to over promise and not deliver. There were reasons for wanting the sixth book out in April, all of which were perfectly valid– and I made it. Barely. When I started this journey back in November, I planned to have the first two series release in about 7-8 weeks. I believe it was theoretically possible, however it didn’t happen. The first 3 books released on schedule, but the fourth came out in January and the fifth and sixth in late April. Being more vague, like “Spring” rather than “April,” can help.

8. Build a newsletter. Don’t spam.

“Everyone knows” newsletters are a great way to build your readership/sales. Studies show the greatest click-through rate comes from newsletters. That’s not to say everything else doesn’t add up, but your newsletter is targeted to people predisposed to want information about your releases. But don’t inundate. I was talking with someone recently who said she’d unsubscribed from the newsletter of a major CBA author because of the sheer number of newsletters. Some people do once a month or once a quarter. Others send only when they have news (that’s where I am right now). I announce preorders (with a special, limited time, price) to the newsletter list. I might also email if there’s a special sale going on and it’s been a while since the last newsletter.

9. Don’t fear permafree and pay to advertise

It seems counterproductive to make a book permanently free but it works. You’ll find a lot of people out there who say the heyday of permafree is over but a lot of people are still having huge success with it. The key is to know when to go permafree. The point is to have a “loss leader” – to give people the chance to try your books in the hopes that some of them will buy the rest in the series (and unrelated books as well).

One friend recently put book 1 in a series permafree. She then applied for, and paid for, a Book Bub ad. Book Bub, along with ENT, are newsletters. Every day they send an email to hundreds of thousands of users who have opted in to one genre or another. The price is based on which genre you pick and the size of that newsletter. Her husband about choked when she told him how much she was paying Book Bub to promote a free book. Now he’s asking when she can do it again. Because she made all of that money back in the first day or two and she’s been riding the crest of the wave ever since. It’s died down some, but trust me when I say it was more than worth it.

10. Be flexible

What works for me may not work for you.  If you raise your price only to discover your sales (and income) have dropped dramatically...change it back. Permafree may not be the way to go for you. One of the beauties of being indie is finding what works for you and the ability to experiment with what that might be. Don’t be afraid to try something new!

Has it been easy? No. Have I made more money than I would have without going indie? Sure. Am I rich? Of course not. But I’d reached a point where, for many reasons, it was time to “fish or cut bait” with this thing. Would I change stuff? Sure. Do I regret going indie?

Not for a minute.

Writers - have you ever considering "going indie"? Readers - does it matter to you if you know the book is indie pub rather than from a traditional publisher as long as the writing/storytelling are good?

*There are literary agencies that offer indie pub services, where they do some of the work in exchange for a percentage. Those authors likely won’t have access to the real time data or have quite as much flexibility with pricing, etc. YMMV.
 **To be admitted to the group, you have to be Christian (but not writing strictly CBA) + Indie (or considering it) + Author. You do need to be “sponsored” by an existing member to join, but just find one (like me!) to admit you.

Finding Mr. Write will be free May 6 only. It will probably be from 3-4am Eastern the 6th through early am the 7th. 

And...Good Enough for a Princess will be free Thursday through Saturday. 

Plus one commenter today, will win their choice of a Kindle copy of any other of Carol's books. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition. 

When not writing about her imaginary friends, Carol Moncado hangs out with her family and a dog who weighs less than most hardback books. Her favorite activity is watching NCIS, unless Castle is on - or Girl Meets World (with her four kids, of course!). She believes peanut butter M&Ms are the perfect food and Dr. Pepper should come in an IV. If her kids, and dog, aren’t racing around her big backyard in Southwest Missouri, she’s teaching American Government at a community college. She's President of MozArks ACFW and can be found on Facebook, her website, and the InspyRomance blog.


Carol Moncado said...

Hey, y'all!!! I had hoped to be in bed about 2 hours ago but well, life happened ;).

Tina - thank you so very much for having me! I appreciate it!!!

FINDING MR. WRITE should be free at midnight Pacific or so on Wednesday!

I'm heading to bed but I'll leave a spread from Panera for y'all to munch on when you get here. Bagels, pastries, all sorts of good stuff!

My daughter has a doc appointment in the morning so I'm not sure if I'll be back before mid-morning but I'm excited to spend most of the day hanging out here :).

Mary Preston said...

Lots of useful info thank you.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Coffee is on!!!

Carol, welcome! What an exciting year for you, and I've found the best way to learn anything is to jump in the water and go for a swim!

I've also found it's important to know your end-game, your goal for each project. That's helped me out a lot because it goes a lot farther than self-sustaining, I like to anticipate growth patterns. Indie is great for helping with that!

Nice to see you!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome, Carol!

