Connie Flynn had several best-selling novels under her belt when critics dubbed her a “rising star” in 1997.
At the time, her novels—including romantic suspense, romantic adventure, romantic comedy and paranormal romance—were published by Harlequin and Penguin. Her second book graced the Waldenbooks bestseller list, and she received a film option offer for her third book.
Then her life fell apart. Between medical issues and a divorce, she needed time off to recover from the turmoil that engulfed her.
“I woke up two years later and realized I hadn’t written a book in a while,” she said. “I wasn’t famous anymore and had lost all my contacts. Paranormal was taking off, and I wasn’t on the onramp.”
She quickly discovered that the publishing industry had changed course during her hiatus. The rules had changed, the style had changed, and she needed to find an alternate route for getting back into the game.
She left traditional publishing behind to become an independent publisher, known in the industry as indie. For the past two years, she’s published her paranormal suspense novels on Amazon.com and said she’s glad she made the move from traditional publishing.
“I suddenly realized that I could write what I wanted rather than what the publisher wanted me to write,” she said. “I enjoy the freedom and control I have.”
But it requires hard work and business skills.
She said four books were the tipping point for her on Amazon.com—when she began to describe the sales volume as significant. Part of the reason is that reviews are a big part of pushing sales on Amazon.com, and people are reluctant to be the first to review a book. It’s the author’s job to make it happen.
She put five to six hours a day into promoting her books when she first started on Amazon.com, less now that she’s more established. She said that took a year. She regularly sees her books on Amazon’s daily best sellers.
With a background in graphic arts, Connie designs her own book covers. If you decide to go indie and don’t have that skill, you’ll need to hire someone to design your covers—along with everything else that traditional publishers handle.
“I run my own business now,” she said. In addition to writing, designing and publishing her books, she closely watches sales. She uses her blog, Twitter, Facebook and other social media for promotion—also known as building a platform.
Her joy, other than writing, comes through helping others succeed.
She recently taught a Bootcamp for Novelists and helped about 20 people develop an idea for a novel and create the outline for it. She’s tentatively set the next bootcamp for November 2. She also teaches at Mesa Community College and has taught in the Maricopa County community college district for over 10 years.
“I love it when one of my students gets published,” she said.
Her best piece of advice for a new author is to write a good book, and to make sure you love the story—because you’re going to be with it for a long time. Writing a good book means learning and practicing the core elements of novel writing, which she described as plotting, character development, structure and conflict. Those are all courses that Connie teaches.
She also recommends setting a writing routine. “Otherwise, it’s easy to let it slide.”
And, for everyone—but especially for indie authors—she recommends learning about business. She follows the business advice of Bob Parsons of GoDaddy.com.
Connie will be presenting more about indie publishing at the annual WriteNow! conference of the Sisters in Crime Desert Sleuths chapter in August.