This article originally appeared in Feather Magazine on June 27, 2016 and has been republished here with permission. Copyright belongs to the author of the post. Article is written by Roxanna Coldiron.
Publishing a novel is the culmination of nearly every aspiring author’s long-fought writing process. Indie author Briana Mae Morgan, 24, published her debut novel Blood and Water in October 2015 as an ebook through Amazon Digital Services, a program for independent authors to self-publish their work for availability on Kindle. The novel follows 17-year-old Jay Harris and his sister Maia, as they search for a doctor who claims to have a cure for the virus that has devastated the planet. In March 2016, Briana joined hybrid publisher Moran Publishing and now her YA post-apocalyptic novel is available as a paperback and continues to receive great reviews on Amazon and elsewhere.
Self-publishing has developed into a respectable and viable option for many authors, and traditional publishers have even taken notice by creating special imprints that allow new authors to publish without needing an agent (though it’s not “self-publishing,” because editors must still approve and acquire the stories). Hybrid publishers combine the flexibility of self-publishing with the marketing outreach of traditional publishers and have really opened the door for many indie authors. What do you need to know about self-publishing before you take the plunge? We talked with Briana Morgan to get the inside scoop on what it takes to be a successful indie author.
RC: First, let’s learn a little more about you. Could you tell us a little bit about your education and why you start writing?
Briana Morgan: I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I went off to college and started out as a psychology major, and I ended up spending all my free time writing. Even in class sometimes, instead of paying attention, I’d be working on a novel or short story. Eventually I gave in and changed my major to English (with a creative writing concentration). It was the best decision I could have made. Throughout college and beyond, I’ve used writing as an escape and a method of coping with stress. Now, if I don’t get some writing in each day, I get a little cranky. It’s funny how that works.
RC: What inspires you to be able to come up with such unique stories?
Briana: I think it’s a common misconception that writers get their inspiration from a single source. Story ideas come from everywhere, and usually when I least expect it. In fact, I get most of them in the shower, which is why I jokingly refer to it as The Magical Idea Machine. Basically, I get my ideas while doing other things. They come to me when I’m making the bed or going to get the mail or grocery shopping. In order for the idea to become a story, though, I usually have to tweak it a little bit. I have to find the most interesting part and make it even more interesting, present some conflict, develop characters around it, and a whole lot more. So an idea is a good start, but in order to make a story unique, you have to do a great deal of thinking and brainstorming.
RC: When and why did you decide to self-publish?
Briana: For a long time, I didn’t even realize self-publishing was a viable option. In college, we never learned anything about it. Everyone was expected to go through the traditional publishing process if they wanted to sell their work. For a long time, I just accepted that I’d have to go through that process, too.
Then, someone turned me on to the Rocking Self-Publishing and The Creative Penn podcasts. It was great listening to real self-published authors discussing their experiences. After a couple of episodes, the idea of self-publishing thoroughly appealed to me, and I decided to look into it.
I’m controlling and impatient. Really. Self-publishing allows me a great deal of control and fairly quick results. With traditional publishing, there’s a lot of waiting, and you don’t have much control over the process. I don’t like waiting. I also like knowing that I can take the book down or change the cover if I want to. You can’t really do that with traditional publishing.
There are certainly benefits to traditional publishing, but for now, I’m content as an indie. The realm of self-publishing changes every day, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
RC: What resources did you find as a self-published author?
Briana: The podcasts I mentioned really helped me when I was getting started. I also follow a lot of indie authors on social media. Ksenia Anske’s journey in particular served as an inspiration for me to self-publish, as did Jenny Bravo’s. For anyone wanting to learn more about the self-publishing process, I can’t recommend getting involved in social media enough. Twitter has been especially helpful for connecting with other authors. Create an account, follow some people, engage, and get your questions answered. Without Twitter, I never would have finished my novel, let alone gotten published.
When people are looking for books, they want to buy from someone they feel like they know. Your social media platform can really help with this. By connecting and interacting with people online, you can build relationships that in turn become sales. People buy from people, not from robots. If I see an author doing nothing but tweeting links to buy their book, it’s a huge turnoff. Don’t be that guy. Generate interest in your work by being likable instead.
RC: What do writers need to consider when they decide to self-publish?
Briana: One of the biggest misconceptions about self-published authors is that they’re lazy. Since we haven’t queried or anything, some people think that means we don’t work hard. If anything, many of us work harder than traditional authors to a certain extent.
In order to be a successful indie author, you need to be willing to take on all sides of the business. With traditional publishing, your main role as the author is to create the story, and you have a whole team to work on the rest for you. When you self-publish, you’re handling most of the work. Even if you pay some freelancers to edit your book and create your cover, you still have to find them, pay them, and make sure everything comes together in the end. Then, once the book is out, you have to handle the marketing and promotional material. It’s a lot of hard work, and if you’re not willing to put in the time and effort it takes to succeed, self-publishing might not be for you.
You can follow Briana Mae Morgan on Twitter (@brimorganbooks), Instagram (@brianamorganbooks), YouTube and Tumblr (brianamorganbooks). Visit her website brianamaemorgan.com to learn more about her books and to get the latest news on her writing!
(image source: Briana Mae Morgan)
*Article has been updated to reflect changes in her social media handles. -1/29/2017