Happy Indieversary to me! Reflections on one year of self-publishing


It’s been one year since I started self-publishing, and it’s time to retire this graphic.

With the release of Stranded with Cyborg on September 22, 2015, I’ll celebrate my one-year Indiversary! One year ago on September 22, 2014, I released Unexpected Consequences, after the rights reverted to me.  Between September, 22 2014 and September 22, 2015, I self-published 13 titles!

Honestly? I amaze myself. I didn’t realize I had produced so many books until I added them up for this blog.

The breakdown by numbers:

  • Stranded200x300

    My newest Indie release — Coming Sept. 22, 2015 the day of my Indieversary!

    Five backlisted titles:  UC, False Pretenses, Body Politics, Disciplinary Measures, and Longing (formerly titled A Scent of Longing).

  • Eight brand new titles:   Warrior (Breeder 3), Reasonable Doubts (Rod and Cane 5), Goddess’s Curse, Naughty Words for Nice Writers, Irresistible Attractions (Rod and Cane 6), Stolen Moments, Educating His Bride in the Correcting the Coeds anthology, and Stranded with the Cyborg(Sept. 22, 2015).
  • Of the eight new titles, I wrote the latter six in 2015. The first two were written in the latter part of 2014.
  • Two books were released in print as well as ebook: Goddess’s Curse and Naughty Words for Nice Writers.

Self-publishing was a business decision.  I’d published 15 books over a six- year period with several ebook publishers. My books were starting to make some serious money, and I felt that the benefits I received from the publishers (editing, cover art) did not merit giving up half the book royalties.  When my books started to generate significant royalties, my primary publisher finally started to do some extra marketing. When I was struggling in the early years and could have used the push, there was nothing beyond the basics (But that’s generally the way it goes—publishers promote the books that sell).

Some reflections and observations of my year as an Indie:

  • Self-publishing seemed daunting at first. I basically

    My first Indie book! A re-release with a new cover.

    knew what needed to be done, but worried I’d overlook some key step. I can say now, the self-publishing process is easy.

  • Amazon had always been the primary book seller. I never sold many books through my publisher’s website, but I had underestimated the value of having a new release featured on the website and in the publisher’s newsletter. Readers might buy from Amazon, but they often hear about the book from the publisher’s website or newsletter. A publisher probably gets thousands of hits and has thousands of subscribers.  When I started self-publishing I didn’t have a newsletter yet and my website hits number in the hundreds per day, not thousands. But as I grow my newsletter list, it won’t be a factor any more.
  • When I was with a publisher, my income seesawed between high and low. Now I can time releases by need rather than the publisher’s schedule, and my income stream is steady. I get covers well in advance for marketing efforts, and I can adjust my pricing and do special promotions to boost sales.
  • When you’re with a publisher, almost all the decisions are out of your control. Hence, you tend not to worry as much, because there’s nothing you can do about it anyway. You don’t control the editing, the release date, the category a book gets put into, the cover art, or the book price. You’re forced to accept what you get. As an Indie, you control all those things and you find yourself second guessing your decisions. Should I have released that book earlier or later? A male, a female or both on the cover? How sexy do I want to go? Did I use the right keywords to get my book the best visibility?


    I wrote and published a thesaurus in ebook and print!

  • If you think you’re obsessed with your Amazon sales rankings, it’s nothing compared to the sales number obsession when you see actual books sold and the dollar amount generated in real time and not months later. I know how much I’ll make months before royalties are paid.
  • (FYI: Amazon pays 60 days after the end of the month in which royalties were earned. So I’ll get September royalties the end of November. I’ll get October money the end of December, etc. Every month there’s a “paycheck” coming in. I can’t fault my former primary publisher on royalty payments. They paid monthly with only a 90-day lag in getting Amazon money , e.g., I’d get September money the end of December. It was completely fair considering the bookkeeping involved. But for other publishers that pay only four times a year with a delay of an entire quarter,  i.e. you get 1st quarter money at the end of the 2nd quarter—forget that!)

Would I make the same decision to self publish again?


Would I do it the same way?


Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00014]

Warrior (Breeder 3) was the first new title I self-published. Breeder and Terran are still with a publisher.

Would I recommend others self-publish?

Yes, but with conditions. If you are just starting out, you are probably better off going with a publisher for your first four or five books. If you’re lucky, you will learn what good editing can do for your manuscript. You will learn about cover art. You will have the publisher’s website and newsletter to market your books. If your book doesn’t sell, you won’t make any money, but you won’t be out-of-pocket.

Self-publishing is not expensive. But there are upfront costs, and it helps to have royalties coming in to offset those costs. For example, cover art, editing, and formatting cost $467.73 for Irresistible Attractions and $218.02 for two versions of Naughty Words for Nice Writers (print & ebook).

