Indie Success with Alicia Kat Dillman

I'm lucky (or cunning) enough to have lured yet another successful writer over to my blog for an SAT - Successful Author Talk. SAT authors have conquered the query, slain the synopsis and attained the pinnacle of published. How'd they do it? Let's ask 'em!

We all know there are many different routes to success in this industry. Today on the blog I have someone who not only said, "Hmm... I think I'll go Indie," but, "Hmm... I think I'll just go ahead and start my own Indie business." That kind of spirit and determination is an amazing thing to see, and I've made room twice-over this week on the blog for Alicia Kat Dillman for that reason..


Indie author & illustrator Alicia Kat Dillman is a lifelong resident of the San Francisco Bay Area. Kat illustrates and designs book covers & computer game art by day and writes teen fiction by night. Her first book, DAEMONS IN THE MIST, features seventeen year old Patrick Connolly who has been hopelessly infatuated with Nualla for years, though he is all but invisible to her. Until, that is, he rescues her from a confrontation with her ex. Little does Patrick know he’s just set off a dangerous chain reaction that will thrust him into a world of life altering secrets and things that shouldn’t exist, because the fog and mist of San Francisco is concealing more than just buildings.

What made you decide to become an Indie publisher?

Most little girls play house or with dolls, I played store. I think I’ve wanted to own my own business since I was five. I come from a long line of people with that entrepreneurial spirit, so it was inevitable, really. I have nothing against traditional publishing, I have a lot of friends who work in the industry. But for me, it was more important that I do this myself, than hand my project over to someone else. I really like the idea that this is mine; that I made this. My words, my art, my design, my drive, moving it forward. That my readers get one complete vision, one story, one voice. Pure, the way it was meant to be.

Did you do a lot of research? What resources do you recommend?

I do a lot of research before I do anything, but yes, I did a lot of research before I decided to open my own indie publishing company. I joined a few online groups. Read a ton of articles, blogs and books. I started going to two twitter chats each week geared toward indie publishers. I researched and learned a few new computer programs. I studied books, not the stories in them, but the books themselves. The way they were constructed, the way they were laid-out, the way digital books are formatted, to make sure I could make something just as well put together as the big guys.

Books that were helpful:
Self Printed: A sane person’s Guide to Self publishing by Catherine Ryan Howard
Smart Self Publishing by Zoe Winters
The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing by J.A. Konrath

Twitter chats:

The cover art for DAEMONS IN THE MIST is fantastic - and you did it yourself! What's your process?

I hit the books, analyzing what’s out there. Trying to design something that’s true to the story while at the same time something that will stand out from the pack of other new releases.

For the base of Daemons in the Mist’s cover, stock photography was used as part of a newer art form called enhanced photo-imagery. I head on over to the stock photography sites and browse for what I need. I then download their mock images and jump into InDesign to start mocking up a cover based on the template generated by the book printers. Because Daemons in the Mist is part of a trilogy, all 3 books were mocked up at the same time. When I get the cover design the way I like, I purchase the chosen images and head on over to Painter.

I then use my custom designed brushes and go to town. I tend to use what they call  “illustrative color” even though my process with the cover was a departure from my norm, my signature style and use of vibrant color and dramatic lighting is still present. Once the painting is complete, I head back over to InDesign and import the final art before exporting the file and sending it off to the printer. And that’s how my covers are born.

You want to know a secret? The photo-enhanced cover I did for Daemons in the Mist is only the second one I’ve ever done.

Your trailer is also very nicely done, and again - you did it yourself! You're so useful! :) What made you decide to take the approach that you did with it?

Daemons in the Mist is told in first person so I figured the trailer should be as well. I decided the trailer would be Patrick’s story, told from his point of view, so I chose two scenes from Daemons in the Mist as the base of the trailer. Why those two scenes? Because really, the whole story pivots on the decisions he makes in those chapters.

The Words
Most of the lines in the trailer were lifted from actual passages in the book and then edited to fit the format of the trailer. It gives you a taste of what you’ll get in the story and a look into the way Patrick thinks; his voice. The few lines he says speak volumes to all the conflict he’s going through in the story without giving too much away and spoiling the story like our modern movie trailers do.

The Music
I wanted a song that was quiet and dramatic like the rain because it is in those small moments we hear ourselves the loudest. Or at least I do anyways.

The Visuals
I wanted it to look like you were one of the people on the street watching Patrick and Nualla through a mix of passing cars, fog and rain. And I wanted that beautiful and dreamlike quality of mist and fog. It’s a metaphor for the whole story. Like fog, the things in it are never as they seem. The farther you go into it, the more you see, the more you realize that everything you thought you knew, was wrong.

What's your marketing strategy? How do you plan to raise awareness of yourself as an author and DAEMONS IN THE MIST as a title?

I’m easing into it so I don’t get overwhelmed. I’m new to indie publishing and I don’t want to take on too much and get burned out. That being said, I use all the digital tools at my disposal. If it’s high-tech and social media based there’s a good chance I’m there.

I have a FB page for my studio, my writing, and for the Marked Ones Trilogy. As well, I have a Google+ for me and a page for the books. A lot of authors are on FB but they completely ignore Google+ I don’t, in fact the tour wrap party will be on the DITM Google+ page on June 23rd.

I’m also a regular on Goodreads, Deviant Art, Pinterest, Tumblr and I participate in 5 twitter chats a week. Part of it is about being where my audience is, but mostly it’s because I spend 90% of my day working alone in the studio and I’m a very social person.

This year most of my marketing is internet focused. I’m only attending half the events I normally do because I’m getting married later this year. But that doesn’t mean I ignore the outside world completely. It’s all about a good balance of both. Aside from all the social media, I also exhibit at conventions and festivals and do events and signings at my local indies.

On top of all this I’m doing a two week 30 blog virtual book tour. Which of course you know because you’re on it.

Any last tips for those considering going Indie?

Learn to do as much as you can yourself and hire pros for the rest. I for example, am dyslexic, so editing and copyediting just isn’t in my skill set. So I hired people to fill those positions at Korat Publishing. You can skimp on a lot of things when it comes to running your own indie company but editing and a top-notch cover design should never be the place where you make your cuts.

Lastly, if you’re not willing to put in the work to deliver a professional product, then don’t even try to go it your own. There are plenty of publishers and indie presses out there still looking for talent. Do yourself a huge favor and work with one of them.