Kendall Ryan started off by writing YA and tried the traditional publishing route at first. This was before Fifty Shades of Grey made headlines. Deciding to plunge into the romance genre in 2012, Ryan decided to pursue Indie publishing, a path that had been tested with headline-grabbing success by a fair number of authors. Using marketing strategies such as free book downloads, music play lists, and author appearances, Ryan paved her path to success. Today Kendall Ryan is a New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author with many romance titles to her credit.
When did you get started writing and why did you decide to self-publish?
I began writing in the fall of 2010 on a whim, enrolled in creative writing classes, read books on crafting plots, and developing character arcs. My first novel, a trunk novel as some would say, was a historical romance. I was reading great young adult fiction, Divergent, The Hunger Games, books by John Green and Gayle Foreman, and became inspired to write YA. I wrote seven YA novels in a year, signed with an agent and began submitting my work to publishers. At this time self-publishing was not as popular, and still had somewhat of a stigma attached to it, so it wasn’t immediately on my radar. I ended up receiving two offers from small digital-only publishers, and turned them down. I wanted to wait for something bigger.
It was in 2012 that I started seeing amazing self-published books by Abbi Glines, Tammara Webber, and Tracey Garvis-Graves, and then later, the literary world began buzzing about a very adult romance called Fifty Shades of Grey. I decided that while I was waiting for a traditional publishing deal on my YA work, I would try my hand at writing an adult romance and self-publish it. I wanted to take matters into my own hands, just like the authors I admired. I wrote my first adult novel, Unravel Me, in sixteen days, had it edited, designed a cover, and posted it to GoodReads. Within hours, hordes of readers around the world were adding my book to their shelves. I was amazed. I hit publish a short time later, and was unaware at the time, that it would completely change my path.
What’s been the most pleasing or revelatory aspect of self-publishing for you?
Hands-down, the most pleasing aspect is the control. I decide my price, release date, cover, promotion, everything. I like being in charge of my business, because for me, it’s not just the creative side of writing that I enjoy, but the business aspects as well, and I see myself as a publisher.
Your work in the romance genre has been wildly popular. What is it about this genre that has been especially successful in the indie space?
I think the accessibility to books at great prices has made romance very popular in the Indie space. Romance readers are ravenous. I should know, I’m one of them. We want a constant, steady stream of new material to devour. Also, the ability for authors to try new things, take risks that traditional publishers might not be willing to take, has created exciting, fresh material in this genre.
What has been the most difficult aspect of self-publishing?
The most difficult aspect for me is probably just keeping up with the pace at which everything moves. At any given time, I’m generally working on 2-5 books. One I’m plotting, I’m writing one, editing another etc. It can become difficult to keep up, especially when I’m writing multiple in multiple tenses. My readers have a healthy appetite, and God bless them for it. As long as they continue to want books from me, I will keep writing them.
What is your advice to other writers considering self-publishing?
Learn the craft first. I think there’s so much more pressure today to do it all at once. I think it’s most important to hone your craft first so you can write the best book possible. Learn why you should use adjectives and adverbs sparingly and how to work in back story before you’re focused on gaining Twitter followers. In many ways, I’m grateful self-publishing wasn’t readily available to me when I first began writing. I would hate to think that some of those horrible first drafts were published for all the world to see. It allowed me the time I needed to learn and explore so that I was ready to share my books.
With so many other romance indie authors out there, how do you carve a niche in the marketplace and how do you differentiate your work from the rest?
My focus is on writing the best book, and I try not to worry too much about what others are doing. As far as differentiation, I’m always brainstorming about fresh, exciting, edgy concepts in romance that might not have been explored yet. Those are the kinds of books I crave as a reader too.
What marketing advice do you have for new Indie authors?
The first step is to find your audience. Do you write thrillers? Gluten-free cookbooks? Or romance like me? Find influential bloggers and readers in your genre, and engage with them authentically. The best kind of marketing is word-of-mouth and organic. Become part of the community. Paid advertising is something I've done as well - again, locate the most relevant channels, but nothing beats the relationships you can develop directly with your readers.
Have your tried to go the traditional publishing route?
Absolutely. I’m what you’d call a hybrid author, because I do have several traditionally published books including My Love by Design series with Atria, as well as twelve titles with Harper Collins UK. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience both the Indie and traditional routes.
Poornima Apte is a Boston-area freelancer with a passion for books.