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#148 From Traditionally Published To Indie: A Success Story, with Keri Arthur

I’ve always trusted myself. I’ve always written what I want to write and gone in the direction I want to. I’ve never actually had much input from the publishers that way. So that really hasn’t changed. I’m still using the same beta writer that I always have. I’m still with my same crit. group so you know none of that has changed. The way I work really hasn’t changed from traditional to self publishing.

Keri is a best selling paranormal and fantasy author. She has won several Romantic Times reviewers Choice Awards and a career achievement award. Most recently, she won the Australian Romance Readers Association best Fantasy Novel for 2018.

During our chat we talk about the following:

  • the importance of your author brand
  • the advantages of going Indie
  • being in control of your career
  • marketing
  • writing the best book is still the best marketing tool
  • Demon’s Dance
  • the importance of writing series
  • overwhelm
  • covers
  • and more…

You can find out more about Keri and her books here.


Read Full Transcript

Mel: Today I have with me Keri Arthur. Keri is a best selling paranormal and fantasy author. She has won several Romantic Times reviewers Choice Awards and a career achievement award.

Keri: I had my first book published in 2000 with a small press in America. I’ve been writing for 18 years now, with twelve years as a full time writer which is pretty amazing.

Mel: And you’ve got to be up to close on 40 books.

Keri: I think I’m 43 now.

Keri: I did write for 10 years before that with no success.

Mel: And you’re now full time Indie

Keri: I am. I had no choice in it but I am.

Mel: I think that’s a bit of a story in itself because clearly now when I think I looked on your fan page or the fan page you were right up there with Sherrilyn Kenyon. You’ve got about 30000 fans on your fan page. Yet traditional publishers have decided that paranormal fantasy isn’t selling anymore. And so you’ve had to go into that. That in itself is a great story isn’t it.

Keri: It is and it was a combination of my publisher and the New American Library who did the dark fantasy and the urban fantasy for Penguin Random House. They merged with Random House and Random House decided to close it down. I was then shoved across to Berkeley to do mainly romance and who didn’t really know how to handle fantasy or urban fantasy. So arcs didn’t go out and know I wasn’t the star at Berkeley that. I didn’t have that support at Berkeley as much. It’s just sales figures. So of course if you’re not getting the sales then they don’t want you. So they dropped my contracts two years ago. They finished the books I’d handed in late. They decided to release those but the series themselves were dropped and I was forced to go full time.

Mel: The thing that attracted me as usual were your covers. You’ve got the Lizzie Grace series that’s happening for you at the moment and you’ve got Demons Dance which I absolutely love. These Books are really taking off for you.

Keri: They are. I guess I was actually surprised how how well, particularly the Lizzie Grey series is doing well. But that again is the genre most known for it. You know when vampires and werewolves in which it is a magic star. That is basically what I’m well known for the fantasy series isn’t quite doing as well but it’s doing OK.

Mel: I’m guessing that this is the start of something really amazing for you. Are you excited to be I guess treading the indie path. Now I know there’s lots of marketing which we’ll talk about in a minute and branding and all the rest of it but does this liberate you in any way.

Keri: I find it it’s just so amazing having that control. I love the control of being indie. I can I can choose my own covers. I do my own blurbs. It’s Just it’s just amazing having that control. I can put out books when I want to, not when the publisher wants. I’m finding it very freeing.

Mel: You’ve gone from two books a year with gone with your publisher and I know you’ve got an agent we had an agent and we’ll talk about that as well but you’re now doing four books.

Keri: I’ve done four books this year. I don’t know if I’ll do for you next year. I may only do three because hoping working nonstop to get those four books out and I’m actually I’m too into next year already. So. Yeah I might just take a little bit easier and just see how things go.

Mel: These books and ninety thousand one hundred and twenty thousand words long. These are big novels are and an awful lot of work.

Keri: Most of my novels are crime novels sit around magic and witches and where works and everything.

Mel: Urban fantasy and urban fantasy is vampires werewolf mythical creature set in a modern day urban setting.

Keri: According to the publishers that doesn’t sell anymore. But in indie it’s huge.

Mel: Whereabouts do the young Lizzie Graysons sit?

Keri: They’re paranormal cozy mysteries. Basically they’re witches and a werewolf reservations solving supernatural crimes.

