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Inside Being an Indie Author | Collaborative Interview!



In celebration of Indie Author Day, I sat down with indie authors M. C. Clay, M. G. Hernandez, and C. E. Ord to ask them some questions about thier experiences as indie author. Join us for the Author Interview Event over at Book Nerds Unite (on Goodreads) to ask any of these three authors your still unanswered questions!


And now, on to the interview!


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Introduce yourselves to each other.

MCC (M. C. Clay):

I’m M. C. Clay and I primarily write fantasy novels. I’ve recently entered into the romance genre as well. I have 8 novels released currently with many more in the works. I am based in Alabama, where I was born and raised. I’m 32 years old, married and have 1 child.


MGH (M. G. Hernandez):

I’m M.G. Hernandez. I’m currently based in Honolulu, but I was from the Bay Area, California. I’m married to my husband of eight years. I co-parent his two amazing sons who educate me on all things Gen-Z, and I educate them on all things millennial (best generation, I believe, lol). We have three Guinea pigs who are just as rambunctious and opinionated. Believe me, those squeaks aren’t meant to be ignored. Happy to be a part of this interview.


CEO (C. E. Ord):

Hi everyone, I’m Cate, and I publish YA fantasy adventure novels as C.E. Ord. I’m based in Melbourne, Australia, where I was born and raised, and I’m married with two young children. I’m an avid life-long reader, and a fan of all the usual things: travel, nature, hiking, chocolate, etc.


AR (Asia Reads):

So all of you are married with kids? I can only imagine how little time you must have, so I really, really appreciate that you’ve done this interview with me. So from the bottom of my heart, massive thanks to all of you! <3 :)


How/Why did you decide to write independently, instead of “traditionally”?

MCC:

I did research on both methods and it just felt like there was so much red tape to get traditionally published. You have to go through so many submissions to all these different publishers, just to feel rejection after rejection. I knew there were readers for my books out there, and some publishing conglomerate wasn’t going to stop me from getting it out there. After researching Kindle Direct Publishing, and having limited resources at the time, it felt like the perfect avenue for me.


MGH:

I second M.C. Clay. I just wanted to get my story out. I also wanted the control of my manuscript, the production and the marketing. I had a hard time letting go of my “book baby,” and I wanted it released on my own terms.


CEO:

Much like M.G., I found having full creative control over my books very appealing. As M.C. touched on, avenues such as KDP and IngramSpark and have opened up wonderful opportunities for self-published authors, and I’m grateful to be writing at a time when self-publishing is such an accessible option. That said, having some experience as an indie author under my belt now I definitely have a greater depth of understanding and appreciation for the role trad publishers play in the industry, and I’m really glad there’s room for all of us on the playing field.


AR:

It sounds like you all very much prefer the control you have over your own books. I greatly respect that decision. It's not the main reason, but it certainly is yet another reason why I LOVE supporting indie authors. You all simply do not get enough credit for the sheer amount of work you all have to do.


Describe the writing process as an indie author (versus as a traditional author).

MCC:

So, my understanding of traditional authors who are working with an agent and such, is that they have deadlines to meet because they are typically locked into some sort of contract with the publishing company. As an indie author, I don’t have my hands tied like that. I give myself my own personal deadlines, sure, but I don’t feel pressured to push something out, quite possibly before it’s even ready. I work pretty well under pressure, but I like to maintain my creative freedom. I think traditional authors can sometimes lose that aspect of themselves when they are bound by publishing companies. For me, the writing process is freeing and I feel like I can write as it comes naturally to me. If I have a day that something just isn’t working, I can stop and not stress about how much I’m NOT writing. I can just be.


MGH:

You’re your own boss. It’s your timeline and you’ll set your own deadlines. There’s also that creative freedom to write what you want without having to succumb to what the publishing industry believes is a marketable or trending storyline.


CEO:

I’m sure it’s different for many writers, regardless of if they’re indie or trad published, but personally I take as much time as I need to develop/flesh out overarching storylines and themes, turning them over in my mind and scribbling down notes for days, weeks, or even months in need be. Then, I work to a set and fairly structured timeline to produce a detailed outline and then stick to a daily word count (usually in the ballpark of 1,000 to 2,500 WPD, depending on how tight my timeline is and what else is going on in my life at the time). Then it's the back and forth collaborative work of cover design, editing, typesetting, and proofreading. It’s a pretty huge journey from concept through to holding your published book in your hands, but it’s so rewarding.


