Life in the Indie Lane by Jinx Schwartz

6booksjpg_resized (1)Life in the Indie lane: Amazon’s Kindle Publishing Direct and BookBub been berry, berry, good to me.

My paraphrase of Saturday Night Live’s character Chico Esquela’s catchphrase, “Baseball been berry, berry, good to me,” is apropos to my writing experience. After almost fifteen years of mostly unpaid labor, I had a breakthrough that has been berry good, indeed.

Years before my name appeared on any book cover, I was researching family genealogy and uncovered a story I was convinced to be right up there with Lonesome Dove. The Texicans, my epic saga of Texas, involved two years of research and a year of writing, editing, and more editing. It was certain to be the next Great American Novel. After two more years of plastering my bathroom wall with rejection notices, I self-published it. In hardback! Of course with no real publisher, no agent, nada, the marketing opportunities and distribution for The Texicans was non-existent, and I soon ran out of relatives and friends willing to shell out twenty-two bucks for my masterpiece.

Selling by hand was the only option, one that sent me lugging books to everything from goat-ropings to craft shows, but selling an expensive hardback (even this gold-embossed first edition!) proved difficult, so I reduced the price. Okay, I slashed the price just to break even. I still have several boxes of this treasure in case any of you want to latch on to one before it wins that Pulitzer Prize.

Then, a break! Books in Motion, an audio book outfit that rented to travelers, using truck stops and restaurants as a venue, recorded The Texicans. Fame was now surely in the offing when some Hollywood producer listened to my book while tooling down Interstate 5; I was, after all, written up in Truckers Weekly. I considered hanging out near those wire display cases in said truck stops, hawking my wares, until someone suggested I might face jail time for solicitation.

Never one to cave in the face of abject failure, I kept on writing, landed a small publisher, wrote more. And then, just when my publisher and I parted ways, (drum roll here!) Amazon launched Kindle Direct Publishing, and I actually began selling a few books. But the real kicker-in-the-book butt was getting accepted by BookBub for promoting, and a year and a half later, my books tickle Amazon’s bestseller lists. The Texicans is not one of them, but hope springs infernal.

Is there a message of hope here for fellow writers who are clinging onto the Ground Hog Day Roller Coaster of this self-publishing bidness? Yep! Keep plugging, rewrite your books over and over, then edit a bunch, get new covers, and prepare to work several hours a day marketing and schmoozing. It ain’t easy, but with enough hard work (and KDP and BookBub) you can earn a living.

Late 2011: Enrolled in Kindle Direct Publishing

Summer 2012: Finally got my books enrolled in KDP Select and had my first FREE giveaway. Gave away a total of 70,000 books, sold 5,000. Keep in mind, these are 70,000 readers who probably never heard of me or my books.

2013 August: My first BB Free Promo. Gave away 50,000 books on that one, then did three more. Total books given away: 160,000

2014: Nine BookBub campaigns for freebies, 1 BB for a .99 deal with Kindle Countdown. Gave away another half-million books, made several best seller lists, and earned a ranking of 121 in overall Amazon sales.

Oh, yes, BookBub and Amazon been berry, berry good to me.

But why and how? In a word: Series.

My Hetta Coffey series, all six of them, are the key; I offer a free book through Amazon and pay for BookBub, and sign up for every other promo site (free and paid) I can find. Yes, I spend around five hundred dollars for each promo, but sell-throughs of my other books in the series are paying for them before noon on the first day. And, giving away over 600,000 books in three years has introduced me (and my character, Hetta Coffey) to scads of new readers world-wide.

As a result, I have a following of fabulous readers who send me emails letting me know how well (or not!) I’m doing. I am forever grateful to them for giving me the best publicity a writer can get: word of mouth. Am I getting filthy rich? Nope. But each year gets better, I make new friends all over the planet (and a few I’m not really sure live on this particular one), and they encourage me to write faster. A win-win, in my book.

As for promoting, I have hitched my wagon to the Amazon/BookBub method of introducing my books to readers, and have incorporated a dozen other promo sites touted by fellow authors. Will this mode of marketing eventually head for a bar ditch? Some say yes. Many authors are very unhappy with the new Kindle Unlimited program that only pays us around a buck forty a book—great for those with .99 cent books, but for the rest of us has to make up the diff in pure volume.

