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Unlocking Self-Publishing Success: How Karen Heenan's Journey

Coming Apart, Coming Closer, Coming Together

Welcome to another exciting blog post where we dive into the journeys of five, six, and seven-figure authors to uncover how they achieved their remarkable success. Today, we have the pleasure of talking to Karen Heenan, an accomplished author of historical fiction. Karen shares her path from writing for personal enjoyment to becoming a published author with multiple successful books. In this interview, she discusses the mindset shifts, strategies, and tools that have helped her along the way. Whether you're an aspiring author or looking to take your writing career to the next level, you'll find valuable insights and actionable tips in Karen's story.

Hi Karen, could you please give us a brief introduction to yourself and your work and how long you have been writing for?

My name is Karen Heenan, and I write historical fiction about ordinary people in several different eras – one series in Tudor England and another in 1930s Philadelphia. I’ve written since I was a kid, but I published my first book in 2019.

You say that writing for yourself was crap and you wanted to publish your books, what was the mindset shift from writing for yourself and writing to become a published author? Did you write for your market?

I enjoyed writing for myself, but after reading a few too many books that left me unimpressed, I realized I could do as well – or better – and decided to give it a shot. I attempted the traditional route first, had an agent for a year with no success, then signed with a small press, got my rights back a year later, and began self-publishing. I don’t write directly to market, but I know the tropes and parameters of my genre and try to stay within them.

You have quite a number of books out and another on the way. Was it a certain book that took off and started selling? Do you feel like the more books you write is useful in marketing and growing your income? I imagine one book helps sell the others?

Songbird, my first book, is still my bestseller, and the reason there are 4 books in that series.

The best thing you can do to market your books is to write the next book. Everyone says it, and it’s one of those things that’s unfortunately true. The more books I have, the better my sales are – because if I’m lucky enough that a reader falls in love with a book, there are other books waiting for them.

Your books are historical fiction, how important is knowing your genre and what your readers expect from your books? Do you mind sharing some tips that you found helpful in getting to know your genre more?

I’ve been a big reader of historical fiction ever since I was a kid, so it was a natural choice when I began writing. I would say not to underestimate the importance of research – historical readers are sticklers for authenticity – but don’t let that get in the way of accomplishing that difficult first draft. Leave notes for yourself with questions to be answered later, locations and events to be fleshed out, etc. Historical is also a pretty wide genre: romance and mystery and military in addition to historical fiction. Choose an era or a subgenre that you will enjoy spending time in, because if your books are at all successful, you’ll be there for a while.

You mentioned as a child you found writing a great outlet and reading led to writing. You also say that it was great for a kid with not much money as the resources you needed to write were cheap and readily available. I love this because it’s true we can unleash our creativity and start for very low amounts of money and budget and sometimes free. So starting isn’t an issue. With that in mind when you started writing as to publish what tools did you find helpful? Did you use any particular software?

I’m a big fan of using what I have on hand. I’ve tried Scrivener, and while I love the idea of it, the reality has never been very useful to me. I stick with Word, which I used at my job for decades, and for dictation – which I do a lot, as it gets me out of the house and out of my desk chair – I just use a free notepad app on my phone that links to the cloud so I can download my work onto my computer. I save the spending on things I can’t do myself – cover design, editing, etc. I’m not a fan of AI for writing (that’s the part I enjoy!) but I have used Google Gemini to help with writing blurbs.

Lastly, on that last question. How important is budget for you now as a successful writer? Do you believe authors in order to put their best foot forward should have some budget for their books? Did you find anything useful at the beginning when maybe budgets were lower than where you are now?

Early in the game, the most important money you can spend is for a solid, genre-appropriate cover. I’ve just faced the fact that I need to recover my Tudor Court series because while their sales are steady, they would be much better with genre-appropriate covers more likely to catch a reader’s eye in thumbnail size. I really didn’t spend any money on advertising until I had three books out – enough to offer readers who found me. Spending money on advertising a single book isn’t very helpful, because even if readers love it, there’s nothing else for them to buy, and it's unrealistic to expect them to remember you until the next book is available.


From Alex @ Indie Bubble Studio...

We are incredibly grateful to Karen for sharing her experiences and expertise with us. Her story is not only inspiring but also packed with practical advice that can help you navigate your own self-publishing journey.

If you have any questions or would like to dive deeper into any topics discussed, please don't hesitate to reach out. We’re here to support your path to becoming a successful author. Thank you for reading, and stay tuned for more interviews and insights from successful authors.

If you'd like to read Karen's books and find out more about her please see below all of her links:

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