Interviews w/ Indie Authors. Featuring author Jason Dorough.
Honoring the collaborative spirit of the indie author community, Indie Thoughts is a brand new initiative to gather helpful marketing insight from the indie authors out here putting in the work to make their dreams come true. It is my hope that by sharing helpful tips and different techniques, we can strengthen the community. Indie Thoughts will be included alongside the For Indies newsletter. Be sure to subscribe and get each new interview, as well as each new article, delivered straight to your inbox.
This week’s Indie Thoughts features an author I admire, whom I met through TikTok. Not only does Jason Dorough use TikTok well when marketing his epic fantasy Teshovar series, but he also provides quality, helpful insight for indies. In fact, whenever something is stirring in the indie publishing industry, Jason is on top of it. I’m so grateful he took a moment to talk to us; you can follow him on TikTok, Instagram, and Threads under the handle jasondoroughauthor and I would highly suggest doing so. Bonus points for making it super easy to find all his socials by using the same handle for everything!
What made you decide to become an indie author? Do you have plans to switch gears and go traditional, or will you stay indie?
When I was writing my first book, I fully intended to query agents and go with traditional publishing. I didn’t know anything about indie and had the misconception that indie is where authors “fail down” to if they can’t cut it in traditional publishing. I started educating myself about both trad and indie and by the time I had my book ready to go, I’d realized traditional wasn’t for me at all. Indie would give me full control over my books and career, and the potential income was much higher for many authors than in trad. I also realized I might publish my first book through trad, not sell through my advance, and then have the series dropped, thereby essentially killing the whole story I wanted to tell. In the end, I realized indie made a lot more sense for me, so that’s the direction I went. I never queried agents, and I currently have no desire to publish through traditional channels. Since then, I’ve been offered traditional contracts but have turned them down.
What is your biggest marketing challenge as an indie author? Are there any specific challenges for authors who write in your genre?
Time management is the biggest challenge I’ve hit, especially after I came to TikTok. It’s difficult to find enough time to write, promote, and also exist as a human in a healthy way. The biggest challenge I’ve found specific to my genre (non-romantic epic fantasy) is that many readers are daunted by the idea of complex worldbuilding and the sheer size of epic fantasy books. Additionally, a lot of other readers (especially on TikTok) won’t even try a book if it’s not spicy or at least has a focus on romance of some sort.
Where did you learn your marketing skills, or is marketing something you do intuitively?
I have no marketing skills. I make silly videos and hope for the best!
What made you decide to grow a TikTok platform? Was it easy at first? What are your biggest challenges?
About 6 months after I published my first book, I wasn’t getting any traction through paid ads or the other usual promotional means. I started hearing about BookTok being a great launchpad for indie authors, so I decided to give it a try. I had never made video content before, and I never intended to put myself in front of the camera. After I got started on TikTok, though, I realized making videos and talking about the craft and business of writing and publishing were things that I really enjoyed and was decent at doing. My TikTok account grew very quickly at the beginning, and I suddenly had more people aware of me and of my writing than ever before. I found that posting videos consistently is the most important thing when you’re trying to build and maintain a following on TikTok, so I try to put up around 3 videos a day. Keeping up with that content schedule is the biggest challenge, but I’ve gotten better about figuring out when to record, how much content to batch, etc.
Is TikTok mainly how you market your books?
TikTok is now my primary way of marketing myself and my books. I’ve experimented some more with paid ads, and I maintain an email newsletter and other social media channels, but nothing else has been effective at all. I attribute all my exposure and the growth of my brand and readership almost entirely to BookTok.
Is building community important to you? How do you go about doing that?
Building a community is my primary focus when I make TikTok content. I always focus on my core principles of being kind, having empathy, and being generous. That pushes me to help people with their own writing and publishing questions, and that makes up a big portion of my content. People have told me I should be making videos targeted toward readers instead of writers, but I’ve found that nearly all writers are also readers and are open to trying my books after they’ve seen my content.
Regarding social media, which platform would you say is your favorite? Is there one you consider more successful than the other? What’s your least favorite and why?
TikTok is definitely my favorite. I also try to maintain accounts on YouTube, Facebook, Threads, Instagram, and some others, but TikTok comes most naturally to me and has been the most rewarding.
What’s your least favorite and why?
Twitter is my least favorite. It has always been a toxic cesspool but has become even worse after Elon Musk took over. I’ve never felt a sense of community there, and the vibe at Twitter has always been a lot meaner and more harmful than I’m comfortable participating with. After the launch of Threads, I stopped using Twitter entirely, and I do all my microblogging on my Threads account now.
If you had any tips for indie authors starting out, what would it be?
Finish writing your first draft. Supposedly, only about 3% of writers who begin writing a book actually finish it. If you can focus on that first draft and push all the way through, you’re already ahead of 97% of everybody else. It’s very easy to get distracted and lose momentum. The most important piece of advice I always give new authors is to just get that first draft finished. After that, you’ll have written a book, and you can set about doing all the other things to make it publishable.
Give us a little plug about your latest projects.
I’m working on final edits right now for Lizandra’s Deepest Fear, the second full novel in my epic fantasy Teshovar series. I anticipate releasing this one before the end of the year and am excited to continue this story. Lizandra’s Deepest Fear is the direct sequel to Akithar’s Greatest Trick and will be the midpoint in the first Teshovar trilogy.
Jason Dorough is an author and voiceover artist based in Florida. He is currently writing the epic fantasy Teshovar series, which began with Akithar’s Greatest Trick and The Gem of Tagath and continues with the upcoming Lizandra’s Deepest Fear. Jason is originally from Atlanta and earned a degree in Computer Science from Georgia Tech, where he specialized in Artificial Intelligence and Personality Psychology. In addition to his writing, Jason is also involved in content creation on BookTok and YouTube.
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