So, for now, I for one will ride this train using my personal three V’s: Volume, Visibility, and Velveeta. If the first two fail, I keep a stash of the third.

EXCERPT FROM JUST ADD SALT: BOOK 2 of the Hetta Coffey Mystery Series.

Ten minutes later Jan stormed the boat. Before I could open my mouth, she held up her hand to stop me. “Hetta, if you are going to tell me you want to go to Mexico without the Jenkins men, do not waste your breath.”
“Just one word?”
She gave me a dubious nod.
“Professional captain.”
“That’s two words, but what do you mean?”
“How about if I hire a sure-enough United States Coast Guard certified delivery captain to take Raymond Johnson to Mexico? We can stop off along the coast, make a little dough, then on to Cabo. When we’re ready to come back, Jenks and Lars should bfi finished in Kuwait.” That last bit was a stretch, but I thought it sounded good.
“We can’t afford a captain. I think. What does one cost?”
“Not to worry, dear, for we have a benefactor. I signed a contract with Tanuki today, one which will prove very lucrative for us. All we have to do is stop off in someplace called Magdalena Bay in the Baja, do a little grunt work for a couple of weeks, then head for Mariachiville.”
“Tanuki? They hate you. And what do you mean by ‘us’?”
“I told them I needed an assistant. You are, as of now, a marine biologist specializing in gray whales. Pull your credentials together, I need to fax them ASAP.”
“Hetta, I am an accountant, with a degree in math and a masters in accounting. I don’t know a whale from a goldfish. The closest I’ve been to a whale is when you conned me into that whale watching trip off Monterey. Getting so close to those overgrown guppies scared the crap out of me. I don’t have any credentials.”
“Details, details. Truth is, we don’t really require a marine biologist because I can get just about all the info I need from the Internet. And, when I called Dr. Craigosaurus to ask him about whales, he put me in touch with a real marine biologist he went to vet school with: Doctor Brigido Comacho Yee, a Mexican naturalist who works out of Scammon’s Lagoon, which is supposed to be whale central.”
“A Mexican named Yee? Vet school? Marine biologists go to vet school?”
I shrugged. “Guess he got a double degree or something. Maybe he does whale surgery. Who knows? Anyhow, Yee will supply us with what we need: his curriculum vitae, which we will use to make your CV. Cool, huh?”
“Illegal, huh?”
“Oh, I don’t think anyone at Tanuki is going to be in a position to be very picky about legalities. Hell, it’s a bootleg project. That’s why they’re giving us the big bucks. Big bucks enough to hire a captain. What do you think?”
“I think we’re headed for a Mexican jail.”
“Oh, pish. Trust me, everything will be fine. Are you in?”
Jan frowned, then shrugged. “Only because I know you’ll go without me.”
“Atta girl. Now, let’s get to work. Gimme that Sea Magazine and let’s find us a bona fide captain.”
After twenty minutes of leafing through boating magazines, I had a list of candidates. I dialed a Southern California number and asked, “Hi, is this Captain Bob?” when a deep voice answered on the second ring.
“That’s me.”
“Uh, can you give me some idea of what it would cost to get a forty-five foot power boat from San Diego to Cabo, with a three to four week layover in Magdalena Bay?” Jan started jumping up and down and giving me dirty looks. “Make that San Francisco to Cabo.”
“What’s the boat maker and year?’
I told him.
“Nice boat. Did you say a four week layover in Mag Bay?”
“I get three dollars a mile, fifty a day, all expenses paid. Owner buys all fuel and that kind of stuff. I require a week on the boat before departure to check it out.”
I did a quick calculation. It was over fourteen hundred miles to Cabo, and I’d need this guy at least six weeks, at fifty a day. “That’s over six grand,” I squeaked.
“Close. Plus airfare to San Francisco, then back from Cabo. Will the owner be on board?”
“Add a thou.”
“Hey, you don’t even know me.”
He chuckled. “Just policy. So, you the owner?”
“Uh-huh,” I warily told him. Maybe female owners got charged double.
“How many on board?”
“Just me and my girlfriend.”
After a moment’s hesitation, he quipped, “Honeymoon?”
I slammed the phone shut.
“What happened?” Jan asked.
“Smartass. He thinks we’re a couple.”
“A couple of what?”
Jan broke out laughing. “What do you care? Call the man back, tell him you were cut off. You don’t have to hire him, just pump him for information.”
I hit redial. “Uh, Captain Bob? Sorry, my batteries were low. Where were we?”
“I was about to ask you when you had to be in Mag Bay?”
“Let me see,” I said, pulling out my calendar, “October 5th?”
“You want to get down there that early, you got two problems: time and weather.”
“I know it’s a bit early, but I pulled up an historical website on hurricanes. Magdalena Bay hasn’t really had a bad hit in October since the ‘fifties.”
“Then she’s due. Good luck on finding a captain that’ll leave that early, then hang out and wait for trouble.” Dial tone.


