Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Career Post

A few of my novels
Quite often these days, I am emailed or messaged on Goodreads or Facebook by readers, other writers, or sometimes even family and friends, and asked about my career. What is the path you've taken to publication, exactly? Why did you decide to go with self-publishing? How does it work? Do you like it? Do you make any money? How much money? Would you ever work with a publisher? Would you recommend self-pub to others?
Of Sea and Stone

So I thought it would be nice to have a blog post I could direct people who ask these question to read, something that is more comprehensive and detailed. I also think it might be good to put this out on the blog for anyone who might happen to come across it and be inspired, partially because my own journey started with such a blog post by another author, and for that I am forever grateful.

This is long, so I'll split it up into parts.

What is the path you've taken, exactly?

Well, let's start at the beginning.


It was back in 2010, I think. At that time I was religiously querying a fantasy novel to agents, reading all the recommended blogs on the biz, and I had A Plan. I would find an agent. I would build my online platform. I would get an offer from an editor, and then I'd be very patient and hard-working and cooperative as I wrote my next novel and waited for that first novel to be published (I was already emotionally prepared for it to take YEARS). Then, when it was finally released, I would cross every finger and toe that it would sell well enough for me to continue my career.

I never planned to get rich.* I never even hoped to get rich. I just wanted to tell stories. I just wanted to reach readers. I just wanted to write.

I just wanted the words in my head to get out on paper and into other people's heads.

* What is rich, anyway? "Rich" is relative.

So, with my feet planted firmly on the ground and my head nowhere near the clouds, I was working and waiting. Writing, and writing, and waiting, and writing, and waiting some more. It had already been almost 3 years of this, and slowly, I was getting disillusioned and tired. I heard good things from agents. They said they loved my book, but it wasn't quite right for them. They said I was a good writer, but not what they were looking for at the time. I got requests for partial and full manuscripts, and then those manuscripts were rejected in the nicest possible ways.

Then I read a blog post by Amanda Hocking. This was when she was famous but not, y'know, FAMOUS. She made a great deal of money every month, and articles were being written about her, but this was before her 2 million dollar deal with St. Martin's Press or the movie deal for the Trylle Trilogy. She was just an independent author making a very good wage from her books, with full creative control over titles, covers, release dates, and marketing. She wrote a blog post about how she was self-publishing and making $20k a month from her royalties.

And holy guacamole, it wasn't even that paycheck. Something about the descriptions of control over covers, and marketing, and advertising, and editing... I WANTED IT.

So that was the start.

 Why did you decide to go with self-publishing?

See, I was already getting jaded about the industry. I had lots of ideas. I've always considered myself at least eager to learn, if not savvy, about things like marketing, advertising, design, and various other business concepts. It's like a strategy game, a frustrating, fun, rewarding strategy game. And I knew from the get-go that I wouldn't have a say in my cover, my release schedule, or potentially even the title of my book. I wouldn't have any kind of control, at least not unless I got to be important enough to have clout. This was what I'd read on author blogs and agent blogs and editor blogs. Sit down, shut up, and write. Be a good author. Be patient. Trust the team.

I wanted that. I believed in that. I'm a good team player, I'm realistic.

But I was still getting discouraged and frustrated, because the process took a long time, and I didn't have a day job at the time, and I had sooooo many ideas that were going to have to wait soooo long to ever be told, IF they got told at all. The market was fickle. What was popular now changed rapidly. The market got saturated. Editors got sick of trends years before those trends ever hit the market. I fretted as I wrote. What if what I was writing now was not what editors wanted by the time it got to their desks, after the months/years of getting an agent? And in the meantime, during this fretting and writing and waiting, I wasn't making money. I sat at home and worked my tail off for zero dollars while my husband supported us. I felt like a worthless, penniless, non-contributor to both society and my household. I was ready to quit.

At this point I think it's worth pointing out that my husband, who is the rock in our relationship, urged me NOT to go out and get a soul-sucking full-time job as a receptionist or some other such thing while I wrote on the side as I had time. He told me over and over that my days writing and making no money were an investment in our future that would pay off someday, that he believed in me, and that I was going to make it. He believed in me for years when I started to lose all faith in myself. He forever deserves the credit for keeping me going. Seriously, if you like my books at all, this man is responsible for them existing. Without him, I probably (definitely) would have quit.

So I read the blog post, and I remember saying to my husband, "I'm not going to self-publish, of course, but if I did, here's what I would do..." And I said this A LOT. After about 2 months of saying it, I started saying, "Well, if I self-published something small and short, maybe a novella, maybe something I'm not planning to query...?"

So I asked a few agents if it would torpedo my chances, and they told me no, that publishing was changing, and as long as I kept my full-length novel virginity then it would be okay. So I wrote a very short book, called it a novella, and self-published.

How does it work?

