Lessons from a New Indie Author

A little over a year ago, I embarked on the world of being a self-published author. I had no idea what I was doing and there are days that I feel like I still don’t, but I have learned a lot and as I reflect back, I think of the top things that standout.

Writing is the easy part. When I wrote my first book, I didn’t even have a Facebook page or an author name. I just had a story in my head and kept writing. It took me about a month and a half to write the whole thing and I let a few trusted but honest friends read it. They said it was good and I believed them so I hit the publish button. Now I know that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Editors exist for a reason. Apparently I had developed an allergy to commas and didn’t know it. My normally spot on grammar skills were all but lost and I didn’t have the ability to see it in my own manuscript. I learned that it’s very hard to critique and edit your own work. So don’t. This leads me to my next discovery.

Good betas are worth their weight in gold. After finally realizing I had to set up a Facebook page, I met people. They give me the feedback that I really need to shape my books into something that I could be proud of. Now I have a posse of betas that mean the world to me.

Facebook, Twitter, et al. are time sucks from hell. I can’t write books as fast anymore because I have to manage my social media presence. Facebook is one distracting son of a b*tch but I need it. It’s the best way to connect with readers, authors, bloggers, and the many, many groups I now belong to. I’ve met some amazing people because of Facebook. What I am still learning is how to manage all of that and still write books in an efficient manner. Maybe I’ll figure that out in year two.

What the hell is a blog tour? I remember being asked by an author friend of mine if I was going to do a blog tour. My response was a blank stare, although she couldn’t see it since we were chatting online (see above). I swallowed my pride and asked her to please explain that to me. She did and helped me set up the whole thing (much love, Jennifer Miller!) That was when I learned about the big, wonderful world of bloggers.

Bloggers and indie authors are like peanut butter and jelly. You can have them separately but they are so much better together. I had no idea about the blogging community before I published a book. I didn’t know how much help they gave to authors for nothing in return. Nothing. I was astonished when bloggers agreed to host my tours, review my books, and promote my book. Blown away, actually. I can’t even imagine how much time it takes to do what they do, but I will say THANK YOU for doing it.

Readers have insatiable appetites. This is awesome because they read fast and are always looking for a new book to read. I just need to figure out how to be that next book (more on that later). At the same time, their attention span can be short. One day they are raving about my book and the next day they are raving about someone else’s. There are so many books and authors out there that this will happen frequently. It doesn’t mean they don’t love me anymore. It just means they love someone else too. Don’t take it personally.

Marketing is hard. I don’t have the personality type that says, ‘look at me, look at me! I have an awesome book!’, but I am getting better. Self-promotion is a necessary evil. What helps is to actually write an awesome book and promote it enough that it gets in the hands of people who love it and then they will help promote it. It’s still hard though. I won’t lie.

Be reciprocal. Remember those bloggers that I talked about earlier? Yeah, well they have giveaways and stuff all the time. When they ask if you can donate something, say yes. When a fellow author is having a giveaway and asks you for something, say yes. When someone asks you for advice, give it. If you can do anything to lift someone else up, do that too. It’s called Karma and she’s really nice if you treat her right.

You won’t become EL James overnight. It doesn’t mean I’m not a good writer. It doesn’t mean my story isn’t solid. It doesn’t mean that I won’t leave my own mark someday. I have to remember that.

Don’t compare yourself to others. Ooh now this one isn’t so easy (see above). Because of Facebook et al, it’s very easy to see how other authors are doing. It takes nothing to check someone’s ranking on Amazon. You will see some people publish their first book and hit it big. Someone will always have more likes than me, more sales than me, more everything than me. You know what, though? Someone else wishes they had what I have. It is not productive to spend my time wishing I had what that other author has. It is productive to figure out if there is something I can learn from them. Morale of the story is you do you, let them do them.

Candy Crush is the devil. That is all.

Negative reviews suck. The first time I got a negative review I thought I was going to die. Okay, that’s over dramatic, but really it hurt. I didn’t think everyone was going to love my book but I had no idea people would choose to be cruel. I don’t understand it and probably never will. There are so many ways to constructively state you don’t like something.

Write for yourself first. I won’t speak for all writers, but I want to write books that readers like. I want to write a book that is popular and well received in the marketplace, BUT, I mostly want to write a book that I am proud of. This is challenging sometimes. The temptation to try and pinpoint what readers are hungry for is there. I feel like attempts to do that will lead to a disingenuous attempt. I never want someone to read my book and say that it feels like everything else they’ve read, or it feels manipulative or even worse, it feels like she wrote this for the money. I want everything I write to be something from my heart. If you like it, that’s just gravy.

Realize other areas of your life will suffer. I used to watch a lot of television and read. I used to get pedicures and cook dinners and talk to my husband. Since I began writing, I sit in the same chair every night and every morning and all day on weekends. I always have a computer or my Ipad or a telephone in my hand. I am always writing or talking to people about writing or checking on how my writing is selling. My toenails are atrocious, I eat Oreos for dinner, and my husband sees me when I finally give in and go to bed. My life revolves around my stories and I love it.

Keep writing! There are people who love what I do and are waiting for the next book I put out. I am doing something many people only dream of. Whenever I get down, I go to my FB page and interact with my readers. They lift me up and spur me on. I have a sign sitting on the shelf right in front of where I write. It says the words that I sometimes really need to see. Realize how good you really are. I’m getting there.

Get a theme song. What? A theme song? Yeah. Something that gets my blood pumping and reminds me that I can do this. I write books like a boss. Whatcha Waiting For by Gwen Stefani does this for me. I play it loud and proud!

These are just my experiences but maybe they can help another author out there just getting started or help readers know a little bit more about the “glamorous” world of being an author. It’s the most wonderful and fulfilling thing in my life and I am forever thankful for the people who support my work.


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