Now my big question is, besides what you mentioned in your top ten..if you had to start over...what indie things would you do differently?

Tina Radcliffe said...

And now...what's next? Another release of ten books?

How many DO you have under your bed?

Tina Radcliffe said...

Panera's!! Be still my heart!

Pass the bagels and schmear!

Jackie said...

Very impressive, Carol. Congratulations on all of your success, and thanks for sharing!

DebH said...

I'd have to have a backlog of books before I'd even consider going indie (I guess that would be point #1, right?). I am certainly impressed with the steps you've taken and the plans you've followed through on. Go YOU!!!
I'm looking forward to getting your freebies you are generously offering. I'm a believer in the perma-free thing, because I'm a series reader and I cannot count how many times I download the first book (free) only to be impressed by the writing and blow my ebook budget to buy the rest of the series ('cuz I just GOTTA see how it all comes together *sigh*)

btw... I'm in beginning stages establishing myself as a book cover designer. I need to build a sample library and wouldn't mind designing your next cover for a trade (or free) so I can have it join my library. would love to help out if you desire cover help and get feedback from an indie person. just a thought...

very good post. a lot to ponder and plan (especially if we're planning our success like Ruthy mentioned in last Weds post). thanks for sharing your journey.

Carol Moncado said...

Hi, Mary! Thanks for stopping by!

RUTHY! You're right. My ultimate goal is to be writing full time. Self- sustaining won't do that, but in general, I'm seeing growth. Self-sustaining is a good start though :). "They" say Amazon likes you better once you've got about 6 books out and they funnel people to your pages more (including in also boughts more, etc.). My seventh is up for preorder as a group novella project.

Mary Hicks said...

Hello, Carol, and thank you for sharing this good info on self publishing.

You seem to have thought out your journey well. And as always, a good plan, and then working the plan never fails to increase chances of success.

I read so many different opinions on the 'free' book give-a-way it's hard to know. But it makes sense that it would work to build readers.

How to know when you're ready to publish is a difficult call. It's hard to judge our own work, making it necessary to have an unbiased, knowledgable person go over the manuscript.

Carol Moncado said...

Tina -

I think I'd work harder to have all six of those ready faster. Or possibly have released the first three farther apart.

I have seven other manuscripts that have at least a rough draft done. I finished my first novella a couple weeks ago (one of those April deadlines). I have plans for at least 4-5 more books this year, plus another couple novellas, but we'll see how it works out. I have 1.5 books written for the next series but none after that until next summer's releases so I'll be writing from scratch which is a new experience and we'll see how it goes ;).

Carol Moncado said...

Thanks, Jackie! I'm glad you stopped by!

Deb H. - generally having several to release quickly would be the best way to go indie (rather than hybrid like Ruthy and some of the others have done). BUT, with that said, I know some who have done very well with just one release. Sally Bradley and Nancy Kimball come to mind.

I'd be happy to talk covers with you! Shoot me an email at carolmoncadobooks at gmail dot com?

Mary - you're right. You know what they say about opinions ;). That said, if you're really not sure if you're ready, you're probably not. Ready is defined differently for everyone, though, and it's something to talk about with trusted mentors. For me, that included several people, including the ones I talked with at conference - people who've been around the block a time or two, specifically Janice Thompson and Cheryl Wyatt.

To an extent, I think they're right about the heyday being over because there are SO MANY free or cheap books out there, but the cream will rise to the top, still. And even if it's not as good as it was a couple years ago, it's still very effective.

Okay - gotta take the 13yo to the doctor and then the eye glass place. I'll be back in a bit :).

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hey, Carol!!! You are doing so well and it's wonderful to see you "out there!" You have worked so hard, and that is another key to success. Plus, your books are good! I LOVED Finding Mr. Write! Loved, loved basically everything about it! Especially your hero. :-) Thanks for being generous and sharing what you've learned! HUGS!

Deanna Stevens said...

I have both of the mentioned books & would enjoy reading more of your work! I think peanut butter m&M's are really good too. toss me into the hat please :)

Cindy Regnier said...

Thank you for sharing with us in Seekerville, Carol. I missed the chance to meet you in person when we were both attending the Called to Write in Pittsburg last month. Hope to have the chance again. Congratulations on your accomplishments and success. I have your books on Kindle and hoping to get to them as soon as done reading for Carol Awards.

Connie Queen said...

Hi Carol.

I'm putting this in my keeper file. I'm still submitting w/traditional publishers, but if these books don't work for them, I'll go Indie. Honestly, I can see where my books don't quite fit into the markets I'm striving for.

And free makes sense to me to build a business if done the right way.

Connie Queen said...

