Friday, January 19, 2018

How Authors Can Build an Indie Empire—What You Write Matters

by Traci Tyne Hilton @TraciTyneHilton

*disclaimer from Traci. This series is about following rules. I know that indies don’t have to follow rules. That’s the whole point of being indie. But indies who pay attention to what rich and famous authors do, have a much better shot at fame and riches.*

Russell Blake taught me his guaranteed method to building an audience for your work. It starts very simply: Give readers exactly what they want.

I could end the blog there, but like me, you might need help figuring out what readers want.

What Readers Want
1. Readers want a sympathetic character to follow through a series of adventures. They want someone with strengths and faults who triggers their mirror synapses—they want to be able to see themselves in the main character. In romance this looks like a leading female who is pretty when she has time to fix herself up, kind-hearted, but strong to fight against her adversary. Someone whose strengths aren’t recognized at first, behind the stresses of her daily life. You know the type, I’m sure. Readers want to follow this character from book to book. You might argue “But not in Romance!” and you wouldn’t be totally wrong, which brings us to point two.

2. Readers have genre expectations. You remember in school being told you can only break the rules once you know them. This is true. Study your genre! Spend hours and hours reading the most popular books in your genre so you can understand what they have in common. Then, if you really have to break the rules to tell your story, you will at least understand why readers might not love it. If you want to build an indie empire, don’t chose to break those rules. Example: Cozy Mystery readers adore small towns. If you want to hook ‘em good, give them what they want! I set mine in the Big City. I’m sure I broke other rules, too. I’m not perfect. But when you break a rule, you’ve got to understand there will be sales-consequences.

3. Ha. I tricked you. Point three is just more of point two. STUDY YOUR GENRE. You can’t just tell the same story everyone else is telling. You do have to stand out, to break the rules a little, and to make your mark with your art. While figuring out how to meet your reader expectations, also figure out how to surpass them. Does your genre lean towards shorter books? Give them longer ones! Seriously. I’ve never heard anyone say they wanted less of a book they loved. [If it was written well.] Are three red herrings usually enough? Give them four. Are love triangles a necessity in your work? Make it a love tangle instead, who says only two boys can love one quirky misunderstood girl at one time? [Side note: I don’t write much romance, check this example against the experts before you put it into practice!]

4. Point four is actually just the conclusion, but I promised myself I’d only write numbered blogs from now on, so I have to number it! There are five more key ingredients to turning your love of books into an empire, but this is the most important. If you do not have a foundation of books that meet and exceed reader expectations, following a main character they adore, you will not get wild, dream-like success from any of the other steps. If you want this: you’ve got to do what it takes to get it.

Coming soon: Part 2 How you Advertise Matters

How authors can build an indie empire - thoughts from @TraciTyneHilton on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

What I write about matters - wisdom from @TraciTyneHilton on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Traci Tyne Hilton is the author of The Plain Jane Mysteries, The Mitzy Neuhaus Mysteries and the Tillgiven RomanticMysteries. Traci has a degree in history from Portland State University and still lives in the rainiest part of the Pacific Northwest with her husband the mandolin playing funeral director, two busy kids, and their dogs, Dr. Watson and Archie Goodwin.

More of Traci’s work can be found at

Don't Miss the Other Posts in the Series
1. How Authors Can Build an Indie Empire—What You Write Matters

2. How Authors Can Build an Indie Empire—How You Advertise Matters

3. How Authors Can Build an Indie Empire—How You Release Books Matters

4. How Authors Can Build an Indie Empire—What You Write Matters


  1. I am not an indie author but your advice is solid and helpful regardless of genre and conventions.
    I loved this post, Traci.
    Have a blessed weekend.
    I am already looking forward to part two!

    1. Thanks so much! When it comes to financial success it really does pay to play by the "rules" :D This series is six parts long, so I hope you stick around and enjoy it. :D