About the Episode
Have heard about the idea of Indie Publishing (also known as self publishing) and wondered if it is really worth pursuing? Well, today’s guest, Emily Conrad, shares her journey of first being traditionally published and then moving to the indie publishing model for her last four books. She also shares about the differences between the mindset you have as a traditionally published author and an indie author, as well as dives into things like the investment behind indie publishing. If you are curious to hear from someone who has already walked down this indie publishing road, tune into today’s episode.
About My Guest
Emily Conrad writes contemporary Christian romance that explores life’s relevant questions. Though she likes to think some of her characters are pretty great, the ultimate hero of her stories (including the one she’s living) is Jesus. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and their energetic coonhound rescue. Find her online at EmilyConradAuthor.com.
Emily’s Newest Release
Click for Transcript
Rachel: [00:00:00] The idea of self-publishing is a very intriguing one, but wouldn’t you like to actually hear from an author who’s done it themselves, both the pros and the cons of it so that you really get an idea of what it’s like?
Well, today I have my friend Emily Conrad with us so that she can share her experience of self-publishing. How many novels of it now?
Emily: I’ve self-published four novels and one novella.
Rachel: Four novels, and one novella.
So this woman knows what she’s talking about. She has experienced some successes, some challenges, and she’s willing to share it all with us today. Well, welcome, Emily. I really appreciate you being here with us to share with us all your knowledge.
Emily: Well, thank you, Rachel. Um, yeah, it’s a learning process for me too, so, but yeah, I’ve, I’ve published a couple and I’m happy to share what I’ve learned so far and, and where I hope to go in the future.
Rachel: Great. I have, I have got so many questions for you and we’re gonna get that into that in a minute, but I just wanted to give people a little bit of a more idea of who you are. And so I’m going to read [00:01:00] your bio real quick here, but I don’t wanna miss anything. So, um, Emily writes Contemporary Christian romance that explores life relevant life’s relevant questions, though she likes to think some of her characters are pretty great. The ultimate hero of her stories, including the one she’s living is Jesus. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and their e energetic coonhound rescue. She’s the author of the Standalone Novel Justice and the Rhythms of Redemption Romance Series, as well as a series of short stories, which she emails in the installments to subscribers.
You can learn more about her and her book at emilyconradauthor.com and at the end I’ll definitely make sure to ask you where people can connect with you and buy your books. Sure. That’s good. Awesome. Well, thank you again for being here with us. Um, I just, I would love for you to start. With how you even got to this point where you have so many novels in a novel develop, um, in print where somebody could pick it up and read it.
Like, how did you even get here? What started this [00:02:00] writing journey for you?
Emily: Sure. Um, well it started when I was just a kid. I loved writing stories. Um, and that, that love really started in middle school and took off from there. And I was consistently writing short stories. And the stories through high school got longer and longer and longer
Um, so that by college age they were, they were turning out to be novel length. Um, I was having trouble finishing a novel, um, but I eventually did. And, um, Sometime around there I became aware of A C F W, which is American Christian Fiction writers and entered their contest and started getting more feedback.
At the time I was writing YA cause I had started writing as a young adult myself. Mm-hmm. . Um, so it just kind of made sense to me. Um, and I wanted. To write stories that provided hope, um, in the YE market because a lot of what I was reading, I, I wasn’t very aware of Christian fiction at that point. [00:03:00] Mm-hmm. Um, and I, I wanted some kind of, um, to offer different kind of hope than what I was seeing in the stories that were out there.
Um, thanks to feedback from A C F W and then I got a professional critique and after that, um, my querying of agents went much better, . And, um, in 2010, I signed with my first agent, um, for a YA manuscript, um, that made it to a pub board. So that’s, you know, where they’re making decisions, Are we gonna publish this, are we not?
So it’s kind of the last step there, but it didn’t get picked up. Um, so it was time to move on to a different project.
Rachel: So how did you make that decision to move on?
Emily: Well, it had been rejected , you know, like we, we were kinda through our options for that. Okay. Um, so the, my agent had a few publishers that she was trying to sell it to and, um, she was a, a good agent, well established, and [00:04:00] generally speaking, they’ll sell to the larger, um, like the big five publishers.
Mm-hmm. . Um, and so we had kind. She was feeling that there wasn’t a lot of space for YA manuscripts. We didn’t have a lot of options for people that we could propose this to. Right. Um, so we had been through those and what she felt were the good options for the book. And she, because of how small Christian YA was, how it needs to, and it still is.
And it still is. And I, I’m not trying to discourage anyone from that because I still believe very strongly, you know, that teenagers need hope. Oh, they do more than the rest of us. Right. Or at least as much as the rest of us. They need hope and, um, I’m a strong believer in, in fiction that provides that. So, um, but for me, what my agent was recommending was that I start writing for adults.
Okay. Um, so at that point there was a little bit of an adjustment period, like getting my feet under me trying to figure out, um, what I was gonna write [00:05:00] next.
Rachel: Were you welcoming to that or were you like,
I like young. You, I like young adult fiction. Like, I don’t wanna do, like, was there resistance in your soul?
Emily: A little bit. I was intrigued by it. I like the idea that there was more opportunity. Um, I felt unqualified. I was a pretty young adult myself at that point. And now I’m thinking like, well, this was 2010. So how old was I, ? Um, I was, I was probably around the age that my characters would be then I don’t mm-hmm.
It just, it was a mindset change. Um, right now I’m dealing with something similar in that I am, um, trying to write characters in a different age group. Mm-hmm. and, uh, so they’re early 50 and I’m like, I just need to make sure that I have their thought processes right. Because I don’t wanna misrepresent this.
Mm-hmm. . Um, so switching to writing it, An intimidation factor for sure. Um, and my [00:06:00] agent and I had a hard time landing on what my next idea should be. Ideas have always been the hard part for me. Mm. Um, ultimately, um, we, we ended up parting ways and I think that was, in part, I was a young writer and I didn’t have a lot of experience and I was having trouble coming up with a, another good idea, , you know what I mean?
