Meet the Independents: Dixon Reuel
Research suggests self-published authors represented up to 34% of eBook sales in 2020. The number of independently-minded authors who chose to do-it-themselves is increasing. This is despite the limited financial revenue. According to ALCs, seasoned self-published authors or those who have been writing for at least 20 years, typically earn less than £10,500 annually. Notably, the top 10% of authors account for 70% of the total revenue in the industry. So, if we’re not going to be the next Neil Gaiman or Stephen King, why do we do it?
As a writer, we are bound to ask ourselves the same question at some point: should I aim for the traditional publishing route of submissions and agents and publishing contracts - or should I self-publish? To inform that decision, I asked some well-established #indieauthors to tell me about their journey.
I wanted to include Eve in this series because of her focus on not just her writing - but her role as a writer too. That role is central to good #indieauthors. It requires self-awareness, courage and commitment. You need to know your strengths and the areas you want to develop as your writing career develops. Eve joined us in the British & Irish Writing Community where she helped us develop our social media profile. I learned a lot from her. You'll see from her interview how this focus manifests itself in identifying a 'writer profile'. Look at her answer to Qu.11 - her greatest success. "My greatest success is that I have written." Like many self-published authors, I didn't realise the importance of that concept. Eve helped me appreciate how incredible it can be to bring a book to market. Read her interview, you will find more gems of wisdom.
1. Tell us who you are and how we might have read something by you.
Hiya! I’m Eve Power from Dublin, Ireland and you might have read some of the Blood Brute series under my pen name, Dixon Reuel!
2. Tell us about your journey as a self-published author. Where did you start? What lessons did you learn along the way? Have you reached your destination yet? Are you motoring along quite happily, trundling down a country lane or stuck in a lay-by?
I had always wanted to be a writer, but thought it entirely out of my reach unless I was picked up by an agent and landed a decent publishing deal. One day, I came across a post on Reddit by a 7-figure self-pub author outlining what was involved in their success - and the rest is history!
In terms of lessons learned along the way, the main one is to never, ever, ever give up! And never stop trying new things, accepting with humility that you don’t know everything, and to keep educating yourself on all the aspects of indie publishing. You never know what’ll cause your next breakthrough!
I most definitely haven’t reached my destination yet of becoming a full-time author but I get closer each passing month! Trundling along, quite happy :)
3. Have you experienced any part of the traditional route? Have you submitted to agents and publishers much? Emotionally, how have you reacted to these experiences?
I tried to publish traditionally when I was first staring out, subbing to agents and publishers but, honestly, I was far too green-eared and it was farrrr to early in my writing career for that. I think a lot of beginner authors see agents and publishers and the trad way as the only way. Only later, with time and hindsight, did I realise that indie publishing is much more suitable to becoming a full-time writer.
4. What was the defining moment when you said to yourself, “I’m going to self-publish!” What prompted it?
I’d always pooh-poohed the idea of indie publishing, even when on writers courses when an actual full-time indie author sat in front of me! :D It’s that thing, isn’t it? Sometimes, what you need stands up and hits you right in the face! It wasn’t until I read that Reddit post about indie publishing that I decided to give it a try.
5. Writing is a lonely business. Self-publishing even more so. Does this isolation affect you? How about things like ‘Imposter Syndrome’? What gets you out of these bleaker moments? How do you cope with it? (Do you cope?) Do you have a support network that helps you?
Ha ha, I’m literally the worst person to ask this question. Isolation is bliss for me and I become very focused and industrious when there aren’t other people around.
As for Imposter Syndrome, I’m human, of course I’ve felt that way. But lately, I just shrug it off and don’t give such thoughts a single ounce of my energy or time. Worrying that you’re some kind of imposter is silly when your writing ideas, your plots and characters, they’ve come to you and you alone. Not me. Not Phil. So, you’re not an imposter at all.
If there’s ever a bleak moment, it’s usually down to short-term thinking. I like to take a bath, listen to some music, and in the morning that long-term perspective returns.
6. A self-published author has to be a jack-of-all-trades, don’t they? They likely employ an editor and cover designer but the other jobs are down to you. I’m talking stuff like marketing or IT. What lessons have been learned here? Which jobs do you hate? Enjoy?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned regarding book marketing is just to stop pressurising yourself and just BE yourself - have a chat online, be relatable, be humble, help people if you can, show off your writing if you like, let people know what you’re doing. Soooooo many people seem to hate social media, but it’s letting you access millions of people around the world for free–you never have to be lonely, you can find advice at the tips of your fingers. The sooner you embrace it, the better at marketing you’ll be.
I know now to spend money on two things: covers and editing. You can learn to do the rest and do it on a shoestring budget. I still can’t stand reviewing hardcopy books when they come in the post, though. Like, I wrote this book already, lol! Next!
7. Time, effort and commitment. Following on from that last question, you don’t have anyone to do the work for you. (Or do you??) How do you find time when Life isn’t getting in the way? How much time per week is involved, on average? How does it fit in with the day job? What level of commitment does it take – and how do you sustain it?
For the first two and a half years of indie publishing, I did it on top of a full-time legal job. Thanks to the pandemic, I could work from home for some of that time. Then, as I published more, I went down to a two-day week and sold my car, all so I could concentrate more on writing.
