Today I’m here with Katie Cross – the award-winning author of The Network Series, which seem like an absolute must read for any Harry Potter fanatics or fans of young adult fiction and fantasy.
I saw the cover of Miss Mabel’s School for Girls and was drawn in by the high-quality feel to it. I had to download it at once.
Katie’s story starts with the eye-catching tagline:
Never underestimate the power of a determined witch.
The readers and I promise we won’t. This wonderful hook makes me want to disappear into the story, but today I’m even more excited to hear about Katie’s self-publishing journey.
Me: Hi Katie, thanks for joining me!
Katie: Thanks for having me!
Me: How or rather when did you make the transition from thinking of your writing as a hobby to deciding to go professional?
Katie: In physical terms, it was almost six years ago, when I couldn’t really work as an RN anymore because of my husband’s work situation. (He was an active duty Army Officer then). I’d been writing my whole life, so I decided to go all in. The mental transition into realizing I am an entrepreneur (and how to be one) came more gradually as I learned how to run a business.
Me: Who is your indie author role model? Why?
Katie: I have so many! All of the indies that I know and interact with are my role models—indies have a way of just making things and situations work. We’re entrepreneurs and scrappers. I love it. Although I do closely follow all the big ones, like Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson, Tim Grahl, and so many more.
Me: So, when you first got started what was your game plan? Did you have a specific approach to the wild jungle of the self-publishing universe?
Katie: At first, my goal was to just get content out there and learn how to write the best books that I can. As I’ve built up more books, awards, and content, I’m focused more on honing and optimizing conversions and relationships with my audience.
Me: What were your initial expectations? Would you say you were too optimistic or pessimistic now that you’ve been through the experience?
Katie: I think I went into it with eyes wide open. I knew that it wouldn’t be easy and that traction could be gradual. So I think I’ve been neither disappointed nor naively enthusiastic. Because I’ve had steady growth, increasing opportunities, and new experiences, I’ve felt very successful the whole way.
Me: What would you do differently, if you were just starting the process now?
Katie: I’d start with investing in myself by hiring a mentor. My biggest problems have come from mindsets I didn’t know I had. Once I had someone to really push me in ways I never would have pushed myself, it all seemed to snowball from there.
Me: Ok, it’s time to go into the nitty-gritty: wide or KU? How did you make the decision? Do you think you’d ever switch for a new series?
Katie: From an entrepreneurial perspective, limiting distribution of a product is never a strong long term strategy, and publishing is long term. Having all your eggs in a single basket can be limiting and risky. For me, I’ve decided that my business approach and model really turns around serving my readers. Not all my readers are on KU, which means I need to meet them where they’re at. In other words: I will always be wide. That being said—I have tried KU a couple of times, with varying strategies and books. While I had great success, I didn’t feel it was worth the restriction. Also, KDP keeps changing the rules and slowly restricting or dropping prices. Their ability to just shut an author down without explaining themselves (which I’ve heard happen to several authors who were not guilty of trying to sabotage sales while in KU) is unnerving. Of course, everyone has a different opinion here, and I respect any persons decision to do what works for their business. For my books and my audience, going into KU wasn’t my strongest option.
Me: So, when did you first join Wattpad and what were your publishing aspirations at the time?
Katie: Wattpad was an experiment for me, actually! I met and talked with Ashleigh Gardner at a writing conference and decided to try it out for fun. Instead of sticking with my YA Fantasy brand, I wrote a chick lit book just because it was in my head. I had already published many books, and was trying to figure out if Wattpad would be a good funnel.
Me: In what ways has your Wattpad audience helped you grow as a writer?
Katie: Getting immediate feedback was very empowering and motivational. In many ways, It helped me learn how to serve my audience in every single chapter.
Me: What is the biggest lesson Wattpad taught you, which you then went ahead and used in self-publishing? Any transferrable skills?
Katie: My books had wonderful success on Wattpad, and through other avenues with Wattpad that aren’t readily apparent right now. But in the end, even wide scale success didn’t change much in my life. I learned that even with high reads and purchases, the writing must continue.
Me: Did Wattpad readers follow you over to other platforms like Amazon, Kobo, iBooks? Did they help in other ways during the launch?
Katie: It’s really difficult to measure whether Wattpad as a platform follows or helps with launches, simply because there’s no way to track link clicks or analytics. I did a release solely from Wattpad with one book to test what happened (announcing it there for 48 hours before I announced it to my list) and saw zero sales. I’m not surprised. I hear from Wattpad fans on a daily basis. Some of them don’t even know what ebooks are, and if they do, tell me often that they don’t have access to purchasing an ebook. If it’s free on their Wattpad app where they can interact with other people as they read, why buy it?! There have been a few gems that buy into my series and then come back to tell me, but those are the rare unicorns.
Me: What were your three focus points during the launch?
Katie: Audience, audience, audience. I find when I focus on serving my readers through the right pricing (which doesn’t necessarily mean free or ultra-low pricing), strong email copywriting, and follow up, the launches can go beautifully.
Me: What are your TOP 3 self-publishing resources?
Katie: Podcasts! I’m a mom, so I can get on-the-go publishing information while still caring for my kiddo or walking the dogs. Another one is the timer on my phone. When it’s time to write, I set a timer and am allowed to work on nothing else during that time. (Which means no Instagram or Facebook!) Writing is the absolute priority in my career. And another is finding a tribe of Indies to commiserate with or question whenever I need help.
Me: What would you recommend new self-published authors do first and foremost?
Katie: Find a mentor that knows what they’re doing! If you can’t afford that, just continue to educate yourself on writing, the market, and anything else relating to sales, the publishing market, and more. Think bigger. And always try to uplevel your business.
Me: In what ways do you keep in touch with your audience? Do you prefer Wattpad or other social media or both?
Katie: I haven’t been super active on Wattpad lately, although I do check in every now and then. Right now, Facebook is the go-to for me, with Instagram as a close second. With interacting with fans, however, email is where I get the most.
Me: What are your self-publishing goals for the next few years? Where would you like to see it all go?
Katie: My next big goal is to break the six figure mark for income, and continue building my email list. Eventually, I’d like to see my email list hit the mid five figures. (50,000 is my goal for 2019). And, of course, first of all is my writing. Right now, I have a publication calendar to release a new YA fantasy book every 6 months, and short stories and novellas in between there. Those are my #1 goal.
Me: And I sincerely hope to see you achieve that! Thanks so much for sharing your experience with me today; that was great!