Hallee Bridgeman: Indie Author and Marketing Expert

**Originally published July 21st, 2017.

Hallee Bridgeman is a best-selling Christian author who writes action-packed romantic suspense focusing on realistic characters who face real world problems. And has over half a million sales. Wow. Now wait for it…she’s indie published. If you’ve ever considered this road to publication, you won’t want to miss what Hallee has to say…

What do you like about Indie publishing?

I love being able to write stories that the Holy Spirit places on my heart without fear of rejection by a committee. I know that some of my subject matters are a little bit outside of the norm for mainstream Christian fiction, and that gives me an opportunity to reach a different kind of audience.

What do you dislike about Indie publishing?

I love being indie published and am proud of my success as an indie. However, that comes with a stigma, especially in the Christian reading world, that is hard to shake. So many indie authors toe lines or even cross them, and it’s made readers a bit gun-shy when it comes to trying out a new indie author.

What are three tips you’d give to anyone aspiring to self-publish a book?

Editors and agents say that 80%-90% of submissions they receive aren’t even able to be edited to the point of publication. They aren’t even editable! If you consider that what people submit to agents and editors is truly their best, polished work and that by submission they believe they will be published, then it’s a reasonable guess to assume that 80%-90% of self published books aren’t even editable to the point that they’re ready for publication. So, here are three tips to anyone aspiring to self publish:

  • Learn how to self edit. Read books on it. Do spell checks, do grammar checks, invest in what you need to self edit in a massive way that will revolutionize your writing.
  • Hire an editor. That’s important enough that I’ll say it again. Hire an editor. No matter how good or clean or perfect you think your books are, remember that 80%-90% of authors think that, too. It’s expensive. For a 100,000 word book, you could expect to pay up to $1000 for an editor. That’s okay! Publishers have editors – they pay editors well because the final product is polished by them. Bad editing will destroy a reader’s experience and ruin sales. That investment will do nothing but help you in your career.
  • Unless you are a graphic artist, pay for a cover. There are tips and tricks that trained artists know to use, and experienced artists understand. Readers will judge a book by its cover – and even if you have the best written book edited to perfection, if you have a cover that looks homemade, then you’re going to miss out on a lot of readers.
  • I’ll throw in a bonus tip – for the most part, success in indie publishing comes when you can write in a series. It’s just the way readers read. So, as you’re planning and plotting, try to do it with series in mind instead of individual books.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

I think one of the biggest traps is never finishing a book. According to a survey by the New York Times, 81% of Americans think they have a book in them – only 3% every write one to completion. That is the first step. Writing is work. Writing well is more work. So, finish the book! If you have a finished book, congratulations! You’re in the 3%!

Beyond that, it’s easy to go to a writing class and feel like you’re doing it all wrong, change your process, then read a writing book and feel like you’re doing it all wrong, change your writing process, go into a class and feel like you’re doing it all wrong, etc. Writing is a very personal thing. My style, my method, won’t work for anyone but me. It might inspire ideas in areas another writer could improve – much like another writer’s process could inspire mine; however, allow your writing process and style to grow as organically as possible. If you’ve been called by God to write, trust Him. Let Him work through you and believe in yourself.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I’ve been publishing for 5 years and have published 22 books. I’m sitting at my keyboard trying to think of an answer to this, and I can’t really remember what writing was like back then. I do know that every book I write is better than the one before it. I learn so much every time and my talent has been sharpened over and over again.

What’s the best way to market your books?

Goodreads did a survey to see where people most hear about the books they read. A resounding 96% of them hear about them from  a known author, and 79% from friends offline – friends in person, not on a computer. Social media marketing was way down the list in the teens and single digit percentages. Basically, the best way to market is to grow your readership and have a street team who tells their friends about your books. Having a free first book in a series – if it’s an amazing book that’s well written with compelling characters – will drive readers to your series.

One of the most important marketing tools a writer has is the newsletter. People who sign up for your newsletter want to hear from you. They’re seeking information about your books. If I only had an hour a month to devote to marketing, I would focus only on a newsletter.

What does literary success look like to you?

Our publishing company’s desire is to not measure our success by the world’s yardstick (fame/fortune), but by the world’s Ruler (Jehovah God.) If I only sell one book in my career, and that book ends up in a dollar bargain bin in Pocadilla, Idaho, 20 years from now and someone finds that book and is led to Christ through it, then I have found success in the eyes of my Ruler. I go into every book prayerfully, asking the Holy Spirit to speak through my fingers on the keys. Every book I release is bathed in prayer and supplication. In return, I receive almost daily emails from readers who have found a new, stronger, better, renewed relationship with Christ or a new, stronger, better, renewed faith journey. That is my success.

Do you have any last thoughts to share?

Indie publishing isn’t for everyone. It costs money out of pocket, it requires some level of technology intelligence, and it is a lot of work. You’re the writer and the publisher. If it’s for you – wonderful! Write the best book you can write, get it edited professionally, and enjoy the creative freedom that comes from being your own boss!