My name is Catherine Kullmann. I am the author of six novels set in the extended Regency period (roughly 1800 to 1830, when George IV, the former Prince Regent, died) and I shall publish my seventh novel in 2022. My books feature regularly in the Amazon best-selling lists for their genres. As I write, on 13 December 2021, the rankings on Amazon UK for my latest book, A Comfortable Alliance which was first published on 25 March 2021, are:
- Best Sellers Rank: 5,703 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer reviews: 4.3 out of 5 stars 315 ratings
You will not find my books on the shelves of any bookstore in Ireland. Why? Because I have published my books myself. I am an Indie (independently published) Author. In this series of articles, I shall explain why I chose to publish independently and share my experience with you.
If you have written a memoir or a once-off book about a particular subject, you may not want to bother about marketing as you will probably have a customer-base of family, friends and fellow-enthusiasts. Tailor a print-run to this. Covid-permitting, enjoy your launch and sell your books. Job done.
However if you aim at being a professional Indie author, it is not so simple. If you hope to write more than one book and sell them in the public market-place, you must actively and continuously promote them. Do not rely on Amazon browsers finding them. Start promoting as soon as you decide to self-publish. You are your own publicity department.
- The first thing to consider is your brand. How do you want your books to be seen? They must be easily recognisable as fitting into a particular genre but also be uniquely identifiable as being by you. In other words, you must build a brand that will be consistent across covers, social media platforms, website and any other promotional material.
If you are unsure how to do this, check out the website and social media accounts of best-selling authors in your genre. If, like me, you cross genres, consider which is the more important genre to you. For me it was historical fiction and I wanted my covers to convey the authenticity of my books. I decided to use contemporary period rather than modern cover images. It is not always easy to find them; I have spent hours trawling through the internet to find the right image, and more hours trying to find out who owns the reproduction rights to it. Other times I have been fortunate to find the right image in my collection of antique prints, engravings and miniatures. The cover designer takes it from there.
- Fonts are important. Again, study the covers of the leaders in your genre. Look at font, colour, size and placement of title and author name.
- Once you have decided on your brand, start working on your website. Keep it simple. If you look at mine—https://www.catherinekullmann.com/ —you will see that I have five headings, one of which—My Scrap Album—is my blog.
- Social Media. As mentioned above, very few bookshops are interested in buying from Indie authors. Most of your readers will find your books online so that is where you must promote your books. On Facebook, you must set up a personal account before you can set up an Author Page. Then set up a twitter account for yournameauthor. e.g.
Once you are set up, you must become active. Facebook has a lot of writers’ and readers’ groups. Search out some general ones and some that are specific to your genre. Get involved. Join discussions. Build up a presence. Develop a relationship with other authors, both independent and traditionally published and with book bloggers and reviewers. You can reach out to them when your book is published. But remember to be supportive and to boost other authors too. You should also check out readers groups such as Amazon Kindle Good Reads where you can promote your books. (You may also wish to promote on other platforms such as Pinterest, LinkedIn and Instagram but these two are enough to keep me going.)
- You may also wish to budget for ongoing promotional expenses such as Amazon and Facebook ads. Be careful with these; you need to keep a sharp eye on your ad expenditure as it can easily eat away your sales income. While I found Amazon ads worthwhile three years ago, within two years they had become so expensive that I stopped using them. Facebook ads did not work for me.
- Think of promotional material e.g. business cards, flyers, bookmarks etc, especially if you are going to go to bookfair or attend conferences or other get-togethers.
- You must be prepared to write blogs and guest posts, and do author interviews to get your name out there. One marketing campaign around the time of publication is not enough. You must be prepared to market constantly.
Writing, especially as an Indie, is a lonely business. The online writer community is generally very supportive. Consider joining groups relating to your genre such as the Crime Writers’ Association, the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Historical Novel Society. If any of these groups have local chapters, go to their meetings. You will get to know other authors to whom you can turn for support and advice. Many groups organise regular conferences where you can meet other authors and participate in workshops etc. Before booking a conference, it is wise to check whether it is reader or writer focussed. One conference that is completely writer focussed is the International Dublin Writers’ Festival https://internationaldublinwritersfestival.com/ which, until Covid, was held every June. In 2020 and 2021 there were online conferences but, fingers crossed, things will be back to normal in 2022.
Independent publishing is becoming more mainstream and several professional organisations that previously required new members to have signed a traditional publisher’s contract now have indie criteria for membership based on sales and/or income over a set period. These include the Society of Authors https://societyofauthors.org/join and the Romantic Novelists’ Association https://romanticnovelistsassociation.org/join-the-rna/ .
The Long Haul
At a workshop on publishing, one eBook publisher said that they reckoned it took three books for a new author to break through. It is essential that you keep writing. Ideally, you should have a couple of books in the pipeline before you publish the first one. Readers are used to the idea of a new book each year from their favourite authors. They won’t care whether you are indie or have the support of a large publishing house. I was fortunate that I had three books finished when I decided to go Indie. As a result, I was able to bring out a book a year.
The Benefits of Self-Publishing
Self-publishing is hard work and it can take a couple of years before you are in profit. Depending on how you price your books, the royalties are considerably more than those paid by traditional publishers and you have the satisfaction of publishing your book your way, with no interference re title, cover or even plot, and with minimal delay. You also are not tied by contracts and deadlines but can change your schedule as it suits you.
Going Indie is not a once-and-for-all decision. Many authors who started as Indies are now hybrid with both Indie and traditionally published books. Others have turned down approaches from traditional publishers, preferring to remain Indie while some have been approached by foreign language publishers and are now Indie in English and traditional in translation. The possibilities are endless.
I have accepted that I will never walk into a bookshop and see my books on the shelf, and that I will not feature in traditional best-seller lists that are based on bookshop sales. My books will never be the subject of a six-figure bidding war. But I have the validation of healthy sales and page-reads, good reviews and interested readers.
(c) Catherine Kullmann
About A Comfortable Alliance:
Can they open their hearts to something much deeper and passionate? Will their marriage only ever be a comfortable alliance?
Six years ago, Helena Swift’s fiancé was fatally wounded at Waterloo. Locking away all dreams of the heart, she retreated to a safe family haven. On the shelf and happy to be there, Helena has perfected the art of deterring would-be suitors.
Will, Earl of Rastleigh, is the only son of an only son: marriage is his duty. One of the great prizes of the marriage market, he shies away from a cold, society union. While he doesn’t expect love, he seeks something more comfortable. But how to find the woman who will welcome him into her life and her bed, and be a good mother to their children?
When Will meets Helena, he is intrigued by her composure, her kindness and her intelligence. As their friendship develops, he realises he has found his ideal wife, if only he can overcome her well-known aversion to matrimony.
Will succeeds in slipping past Helena’s guard. Tempted by the thought of children of her own, and encouraged by her mother to leave the shallows where she has lingered so long, she accepts his offer of a marriage based not on dangerous love but affectionate companionship and mutual respect.
But is this enough? As Will gets to know his wife better, and the secrets of her past unfold, he realises that they have settled for second-best. Can he change the basis of their marriage? Will Helena risk her heart and dare to love again?
Order your copy online here.