Friday, December 7, 2018

Sarra Cannon of Heart Breathings ~ Tips For Success In 2019 As An Indie Author

Guest post banner for blog
I heard about Sarra Cannon from everyone at RWA, and I just had to go to her site and watch her Heart Breathing videos.

Then I had the audacity to email her and see if she'd guest post for me. 
I'm so glad I did and I hope you will be as well. 

Tips For Success In 2019 As An Indie Author

Thanks, L.A., for hosting me on your blog. 

It's that wonderful time of year when we all get to look back at what we've accomplished in the past year and daydream about what's possible in the year to come. If you are an indie author who is looking to really set yourself up for success in 2019, I would love to share some of what I've learned over the course of my career.

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First of all, if you aren't familiar with me, my name is Sarra Cannon. I write Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy, and I've been self-published since October of 2010. I've made some mistakes along the way, but mistakes are great teachers. I've also had my fair share of success with over seven-hundred-thousand books sold since I first began.

I am excited to have the opportunity to talk with you today about some of the biggest lessons I've learned throughout my indie journey and how you can hopefully take some of what I've learned and use it to set yourself up for one of your best years coming up.

Focus On Joy, Not Fear

When people talk about success, they tend to focus on marketing, but one of the most important things I've learned over the years is that there is so much more to success than how much money you make. Yes, of course, money is essential to publishing, and most of us have some goal of making money and reaching a lot of readers.

But let me tell you what I had to learn the hard way.

When you focus solely on marketing and the business of writing, it's really easy to forget the joy. The more successful I became, the more I focused on how to keep it up. How to sell more. How to reach more fans.

There's nothing wrong with that. Not exactly.

Image of the word Joy with polka dots to make it happyThe problem for me came when I realized I had made a subtle shift from joy and loving what I was writing to constantly being afraid. I was afraid of losing my fans, of making a mistake, or of not doing everything I felt I "should" be doing. Instead of feeling giddy when I release a new book, I found myself chewing my fingernails, watching my rankings and sales numbers as if my life depended on it.

My writing and career was fueled by fear, and please take my word for it when I say fear leaves no space for creativity to bloom.

If you want to find true success as an indie author, I encourage you to focus on what lights you up. What makes you feel excited and joyful? Focus there and the money will come.

Yes, please keep learning how to run a good business and reach more readers. Make good business decisions. But don't let stress and fear steal your joy along the way.

Remember: Success Takes Time

We live in a fast-paced digital world where the outliers are louder than ever. It can get so loud, in fact, that it may seem like every author around you has found a ridiculous amount of success overnight.

The truth is, though, that lasting success takes time to build. There will always be that one-in-a-million example who wrote a book over spring break and found instant success, but that person is almost an urban legend. For most authors--Indie or Traditionally published--success simply takes time.
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Be patient with yourself. Say nice things to yourself when you sit down to write. Putting yourself out there takes courage. Don't put extra pressure on your creativity and bravery by expecting your first book to pay all your bills.

Growing a loyal readership, learning the business of publishing, and even learning to write amazing books all take time. Give yourself that gift.

The good news is that there is no time limit on massive success. As my business mentor, Amber McCue says, "You are right on time."

If you ever look around and start to panic, feeling that everyone around you is miles ahead or rising fast, take a deep breath and repeat that to yourself. "I am right on time." It will make you feel better, I promise.

One of the best things you can do for yourself in 2019 is to take the pressure of needing fast success off your shoulders and just focus on what matters most--the creating and learning.

Be Deliberate About Everything

This is the toughest tip I'm going to share with you today.

As creatives, we have more ideas than we will ever be able to write in ten lifetimes. As entrepreneurs, we have more items on our to-do lists than we could possibly get done, even if we had ten assistants.

So, what's the solution, other than to run screaming into the night?

I guess we could choose to work sixty or more hours a week, but how long can we keep that up? And is that really the vision you have of your ideal life?