Like mm-hmm. . And so, um, I think I needed some time to regroup and, um, so that’s, that’s what I ended up doing.
Rachel: I can imagine like you pour your heart and soul into this one story idea and you like, want it to succeed so badly and then to have to one, grieve the fact that it’s not gonna succeed and then have to change gears into something you don’t feel qualified to write.
Like there’s gotta be some, a little bit of adjustment period that you’re gonna go through.
Emily: Yeah. Yeah. And, um, Yeah, I just, it, it was early on and like I said, ideas are the hard [00:07:00] part for me. So like, coming up with these new ideas and they just weren’t, And I think even as a person, I think I just, you know, I had more to learn and more to grow , which is unfortunate and nobody likes to hear that.
And I would’ve been probably offended to hear that back then, you know? Um, and I, I have more to learn and grow now too, which, you know, that’s, I’m, I can be a perfectionist and that’s hard, but we have to, um, you know, do we can let that get in the way of the progress then, you know? Yeah. And getting the feedback that we need and, um, adjusting to the new ideas of like, well, it could like this way, you can do it this way, but what if you did it this way?
And maybe, um, And maybe that’s where success will be for you. Like maybe that’s the direction. Um, so trying to learn to be flexible and go with it. Um, so I, at that point, I, I wrote Justice. Um, I [00:08:00] was my agent. I would say. One last gift she gave me, um, was as we were trying to come up with ideas that I could write about, she suggested like, what about a modern day fairytale retelling?
Like something where like, because coming up with a new idea, it was hard for me. Right? Like, what about taking an old idea and making it new? Like, would that Yeah, that makes sense. So around that same time, I heard Liz Curtis Higgs speak mm-hmm. . And, um, she. has these stories where she kind of did that. Um, I
Rachel: She’s the one about the, about the women of the Bible, right?
Like the bad women of the Bible? Yeah,
Emily: yeah, yeah. And so she has a book called Un Unveiling Mary Magdalene. Okay. And so in it, it’s like half nonfiction and half fiction. Mm-hmm. So she’s got like the study on Mary Magdalene and what we know from her, from scripture. And then she had this modern day story of a woman, um, and a pastor and the way they were [00:09:00] interacting.
And it was, it was taking some of that inspiration from the biblical account and setting it in the modern day. And I really, that’s really loved that idea. And so that is what I ended up doing with Justice, um, which ended up being my debut novel. Um, so after I had that written, I did find another agent. Um, we sold the book to a small press, um, and that came out in 2018. Um, so I, we, I signed the contract in 2016,
Rachel: so it took the two years to get out.
Emily: It took a long time, , and a lot of that time,
Rachel: I, I was gonna say, did you, did you, But you probably had the novel already completed, Right? Because typically they ask you. Yeah. So what did you do for those two years?
Emily: That’s, that’s what happened next. I started writing about rock stars, um, I was feeling a little bit disillusioned. So, um, like I [00:10:00] said, 2010, I believe is when I signed with my first agent. Um, so we’re already years in the future.
Rachel: Yeah. You’re like eight years down the road.
Emily: Yeah. Um, and so that, I signed that contract in 2016. Mm. Um, there were some unknowns at that point. I didn’t realize it, The book wouldn’t come out until 2018. Mm. Um, I found out. My launch date was March of 2018, but I didn’t find that out until maybe October of 2017. Whoa. Okay. So that whole time, and I mean, that’s some, yeah. Communication issues in there, you know, like that’s, that’s a little bit of the experience that I had, um, with the small press.
But during that time I was writing other stories and I was feeling a little disillusioned and a little discouraged. Um, and let’s see, I’m trying to think of how this all happened [00:11:00] because I did write a couple other contemporary manuscripts between Justice and, um, the Rockstar Books, which are the ones that I’ve self-published.
Rachel: Um, when you got that con, when you got that contract, did you feel like the ideas were starting to come? Like, did it like open up the flood rates that like, almost like validation, like, Oh, somebody, Or did it just like, it just was that you needed to write.
Emily: Well, I’m trying to think of the timeline here. Um, before I even sold Justice, I think I had at least one, maybe two other manuscripts written. Okay. Um, and I have since decided that those manuscripts were pretty much just for me. Yeah. Um, and
Rachel: I have a couple of those too.
Emily: Yeah. But just working through some questions I had, like my, my bio says I like to work through life’s relevant questions, but I think, um, writing for entertainment and writing to work through some of your questions. And sometimes that overlaps and sometimes you end up with a book that you’re like, you know what this one was for me. Yeah. [00:12:00] Um, or with one of ’em it was like, it, it’s a good story, but I can see some things that would be problematic if I tried to publish it or that.
Mm-hmm. , you know, it just aren’t falling into place and I’m not sure that I can go through and fix those. Right. Um, so I’ve got a couple of those in there cuz I’ve finished writing justice in 2014. Okay. Um, and then sold it in 2016 and I was writing about a book a year. Mm-hmm. So I had those, I had two other books in the middle there and, um, After we sold justice, I was talking with my agent about trying to go on to selling the next book or how we were going to go about that.
Um, but while I was waiting to see how things played out with a small press, um, feeling a little disillusioned, I started working on some books that, um, brought me joy and made me happy. And I got this goofy smile and I felt self-conscious because I wanted to write serious fiction, you know, .
Rachel: I know I had that feeling in college cuz I, I studied, created [00:13:00] writing. And I just
remember being in class with these, like, really, like you’re saying like serious writers, really literary type. Mm-hmm. , um, creative writers. And I’m over here with my like, you know, Pop culture that, and I’m like, Oh, I feel like a, like a fraud.
Emily: Yeah. Not a fraud at all. Different audience. No, no. Um, yeah. And so, yeah, I felt some of that too. I studied creative writing in, in college in that, that was my minor. So it wasn’t like I was totally immersed in a master’s program or anything like that. But I did do some short story classes and poetry classes and things like that, so I Right.
