By Rachel Dacus, author of The Invisibles, The Renaissance Club and Arabesque
About a year ago, I made a momentous decision. I decided on going indie as an author of women’s fiction. It was a choice born of necessity, but it grew to be a good thing for me. I didn’t intend to do it, but I haven’t regretted it, as I’ll explain.
My first self-published book, The Renaissance Club, came out in late 2018. It’s done so well under my imprint, Time Fold Books, that a few months ago, I doubled down on my decision. Going indie as an author of women’s fiction was clearly the right choice for this book. I undertook a one-year experiment that worked so well I decided to self-publish my next novel, The Invisibles. While the first book was paranormal romance, this new one, a tale of sisterhood and the supernatural, was commercial women’s fiction. Most of the stories of successful self-publishing aren’t in a mainstream category, but in genres like romance, thriller, mystery, and science fiction. This was a gamble. I wasn’t sure I knew how to publicize it.
In the several months since the book’s release, my decision to be indie in two fiction categories has proved a good choice. Both my novels have sold well, and ads for the new one have brought read-through to the first book.
But how did I get here?
My odyssey began with a long period of querying agents. I queried hundreds. I had some great agent comments and some heartbreaking near-misses. (Friends, don’t ever agree to an exclusive revise-and-resubmit for a whole year!) All of this ended not as I hope, but did end in an offer from a small press.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Not a Big Five publishing deal, but the publisher looked good, sold lots of books, and other authors liked working with them. Things with my new publisher started well. My book got a cover I could live with and a month-long blog tour that brought good sales. But then the first scheduled royalty payment was missed. And the second. And the third. Excuses, excuses, and confusing emails. Refusing to talk to me on the phone.
My heart sank further and further as my sales slowed, and so did communication from the publisher.
Up to Bat As An Indie Author
Another author from the same publishing company reached out to me. She wanted to gather information, as she had also been missing royalty payments. Turned out, none of the authors she contacted had been paid. We put our heads together and reealized we were being scammed. This company was stealing our royalties!
Long story short, we all got our rights back. The company shut down. Then each of us had to decide if self-publishing a book was right for us.
With a debut novel not even a year old, I wasn’t going to give up on The Renaissance Club. I had worked hard, with several editors, on my time travel love story about a 17th century artist meeting his superfan from the future. I knew I could use my experience in marketing if going as an indie author. So I decided to learn everything I could — on the job! I self-republished The Renaissance Club in December of the same year I’d signed a contract with the small press.
I found a cover designer — the one I’m still with — and got that beautiful design above, one more appropriate to my genre of Women’s Fiction. I followed Amazon’s uploading instructions and — voila! — republished book under my own imprint, Time Fold Books. I booked another month-long blog tour and started to get sales.
What I’ve learned over the last year of self-publishing my novels could fill a small book. I’ve sold five times more books in a year as an indie than my publisher did in one year. I also learned is that this choice isn’t right for everyone.
You have to be comfortable with marketing yourself and your work. Because I’ve published poetry books, I had some comfort with the idea. But marketing fiction is different from any other kind of marketing, I quickly learned. Fortunately, there are people who have figured it all out, other novelists who are experts at marketing fiction. I spent hours sitting at the feet of amazing book marketing gurus like Mark Dawson, Mike Chesson, and Bryan Cohen. I experimented with advertising on Amazon and Facebook. The experimenting cost me money I didn’t recoup, but the learning was worthwhile. Now I believe I’ve earned the epithet Publisher. I’m consider my ongoing learning part of the job.
The Invisibles is a timeless and poignant story about feuding half-sisters who inherit a cottage on the Italian coast, along with its resident spirit and a secret manuscript. Can a dead poet help them find renewed harmony and even new lives? “A joyful and poetic read” … “charming and scary” …”a bookish mystery and ghost story … On Amazon: The Invisibles