And Carol, you were saying you would write your series faster or slow the first 3 down. I read an article on a guy who has done very well w/indie publishing because he puts out about 1 book 300-page novel/month. He says the key is to always have something for sale.

I could never write that fast...

Marianne Barkman said...

When I was a book seller, #7 was important to me. Not sure why more companies can't figure that out! I'd love another of your novels, Carol...hoping to download Good Enough For a Princess tomorrow. Thanks!

Wilani Wahl said...

Thank you for your post. When my writing is ready for publishing, I realize I may have to consider indie. If i do go that route, I will want to make sure it is perfect before I publish. As a reader I have discovered so many that are full of editing errors. I have also seen some that are in wonderful shape when they Indy publish.

Please enter me in you drawing.

Vince said...

Hi Carol:

Very interesting & useful post. This is one to cut and paste for future use.

Good to see you on Seekerville again. How is the new MozArks ACFW chapther going? I think you were starting it up the last time you were here. I hope it is growing.

Have you looked into putting any of your books on Audible? I really like audio books. It seems Indie books are more likely to try Audible. I've been very happy with my Indie audible purchases.

As a reader, my biggest problem with Indie books is major plot flaws. A book can be beautifully written, tightly edited, and have a delightfully fresh new author's voice and yet still be ruined by major plot flaws. Flaws like getting the law backwards rendering the plot impossible. Also subplots that that go nowhere or, worse, play very unfair with the reader. The main drawback of plot flaws is that the reader can read most of the book before they are fully manifested. When I read these books with plot flaws, I know at once why a traditional editor would not accept them.

I think Indie writers can get good help with grammar and typos but I don't think they are getting the best advice on plot analysis. I'm not sure a friend would say, "You have a fatal problem with the plot. I think you need to rewrite the whole book."

I hope your daughter's doctor appointment went well.

BTW: I just downloaded, "Finding Mr. Write", and it has a great opening. I'm hooked on the first page. I have a WIP where the handsome war hero falls hopelessly in love, at first sight, with a plain Jane heroine who is very wary of men. She's convinced that he is a crazed stalker when he tells her she is his soulmate on first meeting her. He has to spend the whole book trying to gain her confidence. He's has to become a 'heroine whisperer'. He's "The Last Romantic". Given your 'stalker' theme in the opening of "Finding Mr. Write", I can't wait to read how you handled this story.

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Janet Dean said...

Welcome, Carol! I'm grinning from ear to ear that posting in Seekerville is a sign that you've made it. Hey, that must mean I've made it too. Who knew???

Great tips for indie publishing! Love how well you thought all this out and took the plunge. Wishing you much success.

Your bio should mention your generosity with your delicious cookies!


Wilani Wahl said...

Thank you for your post. When my writing is ready for publishing, I realize I may have to consider indie. If i do go that route, I will want to make sure it is perfect before I publish. As a reader I have discovered so many that are full of editing errors. I have also seen some that are in wonderful shape when they Indy publish.

Please enter me in you drawing.

Sherida Stewart said...

Carol, sending you MANY thanks today for MANY things! I'm considering indie in the future, so your post offers excellent advice. TY, I just downloaded your book! I appreciate your efforts with the #1K1HR Facebook group which keeps me accountable when writing with others. I'm in the CIA group which is amazingly generous with the knowledge all share there. Congratulations on your indie success!

Carol Moncado said...

All right! One doc appointment, one Chick-fil-A drive through visit, one eye glass stop, one kid dropped at the middle school, and I'm back :D.

Mellie!!! Thanks for stopping by, my friend!Thank you for your endorsement of Finding Mr. Write! It means so much to me!

Deanna - What's not to love?! Chocolate, peanut butter. It's the perfect food!

Cindy - Aw man! That would have been great! I have to admit, though, I was working part of the time I was there (on that novella releasing next month). I'd come for Friday dinner last year when Janice Thompson was there, but that was my first time attending the conference. I'll likely be back next year :D.

Connie - I think that's part of what pushed me this direction. Most of my stuff is just a smidge too far outside the box for them, especially with the slots for traditional publication shrinking (even more especially for debuts it seems). The novel I landed my agent with has made the rounds and didn't get picked up. That was kind of the "sign" we were looking for as the go ahead.

I know of several indie authors who put out a full trade book every month or so. Those are usually the ones who are writing full time and/or don't have families who take up some of that time (some of them do, but some don't). I'm HOPING and PRAYING to get my whole next series out this summer, but it's also the first summer where we've got all four kids doing two activities each (fortunately, one of those activities is swim team for all of them which makes it a bit easier ;)). My *goal* is six a year at the moment, plus some novellas here and there, but I'm not sure how realistic that is.

Connie Queen said...