If you have a readership/fan base, your books are selling, and you are socially connected and have a newsletter, go for it!

To find out about new titles, contests, and freebies, sign up for my Author Newsletter. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking on a link.

To see a complete list of all my books, visit my Amazon Author Page.



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37 Responses to Happy Indieversary to me! Reflections on one year of self-publishing

  1. Happy Indieversary! You were a huge help to me when I took the leap and I’m so happy it’s going well for you. And you’re right about checking rankings and sales in real time! I thought I used to be obsessed. Now I know what it really means!! 🙂

    • Cara Bristol says:

      I’m glad I was able to help. Self-publishing has become so much easier and viable.

      I think traditional publishers still carry a mystique of prestige. and authors are so grateful when their manuscript is accepted. Be happy, but don’t be grateful. The publisher isn’t doing you a favor. They made business decision. They think at some point down the road they can make money off your book.

  2. Lisa Medley says:

    Great post! Your success inspires me! Being one’s own boss is a million billion times better. Thanks for sharing your tips!

  3. Great post, Cara! Inspirational.
    Happy Indieversary! I wish you much continued successes!!

  4. Livia Grant says:

    Congratulations and thanks for sharing so much of your process and knowledge along the way. I continue to learn so much from you and I wish you continued success!

  5. S.J. Maylee says:

    Oh wow, Cara. What a year you’ve had. Thank you for leading the way and sharing your experiences. You are my rock star. 😀 8 new titles <- that's so awesome. Watching you has given me the courage to take my first solo step into self-publishing. Eek!

    Happy Indieversary!

  6. Sue Lyndon says:

    Happy Indieversary, Cara! 🙂

  7. Happy Indieversary! Wow, that’s a lot of books.

    What an informative post. IMO you’ve pegged all the most important points and things to consider. And I also agree that people shouldn’t feel grateful that a publisher has agreed to publish their book. Too many authors get all ooey gooey over “I have a publisher” and forget the important role they play in the whole process.

  8. This inspires me. I’m using a publisher for a couple of things to be able to get wider exposure but I think the indie way is what I’ll stick to. Because you and Lisa Medley give it such merit I’m encouraged that I’m on the right path. I’ve followed you for the last year and I know that it is within my reach if I follow your example. Congratulations on a successful year!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Thank you. The key to success is to build your exposure and platform. Get your name out their, build your newsletter list, build your FB following, etc.

  9. Hey Cara:

    This post is excellent. Our experience is identical, except I can’t get the whole newsletter/email thing going, and for some of us, that part isn’t so easy. I envy your skills in that department.

    I too was stunned at how quickly I produced books. Isn’t it amazing? I’m about to start my 26th. It’s incredible, and is there anything more rewarding that watching that chart, and seeing your sales?

    I hit a plateau and have done a couple of books with Stormy Night. It’s been an outstandingly successful endeavor. I think the exposure with a good publisher is worth a great deal, and I plan to continue to self-publish as well. I think I’m getting the best of both worlds.

    I wish you continued success, Cara. Again, great post, and congratulations.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Twenty-six books! Congratulations!

      Getting a newsletter started is tough and takes time, which is why authors should start well before they need to.

      Being a “hybrid” self-publishing some books & going with a publisher for others is definitely an option that works for many people.

  10. Beth Carter says:

    Congrats on your success! I can’t believe you wrote so many books in ONE year. Good for you. I’d love to know what your writing process is (and how I can utilize just half of it!) Right now, I’m enjoying the fellowship of my fellow SMP authors and have learned a great deal from them but I have considered self-publishing down the road. I need to get several titles under my belt first. Also, I’m surprised your costs were so low on the cover art, editing, and formatting. I figured it would be $1,000 or more.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      I write every day. My goal used to be 1K per day, now it’s 2K per day. The revision & polishing process takes half again as long as writing the first draft. If it takes me a month to write the book, it will take another 2 weeks to polish. Sticking to a schedule makes it possible to predict how long it will take me to finish a book.

      Most of my books are novellas — 30K to 50K. The longer the book, the more editing costs. A 100K manuscript could cost $500 or $1000–depends on how much work it needs, the type of editing (content, copy, or line) and how much per word the editor charges. I only get the copy and line editing.

      Cover art is not that expensive. I’ve paid as little as $65 for a cover and as much as $150. Formatting runs $60-80 for an ebook.

      • Beth Carter says:

        Thanks for the info. I do not write every day and go in huge spurts where I’ll get 2-3k words in a day, but then, I’ll skip three days, so I guess it averages out. I need to write more novellas. That was my intention with my current WIP but it’s almost 54k now and I’m not quite finished. I do have several short stories that could be expanded into 30k novellas if I’d just do it! 🙂 Again, congrats and thanks for the helpful information.

