Thursday, 9 August 2012

Looking back on two years as an indie author

Two years ago today I self-published my first book, Remix. It was a book I felt sure was publishable, so I'd wasted spent a year attempting to find an agent, confident of success. As those of you who hang on my every word will know, I got close but no cigar. So I decided to go it alone.

Two years on, I've self-published four novels and a collection of short stories, and sold 58,648 ebooks, plus some paperbacks. I sold more books the first year, but made more money the second - much more money than a publisher would have been likely to offer me. I still own all the rights to my work, and all the profits come straight to me without an agent's deductions or a publisher's delay (mwahahahahaha).

Even better, I know from readers' reviews and emails that my books have entertained quite a lot of people for a few hours, and a writer can't ask for more than that. I now know that if I write a book that I think is good, a proportion of readers are likely to agree with me.

There have been huge changes in the publishing industry in those two years, and it's still changing. Self-publishing has gone from being the province of the deluded to the best way to reach readers for all but top-earning established authors. A considerable number of authors have had mega-success, the most recent I've noticed being Hugh Howey and Nick Spalding, while many are enjoying more modest rewards that would have been unimaginable two years ago. 

Writers like me, rejected by traditional publishing, have no reason to love it; but it's interesting that most of the grumbling and criticism is coming the other way, from publishers, agents and legacy authors who feel threatened by this unruly mob of indies who had the temerity to succeed when by everything they have ever believed, we should have failed miserably.

I like success. I'm impressed by anyone who can get a traditional publishing deal in these hard times. I'm also impressed by anyone who does well self-publishing. I can't wait to see how the next two years work out.


  1. Congratulations on your success, Lexi. You, along with the other successful indie authors you mentioned, are an inspiration to us all.

  2. I'm so pleased you took that decision to publish Remix, Lexi. I'm grateful I had the opportunity to read the story.
    Thank you!

  3. You are an example to us all, Lexi - quietly getting on with being successful and respecting everyone else trying to do the same thing.

  4. I am one of those who hang on your every word, Lexi. If you like, I will send you a cigar.

    I like success too.

    In the meantime, I'm busy hanging on your every word.

  5. I am now feeling pleasantly smug. This is no doubt not good for me, but what the hell :o)

  6. Lexi, you have done well for probably a whole bunch of reasons, one being marketing savvy, but the main one is that you are a good writer, i.e., you know your craft. The traditional publishers need to look for what they think are going to be bestsellers, so this prevents many good books from being picked up by agents and the traditional publishers.

    But I don't agree when you say that self-publishing is the "best way" for all authors. Why?

    First, because so many writers think their work is ready when it's not. Sometimes they are even told that it's ready when it's not. Of course, there are many ways to determine whether your own work is ready, e.g., getting feedback from sites such as authonomy, YouWriteOn, qualified critique groups, and, yes, querying via the traditional route, even if your intention is to eventually self-publish. I've learned so much through the querying process because of the feedback I've received (although at the beginning, I simply received rejections with no explanations.)

    There are hosts of other reasons why self-publishing isn't right for some authors; they aren't suited for self-publishing, perhaps because they don't want to learn how, or hire someone, to format their books; they don't want to prepare their own book covers, or hire people to do so because they don't trust their own judgment or the judgment of the people they hire (not that publishers always get the cover right, of course); they don't want to be the only one marketing their work (even though some publishers do little or nothing to help, there's comfort in knowing that you are not alone, and not the same comfort you get from other self-publishing authors); blah, blah, blah.

    The point is that there are different routes to take to get your work out to the public, and no one route is the best for all writers.

    I hate this "we/they" mentality of the people on both sides of the debate; it doesn't serve us, in my opinion.

    That said, it could be that in the future, the only route to publication will, in fact, be self-publishing first, and then having agents and publishers pick up the book after it has proved its viability in the market, assuming the author wants to take that next step.

    No one knows. Whether you're a traditional publisher, a small press, or an author, the key issue for selling books is discoverability, and that, too, is changing.

  7. Sheryl, I can honestly say none of the meagre feedback I got while querying agents was any use at all - and the Harper Collin's editor's advice Remix won on Authonomy was bizarre and very wrong. Thank goodness I wasn't impressionable enough to take it.

    Perhaps agents are more helpful in the US - though having just read Kristen Nelson's blog post about spending 60 minutes dealing with 68 queries because it was a lovely sunny day and she wanted to get outside, I'll just have to take your word for it.

  8. Lexi, you're an inspiration to many aspiring writers, whatever the route they hope to take towards publication.

    I hope you go on to enjoy many more years of success and write more wonderful page-turners!

    Most of all, thank you for your generosity towards those who us who are starting out as indie writers. Knowing it's an achievable goal makes a lot of difference, believe me.

  9. Thanks Spin. I was inspired by Eric Christopherson, one of the first writers to publish via KDP (then called something else) and benefited from his good advice. Nice to think I might be able to help in my turn.

  10. Lexi, I see you as a loveable talented rebel.

    The Robin Hood (er make that Maid Marion) of authors. Attracting readers from the rich barons of publishing with their high prices and providing superb literary material at give away prices to the poor and deserving readers.