I knew you could put out high numbers Carol. You've got a great talent and dedication to do that. I don't think that'll ever be me and I'm okay w/that.

6 books/year is an awesome goal!!!

kaybee said...

This is one of the best primers on Indie that I have seen. It's not for me, at least not right now, because I'd like to have a couple of conventionally published titles first and then develop a following. But it is definitely an option and this is such an exciting time to be a Christian writer. So many options!
Oh, Panera, you're killing me, they do one muffin I adore but it's so rich I can only eat half of it. Which is probably just as well.
Kathy Bailey

Carol Moncado said...

Marianne - that's one thing I'm learning to be better at as I go. What's over promising? What's under promising TOOOO much? You know?

I got an email late last night approving another ENT add on Friday for Good Enough for a Princess. It starts tomorrow, in case there's any glitches, and runs one day after the ad does. Finding Mr. Write will be free on Friday again, too. It'll piggy back onto the PRINCESS ad, but I'm also about to take it out of Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select (KDPS).

KDPS is exclusivity with Amazon. With that, you get some exclusive benefits, like five free days for every 90 day KDPS period. By taking it out of KDPS, I'll be able to make it permafree. In fact, both of these books will likely be permafree in the next few weeks.

Wilani - There are a LOT of indie books out there that are little more than a rough draft popped up on Amazon. Then there's those (like several of mine, I'm sure) that need a good proofreading pass, but overall, aren't tooooooo bad. That, for me, was the "good enough." All had been gone through by several critique partners and non-professional proofreaders, so I hope we caught MOST of them. Hopefully, by the end of the year, I'll be able to run them through a professional.

Carol Moncado said...

Hey Vince! Wow! A "copy and save" from you?! I'll take it ;). MozArks is going well - we're up to about 12 members so not a ton, but definitely a solid core. We'd love to have you come visit sometime!

Audible is something I know I need to look into. I'm not there QUITE YET, but hopefully this summer. I know people who have done it to great success.

As for plot flaws, that's where a good crit group comes in. I'm so very grateful for a group that isn't afraid to tell me when something's not working. I have one non-romance-reader friend who read Along Came a Prince about five times. Because it's not her regular genre, she actually picked up on some stuff that a couple of my regular crit partners didn't pick up on. You have to have crit partners who aren't afraid to tell you what's not working and/or professional content editor to work with.

I hope that WIP makes it out someday, Vince! I love it!

Janet - OF COURSE you've made it, friend!!!!! And I've got a big ol' bucket of cookies for anyone who wants one. Gluten and sugar free too, for those who need them ;).

kaybee said...

I believe in having a plan. I'm finishing up a sequel to my Oregon Trail story, so if the first book ever sells I'll be ready, and I'm working on the sequel to my Post World War I story so I'll be ready if that ever sells. By the end of this year I should have two packages ready to go. I think I'll take a break before doing the third story in each trilogy and maybe do a women's fiction or a different historical period. I have always loved the American Revolution and I live like an hour from Lexington and Concord, so I'm tossing around ideas for a Revolutionary story, but it has to be of God. Always Have A Plan.
Thank you Carol.

Carol Moncado said...

Wilani - readers are great at figuring out who's worth reading and who's not. Some people (like Stephanie Meyer) tell a good enough story that readers are willing to overlook writing that's a bit like "bad fan fic" (which is how I've heard Twilight described). And those were professionally edited. As a writer that can be a bit frustrating. I think Stephen King was one of the ones who said Meyer isn't a very good writer but a great STORYTELLER. That can make a huge difference.

I read an indie book about a year ago. The editing was okay at best - a lot of homonym issues, along with some flat out misspellings. I would have overlooked that if the STORY had worked for me. This goes back to what Vince said. The story was flat out implausible on many levels (and not even sole-survivor-of-a-dying-planet-turned-superhero implausible but things like how labor and delivery went, how college classes work, etc.) In the end, I ended up returning the book to Amazon for a refund. I could have overlooked one of those but not both. I think that's how a lot of readers are.

Sherida - Thanks, my friend! I'm headed over to #1K1HR in a bit. I need to get some words in on my next book, Hand-Me-Down Princess!

The CIA group is *wonderful*!!! If anyone wants in, today or in the future, let me know :).

Connie - we'll see if that six a year is gonna happen or not, but... we'll see. My goal for this year is six MORE but... I'm not gonna hold my breath ;).

Carol Moncado said...

Kathy - WOW! Thanks :). Indie isn't for everyone and I certainly understand wanting to do some trad pub first. That's where I was for a long time, but at the same time, I'm glad God put me where he has.

*If* you were to decide to go indie someday, it sounds like you'll be in a good position to do so. Series sell. Most (not all) indies find the best sellers are those in series, not just because you can do the first permafree. Having two books done in two different series could be a great launching point.