It’s no burden now, writing/living this way is a true release from a lot of pressure. Juggling writing and full-time work is no joke and I honestly have no idea how I did it. I had to make and break so many promises to people, purely because I was overwhelmed writing and releasing two books a year. It’s honestly not sustainable. If you want that author career, really examine where your time goes and the expenses on your plate.
8. A self-published author has to be enterprising, an entrepreneur. Does the commercial side of the role come naturally or are you rubbish at the business side of things? What are the struggles here?
I’d like to think it comes naturally! Well, I think more so it comes from being a fan, being a nerd, going to cons, adoring graphic novels and illustrations and taking notes from the comic book industry, of all places. When you’ve genuine love for an IP and have been a fan (i.e. having been on the other side of the desk / writing page), it’s easy to be enterprising. You’re a fan at heart and naturally want to spread that around.
9. Self-published authors are independents. They retain control of their work. Tell us about one specific part of what you’ve created that reflects this independence. I’m talking about things a traditional route might not have allowed or advised against. It might be a book itself, its cover, a character, a setting etc.
Oh heck, the whole kit and kaboodle! Where do I start? I knew from the off with Blood Brute that no trad publisher would be interested in a series about gay vampires struggling to save humanity and themselves from a zombie apocalypse. Like… from a debut author whose background is in poetry? No way!
It was honestly great, though, setting up the series, deciding on covers, where the story should go and loop back on itself. I don’t think I would have gotten such leeway at all with a trad publishing deal, if Blood Brute were ever considered for it.
10. How important is your IP? Your intellectual property. You retain it, as an indie author. Is that important? If so why? Can you tell us about any plans you have to develop it?
IP is sooooo important and I’m delighted to answer a question about it! So many writers think their book is their book and that’s about it until they write the next book. But IP is a whole WORLD of your book, ready to explore. It is so important to realise and, indeed, capitalise on that if an author wants to.
In terms of developing Blood Brute’s IP, I’m very much the kind of person who keeps their mind open to opportunities and possibilities, but also who waits and sees. It makes no sense to, say, start churning out merch if the reader base just isn’t there! At the moment, I’m focused on finishing the series, getting it out into the world in paperback, hardback, then audio … then omnibus editions, then complete collections - keeping an open mind is key, I think!
11. What is your greatest success? (In whatever context you choose to define).
My greatest success is that I have written. I’ve always wanted SO BADLY to be a writer and thought (especially living in Dublin, literature capital, like!) that it had to look a very certain way - speaking at literary festivals, winning particular awards, having X or Y person at your book launch.
But, for me now, success is that I’ve four books out in the world at the time of writing this. Number five is out in December, along with a super secret project coming in September. Like, I’m a writer, you know? That’s success.
12. Tell us about what you’re working on at the moment.
Aha, so many things! September brings the launch of something special that genuinely warms the cockles of my little writer heart! Then Blood Brute Book 5 releases 1st December 2022! Then! 2023 brings Blood Brute Book 6 and some more special releases - watch this space!
13. Will you always self-publish? If an agent or trad publisher came along and offered you a contract, would you take it? What goals do you have in mind for your future? Or do you take it a day at a time?
I think if an agent or trad publisher was open to representing/working with a hybrid author, then I would absolutely be along for the ride! But I think such people are few and far between. I’ve been approached by agents who get rather wide-eyed when I express that I’d still want to indie publish my own stuff, outside of a current contract with them.
In terms of goals, it is to become a full-time author. Not millionaire author. Not famous author. Not award-winning author. Just someone who can pay the bills with their words.
14. You may have seen from previous posts in this series, I've focused on issues for #indieauthors. (Like today's post and how Phil takes about the commercial side of things. So many writers struggle to understand how best to use social media. Could you talk about how you use it? As someone who, in my opinion, understands the principles better than most?? If not, don't worry.
Haha, I don’t know what it is about writers when it comes to marketing, their brains often fall out of their heads! Lol! I’ve literally seen writers on Twitter go “Buy my book!” and in the very next tweet they complain that no one bought their book. It’s like … where’s your joined-up thinking?
Anyway, I think a key to success is “If you want to be loved, be loveable”. No whining on a public platform - we all complain now and then, but nobody wants to follow or hear from or support the town complainer, either.
Be open to conversation. Chat to people. Offer your insight. Don’t grandstand or show off. Get creative with your social media images: spend an hour on a site like Canva with your book covers and see what cool graphics you can create. You can’t just open a Word doc these days, type 100k, then whine no one’s buying!
Just like every other author included in this series, Eve talked about how traditional routes wouldn't have enabled her to write the story she wanted to write. Her work is so inventive (and with such beautiful prose) that it doesn't fit in the neat boxes publishers and agents like to use. It straddles them. Dystopian. Vampire protagonists. Zombies. Romance. LGBT theme. Yet, as the reviews of this series show, well received and popular with the reading public. You can see why #selfpublishing was the way to go. It facilitates creativity and innovation in ways that traditional routes will stifle.
But I need to return to the point I raised at the start - the value of focus. The importance of knowing where your strengths are and what else you need to learn.Eve shows us that it's not just about learning how to write. It's learning how to be a writer. A complex role which requires self-awareness, courage and commitment. I, for one, will forever be in Eve'e debt. She helped me understand the value of that role. And, to keep reminding myself of it, when self-doubt plagues you. Thank you Eve! :)
To find out more about Dixon Reuel: