Indie Insight with Kate Gateley
Indie Insight is a blog series about book marketing and social media for authors.
Author name: Kate Gateley (she/her)
Bio: Kate Gateley's The Lost Wells Trilogy is an adult contemporary fantasy series that follows believable characters on an adventure rich in palpable emotion, intensity, ancient history, and sublime romance that is sure to appeal to readers across genres and generations. Prepare to be swept up into a mystical reality where Bearers, Wielders, Sorcerers, and Druids exist.
Kate currently lives and writes on a small farm on beautiful Vancouver Island, Canada, with her amazing husband, two incredible sons, adorable dogs, several barn cats who don’t earn their keep, a gaggle of geese, some decidedly ungrateful chickens, and countless bees—all of whom are very dearly loved. She is a member of The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC), the Federation of BC Writers (BCFW) and the Independent Book Publishers Association (IPBA).
1) If you could travel back in time to chat with your novice-self about how to market a novel, what advice would you give?
Because I chose to indie publish for my first series, one of the promises I made to myself was to learn my own process. So that would definitely be something that I would go back and, like, give myself a high-5 for because that's been really important for my own confidence and knowing that it’s really swimming upstream and it’s not because of me. It’s just the way it’s set up being a self-published author. It’s not easy to get in. Lots of things are gatekept. The biggest surprise to me has been how many independent bookstores are not interested in consigning, despite what you’re told or would expect, which has sometimes been a real disappointment.
You’re going to find some great indie bookstores, too, that are going to champion your book.
My gut has always been that I have lots of different creative endeavors, and so I have my own original photography and book trailers. I’ve found that psychographics are more important to me than demographics because my books span a lot of genres and ages.
I don't think I would tell myself not to make certain mistakes. I think it would be more along the lines of, lean into those things that feel true to you because the other stuff is just going to be hard no matter what. Use the things that you’re good at because that actually is going to be what’s fun and what’s going to help you attract more readers.
2) New writers are often told they need to "build their platform." What does this mean to you, and how do you envision your platform today?
Doing the things that are true to you. When people are doing nonfiction, they have to do so much like platform marketing plans and stuff, which is so different for fiction and really different for debut authors. A lot of indie authors on Instagram were or are quite successful Bookstagrammers—they’ll have 50,000 followers because they have a previous thing going and I really admire how they can leverage that. I’m building my platform from the ground up.
So, I would say that building my platform looks more like curating beautiful spaces, safe spaces, accessible spaces. Making sure my website was updated with each launch with absolutely everything anyone needs to know.
I’ve been getting into book conventions in the States that are genre specific. That’s a really awesome way to build a platform because you are automatically immersed with other people that are 100% interested, but you’re not getting that internet filter, either. Everyone’s so kind and super excited to meet you. They’re glad to be there, and so are you.
Basically, your target audience is walking right up to you.
3) Do you have any advice for new authors about how to convince potential readers to sign up for their newsletter?
People with robust newsletters seem to do really well. I have less than 100 subscribers and I’ve been banging the drum for two years now. I do giveaways, nothing. It’s brutal. I use Mad Mimi which links to my website, so you can subscribe super easily, and there’s privacy protection. I have all the pieces and components (visuals, you name it), plus analytics. I can track whether or not people open any embedded links… few people do.
I think one problem is that I don’t have value added yet and that’s what’s next. I’ve sort of built this portal world, and now I’m collaborating and finding different ways to market things that feel authentic to me. I’m going to see if I can gear it towards some other products that I’m looking to bring on.
4) What's the latest insight you've learned when it comes to book promotion, and how will this impact your next marketing efforts?
I’m looking forward to writing a spin-off within the world that I have already created.
I’ve spent a lot of money and time building this brand, this world, and these characters—they make me feel really good. I’ve brought in character art, I’ve produced trailers, I’ve commissioned photography. I’m working right now with a surface designer and we’re designing quilt fabric. One of my demographics is women in their 50s; my books are very Outlander meets Discovery of Witches. One challenge for me is that this demographic doesn’t always leave reviews; they’re not in social media spaces or the visual spaces that I’m in.
The spin-off series is probably going to align more with Bookstagram in some ways—I’m going more into urban fantasy. A little more intrigue and noir, and may end up having some mystery. I’m not ready to close this world because now I’ve opened up this intriguing platform. Maybe people don’t want this particular series, but I know there is a lot more breath left in the story and the world. So, I’m writing this spin-off duology being more conscious of that marketing. I’m getting character art commissioned early now because I didn’t have that before, ahead of time. People seem to like that on Bookstagram, a product people want to buy.
My first series demographic listens to audiobooks, so I’ve paid to produce my audiobooks. That was an investment I wanted to make, it was something I really cared about. But marketing audiobooks is totally different (which is where the quilt fabric comes in)!
I want to keep building and leveraging from things that are successful… and then the things that aren't, let them go. I wouldn't call anything unsuccessful. I think things come and go that are useful. That’s where leaning into what you like is so important. There are so many things on that never-ending To Do List that we all have, but at least with the stuff that floats your boat, you’re not super annoyed when you have to attend to it.
