In an interview with Amy Harwell. Elysia Strife, a self-published author of science-fiction fantasy and romance novels shared her top book publishing secrets.
The Oregon State University graduate explained that at first, she didn’t set out her dream to become an author. Strife shared that she simply had stories that she would like to share. She quips that in her 5th book, “A Promise in Ash was prompted by the feeling of emptiness and failure I experienced after a miscarriage. It developed into a full story after an interesting encounter with a woman as one of the RV parks we’ve stayed at over the years. Her tales inspired the book to become what it is today. I think it’s important to talk about miscarriage and abuse. The more we do, the less uncomfortable the topics become. I just felt like fiction was a gentler way to go about this than self-help.”
In terms of self-publishing, Strife explains that she sees it as a natural decision that complements her personality. She admits that she likes to doing everything herself and felt that the traditional publishing process filled with traditional agents, and contracts felt too limiting. “It sounded more serious than I was prepared to dive into. I wanted to figure the system out before I put time and effort into queries,” the author said.
When it comes to sharing the pros and cons of publishing, Strife shares, “My first book was pretty rough the first time around. I’ve edited it a few times since and changed the cover. I’m finally happy with it, but it took a while.” She attributed her lack of sales to the lack of marketing platform and knowledge of marketing in the beginning. Good thing the author is finally at a “much better at it now, but it’s still hard to compete with the pros.”
When it comes to having the last say, Strife said that “I still like having total creative control. I design my covers too. This can be detrimental in the beginning when you have no idea what you’re doing. I know I’ve learned a lot, but sometimes I still feel like I’m just “winging it.” Eventually, you learn to trust your training and instincts, and then move on when a project is done.”
She also shares how to deal with bad reviews and admits that it totally “sucks”. However, Strife believes that it is the best way to stay grounded, “But even super famous books have them. So I figure if I get just a few great reviews, the book was a success,” the author said.
When it comes to her major takeaway in self-publishing, she learned that “There is a lot of competition. There will always be the top 100 books to read for the year. But I’ve read some fantastic books by indie authors with less than ten reviews. They’re great writers, but they aren’t included in the top 100 because of a lack of discoverability. Indie publishing is great, but it’s led to market saturation. If you want to get readers’ eyes on your books, you have to advertise.”
She also believes that traditional publishing is getting more competitive. “It’s not just enough now to have a superb query letter and a polished manuscript. You have to have a social media following. Yep. I’ve seen people rejected for that very thing. A marketing platform is everything,” Strife said.
In terms of book marketing, Strife is pretty much like any first-time authors out there. She claimed that at the beginning, she also made a lot of mistakes, and has a lack of understanding when it comes to the process of self-publishing and marketing her books. “I didn’t understand how to narrow down my audience in the beginning. I’m still working on it. But it’s not enough to search for readers in your genre. You have to focus on the subgenre and key interests. I’m finding this issue is surfacing again with my romance. I have a holiday romance and a dark contemporary romance, which I list as romantic suspense because there’s yet to be a subgenre for that.” She shares that it is important to understand the genre. Basing it from experience, Strife claimed, “readers of one book won’t like the other. The themes and content are too different. It’s frustrating to start over with a readership, but it’s important to acknowledge and respect how very particular some readers are.”
When it comes to recommending self-publishing to other authors, Strife said, “I think it’s great to be able to say that you’re an author and have a physical copy of something to show others. People need to share their stories, whether true or fictional. With as much competition as there is now for traditional slots, I think indie authorship is a great alternative.”
Beyond the top 100 books out there, she believes that “Everybody has a story to tell, even if it’s just their memoir. When we share our ideas and concepts, we discover things about each other and humanity.”
When it comes to giving out the best advice, Strife thinks that it is important to be “realistic, which I know is hard when you’re not really sure what you’re getting yourself into. Hopes and prayers aren’t enough to get your book done and seen. You have to be prepared to do a lot of work. Writing is hard. Editing is harder. Formatting is cake. The cover is the frosting; make it look darn pretty. Publishing is eating cake. Marketing is the hardest.”
Strife claims that it is important to have everything planned out before authors could publish. “You need an author brand, at least in concept. You need to know who will support you, what the genre expectations are, and how to avoid all the amateur mistakes.”
Most of all, the author gave out the most important things that authors need to have.
“You need to have conviction. Writing will only be one tiny facet of the business if you choose to become a full-time author. You’re going to spend a lot of money on ads and websites and programs—tons of stuff. Save your receipts. You won’t make a lot the first few years until you start to figure the system out. Don’t quit your day job if you can help it.
Remember why you started writing. Remind yourself of this every day, so you don’t get discouraged. There are going to be chunks of time with no sales. You’re going to get bad reviews. Every author, even famous ones, get them. Don’t pull your book down. Don’t quit writing. You’re going to get better, but only if you don’t give up.”