Okay - I'm off to write for a bit, but I'll be around :).

Kav said...

Well congrats on having a plan and sticking to it!!!!! Sounds like a whirlwind of release days!

I haven't been much of an indie reader. I'll grab one if it's by an author I've read traditionally published. There's a couple of reasons for that.

First, I prefer reading paperbacks and most of the indie books are ebooks -- I have to read them on my computer.

Then there are so many authors who haven't done their homework...your first point speaks to that -- be sure you're ready. Way too many people aren't and go ahead anyway and that gives the industry a bad rep. So kudos to you for doing it the right way.

As a passionate reader, I have real concerns about what indie pricing will do to traditional publishing. You mentioned something about permafrees. I can see where it might stimulate sales for future books by an author but I do worry that this idea of free or really cheap is conditioning readers in a negative way. From the conversations I've been apart of on a few Facebook groups the growing trend seems to be bragging rights over how cheap readers get their books. People are going to used books sales, garage sales and simply waiting until ebooks are reduced in price or given away free before they download them. I think this mindset is going to cost the industry in a big way down the road and that really, really scares me.

And now -- to the important stuff -- peanut butter m&ms?! They don't have those in Canada! At least not where I live. Gah!

Dawn Crandall said...

Congratulations on your guest post to Seekerville, Carol! I'm not indie published, but having my Everstone Chronicles published as eBook only (for now at least--who knows what the future holds!) by a CBA publisher, I have a new respect for authors who just can't seem to get into the very tightly held book contract slots provided by the traditional publishers and decide to get their books out there all on their own! It's hard work even with a publisher behind you!!--but maybe it only feels that way because I had my first baby at the same time as my debut series came out. I don't recommend doing that, BTW, but I didn't really have a choice unless turning down a book contract for the only three books I'd written was a choice. Which it wasn't. ❤️

Janet Dean said...

Carol, you're an encourager with words and cookies! Thanks.


Sandy Smith said...

I enjoyed the post, Carol. I can't imagine going indie as I'm still just trying to write my first book. But these sound like great tips.

I downloaded your free book on kindle. It looks good! I plan to do the other one tomorrow.

Please enter me in the drawing.

Debby Giusti said...

Great info, Carol!!! Thank you!

Congrats on your indie success! Whoo-hoo to you! BTW, I love your covers!

Learned lots today for which I'm grateful.


Elaine Manders said...

Hi Carol

For some reason I didn't connect you with Seekerville until this post, but I knew your name looked familiar from CIA. Well I've decided I want to do everything myself, and I don't have to tell you, it's hard work. Harder than the traditional route I think, but I guess I'm a control freak, so that's the way it is. I just finished the final photo-shoot for my debut series' covers, but two of the books are still being proof-read. I like what you said about being vague. I wanted to release these books in May, but now it'll be summer. But after the learning curve, the rest are bound to be easier. They will be, won't they????
BTW, your covers look great.

Carol Moncado said...

Kav - there was a big discussion about that sort of thing on an agent blog recently. I think part of what it comes down to with indies is that, even if they hire out EVERYTHING but the writing, they're still looking at MAYBE 3-5K in their investment (can it go higher? Sure, but I think that's already on the high end for most indies). A trad pub has A LOT MORE invested in each book - all of those things the indie hires out PLUS a whole slew of others - like paying marketers and executives and electric bills and a million other things. Most indies I know don't spend that much. So an indie doesn't need to sell nearly as many books at as nearly as high a price to break even (and then make a profit).

With paperbacks... it goes either way. Some indies do, some don't. My goal is always to have them out at the same time, but I'm still working on the formatting etc of these last two and I don't want to put them out until they're ready.

As for permafree... As far as I know, that was pioneered by trad pubs. I have a trad friend who freaked when her publisher put a book free - until she got her royalty statement showing how sales of the other books had increased.

As for people looking for inexpensive books... I think that's much bigger than the indie revolution. I think A LOT of people are looking to get the most bang for their buck. I know I am. We've always been fairly conservative with money, but the recession has hit us, though not as badly as it has some. I won't go into some of the politics, but it does make me much more aware of how much I spend on a book or a new pillow or if my 7yo son can make his tennis shoes last another month because once summer hits he won't need them and he'll get new ones before school in August anyway. In that sense, I think indies fill a niche that trad pub just CAN'T because they can't sell books as inexpensively.

The industry is changing. Whether it will be good or bad in the long run is still up for grabs, but for me, for my personal economy, it's been a huge blessing to be able to go indie and have the ability to set the price that more people can afford and still be heading toward making a living off of it. The overall long term? That's a wait and see deal, I think.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Elaine!! Wow good for you!