I get it. And maybe that’s where part of that comes from, you know, probably like what type of work the people around you are praising, you know? Mm-hmm. Yeah. So,
Rachel: And the kind of works are being studied Yeah. Too in the classes. Right. Like, you’re not pulling Harry Potter off the shelves and, and reading it for, even though there’s a lot to learn [00:14:00] from, you know? Yeah. You can learn about storytelling in Harry Potter. Yeah. Obviously if she didn’t know how to tell a story, it wouldn’t have done as well as it did.
Emily: Exactly. Yeah. Um, there’s something to be said for the stories that, that many people pick up and that many people talk about and are excited about. Exactly. Even for years. Yeah. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. There’s something to be said for that. And a lot of the classics today were the popular books of their day too. Exactly. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. Um, so I kind of fell in love with these, and with these rock stars with the rock stars. Um, I was still, and the women that they love, I was, I was still doing the same thing in that, um, I was taking.
Biblical accounts and kind of being like, what might a modern day parallel be like? So you asked if that, like if after the first one the floodgates kind of opened, and I don’t know that they did, but it did give me a little bit of a scaffolding to like start building things on. Okay. Um, so I had David and Bathsheba in mind when I wrote the first one.
Rachel: [00:15:00] Well, I would think too, like if you are under a contract with one, you’re thinking, Oh, I’m going to be able to get another contract. Like this is the trajectory I’m on, and so I need to have something ready for when they come with, you know, to me.
Emily: Yeah. I decided that I didn’t wanna continue working with a small press mm-hmm. So for me it wasn’t so much that as it was like, what’s next for my career? Yes. Um, okay. But yeah, I have, I have a lot of friends who are, um, who have multiple book contracts or who are trying to get more contracts with a traditional publisher, and they do very much have to be ready to, like, when the one book comes out, it’s time to be proposing the next book and having something new to offer and, um, trying to make sure it’s written well enough in advance that you don’t have to like, scramble to meet a deadline.
Right, right. Um, so that is definitely part of the traditional publishing mindset that you have to keep in mind.
Rachel: Yeah. So you had your, you [00:16:00] you, at this point when the book’s coming out, you had it in your head that you probably weren’t gonna work with a small. Press and, but you had these stories that were starting to play in your mind. What were your next steps? Like, how did, where did you move from there?
Emily: Well, I, I kind of struck out on my own again. Um, so what I tried to do was just the same, um, because by this point it was 2018 or so, maybe two, Yeah. Probably 2018 or 2019. Um, and I was, I was ready to pursue the, the rockstar books, the rhythms of redemption romances. Um, and I kind of went back to the drawing board.
I had been pursuing traditional publishing this whole time, and that was still my preference. Mm-hmm. . Um, so I went back to the drawing board with, um, pitching the agents. Okay.
Rachel: So you had a agent, so you decided [00:17:00] not work with that one?
Emily: Yeah. Okay. And I mean…
Rachel: I know is that, is that, you don’t wanna say anything bad, but like there, at the end of the day, it’s a working relationship and sometimes they gel and sometimes they don’t.
Right. Yeah. And you have to just make that professional decision. This isn’t the right person for me to work with, to further my career. And so you just have to make that decision. And it’s nothing really personal per se, it’s just a business decision that you’re making.
Emily: Very well said. Thank you for that.
Rachel: You’re welcome.
Emily: Um, and there are, there are people I have, I, I talked to people who worked with my agent, um, who enjoyed working. And it worked well for them. Mm-hmm. . And same for, I have friends who are still publishing books with that publisher and they’re enjoying, um, the experience mm-hmm. and what they have to offer.
Um, and so yeah, it’s just, it’s a personal decision about, you know, the vision that you have or, or, um, your specific [00:18:00] goals to your career. Yeah. Mm-hmm. . So, so I, um, went to ACFW pitching my work again, , um, and meeting with agents and, um, had a few requests, fulls and take a look at it. And ultimately one after the other.
Well, that makes it sound quick. It was a very slow process. . Um, I was getting nos. Um, Okay. And some of ’em were close, you know, but for whatever reason they decided, um, to,
Rachel: What were some of the reasons they gave you?
Emily: Um, I think one of ’em said that it was similar to. Something, one of their other clients mm-hmm. had, um, so then it would be like a conflict of interest. Right. Which one do they pitch to a publisher? Mm-hmm. Um, yeah. And, and a lot of them didn’t give like a very specific reason. Um, a lot of them were positive, you know. This is good writing, or I can, you know, this is very polished. Um, yeah. So it, it, there was the one I think who, [00:19:00] who talked about, but otherwise it was just, I, I don’t feel it’s the right fit, which is kind of what, you know, we were saying with the decision.
Rachel: Yeah, true. You know, it goes both ways.
Emily: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Um, so, around that time as these, I had one, um, connection at a publisher, and the publisher, that publisher decided to, um, consider the manuscript even though I was un-agented. I really appreciated that shot at it. Yeah. You know, . Yeah. So it, that was a good shot.
And that’s another thing for aspiring writers who are pitching their work. Um, you can go to conferences like ACFW, you can pitch directly to editors. They may look at your manuscript even if you’re not agented. Right. Um, it would need to be completed. It would need to be, you know, to get serious consideration. It would obviously have to be polished.
Rachel: Right. You have to know what you’re pitching to them. You have to be, Yeah. You have to be sure of the project that you’re asking them to partner with you in. [00:20:00] Yeah. Yeah.
Emily: And so there are opportunities to go directly to publishers. So for, I did have that connection with one and was able to pitch it.
Um, Around that time I started working for an organization called Hope*Writers, um, which is how you and I met, right. Um, and I was figuring out a lot of things for how to run different aspects of, you know, my job responsibilities. There. I was in charge of messaging, um, so that would be anything from automated messaging, um, on Facebook to, um, eventually included emails, but text messages and all these things.
And I was figuring out a lot of how to do that sort of thing. Okay. Um, and I was like, you know, if I can figure things out for Hope Writers, , and I can learn all these different things that I had, I had a background in internet customer service. Okay. Um, but not in the specific stuff.
