The Cold, Hard Truth about Being an Indie Author

Being an Indie Author is NOT for the faint of heart.

You’ve spent years honing your craft, editing your masterpiece, and you’ve sent it out into the world. You decided to write “to market” because you heard that sparkly vampire stories sell. Okay, that was a while ago, but still you’ve written something that people will want to read. Your novel is listed on Amazon. You’ve built a “following,” an internet presence. You’ve finally made it. Any day now, the money will start rolling in.

But it doesn’t work that way.

Even if you’re one of the freakishly lucky ones, and your first attempt hits big…like “Shades of Grey” big, you are still competing with some 3.4 million ebooks and over 48 million books (according to justpublishing.com). That’s insane! How will people ever find your tiny masterpiece?

There are countless blogs and website instructing you with their formula to get your book noticed. THIS IS NOT ONE OF THOSE BLOG POSTS.

I am an indie author. I have three novels available in ebook and print, and more in the works. BUT I am not a marketer…at all. I don’t have the time or patience. And I’m not willing to shell out money that I may never see a return on. My budget-conscious nature won’t let me do it. For me, it isn’t worth the risk.

You can pay for AMS ads and Facebook ads that will get your name in front of people. But if you’re someone like me, you will just ignore the ads and not click on them at all. You can also hire “marketing companies” who will do the work for you and charge you for it. No thank you.

Of course, there are lots of other “free” ways to get your book and name out there: SEO, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. But here’s the thing…all the other indie authors are doing the exact same thing. The market is getting saturated, and amazon is at the helm steering us indie authors, because they know they are the market leader. Amazon has us convinced that we can’t sell our books without them. They even offer us “exclusivity” with their Kindle Select Program in which we ONLY offer our ebooks through amazon. Some authors have found this profitable mostly with “page reads.” I tried it on one of my novels as an experiment. For the three months I was listed in the program, I had NO PAGE READS, and, of course, gave away free copies per their guidelines. But I couldn’t wait until my enrollment period ended and I could get back to Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords where I felt I wasn’t drowning in the abyss.

I recently had an epiphany…I HATE marketing. I’m not good at it. I’m not a salesperson. I can’t sell myself. It just doesn’t seem right. I feel pushy and manipulative, and quite frankly, it takes the time and joy away from my writing. I would much rather spend my time lost in my characters’ lives and stories than convincing my potential readers that they MUST read my books.

The truth? Not everyone is going to like my books. I wish it was different. I really do. I never expected to quit my day job and be able to support my family on my book sales. I’m a realist.

But if you’re a new indie author, and you don’t have a marketing plan, then don’t expect a lot of sales. It doesn’t matter if you’ve written the next War and Peace. But even Leo Tolstoy didn’t have to compete with 48 million other authors vying for the elusive brass ring. Do you realize those odds? You are one in 48 million! Your chances of winning the lottery are better than that at one in 14 million!

I’m not trying to discourage you. And I’m sure there are a lot of indie authors that will disagree with me. To them I say “Congratulations!” You’re a better marketer, maybe even a better writer, than me.

If you want to see your name in print, then, by all means, go for it. Even with these odds, I’m going to continue to publish my novels.

I just want you to know what you’re getting into. It’s hard. It’s grueling. It’s frustrating. But it is pretty cool to be able to put your words into the world. Even if only one person reads one of my novels, that’s better than if I never published it at all. Besides, I can always donate to local libraries.

After I let go of my “marketing obsession,” I started to work on my current novel again. The joy of writing came back to me, and my story began to take on a new life.

If you’re a new indie author, just know your expectations and your limitations. And if the joy of writing turns into a “j-o-b” or a “chore,” then stop, take a breath, and start again. You have nothing but time. And don’t forget to congratulate yourself. 97% of people never finish their novels. Congratulate yourself that you’re one of the 3%.

Keep writing! If for no one else, then yourself.

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5 comments

      • Thank you, old Friend! I’m writing about my experiences as a freelancer. I hope I can share more through my book on the challenges mothers faced in terms of their career choices and how freelancing can help them. I’m bumping around in the dark when comes to self publishing and getting my thoughts in words. Would you mind if I drop you an email?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Not at all. Non-fiction and fiction are a little different, but I’d definitely be happy to share what I’ve learned. Feel free to send me an email with any questions.

        Liked by 1 person

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