Carol Moncado said...

Dawn - you had a big year, that's for sure!!! Congrats on the books and that sweet little guy!

I think part of the reason why more and more authors are going indie/hybrid [including a number of well-respected authors like Randy Ingermanson, Brandilyn Collins, Dan Walsh, Tamara Leigh, etc. going full-fledged indie]. Authors are expected to do a lot of their own marketing. Indies take it a few steps farther.

Janet - I've got a big ol' hug with your name on it come Dallas!!! :D And some cookies too ;).

Sandy - if you're just starting your first book, take your time to learn! Seekerville is a FABULOUS place to do that!!! When the time comes, keep an open mind and PRAY PRAY PRAY! God will show you what direction He wants you to go! And if it's indie, He'll make sure you've got what you need to do it :).

Debby - big hugs! And I'm so glad you like them! I love the couples on my covers and while I know they COULD be better, I'm very happy with them. I did them myself (obviously - shoestring you know ;)) in MS Publisher.

Elaine - /waves/ I'm just a guest here today - but what a place to guest! I think almost any indie can learn to do most of it with minimal financial investment. Scrivener is $50 I think (unless you've got a discount) but once you figure out HOW to do it, formatting for ebook can be done in a few clicks. You CAN do paperback there, but I think most people use Word which, for me, is more tedious than anything.

So far, I've bought stock photos for my covers, but I did do a shoot with my niece and her husband. A hero from a book coming this summer has a certain look and a twin. I couldn't find any stock pics that were going to work. I finally thought "UGH - why can't find a guy who looks like (nephew) in a tux AND with a pregnant girl more casual?! With a 6-8yo boy?!" Then it hit me. I have my nephew-in-love who was in a tux 18 mos ago and I have my niece who was pregnant AND I have a 7yo son!!! So we did a photo shoot in November for that. It was also part baby present for them - half maternity shoot, half cover shoot :).

So proud of you for doing it all yourself! It's not easy, but it CAN be done!!!!

I also firmly believe the best marketing you can do for a book is write the next one. That's not to say things like the Book Bub or ENT ads or Facebook pages, etc. don't have a place, but except for maybe a bit of time around release, the next book should be an indie author's main priority.

And since I never did get any written... I'm off to try again ;).

Missy Tippens said...

Carol, we're so glad to have you! Thanks for all this great info. I've enjoyed how we can look at data on sales of our indie boxed sets. It's been a fun venture to be a hybrid author.

And congrats on your releases!

Missy Tippens said...

Carol, I wondered if you still worked at Panera! How nice that you have one close by. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Dawn, it would be to have a book baby and real baby born about the same time! :)

Missy Tippens said...

That last message was supposed to say it would be TOUGH to have a book baby and real baby close together!

Pam Hillman said...

Well, great stuff, Carol! I'm so proud of you going for your dreams.

You really need to include the word "panera" in all your books! lol

I'm still learning about indie publishing. For some reason, I just have a mental block on all the different options... the actual part of uploading, etc. I'm too careful and am afraid of doing something wrong with Amazon.

Thankful Ruthy took the lead on the With this Kiss Collection. All I had to do was write the book. Well, sorta. :)

Some day... hey, and I'm rocking Scrivener now!!! It finally started making sense to me, so that's one step in the right direction for formatting ebooks. :)

Carol Moncado said...

Missy - Big hugs!!!! I actually haven't worked much at Panera in a long time :/. I may soon though since I'm getting back to writing new material. That said... Matt has been asked to teach a class at a conference in St. Louis later this month. Basically, we're getting three days/two nights in STL for free :D. I'm going with him, but I'll spend most of it holed up in the room, writing like the wind. Or so the plan goes ;). I'm also spending a weekend with Jessica Keller Koschnitzky in June where we both plan to write like crazy :D.

Pam - I understand! It's overwhelming and scary! Helen Gray came here in January and we did hers together since I had a bit of experience by then ;). One of the good things with indie is that it's hard to do something that's truly WRONG and can't be fixed. Most stuff can be fixed by reuploading a file or tweaking some settings, etc.

And in an unrelated super cool note... I knew it was coming soon but I haven't been keeping track of my sales this month (in my spreadsheets, Pam!). I just checked... I've had about 273 paid copies already this month (purchased and borrows through Kindle Unlimited - that's insane in my head anyway ;)) - that takes me over 3000 combined copies in the last six months or so!!! WOOHOO!!!

I've got cake to celebrate! Who wants some?

Barbara Scott said...

Carol, thanks for all the awesome info on indie publishing!

Debby Giusti said...

Elaine, great to hear about the indie release of your stories! Keep us posted on your progress!