Rachel: And so not in the whole online market. Area.
Emily: [00:21:00] Yeah. The, the direct messaging I, Okay. You know, like learning, like what are the laws for sending text messages Yeah. and how do we comply with those mm-hmm and still get the message out and, you know, try not to be spammy, try to be Right. Relational. And um, you know, I was learning all of that for Hope Writers and the Hope Writer’s team is incredibly encouraging and positive and they very much have a can do mindset, you know?
Mm-hmm. like, um, I think on their hiring page, I think they still say like, we’re a small but mighty team. Mm-hmm. You know, they really have that mindset. And I was like, you know, if I can figure all of this out, I can figure out indie publishing. So by the time that last No came through from that publisher, I was kind of waiting to see what they said because that would’ve been a great route to go.
Um, and I had always been very intimidated by all the work that goes in indie publishing. Mm-hmm. , um, But when that last note [00:22:00] came through, I felt like I was finally in a place with the resources, um, where I could, I could tackle this, I could do this. Mm-hmm. . Um, so that’s how I made the, that’s a very long answer
Rachel: but I love
Emily: question to my journey.
Rachel: I love that. Thank you for sharing that though, because I think that it is important for people to see that it is a long process, that there is a lot of rejection as part of it. That there are a lot of business decisions you have to make along the way. That it’s not just a, Okay, I’ve made this book now, please publish it and it gets published.
You know, there’s a lot to it. And I think sometimes we think the hard, the hardest part is writing the story and it, it’s just one small piece of this like bigger thing that they ha that we have to undertake in order to get our story into the hands of a reader. And so I think it’s helpful to hear stories like yours because it reminds us that there is work that we’re gonna have to put into it if we want to get it in front of somebody.
And I think. The point you made about that some of those novels you were, you wrote were [00:23:00] for you. And you’re not gonna put that same effort into getting those in front of somebody, cuz they weren’t. They’re not for somebody else but you. But the ones that are for somebody else, you’re gonna be willing to put the work into it to get in front of somebody. But sometimes it can be a really discouraging process. So I do appreciate you doing that, sharing that
Emily: yeah. It can be a long, it can be a long process. And I’ve learned a little, a little bit, like not everybody necessarily tries the traditional route first. Right. Um, and so the journey looks different. And I’m also learning that some of the things that I learned pursuing traditional publishing and thinking then that that was also the way that indie publishing should work.
Um, I have learned like, hey, there’s a different mindset, with Indie publishing and, um, starting to learn those sorts of things too, so that, um, you know, I, I publish books that I am proud of. Mm-hmm. . Um, I am happy to, to present them to people. Um, but I’m [00:24:00] learning too that there’s a, a different way to do it or the indie mindset’s a little bit different, so that’s something that I get to learn now too.
Rachel: Can you articulate what some of those differences are?
Emily: So I went to the A C F W conference just a couple months ago. Mm-hmm. So, some of this, this is kind of a newer realization for me, but I got to talk with some indies, um, who are successful at it and who are just doing things a little bit differently. Um, so coming from the traditional background, I don’t think it’ll surprise people to hear that um, sometimes indie books have a little bit of a hurdle to overcome in people’s minds especially if they’re from a traditional publishing background. Um, indie publishing can have this stigma attached to it that like, these books are not the same quality as the traditionally published books.
Rachel: Well, it’s funny you mentioned that because, um, our mutual friend, Tara, she went to the conference with you, or, well, you were at the same conference.
Emily: She was [00:25:00] super helpful to me, by the way. I met her .
Rachel: Yeah, I’m gonna be interviewing her too, so I’m really excited about that. But she was wearing a, um, on her name tag it, it was something like qualified independent publisher. And I was like, What does, what does that mean? And she’s like, Oh, it means, I’m like, I sold enough copies that I’m like legit in their eyes. And I’m like, Oh my gosh. Like, like that just feels like such a huge, like not slap in the face, but kind of, But it, it’s understandable. You know, it’s like this, like balance between a, you know, there are people who just kind of rush through the process, get something up there, and it isn’t a polished project, but the, what it takes to create and publish a novel independently, there is like this huge process to it. And if you’re doing it well, just the fact that you got it like out there is a, like a big accomplishment and it should be celebrated. Right?
Emily: Yeah. And I, it’s the, to get the QIP rating, [00:26:00] um, I, I was so happy to talk with her because she had the QIP rating. Mm-hmm. . Um, because I have a background in traditional publishing because I had a book come out with a small press.
Um, so for like some of the bigger contests and things like that. Um, in order to enter those, you either need to have a traditionally published book under your belt, or you need to be QIP. Right. Um, and that’s ACFW, but that’s other places too. Um, to enter the Christi Award, you need to have a certain sales track record or a traditionally published book.
Um, so I have a lot to learn about how to sell copies of books . Um, so I will say that, and one of, um, Tara’s biggest takeaways for me was, you know, Kindle Unlimited. And so that is something that I am going to be trying. Um, but I would not be QIP, but I do have, because I have the traditional publishing background, because I have that book, um, I’m able to enter those contests.[00:27:00]
Um, but indies seem to write faster. Um, they write shorter. They,
Rachel: Oh, that’s interesting. I didn’t realize that.
Emily: Well, it’s easier to write faster if you’re writing shorter .
Rachel: True, true. They’re, they’re definitely much more prolific.
Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And, um, I picked up a copy of Tara’s, um, Carol finalist. Okay. And I, I have it and it’s like, it is shorter than my books considerably.
Emily: Like if I ran and grabbed it and like held them all up, you could see the difference. Um, and now, I don’t know.
Rachel: And it’s not like your book is like super long either, right? It’s, um, it’s like a normal, typical, not normal, typical length
Emily: or, Yeah, they’re all in the 90 thousands. Mm-hmm. Um, which I have, I have an editor friend, um, who works for a traditional publisher. And it does sound as though they kind of, in contemporary romance, they actually expect them a little shorter. Um, which I was surprised about, but I don’t think every publisher thinks [00:28:00] the same on that.
