How Writing (and Self-Pubbing) Helped Clover Autrey Conquer Her Grief + Pay the Bills

By Clover Autrey

I got my first publishing break in 2006 with The Wild Rose Press, a small ebook press, back when digital books were the new kids on the block. I published two more books with them, none of which made much money. I promoted through social media the best I knew how, but I was also a full-time mother of five kids, one of whom suffered with cystic fibrosis (CF). Writing was always my passion, but it became an escape as well.

I wrote several books in my down time, while I was at the hospital with my son. Through the next several years his CF worsened and the medical bills deepened. Even with good insurance, the co-payments were staggering. I started taking part-time jobs. I had to work odd hours opposite my husband's schedule so that one of us would always be home in case something happened. It was a pretty rough time. I don't remember sleeping.

Chase passed away toward the end of 2010. He was a few weeks shy of 15.

On the very same day my agent emailed me another rejection of my latest book. As you can imagine, that didn't really register through the grief. I'm not sure why it still stands out in my mind now. Just one of those odd things.

Grieving, emotionally unable to write and burdened with unpaid medical bills, I knew something had to change. I pretty much figured that if I couldn't make this writing thing work--which wasn't looking probable since I was a mess--I'd have to give it up.

One of authors I knew jokingly said to me, "Write a book about Highlanders and put a hot guy in a kilt on the cover and it will sell." It was said tongue-in-cheek, but it's a genre I have always loved and it sparked an idea for a new series, a new momentum in my writing--and a gamble on seeing whether Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) could work for me.

I took the plunge and began writing my Highland Sorcery books. The premise of this series centers around four siblings in 12th Century Scotland who are given the responsibility of maintaining the balance between dark and light magic in the world. They each have different gifts. The oldest is a sorcerer who can time travel; the youngest is a shapeshifter; the sister, an empath; while the second oldest is a moon sifter, who is wary of the fact that his gift is drawn from the darkness. Enter a vengeful witch determined to have all that power for herself and the siblings end up thrown across various periods of time, including Scotland during WWII, modern day Seattle, and the future in 2083.

I indie published Highland Sorcerer, the first book, in the beginning of 2012. The second book followed four months later. Writing strong men and women who get up and face their struggles was very cathartic and inspiring to me. I couldn't spare my son from a terrible illness, but I could create characters who could save themselves.

Meanwhile, I studied everything I could find about formatting and search engine optimization, how KDP worked, and what the uploading process was like. I couldn't afford to pay anyone else to do those things for me so it was up to me to figure it out -- with a lot of freely given information from indie published authors.

The first book had a slow build, but then I lucked out by joining a multi-author sale, which we heavily promoted together. It was a big sale at the right time for me. That sale pushed the first book right at the time the second book in the series came out and readers bought both. That's what jump-started that series into a following for each succeeding title.

I couldn't believe my books were actually selling; and what's more, they helped my previously small press-published titles find a readership. I now have seven books in that series. The latest one, Highland Soldier, features Ethan and Blue, characters who were introduced when the siblings were flung to the future in 2083. I have to admit that Ethan is one of my favorites. He's a wisecracking, weapon-loving pragmatist with a heart of gold. And I'll let you in on a little secret: Not one of these books has a cover with a hot guy in a kilt.

I can't say I had that overnight flashy sensational success where everybody knows my name or knows about my books. I work every day on discoverability. Self-publishing through Amazon made it possible to pay those medical bills and help my family financially through some pretty touch-and-go times. Being able to do it in a career that I have longed for is a dream come true. I'm just so grateful to be able to write for a living. For me, success was a long time coming, and I still don't think I'm at the top of the mountain, but even from where I'm at on the slope, it's a heck of a view.

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Clover Autrey writes the kind of stories she loves to read, high fantasy and time travels with Scottish Highlanders or magical mermen and shapeshifters, with powerful elements of romance, where the hero and heroine must each make sacrifices to gain something even stronger. She is the author of the HIGHLAND SORCERY series and the ANOINTED series.

Clover serves as the current president of the Keller Writers Association and is the past president for the North Texas Romance Writers of America. She is a frequent speaker at conferences and workshops. Connect with her at cloverautrey.com.

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