AK Mulford on Diversity in Indie Publishing

Good morning to all of my book friends! Today I’m welcoming incredible author AK Mulford onto Bookish Brews! It has been such a joy to work with her and I’m so honored that she has taken the time to be on Bookish Brews with us today.

The High Mountain Court

AK Mulford is an amazing self-published indie author who writes fantasy novels. She’s been writing since she was a child, by hand in way too many notebooks. As a kid, she wished she could see herself represented in fantasy, so when she grew up she became inspired to write diverse and LGBTQ+ fantasy stories. She also hosts Indie Fully Booked, a podcast on Indie Publishing with K. Elle Morrison, author of Under the Black Banners, where the two discuss their journey through self publishing. They do really great work and are doing what they can to help build community and support system for other aspiring authors.

In celebration of AK Mulford’s new book The High Mountain Court, today we’re going to be speaking on diversity in indie publishing. Make sure to check out The High Mountain Court (plus if you read until the end, there is a giveaway for a free ebook copy!). You absolutely don’t want to miss this book, it has only been out for a few days and is already ranking on top lists on Amazon in LGBTQ+ Action & Adventure, LGBTQ+ Fantasy and Mythology!! Congratulations Ali!

Before we jump into it, here is a Bookish Brews snapshot of The High Mountain Court:

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Title: The High Mountain Court
Author: AK Mulford
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication date: August 10, 2021
Genre: Fantasy, Myth & Legend

At a glance: Remy knows she might be the last red witch alive after the Northern Court King put a bounty on red witch heads, so when the handsome Prince Hale of the Eastern Kingdom needs the help of a red witch, she may be the only one who can help. But can she trust him?

  • ☀️ Neurodivergent Rep
  • 🏳️‍🌈 LGBTQ+ Rep
  • 🔥 Steamy Romance
  • ⚔️ Action & Adventure

Read this if… you’re looking for diverse fantasy novels, if you love steamy romances, if you love books that keep you on the edge of your seat, and if you love passionate writing!

Doesn’t that sound incredible?! Make sure to check out this book! Action packed with a steamy romance?! Diverse cast of fae and witches? It’s like everything I ever wanted in a book! Now, without further ado, please help me welcome AK Mulford to Bookish Brews!

Diverse Voices in Indie Publishing

What is indie publishing or self-publishing? Indie publishing vs self-publishing, is there a difference?

Indie publishing is an umbrella term for all types of independent publishing (books not published by a “traditional” publisher). Self-publishing is when the author oversees the publication of their work themselves.

What path did you choose for publishing your book? Why?

Independent (indie) authors can pursue several avenues to publishing, whether that be self-publishing, through independent publishers, and many more. There are many authors who define themselves as indie authors but might publish through a small indie press or a digital-first house. For me, I’m self-published in that I hired all the services from cover designers to editors myself and oversaw the entire production process of my book. There are pros and cons to every type of publishing. For my debut novel, The High Mountain Court, I had a clear vision for the book and the series as a whole. I wanted to see it to fruition, so self-publishing felt like the right avenue for me. There are other book ideas I am working on that might be better served through an indie or traditional publisher, but I take each project as it comes. Some of the most successful authors are “hybrid” authors who are both traditionally and independently published. I’ve found the indie world to be incredibly generous and uplifting. There is a lot of support and encouragement amongst authors and I think for people willing to work hard, it can be a great route to take.

How can diverse authors best position themselves to be a successfully published indie author?

Finding your niche is really important. Sometimes authors want to appeal to everyone and think casting a wide net will catch more readers, but in reality, the more you can identify your niche, the easier it is to find a readership. There is a huge amount of support for diverse authors and diverse stories within the indie book community and it is really exciting to see a drive toward more diversity in fiction. A lot of the building blocks to success seem to be universal to all authors in the indie community. I am by no means an expert, but I have found success through building authentic connections with readers and embracing a growth mindset to be continuously working on both my writing craft and my business acumen. The one thing that I see from the most successful authors is persistence. They are the sort of people who can pick themselves up from failures, who can pivot into new directions, and who aren’t afraid to try new things. I greatly admire that determination and try to emulate it myself.

What are some barriers that come with being a diverse author in traditional publishing that indie publishing eliminates?

Indie authors have a lot more control over their final product (for better or worse). There aren’t the hurdles of long lead-in times, middlemen to convince to take a chance on your book, or sales targets to reach. You don’t have to persuade anyone that your book will be profitable in order to publish it, which can be a huge barrier for diverse authors when publishers view their stories as “risky” or “not palatable” to a wide audience. Even within the push for more diversity, there is still quite a narrow lens of what kind of diversity is being considered by traditional publishers. Of course, I can’t paint every publisher with the same brush, but there is certainly a sense from diverse authors that there is a line between the diverse stories they are willing to tell and the ones they are still uncomfortable with—I have experienced this first hand.

I knew I wanted my The Five Crowns of Okrith Series to have five books. That in and of itself would have been very hard to find a publisher to agree to, and it was one of the many reasons I decided to self-publish. It was important to me that the whole story was told. I had one experience with an agent in passing who told me I should cut the fourth book in my series because it centers a nonbinary protagonist. They even told me to cut them from the series entirely because they didn’t have “wide appeal”. As a gender-fluid person myself, that was pretty frustrating, and it really brought me back to some of my values. Values that I plan to carry with me throughout my writing career. I can trace the desire for representation in fantasy quite vividly back to one day ten years ago.