Rachel: I could see that. I could see that they would be each a little bit different. I’ve heard somewhere between 80 to a hundred Yeah. On novels. And it really, but romance typically skewed a little shorter. So that makes sense.
Emily: My editor friend also says it’s, it’s really easy to cut like 10,000 words. Like when we get a manuscript, it’s really easy to do that. I was like, Okay, well.
Rachel: She says, she says it’s easy and the writer in us is like, What?
Emily: We’re like, uh, yes. No,
Rachel: every word is important. Yeah.
Emily: But I, I am grateful. I do, I do still hire an editor. Um, Oh yeah. But I’ve learned that there are some things that I paid more for because I was thinking, I want this book to look traditionally published. Mm. Like I want, like if you hold up one and you hold up the other, I want mine to hold its ground.
Mm-hmm. . Um, and that was really important to me, but um, that meant that I ended up paying more for say, my cover than yes. Maybe some of the successful indies are because they’re cutting some costs [00:29:00] there. Um, and it’s not that their covers are bad, they have good covers too. Not bash that,
Rachel: but just it’s a business decision once again. Right. Like it’s this mm-hmm. like we have to acknowledge that, that that’s a business decision as to like, where are we going to put our investment into the product mm-hmm. and what is its impact on the, you know, the profit that we’re gaining from it. And, you know, for somebody cover might not be as important as maybe something else. Yeah. And so they have to make a decision for that book.
Emily: Yeah. It’s weighing the cost. Mm-hmm. , um, more so than the, not. That sounds bad. Um, I, I designed my next cover myself, um, Yeah. Which is something that I see advised never do that.
Rachel: I designed my cover for the guided journal I published last, I think it’s been like a year and a half now, so yeah, about a year and a half now. So, I mean, I designed that cover and I’ve actually had people say like, Oh, it doesn’t look like, you know, you know, [00:30:00] self-published cover. And I
Rachel: Like, there’s part of me that’s like, yay. But then I, I get the fact that like, if you don’t, if you don’t have that natural skill set, you’re gonna wanna hire somebody else to do it if it’s important. Like if that’s something that you value, like you’re saying for you, having that cover look a certain way was important to you mm-hmm. and you felt like you needed to hire somebody to do that. And that’s, that’s an okay decision.
Like you are a business owner in this, in this world, You know, as a writer, you’re also an entrepreneur and you have to make that decision for the product that you’re putting out.
Emily: Yeah. It’s just, it’s, it’s hard to make it back. So, while I was talking to Tara, but by the way, who is Tara Grace Erickson.
Rachel: Yeah, I know. We’re like just Tara
Emily: for anyone. Um, and I told Tara how much I spent on my covers. Right. And so she and I,
Rachel: did she like, fall out of her chair?
Emily: She did not fall out of her chair. She was very nice about it. But, um, She’s like, Well, and [00:31:00] she was telling me what she did for some of her covers and they’re good covers.
Yeah. Um, so she’s telling me what she did for some of her covers and you know, she’s like, there’s a lot of room in between. Like, cuz I had spent a couple hundred dollars on each of my covers and she had spent considerably less. And even just realizing, hey, that was, that was possible. And I think with the traditional mindset, it was like, well you have to spend money and you have to make sure that your product is the same mm-hmm.
Um, whereas with Indie publishing, there can be differences and you can be very successful at that. And it’s not like one is a good book and one isn’t a good book. But, I wanted to create a product that looked the same. Mm-hmm. or that seemed the same. And, um, putting all my focus on that and being willing to spend extra to have something that I felt like looked that way. Um, You almost get this, this mindset where you’re willing to [00:32:00] spend the extra money, but as an indie, you have to consider like, what will it take to earn that money back, You know?
Yeah. And, um, the covers are beautiful and I, you know,
Rachel: your covers are,
Emily: I wouldn’t trade them. Um,
Rachel: your covers are gorgeous…
Emily: I now know what’s possible, you know? Um, and that gives me some ideas as I’m looking into designing future covers, you know? Mm-hmm. So if that’s what it’s gonna take, um, to set the tone for this is what I want in Emily Conrad book to look like mm-hmm. um, then, then that’s what I did. But just making decisions where it’s like, well, is it possible to do like a labor swap to get something mm-hmm. , you know, Um, is it, is it, what sorts of free resources are out there? Um, you know, It just learning to do things a little bit less expensive instead of trying to be like, Well, publishers spend all this money I’m going to do, you know, so that it’s the same. Um, so it’s a little bit different and a different mindset. [00:33:00]
Rachel: Yeah. So what it sounds like is that as an indie publisher, you really need to consider the cost of doing business, like the cost of making the product, and really thinking about that bottom line. Like what return are you gonna get on the investment that you’re making into this book?
And as a traditionally published author, you’re really not considering those things because you’re not the one with the burden of production costs and marketing costs really. Right. Because the publisher takes that on.
Emily: Yeah. They take on, um, the cost. Now, I, I’m happy I did talk with. Indie authors and I’m happy with the way like my editing went and I did pay for an editor. I paid for a proofreader. I had a team of volunteer proofreaders too. Awesome. And I’m pretty sure I, Yeah, typos still make it through.
Rachel: They always do. I was, I worked as an editor for a bit on a scientific journal and um, it would go through rounds, [00:34:00] edits would go through, I wanna four people multiple times. And it still would have an error when it would publish. And it was always so annoying.
Emily: I heard another traditional, a traditional author, well established, traditional author talking at ACFW about her foray into indie publishing. And you know, it was like, well, I paid this much for this and I paid for this and I paid for that.
And I’m like thinking that’s exactly what I did. Mm-hmm. and having talked with some successful indies, realizing like those are some places where you can cut costs in order to make this a more manageable business.
Rachel: The cover is one. What are some other areas you can cut cost? Do you remember?
Emily: I think cover was a really big one for me.
