Jenn’s top tip for aspiring indie authors: Make friends with other indie authors, especially if they write in your genre. It can be tempting to think of them as your competition, but in fact they’re your greatest allies. You can partner up with them to cross-promote through newsletter swaps and giveaways, let each other know about upcoming conventions and podcast opportunities, and just generally get support and encouragement when things get rough.
Jenn Gott is an indie author, as well as a writer for Reedsy, where she posts about books, publishing, and craft advice. So basically, she’s writing all the time. On her few breaks, you can find her snuggling with her cats, watching superhero movies, or designing houses in The Sims.
Find out more about Jenn at her author website: https://jenngott.com
Why do you write? I’ve always been a creative person. Making things up and then finding ways to bring them to life is woven deep into the core of who I am. Over my life, I’ve dabbled in a huge range of hobbies and interests, from drawing to programming to music to Ukrainian egg decorating. Writing stuck around the longest. It’s also the most expansive creative form for me. That isn’t to say that other people can’t create vast worlds with other mediums, but I never got to the point where I could.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? This is going to sound weird, but in another life I’d kind of like to be a mortician! Which I know is not most people’s idea of a “dream job” by any stretch of the imagination. But I’ve always been interested in the macabre, and, like writing, it’s work that seems ideally suited to people who don’t mind spending a lot of time in a small room by themselves.
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Honestly, money. As an indie author, there was technically nothing standing in the way of me publishing my book — but I knew that if I wanted to be taken seriously by readers, and have any chance of being successful, I’d need to produce a book that was at least as high-quality as what they’d see from a traditional publisher. That takes time, money, or (ideally) both, and I didn’t feel like I had either to spare when I started out. It was definitely a challenge.
Why did you choose to be an indie author? For me, there were two main factors. One was, ironically, money. I know I was just complaining about the investment it took to get started, but I also knew that if I played my cards right, I would make it back and more, a lot faster than waiting on advances and royalty checks.
The other big factor for me was simply the ability to retain my full creative control. Not that I didn’t trust a publisher to do the job well, I just didn’t trust them to do it the way I would choose. I’m also a very independently-minded person — I like my successes to be entirely my own, and I’m perfectly willing to embrace responsibility for my failures as well. This all combined to make it an easy choice.
What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Aside from just the joy of creating, I love it when I hear from readers! Getting an email or a message on social media from someone who’s taken the time to read one or more of my books is always such a thrill.
—the worst? The truth is that I really don’t dislike any aspect of writing and publishing. But the hardest part is definitely trying to find new ways to get the word out about my books. Book marketing is an ongoing learning process, in part because the tactics, including how to best influence search algorithms, change so quickly. There are some fundamental marketing principles that will serve you well long-term, but you always need to be open to seeing what’s new, what’s working now — and what’s stopped working. I’ve grown to embrace it and even enjoy it over the years, but it’s absolutely the part that keeps me on my toes the most.
What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Along those same lines, I wish I had researched and understood book marketing better from the onset. I had been told most of the common pieces of marketing advice before, but since I didn’t really understand why they worked, or what the purpose of each suggestion was, it was easy for me to brush off anything I didn’t feel like doing as a waste of time. This was a huge mistake, and one that definitely hindered my ability to reach readers in my early years of publishing.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? When you tell people you’re an author, a lot of them are going to suddenly look at you like they’re starstruck — yes, even when you’re just starting out and are literally nobody — and you’re going to need to get comfortable with finding a balance between being honest (no, really, I’m not topping the NYT Bestseller charts) and not talking down about your accomplishments. Too often, especially for women, we tend to downplay our successes, and there were times after my first book came out where I made it sound like it was no big deal at all, really, you don’t even have to read it, it’s fine. That’s terrible marketing! But if you’re a newbie and embarrassed about your low sales to start (even though everyone has low sales to start), it feels weird to have someone suddenly get all flustered that, oh my gosh, they’ve just met a real life author. You need to learn to respect that people are genuinely excited by your accomplishment, and that it is an accomplishment, even if you’re not where you want to be yet.
What’s the best advice you were ever given? This is on the craft side of things rather than the business side: have a place where you can just free-write thoughts about the project you’re working on. This can be a journal, or just a file in your notes, or a series of emails to a friend you don’t mind telling all the spoilers to, but it’s important to be able to “talk through” your thoughts as you figure out the details of your story and characters. Especially when you run into snags, having an unstructured place where you can just write out things like: Okay, if I do plot point X, it means that Character B suddenly knows way more than she should at this point in the story. But plot point X really needs to happen here, because… And then just keep writing through the issue until you have (at the very least) a better understanding of where the problem really lies.
This has been far and away the most helpful tip I’ve gotten for untangling my messy outlines and drafts!
How important is social media to you as an author? Probably of medium importance? From a purely marketing perspective, it’s not the best way to gain new fans, but I’ve always enjoyed it for its ability to connect me with both readers and fellow authors. I’ve made a number of good friends through it, and these connections allow me to be part of the bookish community in a way I’d definitely miss if I weren’t on social media at all.
That said, you should only dip into as much social media as you’re comfortable with. People can absolutely tell if you’re there because you want to be there and connect with people, or if you’re just there to push your books. You don’t need to always be the most active if you’re shy and introverted (goodness knows I take frequent breaks and hiatuses!), but make sure that when you are there, you’re present and engaged.
Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Yes, of course. In my opinion, “writer’s block” is so polarising because, although we use a single phrase to describe it, we’re actually talking about a variety of different things that all lead to the same, surface-level result: making it hard to get work done.
Instead, I think it’s important that we understand what’s causing our so-called “block” — because the thing that will unblock you in one circumstance will make the block worse in others. As a quick example, if you’re stuck because you’ve realised you made a misstep in your story, taking the tough-love approach and forcing yourself to continue even though you’re miserable will only lead to a messy draft that may well write itself into a corner and worsen your misery. A break here, to clear your head and approach the problem fresh, could easily help. On the other hand, if you’re just feeling tired and unmotivated, allowing yourself to “take a break” can easily lead to a downward procrastination spiral.
So for me, I always try to identity what kind of “block” I’ve run up against (motivation, plot or character struggles, distraction, mental health issues, laziness, fear, etc.). Then I plan a path that will allow me to get back on track the right way.
In three words, how would you describe your writing? Vivid. Fun. Devastating. That’s the goal, anyway! Up to readers to see if I’ve managed it.
If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life?
Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ve only ever read Big Magic, and even though I don’t agree with everything she wrote in that book, I’d really love to sit down and pick her brain and compare our ideas on creativity and what it means to live a creative life.
by Jenn Gott
As the creator of a popular new comics franchise, Jane Maxwell knows a thing or two about heroes, but has no illusions of being one herself. All of that is shattered, however, when she finds herself swept into a parallel world—one where her characters are real, and her parallel self is their leader.
There’s just one problem: that Jane is missing.
Under the growing danger of a deadly new villain named UltraViolet, the team has no choice but to ask Jane to do the impossible: step into the suit left behind by her double, become the hero that they need her to be. But with budding powers that threaten to overwhelm her, a family she only half-recogniSes, and the parallel version of her dead wife staring her in the face, navigating her alternate life proves harder than she ever imagined…
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w?ean=2940158789236
Apple Books: https://itunes.apple.com/book/id1261935002