Sally said...

Carol, congrats on reaching that big milestone! That's awesome.

I think what Ruthy said is right, that sometimes you've just got to dive in to learn it. I was kinda intimidated before I went indie, but it really isn't that hard to learn. Get with a good indie loop and you'll be up to speed in no time.

It's pretty astounding how simple it is to get a book ready for readers to buy. It's work, yes, but it's not an insane, unconquerable amount of work. I've found my indie journey to be highly satisfying and don't regret it for a second. :)

Chill N said...

CAROL it's great to see you in Seekerville again! And what a gift you bring in all this information and personal experience. Thank you. Oh, and thanks for the free downloads, too.

Quick question -- is any of these books the one with a character named after a young man who worked at Panera? (Hoping my memory is right)

Wishing you even more success ahead.

Nancy C

Missy Tippens said...

Elaine, a cover shoot sounds exciting!

Carol Moncado said...

Hi Barbara! Thanks for stopping by!

Sally - thanks!!!! I was excited to realize it! I was at almost 2K when I saw in you in early March and about 2300 in early April so April ended up being a really good month for me! Randy Ingermanson did the post-conference session last year at ACFW and he sent out a PDF with his PowerPoint in it and another one with his checklist (which is FAR MORE detailed than mine! But I stick wtih Amazon and none of the others yet). I want to say he's made it available to others at some point or other. I should check...the info is invaluable! And it LOOKS like more than it really is, I think.

Chill N! Hi! I can't believe you remembered that! Travis is mentioned in a couple of these books - I'm not sure if he's made an appearance (he does in the novella releasing next month - not a big one but he's there). HOWEVER, his mom is Julie Harders who is a fairly major secondary character in FINDING MR. WRITE. Travis's story is slated to release next summer with Grace to Save. Man alive, I love that story! It's not actually set until early 2017 and every book in the series has a 9/11 connection which is why I'm looking to release that series next summer/fall to coincide with the 15th anniversary.

The story after that is one I haven't written yet and I'm praying I'll be good enough to write it when the time comes. I know God's got a plan for it - I just wish I knew what it was ;).

Becky Dempsey said...

Thanks for all the tips on how to go indie, Carol. I'm still in the midst of editing manuscript #1, so we'll see where it all goes :)

I'd love to win a book.

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

Great job of covering the bases here.

We indies have varying journeys but like you, I am happy doing this the way we are for now... And maybe forever. We'll see.

Thanks for sharing your journey and for being a great encourager too!

All the best success to you as you continue on!!!

Mary Curry said...

Hi Carol,

Thanks for sharing your experiences. I hope you have another great year ahead. I foresee many Panera dates in your future.

Funny story for you - when I downloaded Finding Mr. Write a few weeks ago, I didn't realize that I was logged in to my husband's Amazon account. Oops. Had to explain why I was buying a book looking for Mr. Write to my Mr. Right. ;)

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Great post, Carol! That was a LOT of information. I loved how you said things change constantly so you have to be ready to learn as you go, no matter how much you know.
I also love the CIA. I love how FAST people respond to a question, and how many different opinions there are, and how people aren't afraid to give numbers/real data. It's been a Godsend for me.
Onward, indies!

Tina Radcliffe said...

I love the CIA too, Virginia. And the FBI and NSA.

Which one has been keeping you in witness protection?

Do they know you broke out??

Tanya Agler said...

Carol, Thank you for the post. You've certainly done your homework and have mentioned most of what my RWA chapter mates have discussed about indie publishing. Like you, many figure out how long it will take to write something and then build in a time cushion in case of emergencies.

Thanks for the information and the free download. That's a piece of advice almost every indie author who has spoken to GRW (my local RWA chapter) has admitted works for them.

(I also have to mention that it's always great to find another writer who has four kids, too.)

Have a great day. (And I usually write at Panera in the morning while my youngest two are in preschool).

Carol Moncado said...

Becky - good luck!!! Editing is my LEAST favorite part of this writing gig!

MAY! My favorite K9 Spy! Mr. Benny is guarding my house from his perch on the couch right now. Do you follow Huckleberry's updates as he guards Lisa Wingate's house? He's another one of our favorites ;).

I am happy as an indie right now. I won't say that I'd turn down ANY contract, but it would have to be the RIGHT contract.

Hi Mary!!! LOL! One of the other jazz band moms told me she did something similar! We were talking a couple weeks ago and decided we needed to be friends because we'll be spending A LOT of time together over the next few years. Her daughter plays alto sax and mine plays tenor. :D

Virginia (I still never know which name to call you ;)) - thanks for stopping by! I know you're about 4000 steps ahead of me on this journey! It's so cool how indies help each other. I love it!