  11. QJ says:

    Very interesting blog! I learned so much in reading this.

  12. Cara Bristol says:

    I’d like to add one more thing: marketing costs. I don’t factor in my marketing costs as a self-publishing expense because I used to market my books myself when I was with a publisher. I’ve been at this since 2009. The first few years, with the exception of an occasional $10 Amazon gift card as a prize, I didn’t spend any money on marketing. If I couldn’t get it for free, I didn’t do it.

    The past 2 or 3 years I started paying for marketing. This year so far, I’ve spent $1500. That includes paid advertisements, gift cards, paid blog tours, and SWAG.

    You can market your book for free, but paying for certain things gives you more options. When and what you pay is a personal choice.

  13. congratulations and happy anniversary Cara. I’ve been following you since you took the leap and before of course through wewriwa. Your posts on your experience self publishing have been very informative. Wishing Stranded with the Cyborg many sales. And yes looking at the dashboard is addictive. If you have bookreport its really bad because it updates your sales and has a lovely ka-ching sound effect when you make a sale and leave the window open. LOL

  14. Out of the 32 books I’ve written (I’m on 33 now), I’ve self-published two. I might be too lazy to be a successful self-publisher, as I detest being in charge of covers, paying for editing, and formatting as well as writing the book itself. I’ve done it now twice and find I’m willing to miss out on the extra 10-20% of royalties I’d get from self-publishing. And I like getting advances, which, of course, you don’t get without a publisher.

    I applaud your ability to do all the fine details as well as being an abundant writer. Clearly, you have a system that works.

    Congratulations on your Indieversary, and I hope you find success with it for a long time to come.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      I certainly understand not wanting to handle all the details or just wanting to be with a publisher. I get it. And I’ve seen some Indies barely scraping by and then join up with a publisher and do better than they ever did on their own.

      However, if one has a strong readership, the potential earning power is much, much greater than 10-20%. It can be 100% (double) — even more than 100% if one is savvy enough to maximize other income streams (Audio, foreign rights, etc.).

  15. MaryJane says:

    Hi Cara,

    Congratulations on your indieversary and insights on your self publishing journey. Where did you find people to create cover art, editing, and formatting for only $467.73?
    Thanks for the informative post.

    MaryJane 🙂

    • Cara Bristol says:

      I used a couple of different individuals for the job. I want to state that Irresistible Attractions is a novella, only 35-40K, so it’s short. which means that the editing costs are half of what they would be for 80K novel. Rates vary by editor, by the extensiveness of the editing required, and by the length of the book. You have to price it out by the job.

      For editing I’ve used Wizards in Publishing and Wham Bam Editing. Both are good. WIP also does most of my formatting. For artwork, I’ve used Sweet ‘N Spicy Designs, Mina Carter cover design, and Original Syn. Sweet ‘N Spicy also does formatting.

  16. Congratulations to you on your indi-versary! And thanks for sharing such interesting and useful information, such as the cost you spent on advertising and covers, and your thoughts about marketing. I appreciate the insight into your working process and wish you much continued success with your writing. 🙂

  17. Holla Dean says:

    This is great info, Cara! I’ve been self-published since I started in 2011. At that time I was’t aware there were small online publishers and thought self-publishing was the only way I could go. I’ve had only one book done by a publisher and still don’t know what the dollar outcome for income will be. I’ve done most of my own covers, self-edited before sending to a professional editor, learned to do my own formatting, and done very little marketing. Some books have done well and some not so well. I did enjoy not worrying about the cover and I’m at the point where I’m considering sending more of my books to a publisher so I can write more. Formatting and doing my own covers takes me at least a few days. Sometimes more if I have trouble finding the right images to use. I’m bookmarking this post for future reference on editors and covers. Thanks for the excellent info and congrats on your indieversary!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      If I had had to do my own covers and formatting, I would not have gone Indie. Those are is not things I even want to try to learn. I could probably maybe sorta put together an OK cover, but someone who is more graphically, artsy minded than I can do a much better job. I often do provide the inspiration photos to the cover artist, but when I see what does with them compared to what I would have done, it’s well worth paying for the service. In particular, I love Sweet ‘N Spicy. She did Naughty Words, Stranded with the Cyborg, and Stolen Moments.

      Delegation is my middle name!

  18. Jade Cary says:

    Wow! That is wonderful. I go back and forth with this. I have been asked by my pub to ‘rewrite’ a few books that started to lag in sales. I also write under another name in a completely different genre, so I’m always working that ‘other half’, in which I am an agented author with those added responsibilities, and that doesn’t seem to be serving me well right now either. I may call on you for advice, my darling. You have made quite a go of this with a drive and tenacity I don’t possess at the moment. Good luck with your future as an indie.


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