We had the good fortune of connecting with Amanda “Mandy” Hughes and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mandy, what’s something about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of?
The self-publishing industry is not one that allows a writer to simply write a book and upload it to platforms like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) with the guaranteed result of bestseller status. When considering self-publishing, there are several necessary procedures that are time-consuming and costly. Unlike traditionally published authors, independently published, or self-published “indie” authors, must rely entirely upon themselves and the resources they can curate to assist with these procedures. The process of self-publishing one’s work is long, tedious, expensive, and can often feel unrewarding.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
The journey from writer to professional author and entrepreneur was not an easy one; it was often disheartening and stifling. Until a couple of years ago, I’d written several books, designing their covers, and self-publishing to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Without a traditional publishing contract or literary agent to help me, I could only hope the work would somehow land in the hands of readers who might enjoy my stories. Without an understanding of marketing and the significant role the practice plays in the livelihood of an indie writer, my books just sat on the KDP site, buried beneath the millions of other independently published works of writers just like me.
This dead-end practice of writing and publishing a book only to watch it and my motivation fizzle to a miserable death eventually changed. One day, I had an epiphany.
For many months, my muggle job’s lunchtime routine consisted of going down to the building’s first floor gym, getting on the treadmill, and watching episodes of “The Office.” One afternoon in late 2019, I couldn’t focus on Michael Scott and his antics, my mind consumed with the books I’d written and how nothing had come of all the many hours spent creating them.
I needed encouragement, and a plan, and yet I had no clue where to start.
I opened my YouTube app and typed in the words “how to market…” when the app’s intuitive feature finished typing the rest of the words “…a book.” Unbeknownst to me at that time, there is a treasure trove on YouTube alone where indie authors like me can learn from others who’ve experienced some success in their self-publishing endeavors. I devoured several videos that day, and again the next day, and the next.
Within weeks, not only had I discovered how to market my work, but I’d learned that there is so much more involved with book marketing that I had never once considered. I was motivated, excited about what I was learning, and in the next six months, I made it a daily mission to reimagine how I was writing and publishing.
This process began with developing a new pen name, A. Lee Hughes, after which a second pen name evolved, Mandy Lee, followed by my author brand, “Haint Blue Creative.” All of these details were necessary in building an author platform, which I would use as a springboard for marketing my art. I tested the waters through my Instagram account, and within weeks I started growing a following of fellow indie writers and dedicated readers. I used my IG account to establish my author platform, helping other writers like me along the way. That’s how my business was born.
Haint Blue Publishing Company, LLC, evolved from me passing along what I had learned about independent book publishing to other struggling and/or unsure writers. Since its inception in June of 2020, I have been able to help dozens of indie writers with editing, formatting, cover design, self-publishing, and marketing their work. The business has connected me with an abundance of interesting people, and I have enjoyed how helping others has enriched my life.
While my motivation to help other indie writers made starting Haint Blue Publishing Company easy, growing the business was daunting at first—I found it difficult to keep up with the number of clients who needed and wanted my help. While I have a solid business plan and practice in place, I still run my operation in the afterhours of my muggle job. Days bleed into nights and while the work is fulfilling, the exhaustion is my biggest challenge. Growing my business and moving Haint Blue’s status from my “side hustle” to my “main squeeze” is next on the planning table. I’m excited to see where I’m going as both a writer and an entrepreneur, and rather than being afraid of the effort it will take and/or what will come of it, I’m happier and more hopeful than ever.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My hometown of Columbus, Georgia is a semi-small town located on the banks of the Chattahoochee River. Although those of us who have either grown up here, or in my case, migrated back here, will tell you that there isn’t much of anything to do in Columbus, the town is bustling with a young arts scene, river activities, and plenty of mom-and-pop eateries. Only an hour and some change from Atlanta, and less than four hours from the Gulf of Mexico, if you can’t find anything to do in Columbus, there are plenty of opportunities for road trips.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Apart from the support (and patience) of my husband and kids, I would not have made it as far as I have in both the book publishing industry and in starting my own business were it not for the love and encouragement of my Sister Tribe. I met this diverse group of intelligent, fun, and all-around beautiful souls during the time my family and I spent in Florida. There are ten women total, and we make it a point to remain connected–even across the miles and during the pandemic–championing one another’s achievements and lifting each other up when we feel low. In my opinion, women fly higher when lifting one another up and cheering each other on.