Mel: The Riley Jensen series were bestsellers. The Kingdom of Earth series with Unleashed.

Keri: Unlit was the first one curse is the second one, Curse, is out. It’s it’s one of those things you really don’t know what it’s gonna sell like or how it’s received until really the second one comes out. Because in Indie it’s just you know you’ve got to wait for the series thing and patience.

Mel: You’re new to indie publishing you are totally going from a standing start to having a publisher and agent looking after you to hitting hitting the ground running.

Keri: Not exactly, about four or five years ago my agent started doing self publishing. So I gave her the manuscript and she she formatted it and edited it never been like that and then put it out for me because I just it’s it all sounded like too much work for me. So I thought I’d just shove it after her and let her do it all. And and then when I lost contracts I thought now I’ve got to do it myself because I was getting a little frustrated about the delays. Like if there was a corrections needing to be made or anything like that I couldn’t do it straight away and that was frustrating me. So I decided hey do it all myself. I’ve got lots of mates doing it. So I had a lot of help get it and get my head around it all because it’s a big learning curve when you’ve come from a traditional background.

Mel: There is an awful lot of what I guess overwhelmed with the marketing side all indie indie publishing, isn’t there?

Keri: Yes there is. Oh there’s a lot of places marketing had a market doing courses and everything like that. I mean I’ve always been a big believer in the fact that your best marketing tool is your next book. You know and you’ve got to write that next book. And I’ve never spent a lot of time doing marketing. I mean I’ve got I’ve got Facebook Twitter. I’ve got my Web site. I send out newsletters. I do that. But I haven’t done a lot of advertise ment or anything like that because I just I’m not convinced it makes. A lot of difference unless you throw a lot of money at it. And I didn’t have that money sir.

Mel: Dean Wesley Smith in the indie sphere everyone that says you’ve got to have your pie. And the more slices of pie you have on the shelves the more customers you’re likely to bring in. Does that mean getting the rights back to the 43 books that you’ve already written.

Keri: I will never get those rights back. The Riley Jensen series. I think I burned out on seven of those books now but they’re still selling so well I will never get those rights back. And the other books are still selling just enough that. I may never earn out on them but I’ll never get them back.

Mel: Will people still be able to buy them?

Keri: Yes, back and buying more because they’re all still selling. So they’re all still on the shelf.

Mel: Now you’re a hybrid author it means that people can buy the stuff that’s already out there. But now that you have total control you can actually use your writing will explode because you you can choose the direction and you’ve already got a few series.

Keri: I’ve got the two series happening and I’ve got two more in the background that I know the ideas in the head that I desperately want to write but I’ve got to do the ones that I’m writing at the moment. nd talk about the marketing and and you know it all. All in all it’s stuff that’s involved in writing and then just print all of it. And John recon was all genres. Sadly I don’t think they’re doing it anymore. It was a Brisbane conference. And I I think they stopped doing it but it was all genres and all discussions and it was just fabulous. And it’s just it’s good to get out there and make your tribe.

Mel: And that’s one of the secrets isn’t it. I notice one of the things that you said is write the best story you can and hope to heal the readers find you.

Keri: There’s two different types of conferences, the writer conferences and then there’s the place like Supernova. Do supernovas twice a year usually I have been doing it for years and then you know that the fantasy comics books TV conventions. And that’s that’s where you can find a lot of writers. They’re great fun.

Mel: We talk with everyone about how marketing is difficult. But the marketing side you know can be overwhelming. But this is the good side of marketing. This is where we get to be downright fun.

Mel: It is the best Supernovas I do. They’re just two days of meeting people talking people mad costumes and yeah they’re just such great fun. And it’s a good way of getting yourself known and your books Narn without doing too much.

Mel: It’s a really great way to I guess make a community and its community that seems to be the single biggest way of building a following nowadays isn’t it because even social media has become overwhelming. People find you like you and love you. You can quite often have a fan for life.

Keri: Yes. That’s why I’m a big believer in Facebook private Readers groups because it’s a good way of getting all your posts and information and giving sneak peeks and they’ve been like that. Whereas the the general Facebook pages fan page that I’ve got. Not everyone. I mean I’ve got 30000 close to 30000 people on that. But you know maybe a thousand or so people will see a post. Whereas with the private groups at least everyone sees your post which is it which is good.