Jinx has written nine books, including the award-winning Hetta Coffey series. Hetta is a sassy Texan with a snazzy yacht, and she’s not afraid to use it! So’s Jinx.

Raised in the jungles of Haiti and Thailand, with returns to Texas in-between, Jinx followed her father’s steel-toed footsteps into the Construction and Engineering industry in hopes of building dams. Finding all the good rivers taken, she traveled the world defacing other landscapes with mega-projects in Alaska, Japan, New Zealand, Puerto Rico and Mexico.

Like the protagonist in her series, Jinx was single, with a yacht, when she met her husband, Robert “Mad Dog: Schwartz. They opted to become cash-poor cruisers rather than continue racing the rat, sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge, turned left, and headed for Mexico. They now divide their time between Arizona, San Diego and Mexico’s Sea of Cortez.

20 thoughts on “Life in the Indie Lane by Jinx Schwartz

  1. Jinx, this is very encouraging! I just did my first free/bookbub promo and it was amazing, with downstream sales making up the cost five fold. Have been trying since to get my other titles on BB, but get rejected each time. Such is life…. Will keep on plugging. And punching. And swimming. And of course, writing.
    Julie Frayn

  2. Jinx! You are fascinating! I loved reading about you. I agree with you that Amazon KDP Select and Bookbub are the dual foundations to get a book noticed. I am very late to the indie universe, mostly because I was off in a jungle, too. Living a lazy life in a hammock, spending years catching up on my reading. Like you, the Kindle change the direction of my life. I popped stateside in 2012 to shop for another couple duffle bags of books and was gifted a Kindle. What the heck is this gadget? I learned quick enough. So fun. Best to you and your spectacular books. Love ’em.


    • Yeah, about those jungles. I now avoid anyplace where one can grow a banana:-) I’m loving your books, and glad you are so active with our Facebook group. I can’t quite keep up with all that energy, but am trying to do what I can. Thanks for keeping us on our toes. j

  3. Great strategy, Jinx! I have heard from several authors that having a series or a “catalog” of books makes all the difference. It’s smart to advertise the first, free book with all you got to get it in front of as many readers as possible. Thank you for sharing! And congrats on your success.

    – Jay

    • I have learned a lot about using promos and am green with envy over writers with a back list! As it is, I seem to only crank (okay, not exactly cranking, here) a book a year. Maybe I need to go lock myself in a room. Thanks for the comeback, jinx

    • Susan, in 1980, New Zealand Synfuels Corporation hired Bechtel to build a plant to convert natural gas to gasoline in Waitara. It was the first of its kind—namely, the first commercial facility to produce high-octane gasoline from natural gas. I was a project engineer on this project, but my office was in Tokyo, where I work at Hitachi headquarters for my part.

      Does that count?:-)

      • Most definitely! My hubster is from Waitara. Cyclone alley. Fracking. Orca whales. All that exiting stuff. My brother in law (actually, I’m not sure of our real relationship-too convoluted) works out on the rigs there. Nice to know you left a positive ‘mark’ on our fair land, Jinx. And what an exciting and varied life you have lived so far. All the best for much much more.

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