Well, this is the part that gets technical and perhaps boring, so I'll skip the details (they are available on many blogs in great detail for the interested). But in short, I distribute directly to retailers. I work with a freelance editor, proofreader, and so forth. I work directly with artists (or design covers myself). I work with bloggers, advertisers, and so forth. I'm completely independent. 


Fireworks did not go off. My world did not change. The money did not pour in. It trickled in. I had sales, excitement, and lots of fun. I experienced discouragement at times, and engaged in lots of hard work, and experienced a steep learning curve.

But fundamentally, something was different.

I was no longer jaded. Suddenly, I was excited to write again. I was inundated with ideas--creative ideas about writing, business ideas about promotion and marketing and platform-building. I was alive, and it was the most beautiful gift.

About a year went by, I published a book of short stories, and generally piddled around learning a few things: that I cannot read my reviews or spend most of my time fussing with over-promoting, because it is a time suck and demoralizing. I also learned a lot about becoming a professional. Paying for things. Making quality products. Honing my craft.

Then, I wrote Frost, and that's when things began to be different.


There wasn't an immediate uptick with Frost's publication, but I remember noticing a gradual climb in sales. It went from "hey, I could buy a nice steak dinner with this month's royalties" to "hey, we could pay some bills with this month's royalties."

Then it became "hey honey, I out-earned you this month with my royalties."

Do you like self-publishing and being independent?

Quite simply, YES. This is my dream job, and I love it. Sometimes I feel downright bad about how much I like it. I adore it.

Do you make any money? How much?

I am uncomfortable listing exact numbers, partially because of my upbringing and the way my family felt about discussing money, although many wonderful authors do tell their specific earnings (for the sake of making information available for others to make choices about their careers), and I don't think there's anything braggy or bad about doing that. I will say that I can live off my royalties, I've surpassed any dreams I might have had about income, and self-publishing has been wonderful to me.

I kept publishing books. The Frost Chronicles has five novels and several novellas in it now, and I have a new series with the third book coming out summer 2014, in addition to a couple of stand-alone titles.
By Sun and Saltwater

Would you ever work with a publisher?

I began to get offers from publishers and agents last year, in 2013. To date, I have declined such offers, although once was in negotiations for months and I considered it seriously. I don't have any kind of particular commitment to being "indie only," and maybe in the future I will become what they call a hybrid author. I don't belong to an ideology or a particular camp when it comes to the industry.

I don't have a commitment to a particular way of publishing.

I have a commitment to creative freedom, making a living wage, and providing quality stories to my readership. I have a commitment to loving my job and living my dream.

Right now, that means I remain independent and continue to self-publish.

Would you recommend self-pub to others?

Yes, MAYBE. Being an independent is hard work. It requires a lot of hats, so to speak. Being successful requires effort, (some) business savvy, patience, and consistent professionalism in both behavior and quality of work. But if you feel like you can and want to do it, then go for it.


I plan to keep writing! I have many, many stories I want to tell. I am so thankful for every reader, every email, every tweet. I'm humbled by the journey I've had thus far, and while I have no idea what the future holds for either myself or the publishing industry in general, I am hopeful and excited to find out.
Once Upon A Beanstalk

I hope this helps anyone who is curious or has questions. I am happy to answer emails if you want to know more, and if I get enough specific questions, maybe I will write more posts on this matter. I don't talk about it much because I am mainly interested in focusing on my writing, but the business side does matter, it is exciting, and I hope this post was informative and inspiring to those who want to take a similar journey.

You can find more about me here:



Amazon Author Page


  1. Thanks for sharing, and I'm glad you didn't give up! Frost is amazing, and I went back and read The Curse Girl and Once Upon a Beanstalk too. I'm sure I'll eventually make my way through all of your books because your writing is awesome. And yes, I envy your skills. :-) Also, kudos to your husband for supporting your career so that the rest of the world can now experience your stories.

    What was the fantasy novel that you sent out to agents way back when? It didn't sound like it was Frost.

    When did you see sales of Frost pick up? Was it before or after you published more books in the series?

    1. Good questions. The novel I was querying is still unpublished, although I have plans to edit and release it maybe next year. It is very near and dear to my heart, and I feel protective of it (it's a steampunk story with dragons).

      I saw Frost sales start to pick up after I did a book tour that summer, and then with the release of the second in the series.

  2. Thank you so much for writing this post! As a fan of your books and your writing, I've been curious about what this journey has been like for you, both personally and professionally, and I'm so happy for you (and your awesome husband). I'm looking forward to continuing to read your books :)

  3. What an inspiring read. Thank you for posting it.

    Would you be willing to share sales figures with other authors / potential authors at
    kboardsdotcom/authors/ ?

    801 authors have done so. The more information available to help other authors, the better.

  4. Thanks so much for the article.
    I am curious as to what you do for advertising.


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