I remember sitting around a table in an outdoor cafe in New Zealand, eating cheesecake and chatting with my friends about our love of fantasy books. We were all self-proclaimed fantasy nerds and yet not one of us could see ourselves in the characters in the books that we loved. It was in that moment, looking around at my friends of different body sizes, races, sexualities, gender identities, and abilities, that the lack of representation truly felt like a pressing weight upon us. They deserved to be in the fantasy they loved too, instead of always having to picture themselves as a different race, gender, body type in order to put themselves into these characters. It was then that I knew I wanted to write fantasy stories where people could see themselves as the heroes of their own stories, perhaps for the first time.

We had an interesting episode recently on our podcast, Indies Fully Booked, about body size representation. Both my co-host and I confessed that we originally felt uncomfortable writing characters the same size as us. We are so trained to think of only one body type in fantasy stories that it actually felt more comfortable for us to write outside of our own personal experiences. I’m contributing now to an anthology called Curves & Magic, which features fantasy stories with plus-sized heroines. Seeing a plus-size fantasy character on the cover of the book was a true thrill. I can think of dozens of fat fictional characters that are portrayed in a limited range from disgusting to funny, but rarely are they ever portrayed as brave, intelligent, or desirable. I wish I had seen a book like this as a young fantasy reader myself. It was also important to me that my protagonist’s body size wasn’t her character flaw or a part of the overall plot. It seems like a lot of stories with diverse characters make their appearance or identity their whole character. My heroine has internal flaws and external obstacles—hating her body isn’t one of them, which, as a plus-size person myself, felt incredibly refreshing and validating.

So while I think we are seeing more diversity in traditionally published books, indie authors can bypass the gatekeepers who still aren’t willing to put big money behind diverse voices. There isn’t an upper limit placed on the diversity of their characters and they can write from their real lived experiences instead of trying to fit a restrictive mold.

How are indie authors paving the way for more diversity in publishing?

Indie authors are sharing their stories and putting themselves into their characters in ways that weren’t as often seen before. There’s also this amazing groundswell of support from readers craving to read more diverse stories and support diverse authors. For a long time, books with queer protagonists were relegated to “books for queer readers”. The same can be said about any other type of marginalized identity and therefore their stories weren’t considered as profitable. But readers have long been underestimated and underserved in their appetite for diverse stories and with the rise in self-published authors, there are more options than ever (and we could still use more!).

The lack of representation is really insidious. We don’t often step back to think about how diverse characters are often the side characters, the best friends, the villains, or monsters. You see it in both fiction and film: trying to placate people’s desire for diversity by having it creeping into the fringes of the story. But I’m seeing more authors writing diverse main characters and love interests which is very exciting.

The biggest thing readers can do to support diverse authors is buy their books and tell their friends! The more successful diverse authors are, the more space we can make for their stories to be told.

How important is finding a writing community for an indie author? How did you find yours and what have you learned from them?

Finding a community was the biggest catalyst for my self-publishing journey. I think we all need community and support—someone to share with when we’ve had a bad day or to cheer us on. I didn’t have many writing friends before I joined Tiktok. I lurked in writing groups, but I couldn’t find a form of social media that really worked with my ADHD brain. Then I found “booktok” and was completely blown away by the writing community there. The support and generosity of spirit from other authors is amazing. Unlike many other industries, there isn’t a sense of competition between authors. I definitely see other authors as friends and teammates more than competitors. We all read more books than we could ever write and helping each other succeed helps us all and there really is nothing better than finding people who are passionate about the same things as you!

Community was also why author K. Elle Morrison and I started our podcast, Indies Fully Booked. Our mission is to bring more aspiring authors into a community together and to be the support system for more writers. One of the great things about finding a writing community is benefitting from others’ experiences and getting recommendations. It is very hard to know the quality of a service nowadays just from searching online, so having a friend recommend an editor or cover designer is invaluable to me. There are a million different strategies in the world of self-publishing too, from pricing to marketing to release schedules. When you have a community, it is really helpful to compare strategies as well.

I know many of us writers are introverted and it can be hard reaching out to other people, but I think you will be surprised by the kindness of indie author community. You can read all the books in the world about self-publishing, but sometimes you just need a buddy to ask for recommendations, or commiserate with on hard days, or encourage you to keep going.


About AK Mulford

AK Mulford lives in New Zealand: the perfect place for a fantasy author! Mulford grew up craving seeing herself represented in the world of fantasy and is inspired to create diverse and LGBTQ+ fantasy stories that transport readers to new realms of imagination, helping them to fall in love with fantasy for the first time, or, all over again. With bachelor’s degrees in Classics and Biology, her work in wildlife rehabilitation took her around the world—including the heart of jungles—and she’s lived in many countries working with wild animals. Now Mulford has swapped raising monkeys for writing fantasy novels. She lives in Wellington with her husband and two wonderful young kids. In her down time (what is this mythical “down time”?), she spends time with her cat and dog, and makes ridiculous and fun Tiktok videos.


❗️❗️Make sure to follow AK Mulford on social media ❗️❗️
Facebook | Tiktok

And go follow Indies Fully Booked on your favorite podcast platform!


Let’s Chat!

📚 Did you learn anything about indie publishing?
📚 Are you going to pick up a copy of The High Mountain Court?
📚 What was your favorite part of this feature?



GIVEAWAY TIME

AK Mulford has been gracious enough to offer up a free copy of her brand new book to one of Bookish Brews readers! I can’t tell you how exciting this book looks, I just can’t wait to pick it up for myself! I highly recommend signing up for the giveaway for a chance to win this stunning novel.

Giveaway is open internationally to anywhere Book Depository ships for free