Rachel: I can believe it because I think too, like we think the cover has to sell the book. Yeah. Because we’re also thinking, like, the reality is we’re not really in a market anymore where like a book is on a shelf pointed out at, you know what I mean? People, [00:35:00] people still go to bookstores, but most of the time, You know, browsing online or they hear about this, or that’s their favorite author and they’re gonna buy that person’s book regardless of what the cover looks like.
You know? Yeah. So we, I think sometimes we put a lot of emphasis on the cover and what it’s gonna do for us.
Emily: Yeah. Well, and I do think some people have bought the book. I know some people have bought the books cuz they like the covers.
Rachel: Oh, well that’s good feedback.
Emily: I, I know that they did that.
Rachel: I admit, I totally judge books on their cover. Yeah. Completely. 100%.
Emily: They are important, but it’s just, uh, like thinking like I can have a good cover that didn’t cost $300. You know, Like you can have a good cover without feeling like you have to spend so much to compensate for the fact that you’re an indie. Do you know what? Does that make sense? Like
Rachel: Yes. I love what you just said there. That’s really, you do not have to spend more to compensate for the fact that you are an indie publisher. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That’s really important that, that [00:36:00] people hear that It’s very important because it,
Emily: it’s a hard earned lesson.
Rachel: It is like, well, thank you for sharing it with us so we don’t have to make the same mistakes.
Emily: I think also there are a lot of free resources out there. I can think of a course that I paid, I don’t know, maybe $600 for something and Okay. Um, there was a little bit of fear missing out. There was a little bit of this, like, while I’m in Indie and I need to make sure I do this well, or, but that’s a lot of money to invest and making that back is hard.
And there are things like your podcast and many other great podcasts mm-hmm. that can teach you a lot of the same things, um, Right. Without, you know, you purchasing a course that costs hundreds of dollars and are you going to be able to make that back? I think that there are resources out there for free where I could have learned the same things. And it was on marketing and there are a lot of free marketing resources out there. Oh my goodness.
Rachel: So many, [00:37:00] so great ones too.
Emily: Either way, if you’re gonna buy a course, you’re still gonna spend a bunch of time learning all of that. Um, I would suggest spending the time, um, listening to those podcasts and things, um, and doing some research rather than, I mean, either way you’re spending time true. One way you’re spending a lot of money . Yeah. You know, like, Yeah. So, um, I wish I had taken valid point more advantage and been a little less afraid of missing out on like some secret, you know, that I was gonna learn. I think something you said is really important. Like, this is a business and this is a product that I’m selling. Mm-hmm. and this is what my customers want from me. Not, um, this book represents me. That’s a very dangerous mindset. Yeah. Because if you start putting your identity and your worth in the product, instead of thinking it as a product that you’re selling to customers, and this is what customers expect, if [00:38:00] you start putting your identity there and being like, Well, this is what people think of me and I don’t want them to think whatever about me.
Rachel: True. So, making, making decisions, making decisions based off of what will further, I wanna say the bottom line, right? Like, what’s gonna further your business? How is it gonna continue to be profitable? How are you gonna continue to serve your customer? Making decisions based off of that rather than what will people think of me if I make X, y, and Z decision.
Like even going back to your cover, your reader might want a really well designed cover. A cover that looks more traditionally published. Right. They might care about that. And if you know that about your reader and you’re gonna deliver it to her, right. But if she really doesn’t care, then why are you wasting the money? Yeah. Putting it into the cover if she really doesn’t care about the cover. So understanding what she wants will help you make that decision About what level, Kind of where Tara was saying like, there’s this here and here and there’s a wide range in between the two things, right?
Emily: And not [00:39:00] tying. Not trying to prove something to yourself or to people who did go the traditional publishing route or to, you know, like just trying to serve your reader. Yeah. You know, does this serve my reader? Do I need to do this to serve my reader? And I do think I love my covers and yeah, as I’m talking about this, I, I’ll keep the covers, you know, You know what I mean? Um, I, I can’t bring myself to regret that decision. I love those covers. I do think that they not regret them. Yeah. Yeah. They sold books. Yeah. Were they more expensive than they needed to be? That could be. Um,
Rachel: And that’s where you get creative, right? Like, and every business owner has to get creative. Like my husband is in construction project management, and he puts a bid out to multiple contractor, right? Mm-hmm. like he, he shops around for the best pricing and that’s what you gotta do. Yeah. As a business owner, like we get creative with the ways that we get the thing we need to make our product what we want it.
Emily: Yeah. And I mean now I know how excited I can be about the right [00:40:00] cover and so now I will keep playing with designs and if I hire one out in the future, it’s that excitement that I’ll be looking for again. Cause I know if I feel it, um, I like pretty things, then I think my reader will will feel it too.
And exactly. So now I guess maybe it helps at the bar, so for that I’m happy for it. But yeah, I mean there are different ways to do things in different mindsets. Yeah.
Rachel: So we’ve been talking a lot about being a business owner, being an entrepreneur, as a writer, has that been an easy hat to wear for you or does it kill your like, creative soul to have to think about business decisions?
Emily: It does not kill my creative soul.
Rachel: Some friends of mine who are like, I’m a creative, I don’t wanna think about numbers .
Emily: So yeah, I don’t, I don’t mind. I think, um, I like a little bit of that. I’m not afraid of a spreadsheet. Again, and this is, this is part the mindset that I came into it with, right. Um, but I put a lot of my focus on just producing the best product I [00:41:00] possibly could. Um, this last year, um, so my, my first book came out in August of 2021, My first indie book. Mm-hmm. Um, I’ve put a lot of focus on just producing the best products I could.
Rachel: Um, so you, you put out four books in one year.
Emily: Well, so
Rachel: almost four, right?
Emily: The four books. Remember I started writing this series in 2017 and I was writing about a book a year. That’s right. Okay. So I had most of these written before I published the first one. Okay. And that enabled me to publish them very quickly.