5) If you could change one thing about the publishing world, what would it be?
It would be really nice if the traditional publishing world opened up the way they bring authors in, in a sort of tech startup way. I’ve been so blown away by going to conferences and witnessing the love and blood, sweat, and tears authors have put into their independently published/self-published worlds. And many of them in conversations have said, "I’m never going to traditionally publish because I’ve put too much into this world for me to go in another direction."
What I would love is to see the traditionally published world shop for those people—they are so professional and polished and have the whole package. You’ve got this person that you know is going to be able to execute and deliver on time because they’ve taught themselves that motivation on their own.
You hear about how traditional publishers are hesitant to invest in debut authors because it’s very expensive to publish books—which is true. They don’t want to spend money on someone who might not show up, and I get that … but I think there are people showing up out there that are not currently traditionally publishing but would like to be considered as the whole package. I would love for there to be some kind of trade show that isn’t under the umbrella of indie or traditional pitches or queries, but preparing a package and speaking to a publisher.
6) How important do you think it is for indie and self-publishing authors to pay for editing services?
Very! It’s the best investment and I think it’s getting more and more accessible, too. There are so many people on just Instagram marketing their editing services—they’re editing sometimes solely for indie authors, which is lovely.
Future me, if I ever query or attempt to wade into traditional publishing in a more meaningful way, I would solicit people to help with writing the blurbs and stuff. I wouldn’t do it completely myself. One thing I liked about FriesenPress is that they have your editor write your back cover copy, giving it fresh eyes. It’s a service, but since I don’t write copy with great confidence (yet), I appreciate it.
Obviously, I’m always going to have my books edited professionally, but I also appreciate help at the marketing level—from an expert. For every other industry, they pay for a marketing person to do their marketing. That’s a good investment.
7) As a writer, how has your process changed in terms of drafting and revision since you first started out?
I promised myself I would have my own process… so it’s a bit abstract. To start, I usually put two characters in a room together and sit with them in dialogue. Very often this will take me in a certain direction and I’ll learn about tension and I’ll learn about my characters. I still roughly plot where I want to go from start to finish, but that’s not going to give me the pieces of the puzzle that are natural.
The one thing that’s changed is the confidence in knowing this is how I start books: I sit down and I put two people who I know need to have a conversation and watching what they do—it actually helps me dictate a lot of the character arcs for the whole story.
I suppose it’s not so much that my process is changing, because I promised myself the process would be whatever I needed it to be, but it’s more like I know what my steps are and can riff off of that. When I started, I was doing a lot more fast-paced, rough-framework writing. Now I spend a bit more time with the scene, to see what it gives me. I don’t cut a lot at that point because in the moment I usually know if it’s going to work or not. It’s a feeling.
To that end, I don’t write in sequence, usually. I will leave myself continuity notes, or notes about what I need to research throughout. When I’m about 80% done the entire book, its time go back to the start and fill in those gaps. Then I go start to finish—and I edit while I do that.
8) Please tell us a bit more about your latest novel or work-in-progress!
My last book of the trilogy is nearly done—I’m still filling in some things and editing, but it should release in early 2024! It was always planned as a trilogy and I always wanted the two main characters to find peace at the end, so that’s exciting to wrap it all up. I’m also feeling like there is a big part of me that—well, who I was when I started the series is so different from who I am now … I went through a lot of personal stuff during the process. But I’m so proud of “her” for starting it all—that version of me. One of the main themes in my books is past selves, ancestral memory, past trauma. It took me a lot longer to finish the third one, but it is my favourite.
As mentioned, I’m writing a spin-off using one of the secondary characters, Ronan. He’s a doctor, he’s really smart, but also a bit of a jerk. The Lost Wells trilogy is a contemporary-fantasy-historical-romance-epic-spanning-a-thousand-year-love-story kind of deal. This spin-off is going to be in the same world, but more of a lower magical level and more urban fantasy. I’m doing this work for a world that I love and that I know will give me emotional rewards, too.
9) Particular to the genre you write in, what tips would you give someone starting in that genre?
I know some people recommend being really well-read in your genre, and I think there is value to that for sure, but there are so many books in genre fiction that I’m often worried about gathering too much about other people’s ideas. Every idea is based on some other, but I want my stories to be original and I want to take the risk of them being original. And if they flop or are a success, I always want to stay true to my authentic self and have integrity around my creative process—otherwise, I’m not going to enjoy it, let alone finish it.
I would say particularly for genre, to pay more attention to the popular tropes. I was not super aware, and this ties back to marketing, of the beloved tropes within fantasy and romantasy. There are some really true fan groups for tropes, less than authors, and I would pay more attention to that. I’m hoping to pinpoint more closely what tropes my future characters will fall into—I want to remember that from the start for my marketing. Be aware of the tried-and-true stuff that people love while still being original and creative. People need to feel like what they’re reading is familiar, but you don’t want them to feel like you’re repeating something they’ve already read.