I was one of these writer-preneurs who tried to do it all. A few years ago, I was writing several different genres, trying to manage ads and social media accounts, and raising a small child. I worked sixty-plus hours a week and always felt behind and overwhelmed.

Which is when I burned out. Big time.

Everything halted for me, which felt like the worst possible thing that could happen to me. It turns out being forced to slow down was a blessing because I had no choice but to really think about what it was I wanted out of this career. I didn't just think about what success looked like to me. I also thought about what success felt like.

And I'll tell you this. My ideal life was not, in fact, feeling constantly behind, overworked, and out of control.

image of a napkin with the words penned on it, what do you want to changeThat's when I made a major shift in my energy and my business that has made all the difference in my life. I figured out exactly what I wanted, and then I got deliberate about every single choice I made from where I spent my time to what books I was going to write.

The truth is we don't have enough time to write all our ideas or do everything we feel we should be doing as indie authors. We never will.

That means we have a choice to either throw spaghetti at the wall and feel out of control at all times, or we can set very clear intentions. When I got clear about my vision for my life, I started to weigh every single action and decision against that vision. If it moved me closer to my vision for my life, I put it on my list. If it didn't, I just stopped doing it. I didn't care if other people told me I needed to do it to be a success. I knew what my vision for myself was, and I only had time to do those things that moved me closer to it.

I got very clear about who my ideal reader was, too, and I stopped worrying about pleasing everyone. I developed a system of planning 90 days at a time, which helped me to be intentional (and realistic) about my time.

Being deliberate changed my life, and if you want to move toward huge success in 2019, I would encourage you to get clear on what it is that truly motivates and matters to you, too. It can truly make all the difference.

Heart Breathings

If you want to go deeper in setting goals and getting intentional about planning your time, I would love for you to check out my My YouTube Channel where I talk about indie publishing, writing, and organizing your time as an author. 

Heart Breathings Logo in script with pink heart

Or, if you'd like to take a look at my other tips for How To Make 2019 Your Best Year, I'd love for you to visit my blog.

Image of Sarra Cannon with her Kanban board
Sarra Cannon is the YA Indie Author of more than 25 novels, including the bestselling Shadow Demons Saga. She is also a passionate speaker and productivity coach for authors. Through her website and YouTube channel, Heart Breathings, Sarra shares her own experiences in order to help fellow authors live their dream. She is a devoted planner girl, anime-lover, and gamer. Sarra lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her programmer husband and adorable red-headed son.

You can find her on her author website at author website or over on her heartbreathings blog.


  1. You guys should definitely head to Sarra's blog. I changed the way I prioritize after watching her Kanban (sp) board. I don't follow her ideas to the letter we all have to do what works for us, but I do use the concept and it really changed my TO-DO list concept.

    It gave me a lot of freedom!!

  2. Wonderful post, Sarra, and relevant to EVERY author, not just indies.

    1. Thank you Amanda! And you're so right. I feel all of this really applies to anyone who is a creative entrepreneur. Thanks for commenting!

  3. I appreciate your good advice and giving clear examples of how you incorporated it into your life. It's a great reminder and I'm sure your book is chalk full of good direction. Thank you. Cheers

  4. I'm one of the people who saw your program at RWA, Sarra, and raved about it. I haven't begun to apply all I learned nearly enough, but it's what I can do now. And your post is another timely reminder to do what I can without making myself nuts. Thanks, Sarra, and thanks, L.A.!!


  5. I've learned so much from Sarra! She's such an inspiration and I keep my YouTube ready for every new video.

  6. Hi Sarra! I've been a fan of yours every since sitting in on your workshop at RWA last July. Your methods have been a mental game-changer for me. So often, creativity and life collide to the point where I don't know which way to turn. You've helped me get a grip on determining what I want to do and how I need to do it. I can't say I don't still get side tracked, but your YouTube videos help bring my focus back on course.

    Thanks so much for sharing on An Indie Adventure today!

  7. Sarra, thanks for being willing to share your knowledge and experiences with us. You’re a great inspiration!

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