AR:

Again, it looks like you really enjoy both the freedom and the control you have over your own writing experiences. I like the idea that publishers will do more for you, but I think that publishing traditionally under a deadline could be dreadfully stressful! *eek!*


Describe the editing process as an indie (versus traditional) author.

MCC:

The editing process for me is definitely different from a traditional author, as I don’t use any professional editing services. I go through my own work multiple times to catch as many errors as possible before running it through a web program to catch anything I might have missed. Then it goes to a review team where it is read by multiple people and marked up with anything they catch that I or the web program missed. It’s a meticulous process and probably not very efficient, but it gets the job done pretty well.


MGH:

Right now, I have an editor I’m working with. She edited my second book and [I] will stick with her. But I’ve also used Prowriting Aid.


CEO:

I do my own developmental editing, getting my manuscript to exactly where I want it to be before sending it off for copy-editing. After some back and forth with the copy editor, the final manuscript is typeset before going to the proofreader. As I understand it my process isn’t that different from a writer working with a trad publisher, except for the developmental editing aspect. I do plan to go hybrid and work with a trad publisher at some point, and I am interested to see how the process varies when working with a publishing house.


AR:

It’s interesting to see how you all have similar experiences with editing — you do (or used to do) it mostly yourself. I’m sure that traditionally published authors still do that, but I feel like they have more resources readily at their disposal. Regardless, I think you’ve all done great jobs at proofreading! :)


Describe the marketing process.

MCC:

This is the worst. I absolutely loathe marketing. It takes so much time that I could be using to write. On top of that very basic issue, it also requires research. What works for one author, might not work for the next. Some people have a lot of success with Amazon ads. I don’t. I prefer Facebook ads, as they have been more profitable for me. I also hate keeping up with posting on social media, writing blog posts regularly, sending out newsletters, creating content, etc. Traditional authors don’t often do this themselves. Indie authors have to do it on their own and it’s time consuming, but necessary.


MGH:

Can we not talk about marketing? Hahaha It’s a lot of work, and I’m naturally shy, so I have a hard time convincing people to buy my book. But once I’ve tried and decided to bite the bullet, it’s not that bad. I don’t know how effective it is, but there you go. One thing I can say, though, is that IG has been great in terms of networking, making connections, and I’ve made good friends with a few bookstagrammers, vendors and fellow authors, so that’s a plus. I’ve built a little community with other like-minded folks who’ve been a great support.


CEO:

To be blunt, marketing self-published books is tough. The market is massively saturated, and I’m quite sure there are countless absolutely epic self-published stories out there struggling to be widely seen, or just flat-out can’t find any traction, regardless of how good they are. I don’t feel well-qualified to offer marketing advice at this stage, as I certainly haven’t worked it all out yet. It’s a process!


AR:

So you all hate marketing? Huh, I’m not at all surprised. Hopefully, this will help, even if just a tiny bit! :)


Describe the publishing process. Please also mention your publisher (Amazon, etc.).

MCC:

I publish through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. It’s an extremely straightforward and simple process. So long as you format your document before uploading, the only challenge is the cover. I personally format and create my own covers and that’s an entire day’s work tweaking here and there. That said, once it’s right, it’s simply a few clicks and deciding your royalty percentage and you’re done. It generally takes Amazon a day to publish a Kindle book and closer to two days for print. Not bad in my opinion.


MGH:

I publish through Amazon as well. It’s not too bad, except for uploading the manuscript for paperback and hardback. It’s so cumbersome, and they kept on kicking it back to me until finally they were satisfied with the changes.


CEO:

I got a little carried away when you asked about the editing process and gave you a decent chunk of the publishing process there, so I won’t repeat myself here! I currently have my eBooks exclusive to Amazon, and paperbacks through both Amazon and IngramSpark. Publishing through IS means bookstores and libraries can order copies of my books, and I have both paperbacks and hardcovers available through IS.


What is the most rewarding part of being an indie author? Exciting? Stressful?

