Welcome to "The Writers Room" blog—a special space dedicated to self-published authors, offering them a chance to shine and inspire others. Dive into our Q&A sessions, where digital first authors openly share their writing journeys, experiences, and valuable insights with our community.
Let's meet this month's indie author, Elle Drew—an independent writer celebrated for her six paranormal romance novels, all showcasing empowering heroines. We had the opportunity to engage Elle in a Q&A session, and here are her insightful responses:
MUSO: Can you give a brief introduction about yourself?
ELLE: Hi, I'm Elle. I'm an independent author of six paranormal romance books, all of which feature plus size heroines. I lovingly call it fat girls getting railed, because a good log line can always find you your readers, particularly when it's as accurate and on the nose as this is. I work full time as an author, after getting my start while taking a break from working to raise two children, and I've never looked back or been happier!
MUSO: How did you first get into writing and self-publishing your books?
Elle:I actually got my start writing a little over two decades ago when I discovered forums and roleplaying and fanfiction. I quickly fell in love with being able to add in characters to stories I already loved, or adding in scenes that had been referenced in the source material but we never saw play out on paper or on screen. I've come and gone from fandom over the years, started original manuscripts a time or two, but I always ended up shoving it off for a future date, saying one day. Finally, during the pandemic, my husband was deployed and I was home with two children, and I was heavily writing fanfiction again, and I just woke up one day and said... today is the day. Let's do it. Within six months, I had two books published and thousands of followers on social media.
MUSO: What are the benefits and challenges of writing and self-publishing?
Elle: One of the biggest benefits to writing and self publishing is also one of the biggest challenges, which is, maintaining your own schedule and time, putting pen to paper when the muse is with you, and deciding your own path. It can be freeing to not have a time clock to punch, where you can sit up in the middle of the night working diligently, or take a few days off to allow the creative energy to refill. Unfortunately, without someone looking over your shoulder, it can also be daunting to know you need to keep pushing through the writer's block, and that the only person who can hold you accountable for finishing your manuscript is you. There's a careful balance between working on a project and not burning yourself out on it, one which is something I still regularly struggle with, and I know many others do as well. You can do what you want to do with no oversight, and yet, that means you have to hold yourself accountable for completing your work!
MUSO: How many books have you published?
Elle: At present, I have six books out. The Shifters of Garoureve has four books out of the six books planned, while The Shifters of Bear Valley currently has the first book out in the series, with two more on the way, and then The Vampire in the Bookstore is a standalone monstrous novella. I also have another manuscript, Devoted Destruction, which is a standalone Mafia Omegaverse, heading out the door to my editor right now.
MUSO: What are the technologies that are essential for your work and or self-publishing business?
Elle: Technology! To think that so many authors who came before us did so without technology! For the writing aspect, I rely heavily on using 4thewords.com, which is an online game writing tool. In essence, you defeat monsters by writing a lot of words. I like turning writing into a game, and it's something that gets me up sometimes to spit out a few thousand words, knowing I have quests that need to be completed. I also use Atticus for formatting both my e-books and my paperback. They really do make assembling the finished product so easy, and they're adding to the program regularly to make it more usable for authors. As for the business side of things, I have a whole list that helps me get through it all! Canva is essential for graphics for social media, Bookfunnel for sending ARCs and for distributing Audiobooks, Books2Read for universal links, Bookspry for the Author Platform, Mailerlite for Newsletters and Postscan for a Virtual Mailbox... the list goes on and on!
MUSO: What advice would you give to anyone just starting out?
Elle: For anyone just starting out, I have two levels of advice. The first is, write your manuscript! Once you have figured out what you want to write, sit down and write your manuscript. Don't worry about anything else. Don't worry about the social media or the platforms or your cover or anything. Just, get the words out onto paper. That's the hardest part when you first begin, actually getting to the point where you can type in the words The End. If you're worrying about other things like marketing and finding readers, you're going to overwhelm yourself easily. Then, once your manuscript is done, and it's time to start editing and looking for people to connect with, start reading and researching! Search for things like how to self publish and self publishing checklists. I actually have a whole blog dedicated to aspiring authors and to authoring chaos, describing and explaining all of the different steps and paths. There are so many levels to this, from how you market a book to how fast you move forward to how much money you spend or don't spend, and all of it can be overwhelming. There's so many scams out there too! So, do your research, but don't sacrifice writing time to do that. One step at a time. Write the book, and then start working on getting it out there.
MUSO: How do you feel piracy impact your work?
Elle: For me, piracy was one of the first things I was actually warned about when I started my self-publishing journey. A number of authors had recently lost their Amazon accounts because of piracy websites illegally distributing their books, and Amazon was wrongfully blaming the authors for this, and punishing them by taking away their well earned royalties. It's something I fear with every new book release, watching and waiting as I upload the final manuscript, it releases, and then it's suddenly available online. I've even seen the pages appear, with no download available yet, but a banner saying it's coming soon, when the book isn't even done but it's available for pre-order. It's a constant weight, knowing that people are going to feel so entitled to your work, that they will illegally download it, and while already stealing from you, will also place your actual sales at risk. It's something I'm constantly wary of, and have spent many hours sending emails and contacting websites and reaching out to google to try and get them taken down.
MUSO: How long have you been using MUSO and how has the service been?
Elle: I started using MUSO in June after my most recent release had spent three months of having zero illegal copies available online, to suddenly having an overwhelming number overnight. I had put it off for a while, saying MUSO would be one of those things that would be an extravagance, because I could send the emails myself and send the takedown notices and contact google, but when I saw the sheer number, I realized I was doing more than just spending time fighting this, but also energy and spoons and my mental health. It was a real wakeup call, to know that I could hand it off without concern, that professionals would be handling it for me, and I could keep on doing the things I actually enjoy, like writing and talking about my books. Since then, I've more or less forgotten to even look for illegal copies, because any time I go looking for them, I find none, as MUSO has already taken them down before I got the chance. It's really nice for my peace of mind, to know that I'm doing everything I can to tackle this problem, without burning myself out on it.
MUSO: What improvements could MUSO make or develop that would be helpful?
Elle: For changes to MUSO, a small one that I would really like would be to be able to report links I find myself. I've started coming across a few which are carefully hidden so they don't appear like a piracy site, but the illegal download is still there. In that same vein, I would love more transparency on how MUSO is able to find other links, so that we as authors can be more proactive as well. Then, perhaps, we can all easily find more things like the google documents linked on twitter with download links. Yes, because pirates are getting creative.
A much larger issue, however, is issues with non-American spellings. I have a dear Author friend who has an accented letter in their name, but because pirates don't care about things like accuracy, she has to keep a look out for both the accented and unaccented version of her name, meaning she has to pay twice for the same book. Recognizing that there can be alternate spellings of the same pen name would be huge, along with title names as well. Something in this vein would be amazing and allow for more diversity and more inclusion.