Rachel Carter’s USA Today bestselling Black Mageseries started with the 2014 book First Year.A daydream of Carter’s involving a man and woman dueling with magic as a castle crumbled around them inspired the magical realm of Jerar, where 15-year-old Ryiah enters a war school and falls in love with a prince, who also becomes her biggest rival. Young fans of these dark, romantic fantasies have followed Ryiah through four books and a prequel, with the final installment, Last Stand,released in February of this year. At the same time, Carter has traversed the publishing world, acquiring a reversion of rights and rereleasing all the Black Magebooks as a self-publisher able to control every aspect of the world she created.
When did you start writing, and when did you dedicate yourself to it full-time?
I started writing in middle school but didn’t actually sit down with the intention of completing a book until 2013. I finally decided to get serious about pursuing something for me (as opposed to financial stability or personal career expectations).
What drew you to YA fantasy in particular?
I grew up reading Harry Potter (magic) and Tamora Pierce’s Tortall series, so I’ve always been drawn to universes outside of the contemporary realm. At the same time, I also adored a lot of contemporary voices (Meg Cabot, in particular)....When I finally set out to write my dream series, it ended up being a mesh of everything I love best: a traditional fantasy setting with a more modern-feeling protagonist.
What have been some of the benefits you’ve seen with self-publishing?
As an indie, my royalties are significantly higher. I’m also in charge of branding and have complete control over every aspect of the process, from pricing and dates to editing and cover art. Another benefit to self-publishing is you’re allowed access to up-to-date sales numbers with all of the vendors, and this provides valuable insight from a marketing standpoint. No one is going to care as much about making your books successful as you, and if you are willing to invest the time, it can pay off multifold.
How do you approach marketing your books?
I devote a good portion of my time each week to analyzing trends (through blogs/articles/author community posts) and constantly evaluating the ROI of my ads on Facebook and Amazon. I also have a wonderful review team and fan group that help spread the word.
Do you find it challenging to find an audience of younger readers as an indie author?
It’s harder to get a hold of the teenage market as an indie but not impossible. Social media can impact your degrees of success, and unlike other avenues, it requires more organic material and time. I interact organically with my followers. Teen readers (and myself) hate self-promo, and this is something I still see a lot of the indie industry failing to understand. Teen readers might represent a smaller slice of the market for e-books and indie paperbacks, but that doesn’t mean they should be discounted—or worse, spammed.
Can you tell us about what you’re working on next?
Right now I’m working on a YA thriller trilogy, and I couldn’t be more excited! It has a lot of my favorite elements: high stakes, betrayal, a cast of characters you can’t trust, a hot, snarky love interest, a complex heroine, a gorgeous setting, and a villain (or two).
Any advice for YA authors considering small presses or publishing themselves?
Get all of your answers before you sign anything. There are pros and cons to every part of this industry, and the worst disservice you can do for yourself and your career is to make an uninformed or rushed decision.
Rhett Morgan is a writer and translator based in Paris.