MCC:

Hands down the most rewarding part of being an indie author, is the positive reviews and feedback from readers. I love seeing reviews where people are raving about my books. It makes all the hard work worth it.


The most exciting part for me is the writing itself. The creation of a world, or a romance, or an adventure, is an adrenaline rush. It’s addicting and it’s a feeling I can never get enough of.

The most stressful, is finding time to write. It’s not my full time job at the moment, so making time to write is difficult for me right now. I stress about how much time is passing between releasing a sequel, or just another book in general because you don’t want to grow stale. It increases my anxiety for sure.


MGH:

Being able to share your story and find readers that resonated with it, is such a natural high. When you get that one message or review that tells you how much they connected with the characters, it makes all the lost sleep, financial costs and headache of finding trustworthy vendors all worthwhile.


CEO:

I love being an author. Immersing yourself in the creative process of building a world and finding the words to share it with readers is super rewarding. Holding your published book in your hands and knowing it’s out there in the world and people are reading it is a pretty awesome feeling too!


What are the biggest struggles of indie publishing?

MCC:

Getting reviews. Particularly, Amazon reviews. It’s so difficult to find readers that will actually leave a review on a book. Even if you specifically request it and they tell you they will, 9 times out of 10, they still won’t do it. The way that Amazon works, you have to have quite a few reviews before their algorithm starts generating your book higher in their search results. It’s just difficult to accomplish that, especially when you’re first starting out and you’re trying to build a fanbase from scratch.


MGH:

Again, I agree with M.C. Getting those reviews is brutal. Well, also getting people to read it instead of it piling up on their TBR pile—getting dusty, is another challenge for an indie author. They don’t know who we are, so our works get shoved aside for CoHo’s or Taylor Jenkin Reed’s latest releases. I had a bookstagrammer who I sent a physical copy to, and it’s been a year. I’ve given up on it. I don’t blame them for it. That’s just the nature of the game.


CEO:

As touched on already, market saturation makes things quite challenging. And, as M.G. and M.C. both mentioned, reviews are important, and getting them can be tough. Feed the indie authors: Leave a review!


AR:

Oof. As of today (October 7), I still have a handful of ARCs I’ve yet to review. 😬 I haven’t had a chance to get to the review since classes started up again, but, to all the authors out there, if I’ve agreed to write a review for you, I’ll get you them ASAP! (Unfortunately, that may end up being December once the semester ends. :( Hopefully, though, it’s sooner!)


Do you ever consider trying traditional publishing, or are you happy/satisfied as an indie author?

MCC:

At this point in my still growing career, I’m satisfied with being an indie author. It allows me the freedom to do things at my own pace. Maybe at some point in the future, when I am writing full time and if I find I could likely meet publishing deadlines and such, I might consider pursuing it at that point, but right now, I like the benefits of being an indie author.


MGH:

In the future maybe I’d give it a try, but right now, no. I wouldn’t do that to my readers who are waiting for the third installment of a book and then have them wait for years as I wait for an agent and publisher to give me a chance.


CEO:

I’m definitely happy that I started with self-publishing, it was the right initial choice for me. That said, I am interested in going hybrid/working with a trad publisher at some point. We’ll see what the future holds.


Do you have any regrets as an indie author?

MCC:

I only regret not doing more marketing research before my first book. If I could go back, I would do that a bit differently. Other than that, I can’t say that I have any regrets as an indie author.


MGH:

My main regrets are not hiring a professional editor for my first book and not having a marketing timeline.


CEO:

No regrets, it’s all learning.


Any final comments?

MCC:

It was a pleasure to do this interview. I wish all of the aspiring authors out there luck on their writing journey. Good luck out there!


MGH:

Thank you for this interview and for your support. And for any aspiring authors reading this, go for it. Write that book!


CEO:

Thanks so much for inviting me to do this Asia, and for all your support and efforts for indie authors - we really appreciate you!


AR:

Thank you all so much for doing this with me! It’s truly a pleasure! :)


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**This interview was conducted independently via a Google Doc. All three authors were provided access to the same Doc with all the questions, which was then returned to me with the questions answered. This interview was completed between 13 August 2022 and 7 October 2022.

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