Rosalind Tate, author of The Shorten Chronicles, is no stranger to the complicated world of self-publishing. She believes the seismic changes in publishing amount to a revolution — one that can only help independently published authors.
In this interview, Rosalind tells us why she turned to the world of self-pub for more control and agency. She offers some practical insight into picking up the many skills required – the road can be daunting, but well worth the rewards.
JW: What made you decide to self-publish your book?
RT: At the Jericho Writers Festival of Writing in September 2018, I stumbled into a self-publishing workshop and assumed it was about vanity publishing: an author paying a publisher to publish their book. But I quickly realised this wasn’t about vanity. This was a revolution!
I’m not usually a fan of revolutions — they tend to be bloody, and don’t end well — but this one has freed authors to publish what they want, when they want, and enabled many independent authors (“indies”) to make a full-time living.
I learned facts in that workshop that made my jaw drop. I can’t remember the figures from 2018, so here are the most recent:
- A traditionally published author receives around 10% of royalties on print books. That’s what’s left after the agent and publisher have taken their cut.
- Indie authors publishing an eBook on Amazon (indies earn most of their income from eBooks) receive 60- 70%.
But, like all stats, it’s not quite that simple, and money wasn’t as important a factor as control. Control of my brand, of my intellectual property, of my business. And my business is to help as many readers as possible fall in love with the Shorten Chronicles!
I quickly realised this wasn’t about vanity. This was a revolution!
However, there are downsides to going indie.
- To persuade Amazon’s bots to beaver away and market your book, and to have any visibility (and sales), you need to pay to advertise. You might not recoup your business set-up costs until you publish your second or third book.
- An indie author has to want to learn all aspects of this business. It took me 18 months to learn the basics, and though the curve levelled out after that, I’m still learning. Fortunately, before you publish, you can easily research every step through Jericho Writers and other reputable sites.
So, who are the authors who might prefer to take the traditionally published route?
- Authors who aren’t aware that publishing has changed beyond recognition in the last decade (and it’s unlikely a prospective agent and/or publisher will enlighten them).
- Literary fiction authors. This type of novel can be hard to sell on Amazon and other online platforms – eBook readers prefer easier genres: steamy or sweet romance, science fiction, crime etc.
- Authors who can’t/don’t wish to spend time learning non-writing skills.
- Someone who isn’t interested in writing as a career. I have a friend who wrote an exposé on her ex-employer. She had no desire to ever write another book, so it was simpler and less time-consuming to pay a reputable small publisher.
Money wasn’t as important a factor as control. Control of my brand, of my intellectual property, of my business.
JW: Self-publishing involves a huge range of skills – how did you set about learning them?
In 2020, I completed Mark Dawson’s comprehensive 101 course, and I also followed wise indies like David Gaughran, Joanna Penn and Dave Chesson, watched their free videos online and subscribed to their free newsletters.
I am not a technical person, but luckily there are sites out there that make what used to be challenging tasks easy. For example:
- Formatting eBooks and print books (https://vellum.pub)
- Keeping a record of daily earnings and expenses (https://readerlinks.com)
- Emailing hundreds or thousands of readers (https://www.mailerlite.com)
- Putting a professional blurb onto your book page (https://kindlepreneur.com/amazon-book-description-generator ) and a host of other useful tips (https://kindlepreneur.com)
JW: What’s your favourite thing about self-publishing?
RT: Other indie authors! They’re a really supportive community. For example, a highly successful author helped me improve my first blurb. Just because she could.
But my most favourite thing is direct contact with my readers. Just after I published, a reader emailed to thank me, saying how my novel had made her forget the pandemic during her time off (she’s a doctor). I was speechless.
JW: What has it been like committing to writing a series as a self-published author? Is the experience different to what you might expect with a traditional publishing deal?
RT: I don’t have to produce each book to a rigid external deadline, but my boss is a crazy workaholic (that’s me, of course) and she wants to publish a book a year, each better than the last…
But seriously, if I miss a self-imposed deadline, that’s okay. Of course, I can’t not finish the series and I do feel that pressure. I’ve promised my readers!
When you publish, be kind to yourself.
JW: Do you have any advice for writers considering the self-publishing route?
RT: If you’re itching to publish and see what happens… DON’T, until you’ve completed the three crucial tasks below.
- A competent novel with minimum typos. If you’re on a budget, wait until you can afford to pay a professional editor. You want your book to be as good as it can be. Confession: I had an embarrassing number of structural edits for my first novel, and two copyedits for the first one and the second.
- Mailing list. Once you’ve finished your book (yay!), write a short story or novella, preferably adding to and in the same world/characters as your novel. You’re going to give that much shorter story away to entice readers onto your mailing list.
Because your mailing list is yours, not controlled by Amazon or Facebook or any third party. The discerning readers who’ve entrusted you with their email are key to your whole writing career. You can check out how I encourage readers to sign up with my free story on my website.
- Cover. Research what kind of story your book is: sweet romance, police procedural, space opera etc. Look at the top twenty books in your lowest sub-genre on Amazon. For example:
Kindle Store » Kindle eBooks » Teen & Young Adult eBooks » Teen & Young Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy eBooks » Teen & Young Adult Fantasy eBooks » Teen & Young Adult Historical Fantasy eBooks
Your cover should ‘fit in’ with books of the same sub-genre. Then, if you can, pay a professional to design the cover.
When you publish, be kind to yourself. It takes time to garner reviews, build up a mailing list, write more novels, and earn enough to give up the day job.
And on the way, enjoy the journey to publication.
If you’d like some help with your writing, try our copy-editing service.
Rosalind Tate lives in Gloucestershire, England, and holidays on the Cornish coast. She served in the British military, then worked as a journalist and a lawyer. She has grown up children, a tolerant husband and two utterly gorgeous dogs.
Visit Rosalind’s website.
Buy ‘The Shorten Chronicles’ on Amazon.com