We all know that self-publishing can sometimes have a less-than-desirable reputation.
It might seem like it’s impossible to make a career out of being a self-published author.
I even thought as much – until I started following Jenna Moreci on Youtube.
This author has not only given me countless pieces of advice via her Youtube channel, Tumblr blog, and even just chatting, but she has paved the way for self-published authors by proving that you can be successful and write books for a living – even if you self-publish!
For those of you unfamiliar, Jenna Moreci is a self-made full-time author and Youtuber. She currently has two novels published, each the first in their respective series.
(YES! Her books are even in bookstores and libraries across the country!)
When Jenna’s not pumping out incredible books, she’s over on Youtube giving out some of the best advice for writing and self-publishing out there. Her Youtube channel has amassed over 147,000 subscribers – and climbing rapidly.
This growth has granted her many opportunities – two of which are extremely high-quality marketing classes on Skillshare.
One is all about building a platform and fan base as a writer and the other details the process of having a successful book launch – something she did only a few short months ago in April when she released her second novel, The Savior’s Champion.
Let’s kick off this interview so you can learn how you can also create a living through your books!
Tell us a little bit about your career as an author – how did you get to where you are today?
Well, I wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid. I basically decided when I was 6-years-old that this is what I wanted to be, and I guess I was a very tenacious kid because I just stuck with it.
But, you know, especially back in those days – back in the 90s – there was kind of a stigma around creatives and starving artists.
So, people weren’t super supportive. They were like, “Don’t you want to be a doctor, don’t you want to be a CEO?” Things like that.
And eventually, that kind of talk sort of wore me down and by the time I was in college, I sort of figured writing would be something I did on the side – something I did for fun.
So I went to college for business instead. And I entered the world of finance and when I graduated, I got a full-time job as a stockbroker. I figured that’s what I was going to do with my life and writing would just be some fun thing I did in my spare time.
As I started working in finance longer and longer, I sort of had this realization that like, “Wow…this is what I’m going to do..for the rest of my life…and I HATE it.”
I just could NOT stand my job. I would get there and be counting the hours until I got off so I could do something I actually enjoyed.
So I realized, “You know what, I don’t think I can take this forever.” And I’ve always been passionate about writing so…I might as well just give it a shot. If it doesn’t work out, I can at least say I tried. I can at least have that in the back of my mind, that closure that it’s not for me.
Then I started working on my first novel, EVE: The Awakening.
And I would go to work and right when I get home after work I immediately started my book. My thought was, “I just want it to be a lucrative part-time job, something that fulfills me, something I look forward to once I get off work.”
That lasted for a few years. Toward the end of the process, my then boyfriend and now fiance, he had a serious accident and he broke his spine.
I quit my job so that I could sign on to be his full-time caregiver. At that point, everything went on hold. It was all about his health.
Then as he got better, time started showing up in my schedule. So I was like “okay, I can finish my book and I can market it and I can try to get it out there and try to develop an audience.”
People had nagged me to start a Youtube channel for a long time so I thought, “I’m stuck at home…might as well give it a shot. I can say I tried!”
I started the Youtube channel.
And at first it was pretty slow but then I made a satirical video called the 9 Weird Habits of Writers and suddenly my channel just took off.
It got all these subscribers and it was getting all this attention and long story short, by the time I was able to release EVE: The Awakening, what with the growth of my platform and the growth of my channel, I was able to make writing my job.
And now I’m a full-time author and I have a Youtube channel and it’s crazy! I did not think that I would be here.
I feel very fortunate because my main goal, originally, was to just one day – not anytime soon – but one day be able to make a living off my writing. And I figured, maybe that’ll happen when I’m like 40.
But I was able to do it at 28 – and now I’m 31 and this is my job and I feel so fortunate that I’m able to do what I love and make money off of it, especially after hearing for so many years that it’s impossible.
But it’s not!
So did you immediately decide you wanted to self-publish? What made you decide to go with self-publishing versus traditional publishing?
Well originally, I was going to go traditional. For the same reasons most people initially decide traditional.
They’re like, “That’s the legitimate option. You’re a real writer if you go traditional and self-publishing, there’s no success there; it’s vanity press.”
The more I researched it, the more I realized how little I knew about the industry.
I basically spent years researching the different publishing options. I interviewed at least 20 different authors, both self-published and traditionally published authors.
A lot of people see the New York Times bestsellers, the JK Rowlings, John Greens, Stephen King – they see that and they think that’s the reflection of traditional publishing. And it is a reflection of a small percentage of traditional publishing and traditionally published authors.
