Amber Jaeger never thought she would become a full-time author of young adult fantasy novels.
“I took some creative writing classes in college while I was getting my nursing degree, but I kept going with my degree because I felt like nursing was a good, stable field.” But that’s as far as it went, at that time. She had a good job, a husband, and two young children; a change of careers into the uncharted territories of fiction was not in her plans.
Still, she could not shake the urge to create. “I started writing while I was working nights as a nurse, but I never really did anything with it at the time.” Amber said she would scratch down ideas and notes on any little piece of paper she could find. “My husband would find them all over his apartment.”
Then Amber read a fiction novel by an indie author and thought, “Hey, I could do that.” So, she began crafting characters and weaving plotlines, in between work and caring for her family. She also started researching different possible publishing outlets. “I started doing all this research and then I came across Joe Konrath’s blog and thought wow, this is really a possibility. And then I came across Amanda Hocking, she’s one of the indie queens, and I read on her page how she did it and I’m like, oh, maybe I really could do this.”
Finally, in August of 2012 using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, Jaeger published her first novel as an indie author, Falling, at 29 years old. Winter’s Dream, the follow up to Falling, was published in October of that same year. Amber was ecstatic to see her books available to anyone in the world who wanted to read them.
“I think the first check I got was three months after I released Falling, and it was for $10, but I was so excited about that $10 that I was jumping up and down screaming.”
Then she began the books that would truly let her rise in her craft, the King series. The King series is an ongoing collection of fairytales being twisted and retold as young adult fantasy novels. “After I wrote The Cold King, that’s when things really blew up.”
In an unexpected twist of fate, Amber’s nursing position was eliminated and she was left wondering what would be next for her. “Shortly after that I got a royalty check and I was like, wait a minute, I could live off of this. This is actually doable. So I stayed home with the kids, we didn’t have to do daycare anymore, and I set up a home office.”
Since then, Jaeger has never looked back.
Amber describes building a novel to be almost like building a body. “The first draft is kind of like building the bones, then after that, you go back and add the muscle and flesh. Then the last draft is all the details, like the hair and eye color. It sounds like building a corpse, which is terrible, but that’s really what it is.”
Many young authors are able to reach people today they could never have in the past, thanks to KPD and a few other companies like it. Ten years ago, being published without a good agent or some kind of ‘in’ into the publishing industry was extremely difficult, if not impossible. Now, those doors have opened, giving authors and readers alike a completely new world of information and entertainment to explore.
There are still the naysayers, though, those older authors who are convinced that traditional publishing is the only way to achieve success. The newest Amazon sales numbers argue the point on their own, however. According to the May 2015 Author Earnings Report, published by authorearnings.com, independent authors make up an astounding 38% of daily e-book bestsellers. The ‘big five’ published e-books have fallen to only 29%, and their numbers are continuing to drop. Some estimates predict the big publishing houses will lose another 10-20% of the market in the next year alone. Sadly, publishers are trying to compensate for this deficit in sales numbers by raising the price of their e-books.
Amber is indie all the way. “I would never pursue it [traditional publishing] for a lot of reasons. I control what I write, when I write it, how I write it. I choose who I want to get feedback from, people that I trust, not just random people trying to sell a story. I don’t have to change character names [based on a publisher’s wishes] I can make the covers or have them made. And part of it, I’m not going to lie, is the money. I make enough money off my books that I don’t have to work as a nurse anymore, and that’s huge for me.” As an independent author, Amber has total control of her sales, her prices, and can easily interact with her readers, something traditional publishing just does not offer. “I think that adding in a middle man would cut out my control, cut out my money, and that would just be really stressful.”
Indie powerhouse author Hugh Howey, author of the Wool series, was making a monthly salary of $150,000 as an independent author before he was approached by several publishers for his series. He was so successful that he walked away from their offers and promises of huge advances. Joe Konrath, whose book sales top three million worldwide, regularly reports on his own sales in his self-publishing blog, offering a humbling and inspiring insight into another successful independent author’s craft. Now, such huge success stories are definitely not the norm, but they should get your gears moving.
So, with all of the publishing opportunities available, if you want to write fiction, or poetry, or screenplays or magazine articles, the time is now. There is not a magical solution, nor is there a formula that works every time. Lots of advice is available online to new authors looking to self-publish, but there is a point where you just need to put your pen to paper. I asked Amber what she would say to anyone thinking of becoming an author. “I’d say just go for it. I always loved reading and writing but I never thought of writing novels as stable life work because really the way it was set up, [authors like] Stephen King were gazillionaires, but all of the mid-list authors weren’t doing well at all…until KDP came out. That would be my advice, try it. What can it hurt? You don’t have to pay anything out. If you have a passion for it, you can get your book written, you can get peers to review it, you can learn how to do the formatting yourself. If you want to try it, just try it, get out there!”
To all the young writers out there whose dreams lay in the pages of a book they have yet to write, just do it! “Write what you want to read, because chances are, somebody else is going to want to read it too.”
Write what you know or write what you love, but write on! Amber Jaeger is the author of Falling, Winter’s Dream, The Cold King, The Fire King, Hunting Season, and by the end of this month, she will be releasing Season’s End. All of her books are available on amazon.com.
Here are some helpful resources for indie authors of all types.
Also, for a great reference and inspirational read, I recommend Stephen King’s On Writing.
Check out Jason’s fiction at www.jnlavelle.com