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The Lonely Struggle of Indie Authors

Good day my blogger friends! If you guessed by the title, I’d like to share a few thoughts regarding Indie Authorship. As I, myself, am one, perhaps I can add to the discussion my own perspective and the things I’ve learned thus far and finally how I’ve learned to cope with the sad reality that is indie authorship. If you’re worried this post is going to be a downer, don’t. Its not. Though, I will be absolutely frank and honest. And sometimes honesty is not all rainbows and teddy bear picnics. No, the reality of indie authorship is hard, but likewise, it is not entirely bleak, nor is it entirely hopeless. As the title suggests, the road of indie authorship is indeed often lonely and it is most certainly a struggle. But sometimes, often really, the best things are those that are hard fought. So sit back and take note. If you’re old to the game, you may nod your head. If you’re new, be patient. That is all I ask.

From pen to paper to MS Word to Amazon Kindle:

The very first book I ever published on Amazon Kindle, I eventually had to go back and utterly remove from the site. Why? Because it was so God awful I did not want future publications to be tainted by its impurity. This action is both a blessing and a curse for indie authors. We can always go back and “fix” the blemishes. In fact, its often encouraged. And while its a blessing to be able to do this, it also highlights one of the first hard realities for indie authors: editing. We’re not signed with some fancy publisher that will “take care” of our unsightly editing mistakes. Its all on us. And from personal experience, no matter how often you read and double read and triple read, you will not catch every mistake. Hell, even editors with decades of experience will not catch every mistake. The problem with indie authors is that we get so excited about getting our work out there for someone to read, anyone really, we forgo one of the most important aspects of publishing. You’ve heard it more than you’d probably care to, but I’ll say it again. Editing is critical. While its true you will not catch everything, still, you do not want to use that as an excuse for ignoring the most important step in publishing your work. That first chapter, first paragraph, first sentence, first word, MUST BE PERFECT. Consider the first page or paragraph your hand shake to the reader. “Hi, my name such and such, and this is my story.” The hand shake must be firm. In control. And confident. You don’t want to shake a potential sale with sweaty clumsy hands, do you? And while this is important for all authors, its more important, I think, for indie authors. Why? Have you ever noticed that little tab beside the picture of a book on amazon? The tab says, “Look inside.” This is how future readers of your book will get a “sneak peek.” What will they find? Chances are, if they find a bunch of misspelled words, broken sentences, grammar mistakes, and just plain old sloppy writing, they will close the window and move on. you’ve missed a potential sale.

What’s the solution? Slow down. As hard as that sounds, because, trust me I know, its true. We get super excited about finally being done with the book we want to toss it out there. As much as we loved writing the book, it was taxing all the same. But, because we are indie authors, writing the book is only part of the job. We’re also editors, marketers, publishers, bloggers, etc etc. So, slow down. Take your time editing. Consider editing the work of a sculptor. The unedited book is our unshaped clay. Editing cuts and pastes and shapes the overall story. Editing, as hard as it may be, is the most important part in publishing and writing. It is also the most frustrating. Because, as I’ve stated before, you will not catch every mistake. And when you see it, when your story is already published, you’ll want to rip your hair out! Some indie authors end up paying folks to edit their work. If you’ve got money to burn, by all means. Just be careful with who you pick. And remember, when it comes to pricing, typically you get what you pay for. If you have trusted friends who can help you out, that would be the best option to go with. No only do you get “advanced readers” that way, but they can show you were things/words/structure did not work as you may have intended.

From author to publisher to promoter:

Okay. The next thing I’d like to mention has to do with formatting. I’m not going to tell you how, whatever platform you are publishing on will give you sources that will show you how. I just want to make sure you read it! Read what the sources say. I publish on Kindle. Super easy nowadays. Read the notes. Read the sources. Take note. If your editing mistakes did not turn off a potential reader/sale, your formatting issues most certainly will. So again, read what your platform has to say. Its there to help you. Read it.