But there are millions of authors out there who are traditionally published and they’re just not getting that kind of exposure. That’s the 99% of traditionally published authors.
You go into the process, you get maybe a $10,000 advance, and that’s not really enough to live off of. That’s just like a nice side gig.
And this was something I wanted to eventually make my full-time job.
So once I learned that, and that traditional publishers weren’t going to market me the way I thought they were, I thought, “Okay, well this changes things a little bit. But let me interview the different authors.”
When I interviewed the traditionally published author, she said it took her 20 years and around 15 books to before she was able to make it a full-time job.
And that, for me, was really eye-opening because I had a self-published author who had sold one book and he was on his way to being a full-time author and a traditionally published author who spent 20 years trying to get her publisher to pay attention to her.
After that, doing more research, it became clear that the business control, more than anything, was the reason self-publishing seemed like the best fit for me.
No one was going to care more about the success of my novel and the success of my platform than I was.
I figured, I might as well just bet on myself because it looked like publishers were probably not going to give me the kind of attention I would need in order to make this a career, which is what I wanted to do.
Speaking of the business part, do you think that having that background in business and finance has helped you as a self-published author?
Oh definitely. It’s funny because I went into the degree very jaded because it’s not what I wanted to do; I wanted to be a writer.
I went into it like, “This is not what I want but it’s what my family expects of me.”
And now, if I were to go back, I wouldn’t change a thing because it was my knowledge of business, my background working in finance, that gave me the tools I needed in order to take the place of a publisher.
Because a lot of writers choose traditional publishing because they don’t understand business.
I understood the business parts, and when I saw the sort of things publishers do for writers, a lot of it was something I could do and knew how to do because I learned it in business school.
And the things that I didn’t know how to do were things that were easy to learn because of what I learned in school and when I worked as a stockbroker.
I’m really grateful for my business background because it filled in the blanks of being a writer and I basically was able to, very easily, translate that into acting as my own publishing house, pretty much.
So, going off of the business aspect being a huge misconception for self-published authors, what do you think are other major misconceptions of self-publishing?
I think one of the biggest misconceptions is a lot of people thinking, “I’m just going to throw my book online, and that’s it!”
That’s not it.
There are millions of books online. What are the odds someone’s randomly going to see yours and just decide, “I’ve never heard of this, but I’m going to buy it.”
You have to market it. You have to treat it like a business. You have to understand that your book is your art. Yes, you are an artist, but it is also a product that you’re selling to people.
So you have to be aware of how you package that product.
Which means it needs to be edited. There is no wiggle room. Just hire an editor – just do it.
Your book is not going to perform well without one. The same goes for formatting. It needs to be professionally formatted and needs to have a professional cover.
This is the packaging of your product.
You could write the most amazing novel. It could be the next great American novel and no one will buy it if the cover looks like crap. It’s just not going to happen.
Are there any other misconceptions you see aside from that?
I think another misconception, especially recently, there’s been a misconception that you can’t do well in self-publishing, that it’s not legitimate.
That seems to be going away over time. I’ve only had maybe 2 people say anything to me about it not being legitimate.
So I think that misconception isn’t as big nowadays, especially with so many New York Times Bestselling authors who are self-published and authors getting movie deals.
But one thing that’s especially become popular recently is pumping and dumping.
That’s where an author will write as many books as they can in a year, like one book every two to six months and they just pump it out and pump it out.
And that’s become a model for self-published authors making a lot of money and being successful.
There is some weight to it and it is working for some people, but the point is that it significantly diminished the quality of the book and it’s not viable for a long-lasting platform because people become loyal to authors because they trust in the quality of their work.
So if you’re constantly pumping out of very low quality, no one’s really going to become loyal to you, they won’t become a loyal fan.
You’re just going to constantly “pump and dump” for the rest of your life in order to maintain an income because you’re not really going to develop a fan base or a legitimate audience.
And I think that’s what a lot of people think is the only way to make it in self-publishing nowadays.
But I’m living proof that you can take your time and spend a year or two on a book and you can still turn it into a full-time job if you take the time and invest in the quality of it.
So where do you see self-published authors making the biggest mistakes overall?
Honestly? The number one thing is the edit.
You know, self-published authors not getting their books edited. Now, the cover is something you can maybe overlook but the edit – you have to just edit the book!
Please, do it!
And that’s the thing. Anytime I see someone who is kind of apprehensive about self-published books, that’s always what they mention; that the books are not edited.
So just edit it, guys! That will end the stigma entirely!
Has self-publishing changed in any way since you published EVE: The Awakening in 2015?
