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5 Years In: What I’ve Learned as an Indie Author-Publisher

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by Marion Hill, Author-Publisher —

Marion Hill

If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” —Toni Morrison

This quote by the beloved, recently deceased author sums up my reason for wanting to enter the world of writing and publishing. I have been an avid reader most of my adult life, reading widely across all genres of fiction. I particularly enjoyed fantasy novels. However, I could find very little fantasy that represented an African-American perspective, and none that also managed to interweave contemporary urban life with cultural elements including religion, art, music, and food. I believed this would be the ultimate immersive reading experience for me.

I knew I had to be the one to write the fantasy series I wanted to read. I wanted to transport the reader to another world, while at the same time reflecting on my experiences as an African-American growing up in St. Petersburg, Florida, and moving to various cities around the United States before settling in San Antonio, Texas. Inspired by my own journey and the works of the Canadian fantasy author Charles de Lint, whose work I admire greatly, my Kammbia contemporary fantasy series was born.

Journeying Into the Independent Publishing World

My journey as an independent author-publisher began five years ago. Since then, I have written and published three Kammbia novels: Diondray’s Discovery, Diondray’s Journey, and Diondray’s Roundabout. The first two of these have also been released together as an omnibus edition.

As my protagonist has grown and developed, so have I as a writer. My confidence was boosted by the ease of modern publishing through platforms including KDP, Kobo, Apple, and other online retailers. The readerships I grew through these outlets also enabled me to reach larger audiences for my book review blog. This has led to the publication of my first nonfiction book, Marion’s 25, which showcases 25 of the best books I have reviewed online.

2 Big Lessons

My writing and publishing journey to date has been an extremely positive experience. But I have learned a number of important lessons along the way, which all aspiring independent authors and publishers should keep in mind:

1. Know your genre.

My Kammbia novels are part fantasy, part spirituality, and part multiculturalism. This made it difficult for me to choose a category for marketing my books.

If you want to make money as an independent author, you need to reach and cultivate a dedicated readership. This means, ideally, your work needs to sit within a genre, so you can market your books to a ready-made audience. For your books to appeal to this audience, you need to study this genre and understand exactly what its readers enjoy. This will make it easier for you to find and connect with an audience, which is the best way to create strong foundations for a long-term career as an author-publisher.

2. Don’t expect instant results.

We live in an instant gratification society. But the publishing industry is not for you if this is what you expect. Developing a career as an author takes time, especially if you are publishing your books independently, as you need to build a loyal readership that will spread the word about your work.

After five years as an independent author-publisher, I am finally starting to gain some traction. My sales have been consistent over the past year, and I have begun to attract opportunities to appear on podcasts and at events such as the Frankfurt Book Fair. But I haven’t reached the bestseller lists. I’m still working on making enough money to leave my day job and write full time.

Takeaways from My Experience

Writing is a business like any other, so if you want to succeed, you need a long-term strategy. Paid ads and book launches can raise your profile in the short term, but you will only do well in the publishing business if you have a strategic vision for the future.

I hope the lessons I have learned in the past five years as an author-publisher can inspire others to launch their own writing careers. I truly believe there has never been a better time for writers to publish their own books. Learn from others, connect with your peers, and, above all, write the books you want to read. The rewards will come in ways that will surprise you.

Marion Hill is the author of Diondray’s Discovery, Diondray’s Journey, and Diondray’s Roundabout, the first three books set in the world of Kammbia and Journey and Discovery, the Omnibus Edition. He is also the author of Marion’s 25, his recently released, first nonfiction book based on his favorite books as a book review blogger. You can learn more about Hill and his work at marion-hill.com.

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