Mel: I notice all all all the writers that I see now they’ve all they’ve all got a fan page. They’ve all got their own reading group. And that seems to be the latest on Facebook. But I’m guessing that will change as well because nothing ever stays the same.

Keri: Facebook is always changing the rules. They’re a pain in the rear.

Mel: Now you heard something I was reading I was reading the Carol of a fan page and it’s got this six sentence Sundays.

Keri: It’s just a group of Australian writers who every Sunday put six takes teaser sentences and only six days a sentence out of either a current book or a book that’s coming out. It’s just a way of everyone getting together and sharing little snippets to try and interest rates.

Mel: I read a little bit of yours trying to trying to do my research. And one of your books and I thought it’s very easy to lose yourself in a good read isn’t it.

Keri: Yes it is. I love there’s nothing better than reading yourself losing yourself to a good book. Not that I do a lot of it at the moment unfortunately because I’m writing so much but yeah once things calm down a bit I’m hoping to get back to the writing.

Mel: ‘ve got a sentence here and it’s when the church bell tolls thrice in the middle of the night. Evil this way comes and I when I’m hooked. I love evil and I love your research books and if you had to talk about bloodthirsty brutal and bastardry or what comes to mind yeah I’ve got lots of good creatures I can tell you about.

Keri: I love my research creatures and I think I think that’s why John Russo still sells and it may not be this genre that sells in the mainstream of what women are going to read romance. There’s nothing wrong with because I’ve got a lot of makes it right up there and I actually love it. It’s a good easy to read but that’s all you see in the bookstores.

Mel: Paranormal still sells in e-books, doesn’t it?

Keri: Well not according to my publishers because that’s one of the reasons they dropped me because my sales were you know 20 percent or something here but people won’t by e-books republish because they charge too much. But as an Indie they’ll pay you 99 cents at a drop of a hat. I try to explain that to the buyer it’s their fault they’re not selling not theirs because it’s eleven ninety nine for an e-book you know.

Mel: Indie books have gone up from two ninety nine was the going price now now falling for ninety nine no one even quibbles about it.

Keri: And you think about it you’re sitting there you were typing away you really working hard for a hundred and twenty thousand words for ninety nine is tricky. I’ve got shapers three ninety nine and that’s for the first little easy series I just for all the work you put into a book I think you’ve got to have a decent price on it. Not for ninety nine is fair I think for all the work. That we put in know and the paying for the decent editing and proofing and copy editing and covers a lot of work goes into a book.

Mel: There’s no difference now between tread and indie publishing as far as a reader is concerned. Indie publishers are justice professional they often use the same editors and cover designers I’ve got to tell you your cover designs really stand out to me so I’m assuming you have an excellent designer.

Keri: I’ve got three different designers. I do. I love the guy who did the curse cover. I absolutely love. I’ve actually blew the cover up into a big poster selectors and put it on my wall because I adore it. He just caught it and I’m going to tell you that Demon’s Dance coming through as well.

Mel: I love I love big books I love sagas I love series that that develop characters over time and I think Lizzie Lizzie Grace is starting to become quite a character. How many will be in the series?

Keri: I tend to write until I feel there’s nothing more to write. I did that was a rather Jensen series. I hit book nine and I thought now I’ve made this character suffer enough. I can’t do any more believably to her if I if I kept going. It was just for the sake of the money basically. So I ended it. The publisher were horrified by the my decision and were trying to get me to write more but it was just it felt right to end that line. So. I never actually decide beforehand how many it was gonna be. It’s just I will know you know whether it’s seven eight nine whatever books I will know when it’s win at the end when I’ve got nothing else to write about it.

Mel: And I think this is the one thing that really stands out with me with the indie publishing trusting instinct running with your story doing what you know is best for your characters and editors and publishers always always can improve things and they always do and it’s great to take their advice and and follow them I’m not saying don’t do that. But when it comes to a career as a writer you’re the one who knows what direction you want to go and how you want to control that career.

Mel: If you had the choice to go back to trade now and please let publishers with me. Would you let you do choose to keep control of your career.

Keri: If I went back to tread. It would only be on a part time basis. I’m loving the control too much to ever give it up fully. But the traditional publishers will not let me control anything if I went back to them. I’d have to be handing control that book back over to them because I’m not. I’m not a big enough name you know. Ah yeah. Hybrid is what I’d be if I had to go back.