Tina - shhhhhhhh! That's why she has so many names! WITSEC!

Tanya! Nice to meet you! Panera during preschool sounds PERFECT! My kids are all a bit older now (7, 10, 11, 13) and their preschool is not nearly close enough to a Panera for me to have done so when they were there. Sigh.

There's SO MUCH more we could talk about with indie pub! But Tina already had to cut some of my darlings when she posted it ;).

I never did get anything written yet today (it's not over!) - but I did finish some grading for the day job, painted a 3-toed sloth, dinner, etc. I was looking at the end of what I have now and I need to reread the whole thing. It's been at least six months since I wrote what I've got. I don't remember it well enough to go on... :)

Chill N said...

Carol Moncado said...
Travis is mentioned in a couple of these books - I'm not sure if he's made an appearance (he does in the novella releasing next month - not a big one but he's there). HOWEVER, his mom is Julie Harders who is a fairly major secondary character in FINDING MR. WRITE. Travis's story is slated to release next summer with Grace to Save. Man alive, I love that story!

Oh neat! I did the free download of Finding Mr. Write, so I'll get to "meet" his mom. I want to be sure I don't miss Travis's story :-)

Nancy C

Chill N said...

Carol painted a 3-toed sloth? We're supposed to just let that comment slide by?

Nancy C

Karen Hadley said...

Thank you for all this information. It's helped me understand this topic more.

Helen Gray said...

I'm also in undercover, or in witness protection, or the editing cave. I've been working at getting more books out, even keeping more "normal" hours.

I'll be shouting about it when I get this new series all done.

Thanks for sharing your journey, Carol.

Carol Moncado said...

Nancy - is this the place where I say sign up for my newsletter so you don't miss any big announcements?! ;) Seriously, that or Facebook is a way to be sure :). I need to make a few tweaks to the story since it'll have at least 9-12 other novels/novellas in the same "universe" so there may be a place or two I can mention some of the stuff going on at the same time in other parts of that universe :). But man, I do love Travis and Abi! His daughter, Cassie, is featured more than he is in the SPLASH novella releasing next month. I love her too :D.

And LOL! Yes. I painted a 3 toed sloth. My husband and son made a 3D one out of Walmart bags and paper mache. They painted it a light brown last night then we added detail today :).

Hi, Karen! Thanks for stopping by!

Helen!!!! How many are you up to now? I'm so proud of you!!!!

Helen Gray said...

Carol, I now have four indies out, with two more coming. After that I have a lot of work to do before I can put out another series. Don't have a timeline for that yet.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

LOL! Just seeing your comment, Tina.

Exactly... I have been MIA. I sat down to make a list the other night of things I MUST STOP doing (hanging out on twitter, cut down on facebook, stop trolling ebay for fun 50's and jadeite dishes when I have nowhere to put them, trying recipes I know won't work an take 50 odd ingredients)
and things I MUST START doing (read my favorite blogs, write appointments on my calendar and not on my hand, update my phone, learn how to use my camera, make time for walking, organize my pantry before spring and summer canning, etc.)

And in there is Seekerville! It's a good thing and I learn so much here.

P.S. Carol, everyone calls me Virginia (or Ginny). But I answer to Mary, too, so now worries. But for friends... Virginia. :)

Natalie Monk said...

Great post, Carol. Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom!

Julie Lessman said...

CAROL!!! Please forgive me for missing your day -- I've been out of the loop in more ways than one!

Great tips, my friend! Throw in a recipe for chocolate chips cookies, and you're golden!! :)


Sandy Smith said...

Your post yesterday said Good Enough for a Princess would be free Thursday through Saturday. So far today it is 99 cents.

Carol Moncado said...

Helen! Good for you!!!! Proud of you, friend!

Virginia it is then!!!

Hi Natalie! THanks!

JULIE!!!!!! might have something to do with Travis's mom named a few comments up ;). Miss you, my friend!!!

Sandy - I'd hoped to stop by earlier to mention it, but didn't have a chance [work day plus three kids with performances/art displays/etc tonight - I'm just now FINALLY sitting down].

There was a snafu with GEFAP being free today. It's scheduled for tomorrow through Sunday (instead of Thursday through Saturday). Fingers crossed it doesn't snafu AGAIN but it shouldn't... :)

Sandy Smith said...

Thanks, Carol. I downloaded Good Enough for a Princess today.

Anna Weaver Hurtt said...

Hey Carol! Great post!

I published my first two books (nonfiction) independently several years ago. I'm not sure what I want to do with my fiction manuscripts yet, but I know that I'm still in the learning phase, so I'm not in a hurry to put anything but my best out there. :)

Thanks for sharing your process with us.