Write, Market, Repeat: An Indie Success Story
How a prolific author took control of her career by going indie.Author Susan Wittig Albert has some straightforward advice for aspiring writers: “Write. Write a book. Write another, and another after that. Writing is a craft. It has to be learned. It can only be learned with practice.”
The author of more than 100 books, Albert still makes time for raising cattle, sheep, geese, ducks, dogs, cats, and chickens (not to mention gardening and fiber crafting) on her 31-acre farm in the Texas Hill Country. She writes five or six days per week, handling publishing and marketing chores in the mornings before turning to her works in progress: “[I take] breaks for lunch, laundry, and for sweeping up Molly’s fur bunnies.” (That would be Molly Maguire, Albert’s elderly heeler.)
Albert has written several mystery series, including the China Bayles garden-themed mysteries and the historical series the Darling Dahlias, the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, and the Robin Paige Victorian-Edwardian Mysteries, which she coauthored with her husband, Bill Albert. She has also written numerous standalone books.
Albert’s path to self-publishing was a winding one. Her writing career began when she traditionally published an academic book in 1973. Albert then worked as an author for popular YA properties throughout the 1980s, writing under various pseudonyms. She has published her adult mysteries with Avon, Berkley, and Scribner. But when she had trouble placing a novel titled A Wilder Rose in 2013, Albert decided to veer off the traditional publishing path and launch her own publishing imprint, Persevero Press. A Wilder Rose, which was rejected 33 times, has gone on to sell 70,000 copies and has even been optioned for TV. Albert has published two other historical novels under her imprint: Loving Eleanor (2015) and The General’s Women (2017).And Albert isn’t looking to return to traditional publishing anytime soon. “Beginning in 2019, I will be publishing new work exclusively under my imprint,” she says. She isn’t shy about using outside expertise, however: “I currently subcontract the copyediting, page design, and cover art.” The independent book publisher and distributor Greenleaf Book Group handles Albert’s book printing and distribution. She also has an agent, Kerry Sparks at Levine Greenberg Rostan, who handles subsidiary rights.
Albert says that since launching Persevero Press, she has gained some critical insights into the self-publishing market: writing a great book is just the beginning—quality cover art and book design are critical. Publishing in both the digital and print-on-demand formats has also been essential for Albert. And there’s the nitty-gritty of marketing. She advises writers to “market the hell out of yourself and your project,” then, “repeat, repeat, repeat.”
Of course, few authors produce the number of books that Albert has. She counts her natural curiosity and love of research among the driving forces behind her prolific outpouring: “I write about what I know, what I want to learn, and what I think will interest readers. These things naturally find their way out of my life and my reading and into my writing—I just follow my nose.”