Okay, moving on. So now you’re published! Awesome!! You made it, right? Excuse me…I wasn’t laughing at you, but with you. No. I’m sorry to say, you have not “made it.” Now comes the most frustrating, most infuriating part of indie authorship: bringing in potential buyers and making sales. Someone tweeted out recently a 140 character lament regarding this same issue that I so happen to respond to because I completely agreed with what they had to say. The tweet had to do with making steady or constant sales of books. Apparently, this particular indie author was not making many sales. And I totally understand their frustration. We’re writers, not promoters!!! Alas. You need to learn. And the best way to learn is to see what other people are doing.

First off: get on twitter. In my personal opinion, when it comes to social media for writers, you need to get on Twitter. Build a following. Follow and follow back. It’ll take time, but eventually you’ll build a descent size group of folks that’ll see whatever you post and re-tweet your stuff on their feed. Now, you do not need a unfathomable number of followers in order to get your promotions seen. But what you will need is to learn the hash-tag language. Hash tags are annoying and yet interesting at the same time. The feed on twitters runs so fast, if you only post regular promotions without the use of hash tags, chances are, no one will see it. Hash tags are annoying because its hard to tell which one works best. Hash tags evolve. You’ll need to pay attention to trends and what other folks are using. Consider hash tags a type of search engine. An example would be the hash tag #horror. If you type #horror in a search box you’ll see a horror feed with other folks posting #horror. If someone is looking for horror, chances are they’ll use #horror to find whatever it is their looking for. It could be your book.

Search goggle or Bing or whatever search engine works for you. There’s all kinds of information on promoting your work. Personally, I like to create creative flyers and post them on twitter. Anything that will grab a prospective readers attention. Book cover art and quick read blurbs. Be creative with your book blurbs. Be creative with your book posts. Please, do not just post: “Buy my book. Its really good.” You’d be surprised how many people actually post something similar. Give a little taste of the mood or theme or characters in your book. give a 50-100 character blurb. Its seems daunting, but it works. And again, use proper hash tags with these posts. Basically, in the space of a single moment, you’re making a pitch, telling the reader why they should read your book. Not just because YOU think its good. Inspire the reader, draw them in.

And lastly: find someone to review your work. Especially on Amazon, you need review. The number of reviews is still up for debate, but lets say somewhere in the ball park of 3-10 reviews is decently healthily. Potential readers will not sift through 100 reviews. Just like when I’m looking for a new book to buy, I’ll read maybe a few positives and most certainly one or two negative reviews. The point being, you do not need a million reviews on one book, but you do need at least a few. Even if your blurb catches someones eye, without a review to confirm, chances are your potential buyer will skip on to the next one. And yes. There will always be another book for them to buy.

From promoter to paying it forward:

In the end, after all the hard work and time you’ve dumped into getting “your name” out there, you still will struggle. Recently, I’ve come to the understanding that I cannot force people to buy my book. Nor should I. Its not the point of writing. The point in writing fiction is to tell a good story and by doing so, promoting the genre in which you work. Period. I write horror, occult, supernatural stuff, so naturally my ultimate goal should be promoting the genre in which I write. The best most karma induced way in promoting our genres is by promoting other indie writers who work in those particular fields. Follow fellow writers on Twitter. Promote their work from time to time. Use commonsense. Be ethical. I don’t want to slap you with the Ten Commandants or anything, but don’t brag, don’t boost about helping someone, just do it. Be honest and keep the other writer in mind. Trust me. Karma will come back. Some of the best most helpful and promoting tweets or emails that has ever happened for me has come from fellow writers. This what I call: Paying it Forward. Simple, right? Pay it forward. Find someone to promote. Keep to indie writers. The big guys can take care of themselves. They have big name publishing houses to get their name out there. Indie authors only have each other. Remember that.

Remember that after all the hard work and time consuming promotions and editing, that in the end, its all about the craft. It always comes back to the writing. Telling the tale, so to speak. At rock bottom, the best quality for indie authors is humility. We know were no one; we’re telling a story.

Well. I think i’ve made this post long enough to have put you asleep. If you have any questions or comments about your own journey as an Indie Author, please share.

Thanks!

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One response

  1. Love the depth!

    November 18, 2014 at 10:08 pm

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