That sense. Okay. So I will be slowing down . Um, some indies are able to write that quickly and. Turn it around and mm-hmm. , put ’em out. Um, I think what I need to do is, um, take some time to learn a little bit more about the marketing side of things and how to sell more books. Um, and that is definitely an area where I have a lot to learn.
Mm-hmm. . Um, so , that’s just I’m, and yeah, it’s just the focus I came into it with [00:42:00] and realizing like it was helpful to hear another traditional author talking about indie publishing at the conference though, because I was like, Hey, I’m not the only one who has gone into it with this mindset. Um, Right. But there’s a whole different approach that we can take, um, that will result in happy readers and success in indie publishing, and I have a lot to learn on that.
So I’m excited about that. I am planning to slow down a little bit. Um, now that the last one, um, October 17th is the last release date for the Rhythms of Redemption series. So once that’s out, I do have, I’m kind of bridging ’em together, which is sort of an another indie thing. Mm-hmm. . So I’ll have carry over characters, um, because readers invest in them and they like to do, see how they’re doing.
And people keep asking me about Tim. Um, so this will be about Tim.
Rachel: I know. I’m so excited for this one. I’m like, Yes. Give us tim’s story.
Emily: Yeah. Yeah. So it’ll, it should be, it should be fun. I just have to learn how to write, like I said, about characters who are older than me. [00:43:00] Um, again, and learn how to do that well.
But, um, yeah, it’s just the next thing is, is probably switching my focus a little bit from, not that obviously I don’t wanna lose quality. Um, well, yeah, no, but, um, learning, now that I know how to put a book out there, um, learning how to do it in a smarter way. Mm-hmm. , um, in a way that makes more business sense.
Um, so that’ll be my next, my next project. I’ll be looking forward to watching your interviews here so I can learn more to .
Rachel: I’m excited. You had mentioned marketing and learning more about marketing. Have you tried any kind of market– like, not have you tried any kind of marketing, obviously you’ve tried something, like of course. I’m just wondering if you found something that worked for you?
Emily: So one thing I did for Hope Writers that I’ve now done for myself is, um, if people haven’t opened my emails in quite [00:44:00] a while, um, I will send them an email and I did this once, earlier this year and I’ll probably do it once, every once in a while.
Um, if they haven’t opened an email and maybe six months or something being like, Hey, do you wanna stay subscribed? If so, here is an exclusive freebie. Oh, that’s cool. To give them a little bit of an incentive to actually open that email and then engage, click to download. So it’s a free short story that I’m not giving out other places.
Um, so if they click to download that, Then they stay on the list and if they don’t click, then um, you know, they’re just not my ideal reader, which is okay, right? Mm-hmm. But I was getting up to the point where I was almost about, excuse me, I was almost about to have to start paying for my email service, um, cuz I had that certain number.
Rachel: And you don’t wanna pay for a dead subscribers, right?
Emily: Right. If they’re not engaged, then I don’t wanna pay for that No. Clear the email list. Yeah. So I cleared it out. Um, and that way you keep the more, [00:45:00] more engaged subscribers who are actually
Rachel: Well, and you bring up a really good point, right. Numbers. I know we can get really caught up in platform numbers, email list numbers, social media numbers, and, you know, sometimes that number can be, can make us feel really good. But if those people aren’t engaging with us, it’s, it’s not really doing us any good, it’s just a number.
Emily: Right, right. So, um, as far as getting new email subscribers, I have used book sweeps.
I have used other group promotions, um, where, you know, you share the promotion with your email list and then other people do the same and you can end up with new subscribers that way. Um, I do have a freebie for my subscribers. It’s a prequel novella to the rhythms of redemption. Um, there’s a food truck throughout the series, and so this is about the food truck owner.
And I wrote it after I after I had written several of the books. Um, but I had pretty much only described [00:46:00] food truck owner just a very little bit. And I said he hated drama. So it was like, let’s come up with this whole storyline where poor Asher, who hates drama, um, falls for one of the Warren twins, but not the one who has declared her feelings for him. So,
Rachel: oh no,
Emily: it’s suddenly in the middle of this drama storm. Um, and so that was, that was a lot of fun and it was a fun way. Then I gave the heroin from book one, some cameos in the story. Um, and it was, it was just kind of fun to build a little bit more on that story world. And that’s my, that’s my freebie now.
Rachel: That’s fun. That’s really fun. Well, before we wrap up our time together, which I can’t believe it’s gone by so fast, this good conversations always do, um, but I wanted to ask you a couple more things. First of all, is there a tool or a resource that you think every fiction writer should have at their disposal?
Emily: I think it’s [00:47:00] feedback from people who are farther in the journey. And when I was first, when I first came up with that idea, cause I knew you were gonna ask that question, I was thinking of like feedback on our manuscripts because that was important to me. Um, early on, like I got feedback from critique partners and that was very helpful.
But after a point, um, I submitted to a contest and then feedback from authors who were a little further down the line, like they came up with stuff that I was like, they are so right. And nobody else like, saw this. Yeah. Um, so, and then eventually I hired an editor to look at my opening chapters and that helped immensely.
I think you get to a point, and I still have critique partners and I still appreciate them. And now I also pay for edits. Yeah. So I think there comes a time when that professional is necessary, but I’ve also learned a lot from contest judges. And so I think like you can get to a certain point where, um, The critiques from your peers are [00:48:00] still helpful, but there are things that people who are further down the line can see, um, that you might not be hearing from anyone else. And that can be really valuable. And now that I’m looking at how to become better at Indie Publishing mm-hmm. , um, learning feedback from people who are making a business of it, who do have that QIP badge, you know?
Rachel: Right. Yep.
Emily: Those people have a lot that they can tell me that I’m not just gonna stumble across on my own
Emily: So, learning that there’s always more to learn from the people who are further ahead of me. So just really looking for those connections and taking advantage of, you know, when you can ask questions and, and doing that.
Rachel: That’s really great. Really appreciate that. Do you have any other, any last bit of advice for somebody who’s trying to navigate all the things as a writer?