    More power to your quill!

    PS Just noticed your paranormal shorts. Must buy that ASAP

  11. I think I need a strong cup of tea and less Olympic coverage. Read paranormal shorts and thought it referred to haunted sportswear.

    I'll slope off now before I say anything else that's stupid and entirely irrelevant to the post.

  12. Q, can I make it clear in that analogy I'm going to be Robin Hood and not Maid Marion? More fun and less chance of getting lumbered with the catering.

    Spin, I too thought for a moment Q was referring to something I wear in hot weather on the bike.

  13. Re: your second paragraph. Do you mind if I join you?

    [ahem] Mwahaha. Mwahahahahahahahaha. MwahahahaHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!

    Ah, I needed that. Congratulations on a successful and inspirational two years!

  14. Congratulations right back at you, David, as another indie success story :o)

  15. In case anyone else is puzzling about homonyms and shorts can I just clarify that 'paranormal shorts' referred to Lexi's book of short stories entitled 'Time Child and other stories'.

    Though I believe that Team GB Lady cyclists are always looking for something special in the velodrome! LOL

  16. Q, from now on I shall think of my shorts as paranormal shorts because of you. I wore them today biking to work in the lovely London sunshine.

  17. An Olympic short that I hope will stay with us for a long time is "Inspire a Generation".

    I agree with posters above that Lexi has already achieved the right to be called an inspiration both for her writing success against huge odds and for her selfless sharing of tips and knowledge acquired on the way.

    Congratulations, Lexi, and to all of you who have achieved success one way or another. Those of us following along in the slipstream applaud you.

  18. Well done Lexi - I have always said it.
    But things are changing. It will be harder for many on KDP Select. They have changed the way the popularity ranks are scored - so now huge sales in free give aways are not amounting to huge sales. 10k free = a few hundred in paid sales.

    The bottomline has to be - write a good book. Then explore all avenues - not just KDP select.

  19. Thanks Anna and Mick. Agreed it's much tougher now than two years ago to stay high in the charts on Amazon. I liked those old algorithms.

    The trouble is, all the other avenues are vastly inferior to KDP, even in its current form. It's a pity the publishing industry isn't putting up proper competition to Amazon instead of just moaning about it.

  20. I can't wait to see what the next two years bring too. Especially in the realm of new Lexi Revellian books!

  21. Lexi, I just took a closer look at those shorts.

    I loved 'Time Child'
    Great idea, receiving e-mail from the past. Creating a temporary buble in time (virtual bubble in quantum speak).
    Highly recommended as a novel approach to time travel!

    PS Whenever I see a girl biking in shorts I will think 'paranormal ... perhaps Lexi is experimenting' LOL

  22. Q, you should try emailing yourself using FutureMe. By the time you get the email, your perspective has changed and the contrast between the you who wrote the email and the current you is fascinating. It does feel a bit like time travel.

    Perhaps I should write a story about a woman whose paranormal shorts whisk her and her bike to a parallel universe...

  23. When I read 'Time Child' I didn't realise that FutureMe was a real web site.
    That is really cool!

    I like the story idea of pedalling your way through the multiverse!
    I'm actually feeling elated and a little shell shocked after the Olympics. For a while I think I can believe that anything is possible. And you are definitely the author to make it happen. *smile*

  24. The offspring put me on to FutureMe. And I wish I could tell you the funny story connected with it...

    Just off to make anything happen. Actually, what is most likely to happen next around here is a mug of beastly yet healthy green tea.

  25. Lexi, perhaps you can tell that funny story as another short, set in a fictional world.

    Black tea with no milk and maybe a slice of lemon is just as healthy and much more stimulating!

  26. Q, are you telling me the hype is no different from that promoting the tea that magically makes people slim, without them eating less or exercising more?

    Mostly I drink proper tea (leaves) brewed in a teapot plus milk. In a mug. That's how retro I am.

  27. Lexi, The physics of weight reduction is rather basic:

    To lose weight you must maintain a calorie deficit. That is calorie output per day must exceed calorie input per day. The difference represents material that is removed ( burning as fuel, surgical, or chemical stripping or ....)

    Let’s focus on tea. Best to stick with normal brewing habits but avoid milk as it binds with the antioxidants and makes them less easy to absorb.

    The antioxidants prevent free radicals from causing furring of arteries. Green tea has less caffeine than black but black tea has much less than coffee so should’t be a problem.

    Ah the benefits of a scientific education! LOL

  28. Q, I am one of those annoying smug slim people, so do not need diet advice, ho ho ho.

    I may have to invest in a lemon after what you say re tea, though.

  29. Congratulations on your continued success, Lexi. It's been 18 months since I published my novel, The Delta Chain, although it's only been in the past six months since joining KDP Select that I've been making some headway. For whatever reason I've had greater success in the UK, where I've made the Top 25, and recently published a second novel. Thanks for sharing all that you have about your own journey on this blog, and keep it up, like others I've learned a lot from your experiences.

  30. Iain, I see The Delta Chain is in the UK Top 500. That's very good. Let me know when you qualify for my list of indies who have sold more than 50,000 books and I'll add your name.

    Good luck with the new book.