Successful self-published authors share their top tips

We hear whispers that indie authors can make just as much as – if not more than – traditionally published authors. But who are these mythical indie authors, and how are they making it work?

Monique Martin
Monique Martin

Monique Martin

Monique Martin is the author of 14 novels, including her best-selling Out of Time series, which combines elements of romance, adventure, mystery, and time travel. She attended the University of Southern California’s Film School, where she earned her BFA. For a few years, she worked full time in television in post-production before being called in to help the family business, where she then worked for 10 years. She felt it ate away at her creative soul and so decided to try writing a novel.

Why self-publishing? 

I do not know what possessed me to write a novel instead of a screenplay. I wrote at night, on my patio, a story I wanted to tell. I took classes at night because I had never written prose before. There was really no other option except the traditional route (around 2009). I did what everyone else did. I sent out letters, and I got fairly far, but it was too depressing. I was not in the right place emotionally or strong enough to keep climbing that hill. I put it in a drawer where it sat for about six months. Then I read an article about Kindle publishing. I thought, heck, it’s just sitting in the drawer. I made my own cover, and I published it. I had zero expectations. Which was wise, because for the whopping price of 99 cents, I sold about 20 books that first month. The world was a different place back then for self-publishing. I managed to develop a following by pulsing between free and 99 cents with this full-length novel.

Why did you take classes and how did it help?

I took two extension courses at UCLA on how to write prose because it was a mystery to me. I knew how to write dialogue and description. I needed to learn the craft. It demystified things for me. I found other souls who were in the exact same boat I was, and when the class was over we formed a writers’ group. We met weekly, and that nurtured me through the process of writing that first book, and that was invaluable.

What do you enjoy most about self-publishing?

The freedom. It’s what you love and you loathe. The decisions are yours. It’s great! But all the decisions are yours. I can write whatever I want. I am not beholden to anyone but myself and my current readers. To have that flexibility. That freedom and responsibility.

What do you do to get new readers and hang on to current readers?

I am engaged with a small group of readers on Facebook. It’s that idea that if you can get super-fans, that they do the work of a thousand fans. I, of course, have a newsletter. I have a new release newsletter with several thousand people on that. That helps right out of the gate when I have a release. When I have a third book in a series, I get a BookBub ad for books one and two, and that really propels readership. I had a very successful BookBub marketing scheme about two months ago, and I am still feeling the glow. The key is to capture the readers; to make sure you have a mailing list. I have a call to action at the beginning and the end of both print and eBooks to sign up for the newsletter and reach out to me on Facebook.

At what point did you realize you could be doing this full time?

Between book three and four, I realized I could make an actual living on this and not just a supplemental income. My income ranges from $70,000 to $100,000. It’s a good living, and I am doing as well or better than many [traditionally published] mid-listers.

What’s your advice for those considering self-publishing?

Write quickly. If you have anything that remotely takes off or that you are passionate about that is a series or potential series, publish every three to four months if you can. I think this is the one thing most people don’t realize. In today’s consumable world, especially if you are writing genre fiction, you have to keep churning them out. That’s not to say you have to sacrifice quality, but you have to keep your nose to the grindstone.