Emily: Yeah, just stay, stay curious. I think every single writer. I mean, and anyone, we all have more that we can learn. Mm-hmm. , Um, and [00:49:00] we have to take it one step at a time. There’s only so much we can do at once, but if we stay curious and keep growing, um, you know, we’re going to get there. And I believe God has a path for each of us, and he’s going to lead us on that.
Mm-hmm. , but staying curious is an important part of that because if it’s like, well, I tried it and it didn’t work, or , you know, um, or I did it and it’s, it’s fine. You know, there’s just, there’s just always more that we can grow. Um, and so trying to stay curious and seeing it as staying curious rather than being like, Oh, I did this wrong and I did that wrong.
Like yourself up, um, is self defeating too. So just treating it like something you’re curious about.
Rachel: Thank you for sharing that today. I really appreciate it. I think it’ll be really helpful for aspiring writers who are just beginning this journey, and even those of us who are a little bit further along, who are maybe in the thick of it and need just to be reminded that staying curious and not beat ourselves up for the [00:50:00] moments where maybe things don’t go, go exactly the way that we had hoped for.
Yeah, I do really appreciate that. Yeah. Well, Emily, can you tell us a little bit about where we can find you, your work? What’s coming up for you soon?
Emily: Sure. Um, well, I’m trying very hard to keep my website updated, so EmilyConradauthor.com. Um, you can find out all about my rockstar series, the Rhythms of redemption there, um, and my links to like social media and stuff, email, sign up, stuff about that, free, it’s all should all be there.
So, um, that’s probably the best one stop shop.
Rachel: And you have a book releasing it might. By the time this episode comes out, it might. It definitely will have already released. But can you tell us a little bit about it? Like tell us where we can find it, where we can support you?
Emily: I was ready for this one. It’s right here!
Rachel: Yay. It’s a gorgeous cover. Yeah. They’re, they’re all very beautiful.
Emily: With the sunflowers. Yes. Um, I’m seeing my camera doesn’t look like it’s doing the [00:51:00] colors justice. Oh no. Black and white color cover. Um, there are some pretty colors on there.
Rachel: There are gorgeous. It is. I can attest. I’ve seen it and it is beautiful.
Emily: But it’s called to Believe in You. It is the fourth and final book in the Rhythms of Redemption. Um, it is dealing with a character who burns some bridges early in the, in the series. He is an addict. Um, but he’s a year into recovery when the story starts. And he has a lot, um, a lot of trust to win back, especially because I paired him with, um, an heiress, a rule-following heiress, right?
Rachel: Oh my goodness.
Emily: Um, she’s kinda an undercover heiress. She doesn’t talk about it. She works for Awestruck. Um, she, she was mentioned in a couple of the other books.
Rachel: She’s a social media manager for them, right?
Emily: Their social media manager. And she doesn’t really talk about the fact that she inherited some money, um, from her grandparents. But she was also burned in a past relationship. And so she has a very low trust [00:52:00] threshold and she’s very suspicious of Matt. And I, I can see where she’s coming from. And, um, so she just, she has some trouble with that and he’s a bit of a dare devil. And, um, you know, we just let them work that out a little bit.
We’ve got the more reserved, careful character who has kind of made her way in life by being careful. And then we’ve got Matt, um, who has made his share of mistakes as, as we all do. But, um, he’s still trying to recover from that. So watching those two work that out was a lot of fun.
Rachel: So it’s the last one in the series.
Rachel: Are you sad?
Emily: Am I sad?
Rachel: Well, like that, that coming to a close or do you feel like it’s not quite coming to like you’re done with these four, but you have this other story so it’s not.
Emily: Right. I mean, so Tim gets to bridge the two series, and at one point in the series there is a character who moves out of the area away from the others, and he also has a background role, [00:53:00] um, Okay. In the new series. So he’s kind of on, like, he’ll be in the background of some of those stories too. So we get, like, things are still happening in the same world. Okay. You know, they’re still, they’re still out there. Um, but at the same like, your favorite characters might come and visit and Yeah. I mean, yeah, I, I sometimes think about what these characters future would look like, but it’s like, well, that would be a whole nother book. And people would be, uh, you know, like for now they’ve had their closure and they, they’ve, they’ve told the stories. They need help I to tell through them. Yeah. Um, so it, it feels like a sense of closure I think more than anything. Um, I’ve been working with these characters for five years now. Yeah. Um, so I know they all released very quickly, but for me, um, it’s been longer and yeah. They’re still out there in the world.
Rachel: Which one’s your favorite? Which out of the four books, which one’s your favorite?
Emily: That’s a tricky [00:54:00] question.
Rachel: Oh, come on.
Emily: The first book is the book I fell in love with. Okay. You know, like that’s the book that made me want to continue writing the series.
Yeah. Mm-hmm. . Um, I think even as the series was going, I was learning a lot more about writing and, um, it’s funny because even now I can think of things like, Oh, I could do this differently. Like in the future. Even now that. So I’m gonna always be learning, but yes, um, I was able to apply a lot of the things that I learned by the time I got to book four. Okay. Which I just finished writing like early this year. So to me, I was able to apply a lot of things I had learned and I think that makes Book four pretty strong. I’ve heard you can read it as a standalone, but I also think that if you go into it with some of the background of all the things that these characters have been through together, it kind of lends a little bit more context.
That makes, makes sense. But, um, so I, I like all the lessons that have been applied, like that I’ve learned yeah by book four, so. [00:55:00]
Rachel: That’s great. Well, thank you once again Emily, for coming on the podcast today and sharing with us your journey and your words of wisdom. I really appreciate it.
Emily: Thanks for having me.
Rachel: We’ll meet back here next week to talk more about the business of Christian Fiction. Bye.
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Hey! I'm Rachel and I'm so glad you're here today!
I help Christian fiction writers figure out how they can make an impact and an income from their storytelling while keeping rest a priority.
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And you can learn more about my personal journey here.
One last thing, if you’re looking for a bit more rest in your life, be sure to check out the Rest & Reflect guided journal.