Mel: Now there’s an awful lot of writers making an awfully good income everyone to do well in trade publishing you’ve got to be a top name author to get the good advances and to stay on the shelves for a long long time.

Keri: I got let it be said that I got good advances sa you know I survived for 10 years on my advances.

Mel: You paid off your house with your writing.

Keri: I did. I paid off two houses with my writing.

Mel: Not only have you paid off two houses with your writing you have traveled extensively – lucky you have attended the Romantic Times conventions over the years. And you’ve also been to Ireland.

Keri: I love Ireland. I’ve got Irish ancestors. Yeah it’s just it’s just beautiful. I love it. I went this year I did a two week tour around Ireland and then I went on onto a cruise and cruised around Norway for two weeks. Yeah that was this year’s trip. And I would have to say that the Irish are the best at storytelling and if you do and I’m guessing you have to be with. Which is werewolves and tells me we actually beat the Celtic tradition actually feeds right into that stuff. I Do a lot of research on legends and stuff like that. So I haven’t used a lot of Irish legends but I had great fun researching.

Mel: And and this is again the beauty of the writing life. You are constantly stimulated if you’re bored with your writing then you’ve only got one person to blame.

Keri: In my case if I get bored I kill someone in the store.

Mel: But it is it’s wonderful you can even make things up as much as you want and in you in the genre that you write. I’m guessing the bloody of the mirror.

Keri: Yes there is it like and generally dark urban fantasy which means my stories get very dark and violent but there’s also like the Lizzie Grey series isn’t as dark as some of my stories. There’s a lot more humour in it. The descriptions aren’t quite as violent so yeah. But they’re a bit lighter.

Keri: When I was with traditional I did an easy two year and I was quite happy doing my easy to a year. Yeah I’ve been working non-stop. Aside from the month I took off to go on the curtain and to Ireland I’ve been working my battles basically to find that stimulating do you find that you have risen to the challenge. Well I’ve got to you know I’ve got a daughter in the House and bills have to be paid.

Mel: I’m assuming life will continue to get easier as you establish yourself as I guess an indie careerist. Now you can write a book. Now we’re talking 120000 words he returned 90000 words. You could write that and have it out in three months.

Keri: I can write it in three months. Yes. And then it’s got to go through that all the editing and everything like that. Yes. So I think things don’t change when it comes to the work part of it are different you have to trust yourself more now.

Mel: Or you just rely on independent editors.

Keri: I’ve always trusted myself. I’ve always written what I want to write and gone in the direction I want to. I’ve never actually. Had much input from the publishers that way. So that really hasn’t changed. I’m still using the same better writer that I have that I did. I’m still with my same crit group so you know none of that has changed the way our work really hasn’t changed from traditional to self publishing. And your brand is established. Yes it is. That’s where I’m lucky. That’s where I’ve got the advantage because I’ve got so many traditional books behind me. I’m an established brand brand basically.

Mel: I think even even even as it unfolds I get really excited because like I looked at your website I saw all these series of books and I think I’m going to get my head around this in three I allow three hours for my research. But the more I do oved and the more I looked there’s certainly a pattern. And I think it’s the brand pattern that has come through and people will follow you whatever you do from here on in.

Keri: Yes. Because my my brand is basically strong kickass heroines who don’t take any crap. So yeah that’s my brand and that’s what I’ve always written. Whether it’s dark urban fantasy fantasy or you know cozy mystery paranormal. It’s it’s strong women and and that’s that’s what I write. That’s what I’ve always written.

Mel: Look to me you’re going to be in Brisbane next March at the.

Keri: What is it a market bookmark and sexy book signing sexy. I read that it is a bookmark and sexy but I wrote it down read it. It’s just a one day signing of all different erotica romance fantasy paranormal writers getting together and selling their books basically.

Mel: Right now where can we find you?

Keri: You can find all the links on my website basically. I think it’s really important that we go to say we don’t need people behind us doing the hard work for us because we’re strong capable kickass fighting women who can do it for ourselves.


About the author, Melinda

I'm an authorpreneur, English teacher and podcaster who dreams of a life on the road full of adventures and handsome heroes, whilst making squizillions of dollars in book sales to pay for my chocolate fix. In the real world, I write novels and non-fiction, and offer my expert advice via online courses (as soon as I make them) and writing retreats (as soon as I organise them).

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