Credited with helping to start the new-adult genre—novels aimed specifically at older students and early 20-somethings—Jamie McGuire’s influential self-published works have all become bestsellers. Her first romance series started with the popular Beautiful Disaster, released by Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books, but for many of that book’s sequels, her popular Maddox Brothers series, and her several young-adult thrillers, McGuire chose to self-publish. By being more flexible and staying in touch with her readers, McGuire has built an indie empire for her loyal fan base filled with good girls gone bad and post-apocalyptic thrillers.
What advantages do you continue to find in indie publishing?
Mostly control. I don't have to get permission to release a teaser or book cover. I can change pricing when I want and update any metadata at any time. I'm still making the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal as an indie, so that hasn't changed. I recently got the green light from the designer of the original cover for Beautiful Disaster. Had it been self-published, I would have released a special edition for my readers, but Atria decided not to go in that direction.
Your books have a lot of staying power on the bestseller lists. What do you think helps them to achieve this consistency?
I'm not great at promotion. I think the staying power is due largely to a loyal fan base. My books became popular by word of mouth, and people who want everyone they meet to love a book as much as they do are the audience my stories continue to attract. My readers don't just buy my newest e-book. They buy the paperback, the hardback, the audio book. My readers are more than passionate. They're collectors. I've offered “Mrs. Maddox,” a Beautiful Disaster short story, just as a treat for them. It doesn't benefit me at all. It's a gift to my readers for supporting me over the years.
You are credited with helping to pave the way for the “new-adult” books. What do you think about how this genre has developed, and what drew you to write for this specific age group?
Six years ago, I didn't know what new-adult was, but looking back, yes, Beautiful Disaster was one of the first, because publishers were certain readers wouldn't buy books with characters in that age group. I didn't know that because I didn't ask. I would love to see fresh storylines and characters in new-adult, more diversity and subgenres like my book Apolonia, a dark, sci-fi new-adult romance. I like writing NA because it's more mature than YA but not adult. I feel like that age group can get away with making more reckless mistakes than a high schooler. I love reading about characters experiencing real life for the first time.
Your YA post-apocalyptic book Red Hill is a departure from the Beautiful series. Why did you want to create something different for a younger audience?
It's not out of the ordinary for me to write different genres or ages. I just write what I want, what interests me, and zombies and the apocalypse definitely interest me. I just finished the first draft for All the Little Lights, a dark YA. My next series is the Crash and Burn series about the Alpine Hot shot crew we met during the Maddox Brothers series. The first novel is titled Trex, named after the main character. He's somewhat of an enigma, and I can't wait for readers to find out who he really is and what he’s doing in Colorado Springs.
What advice do you have for first-time authors publishing independently?
Write something fresh, something readers will ask their co-workers or book friends if they've read. Throw out everything you know about how books are supposed to be written.
Rhett Morgan is a writer and translator based in Paris.