Caroline Mickelson is the author of multiple titles, including FROM MANGIA TO MURDER the first novel in the Sophia Mancini mystery series. Her website is www.carolinemickelson.com
Tell us a little about your background and publishing history.
I’ve always loved to write, and reading has always been a source of great joy for me. I’ve been published in magazine length non-fiction, but my fiction has been strictly Indie published.
What led to your decision to self-publish?
The decision to follow this path wasn’t motivated by a lightning bolt or any other divine inspiration that this was “it.” In fact, I cannot think of any other decision I’ve made in my adult life that I’ve taken more care and time in making. Prior to being ready to become my own publisher, I believed that self-publishing was an admission that my writing wasn’t good enough. I knew I was ready to go down this road when I realized that my core belief had changed because I believed that self-publishing was my way of saying I was good enough.
How long have you been self-publishing?
I’m just reaching the one year mark. I have to say that every day I become more excited about the possibilities and options available to Indie authors. After only a year, it’s hard to remember exactly what I was so concerned about prior to jumping in. I’m not completely adverse to the idea of a hybrid career, but I’d be completely satisfied and quite happy with a long Indie career.
What were your goals when you began, and how have they changed since then? How do you measure success?
Initially my first goals were to just “do it,” namely to take the first steps towards bringing my book to a market where readers could find it. After the first few sales, I began to see the possibilities and set more goals – chief among them, become the best writer I can be because – wow! – people were actually going to read my books. Amazing!
Did you do a lot of the production process yourself, or did you hire people to do it for you? Were you satisfied with the outcome?
Initially I hired everything out, from editing to cover design to formatting. I still plan on having a freelance editor read all of my novel-length books, and I plan on hiring top-notch cover artists for the book covers. I was very resistant to learning to format e-book and print books myself, but I’m now planning to learn how to do it myself so I can make changes more easily (and affordably). The beauty of being my own publisher is that I can make these decisions project-by-project, and I love that flexibility. I wasn’t satisfied with the first two book covers for my debut mystery, despite the fact that the first two cover artists I contacted were very talented. They just weren’t the right ones for this project and “okay” wasn’t good enough. I wanted fabulous—why settle for less?
How have you spread the word about your work?
This has been the most challenging part of being my own publisher. Not difficult per se, not impossible, not even frustrating…but challenging. I’ve tried Kindle Select, a bit of social media, and a few book blog tours. It’s difficult to measure what works or to what degree it works, but there’s no need to know right up front. I’d highly recommend networking in person or online with other Indie authors to learn what has worked for them.
What has been the most effective thing you have done to promote your books? What has been the least effective?
I don’t know, quite honestly. Kindle Select worked great for a novella I wrote, but not nearly so well for my mystery. There are so many variable factors that I can’t control or even identify, that I can’t say. I remind myself often that promotion isn’t paint-by-the-numbers, and that is okay. There’s no shelf life for my books or threat they’ll be pulled off the shelf and destroyed, so I will keep learning how to get the word out. I did purchase two ads that I didn’t think were effective at all, so, at this point in my journey, I won’t be advertising until I have more books.
How did your Indie sales evolve? What should a new Indie author expect?
My sales have grown slowly but steadily. While the slowly part isn’t thrilling, the steadily has been encouraging. I would highly recommend that new Indie authors have high hopes and amazing dreams for their sales and success. I’d also caution them to mind their expectations though as these can become quicksand. This journey varies from day to day, book to book, and author to author. Flexibility and a pioneer spirit are highly recommended! Expect to learn, to grow, and to have high and lows along the way.
What influenced your decision to price your books as you did?
I have a bit of a split personality when it comes to pricing because I can make an argument for pricing at either end of the spectrum. I do know there isn’t one right way to price a book; it varies from book to book and project to project. I had great success with a Christmas novella at .99 cents, but I tried that price point with other titles and saw no increase in sales. How does pricing affect discoverability? I don’t know. I do know that it’s easy to change prices and experiment, so I do.
What are your top tips for new Indie authors? What do you wish you had known before you started?
Top tip – keep writing! New books will help increase your visibility and income as well. I’d also recommend networking with other Indie writers as you continue to write. I wouldn’t recommend letting your writing take a back seat to promotion; that’s the only trap I suggest you watch out for.
Any other thoughts you’d like to share?
I wish you much success with your writing and publishing journey. I know the opportunity to Indie publish has brought me a renewed joy in my writing, and I wish the same for you!