Author Mary Shafer seminarMary Shafer, The Indie Navigator, is

  • an award-winning author
  • an indie publisher
  • a professional speaker
  • a freelance journalist
  • a commercial copywriter
  • a marketing consultant

I share what I’ve learned the hard way with other authors and indie publishers, so you don’t have to make the same mistakes.

Entering book publishing in 1990 as an art director, I gained experience in most facets of the industry, including editing and marketing. By 1993, my first book was published by a mid-sized indie publisher. As a first-time author, my book wasn’t even expected to earn out its advance. I had no clue my publisher had budgeted only for a press kit and a few review copies, and the rest of making my book a success was up to me. There were precious few consultants or books back then explaining how to do it, and I was unaware of those. The Internet was still a tiny, clubby collection of hideous sites with almost no interactivity, AOL was in its infancy, and most people were connecting via 1200 baud modems — so there was nowhere to go to learn how to promote myself as an author or my book.

Blissfully unaware the odds were stacked against me, I used what I knew about marketing to tirelessly promote my book. I wrote embarrassingly long press releases, sent them out in the wrong format, didn’t know what to say on my followup phone calls and I had never appeared on radio or TV. Nevertheless, through sheer willpower and refusal to accept that I had to settle for the fabled “less than 100 copies” sold by most first-time authors, I plowed ahead, believing in the quality of my book. I just kept applying sound marketing principals and getting out there every chance I got.

The effort paid off: It eventually went into three printings, selling 15,000 copies in hardcover and earning some attractive royalties. My second book came out in 1995, another hardcover, and it won a Best Book award from the Mid America Publishers Association. Poor market positioning of the title kept it to one printing, but it did well enough. Then, in 2005 — two months before my third book was to go to press — the publisher I had contracted with declared bankruptcy. With no time to find another publisher before the anniversary of the event the  book is about, I took matters into my own hands. Not wanting to let three years of work go down the drain, I formed Word Forge Books, secured a sponsor for my book’s first printing, and became an independent publisher.

Using many of the principles I now recommend to my clients, I built my author platform and promoted my new book. With a bit of help from Mother Nature, Devastation on the Delaware: Stories and Images of the Deadly Flood of 1955 sold out its entire first run of 2,500 copies in 42 days. Now in its second, updated edition and about to go to press again, it has sold 6,000 copies to date, is about to come out as an eBook, and is being considered for production as an audiobook.

Recognizing that many authors don’t understand the critical connection between savvy marketing and their books’ success, I began speaking in publishing circles in 2006. In 2013, I launched The Indie Navigator brand to allow me to concentrate my consulting work on the market I know and love best — publishing. I don’t want other authors to have to make all the painful mistakes I’ve made, and I believe that despite all the upheaval, this is the most exciting time to be a small, independent publisher and self-published author. In addition to my consulting work, I put on webinars and give presentations at writers conferences, to writers groups, and publishing organizations to help authors and small publishers recognize the great potential for success in the new “wild west” of publishing brought on by technological innovation.

I served on the board of directors of the MidAtlantic Book Publishers Assn. (MBPA) from 2006-2009, and as president from 2010-2012. I’ve been a proud member of the Independent Book Publishers Assn. (IBPA) since 2005, and has been a longtime member of the American Society of Journalists & Authors (ASJA), The Authors GuildPennWriters, the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group IGLVWG) and Sisters In Crime (SinC). I put the knowledge and experience I gain from these professional affiliations to work on every project I do with my Indie Navigator clients.