21 July 2015

Three Mistakes I Made as an Indie Writer

by Melissa Yi

Mistake #1. Long gap between releases

As an independently published writer, I can publish my short stories traditionally or independently. I like money, so I submit my stories to pro magazines first and then indie publish them when the rights revert back to me, generally a year later. There aren’t too many pro-paying mystery markets, and I’m not as assiduous as I should be at submitting them, which means the worst of all worlds: not submitted to markets and not indie published, just “rotting on my hard drive,” as another writer put it.
The argument for indie publishing is that you need to get your stories out there. Unless you’re, say, Catherine Coulter (#1 NYT bestseller) or Jenny Milchman (critically acclaimed and widely beloved), people can’t find you in the great online sea of stories if you don’t have enough product.
Accidentally photo-bombing Jenny Milchman & Catherine Coulter
at the Mysterious Bookshop (trying to keep my kids quiet).
Photo by Alison McMahan.

One of my writer friends “plays whack-a-mole,” alternating between submitting his stories and indie publishing them.
Either way, I had to do something.
I hadn’t released anything under the Melissa Yi name since I was a finalist for the Derringer Award in March. Stockholm Syndrome is currently making its rounds through traditional publishing while I pen the fifth book. My Ellery Queen story, “Om,” was just published in January and I’m waiting for the rights to revert. What’s a girl to do?

Mistake #2. Not putting my work on all platforms

If indies do Kindle Unlimited (KU), it means publishing only on Amazon. So there’s a lot of arguing about that (“I make more money on Amazon” vs. “long term, it makes more sense to distribute widely around the world”).
Some months, I made more money on Kobo than I did on Amazon, thanks to their Going Going Gone international promotion last year, where they commissioned me to write three short stories, so I haven’t really touched KU.
But wait. Those very same Gone Fishing short stories that Kobo commissioned last year…

The original deal was that Kobo had exclusive rights to the stories for six months, but after that, it’s non-exclusive rights.
 I’d always meant to publish them on all platforms, just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Oops. 

Mistake #3. Not promoting my work

You don’t have to advertise your work all the time. Kris Rusch thinks the best ads are short stories, for example, because then editors pay you and readers who enjoy your genre will find you. But if you never talk about your work, they won’t always find readers.
To tell you the truth, I was absolutely burned out on promotion in 2014. I like meeting readers. I just don’t want to feel like I’m constantly shouting, “Look at me! Buy my books! Wait, did you hear about my book? Why are you running away from me?”
So I’m just going low-key with this one. I bundled the stories together with some ‘behind the scenes’ stories and called it Family Medicine, which is available only on KU for the next 90 days, and only free for the next 48 hours.

Plus I’m making all the individual stories available for free on every other platform.
See what I did there? I’m doing KU but still doing Kobo, Apple, Nook, Oyster, Scribd, Tolino etc., with slightly different content. And I’m making it free so that people can download it and see if they like Hope Sze. Ideally, they’ll read her other books, too.
In the future, I may charge for Cain and Abel, Trouble and Strife, and Butcher’s Hook. And after 48 hours, the price goes back up to $2.99 on Family Medicine.
But in the meantime, I’ve corrected a few of my indie mistakes. And you can support me in my journey on Patreon.

How ’bout you? Are you traditional, indie, or hybrid? And do you care to share some of your lessons?


  1. Whew! For a moment, I thought you’d written Ann Coulter until the rest of my brain kicked in.

    SleuthSayers are all professionally published, but some do as you’ve done and bring occasional stories to the self-publishing market.

    By the way, fellow Canadian Darlene Poier, who publishes Ficta Fabula and Pages of Stories, has changed her business model and is seeking submissions.

  2. I notice you have nice covers- do you find they eat up a good many of your profits?

  3. Janice, covers are is one of the MOST IMPORTANT factors in marketing your product. The cost is relatively low, considering the importance. Personally, at Lion's Breath Studio, I try to work with first time authors in developing eye-catching design, which relates to the content of the book itself. Obviously, if I am painting a period piece about the Revolutionary War or WWII, the amount of research would be much greater than something about current happenings or fantasy. Working with new authors is quite rewarding. You just never know, this person could be the next J.K. Rowling! A professional cover brands you as a professional writer. In addition to covers consider posters, bookmarks, and animated book covers. Please check my web site, I will have new book covers up soon. I have a number of them in progress. Which will add profits to the authors endeavors. Steve Rugg, CEO Steve@lionsbreathstudio.com, http://www.lionsbreathstudio.com.

  4. You get out and about more than I do, and I congratulate you on your energy and success. I think you're doing great!

  5. @Leigh, I can't say I know much about Ann Coulter except some inflammatory titles. One of the privileges of being Canadian. Thanks for the marketing tip!

  6. @Janice, stock photos are very reasonable, and sometimes you can work directly with artists, like at deviantart.com.

  7. @Eve, I know you're doing great. Thanks for the kind words!


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