Back then, like I said, I wasn’t receiving any flack or anything like that for self-publishing. In my whole career, I’ve only had two people say something about it.
So I think it was viable then, but it’s way more viable now.
There are way more options. When I published EVE: The Awakening, there was pretty much the option to have your book in ebook and paperback. That was pretty much it.
Now, you can do audiobooks, hardbacks and additionally, there’s much more expanded distribution.
For example, The Savior’s Champion is on Barnes and Noble’s shelves and in bookstores across the country.
Whereas with EVE: The Awakening, that wasn’t even something on my radar. I wasn’t even thinking about that because you never heard about self-published books being in bookstores.
So I’ve got the audiobook for The Savior’s Champion is in the publication process right now. We have the hardback available, it’s in bookstores, and the options for self-published authors is very similar to where they are for traditionally published authors.
There really aren’t that many limitations – except self-published writers typically have to price their books higher because they don’t get as many pricing discount opportunities that traditionally published authors do.
So I would say the biggest limitation is pricing but other than that, we have the same access to distribution channels that they do.
It’s crazy. The options are limitless!
You know a lot about the whole self-publishing world and the writing world. Pretty much your entire Tumblr blog is people asking you questions about the writing and publishing process. So what kind of advice do you have for people who decided to go with self-publishing versus traditional publishing?
My first piece of advice is to research the industry as much as possible.
What I see often is a lot of people see self-publishing and think that means, find a self-publishing group and publish directly through them where you pay an upfront fee and then you’re paying them to publish the book for you.
That’s not necessarily what self-publishing is. You can self-publish through Amazon and Ingramspark. There are lots of different opportunities available to you.
And if you don’t do the appropriate research, you may end up getting scammed. You may end up getting suckered.
So be sure to research the environment, research all the platforms, and make the decision that works best for you.
Additionally, start saving your money.
Because the biggest downfall for self-publishing is that it’s expensive. You’re paying for everything. Start saving and create a budget so when the time comes to hire an editor, you’re not sitting there going, “Oh I can’t afford it. I’m just going to publish it as-is.”
And that’s what I hear the most.
One of the last questions I have for you is, what would you say is your favorite part of being a self-published author?
I think it’s the power and freedom. It’s nice that I don’t have anyone giving me deadlines; I give myself deadlines.
I don’t have anyone telling me how I need to write my story for it to be marketable. I get to decide how I write my story. No one gets to have creative control over me.
That’s not to say that if my beta readers or editors give suggestions that I’m going to ignore them. But I don’t have a business person telling me, “No you can’t write about that because that’s not marketable, people aren’t going to buy it.”
I get to decide what I want to write. Everything is under my control.
I know a lot of traditionally published authors who have to get everything approved. It makes sense. This company is paying to put your book out and it makes total sense they have to get it approved.
But it’s nice that I don’t have to. I get to do whatever the hell I want, whenever the hell I want to do it.
And it’s awesome. It’s awesome being my own boss.
Okay, for real last question. What are you currently working on? What’s your work in progress right now?
I am working on the companion novel to The Savior’s Champion, which is The Savior’s Sister.
I am SO excited!
The Savior’s Champion takes place in sort of a Grecian/Roman world called Thessen. It follows Tobias, one of 20 men competing in what is known as The Sovereign’s Tournament, which is a month-long gladiatorial event where 20 men compete in violent challenges to win the hand of their magical holy queen, The Savior.
So that story follows Tobias, and things get a little tricky when he falls in love with the wrong woman; he falls in love with Leila.
So The Savior’s Champion follows Tobias in the tournament and throughout it, you realize that Leila has got her own little story going on. She’s got something going on behind the scenes of the tournament and their stories become intertwined.
At the end of The Savior’s Champion, there are a lot of questions about what’s going on with Leila. The book I’m working on right now answers all of those questions.
It’s Leila’s story during the tournament, her whole battle she’s dealing with within the palace of Thessen, all the craziness. It’s been so fun to write! I cannot wait to release it!
Jenna Moreci is one of the most talented authors and businesswomen I know. Her books are as (if not better) than the advice she gives.
Make sure to check out the whole interview right here and follow this incredible self-published author.
Jenna Moreci is a Silicon Valley native and Youtube sensation, dominating the authortube community with her straightforward and hilarious writing channel. A lifelong storyteller, Jenna specializes in crafting thrilling adventures with heaping doses of bloodshed and romance.
When she’s not writing or ‘tubing, Jenna enjoys angry music, potent wine, and laughing until her face hurts with her goofball fiancé.