Finding The Self Publishing Formula

Post Series: From Trad to Indie

The thought of taking my original backlist indie and continuing the series sans publisher first entered my brain a couple of years ago. I’d joined Novelists, Inc and attended their excellent conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. The amount of information was overwhelming and, despite having a wicked cold for the entire time, I took tons of notes and heard many terms for the first time (Draft 3 Digital? BookBub?) but I wasn’t ready to take the leap. I think the amount of information and the daunting thought of getting back the rights from my New York publisher gave me pause.

Fast forward a year and I decided to do NaNoWriMo and write the next Annabelle Archer novel. During the fast and furious process I realized how much I’d missed the characters. It was so much fun to be back with Annabelle, Kate, Richard, and Fern! So now I had a new novel but I not the rights to my first three novels.

Then in January of 2017, I happened upon the podcast “The Self Publishing Formula” by two British chaps Mark Dawson and James Blatch. Finding this podcast was the turning point for me. I began devouring every episode. I listened in my car. I listened at the gym. I listened at home. I took notes and absorbed everything. I signed up for Mark’s free video series and got on the list to be notified when his online courses went live. I was obsessed.

For the first time, the indie process was explained and simplified. This was crucial because the process of self-publishing is very different from being traditionally published. I learned about mailing lists, permafree, FB ads, Book Funnel, and Vellum. And what was even more cool was that Mark Dawson had also come from being traditionally published and had also been burned. Even though he’s a British bloke writing thrillers and I’m a Southern girl writing cozies, I felt a kinship.

Inspired by the podcast, I decided to use what I’d learned and move forward with reviving the Annabelle Archer series. I researched how to write a compelling letter to request reversion of rights and sent one off to my publisher. I got my first three book interiors scanned and turned into Word documents so I would be ready. I signed up for a mailing list provider. I hired a web designer to completely overhaul my author website. I kept listening to Mark and James every week.

I April I signed up for Mark’s Advertising for Authors course and a month or so later, I grabbed his Self Publishing 101 course. I found a great designer who designed a sleek new look for my covers. I wrote a novella to use as a lead magnet to get newsletter sign-ups. In the middle of all of this, I got a letter back from New York giving me rights to my first two books (they are still selling paperbacks of my third), and I did a happy dance all around my kitchen. This was going to happen!

At the very end of June, I put Better Off Wed (the first book in the Annabelle Archer series and the one that won the Agatha for Best First Novel) up on B&N, iBooks, and Kobo using Draft 2 Digital and directly onto Amazon. I set it to permafree. In the two weeks since the book launched, it’s been downloaded over 13,000 times and my mailing list has gone from 0 subscribers to over 200. It hit #2 on Amazon’s Free Cozy Mysteries Bestseller list and #3 for Women Sleuths. Hooray! A few days after I launched book one, I added the second book in the series, For Better Or Hearse, as well as the new novella, Dead Ringer, up on Amazon and made them available in Kindle Unlimited as an experiment.

Two weeks in and I’ve already made more from the two novels (one of them being set to free) and the novella than I’d been making each year in royalties from New York! Admittedly, they had been doing nothing with the books and they were languishing. It’s just the beginning, though, and I have two more novels coming out in the series within the next three months (and I’ve written back to New York to request digital-only rights to my third book so I will hopefully have that one indie soon, as well). But it’s a great start and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mark and James for inspiring me and informing me. Thank you, thank you to The Self Publishing Formula! You guys rock!


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