The Secret Life of an Indie Author

When I first decided to pursue novel writing, I had no idea what it entailed.

As most Indie Authors, I started by pursuing the “Traditional Publishing” route. I had lofty dreams and no idea what I was getting into.

I had this idea for a novel swimming around in my brain for about fifteen years before I pulled my notes out of the drawer and put keystroke to keyboard. The kids were finally old enough to entertain themselves for a few hours while I pecked away at the next great novel. I was able to finish it in about six months. I was impressed with myself, I must say. I didn’t think I could do it, but the words just sort of came tumbling out of me. After all, only something like 30% of people ever finish the novel they start out to write. I was ahead of the game.

I tried the traditional route, not knowing that first novels should NEVER see the light of day. But at least I got rejections. The worst is when you send your blood, sweat and tears off in an email and all you get back is the sound of crickets. The not-knowing is the worst, I think.

Fast forward a few years and a couple novels later (also not in print), and I decided to go the “Indie Publishing” route. I had done a lot of research and read countless blogs and agent advice. I didn’t expect to become an overnight success, but I, again, had no idea what I was in for.

The Biggest Secret? The Indie Author wears many hats.

An Indie Author is first and foremost a writer. That’s a no-brainer, right? You would think so, but it isn’t. Again, I turned to research and the internet to write the best novel I could. There were terms I had never heard before, and I was an English major. “Head hopping?” What the heck was that! It’s when you change point of view mid paragraph. But even editors and authors can’t agree on what exactly head-hopping is. Give the same paragraph to several different people and you’ll get several different responses as to whether it’s head-hopping or not.

An Indie Author also plays the role of “Marketer.” Most writers are NOT cut out for marketing. They are the creatives, the idea makers. But marketing? To a lot of us it’s like speaking a different language. Not to mention, in my case, my last job was in marketing and I’m somewhat traumatized by being on the end of rudeness and cursing and yelling by the people I was approaching. And I was one of the nicest people you could talk to. So, the thought of pandering to my “friends” to purchase my books strikes fear in my heart. It’s something akin to a pyramid scheme where your friends are your victims…uh, clients. I can’t do it. It’s physically and emotionally painful for me.

But it doesn’t stop there. The Indie Author is also the Head of Advertising. If they want to be seen among the 750,000 books listed on amazon.com (and I’m sure that’s a conservative statistic), they must engage in some sort of advertising: GoogleAds, Facebook ads, BookBub campaigns…the list goes on forever. And all those things cost money. You’re already dipping into reserves that you haven’t made yet and may never make. I know that sometimes you have to put something in to get a return, but I truly wonder how many Indie Authors NEVER see a return. I don’t have that money to invest. I just don’t.

The Indie Author is also a Social Media Expert. Again, to be noticed, they need to engage with potential readers on Twitter, Facebook, their own website (if they have one – another investment), Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn…and I’m sure I forgot something. All of this “engagement” takes time away from writing. Because for most Indie Authors, writing is not their day job. Even a lot of traditionally published authors don’t write a book and watch the profits roll in. They make a lot of their money from speaking engagements. But people want to hear from “famous authors.” From the Indie Author? Not so much.

The Indie Author must also be the Gatekeeper. What do I mean by that? I mean that there are a whole lot of scammers out there wanting to “help” with your marketing. The scammers have figured out how to sell “10,000 books their first year without even trying” and they’re willing to show you how…for a small fee or for the price of their e-book. Yeah, I’m not falling for it.

The Gatekeeper also screens out bad advice. The truth is there is no “right” answer. It’s hard work. There is no “quick fix.” It’s a long and arduous endeavor.

Some Indie Authors are also Graphic Designers. They have mastered formatting of their novels. They’ve learned the rules to make their books compete with the traditionally published counterparts. The talented ones can make covers that look professional.

So why do I do it?

Because I love to write. I love my fellow human beings. I want to connect with them. I want my stories to say to them “I get you. I’ve been there.” I want people to find a little bit of themselves or their friends or family members in my characters. I want to leave a legacy of some sort, an imprint on the world for when I’m gone. Even if only five people read my novels, I’m okay with that. I don’t plan on getting rich from them, that isn’t my intention. I know I should do more to put myself out there. I should make a bigger financial investment than I have up until now. And maybe when I don’t have to budget for braces or college or car repairs, and I’ve managed to retire on the MidAtlantic coast in my tiny paid-for home then I’ll have that option. But until I’m living the dream, I will continue to write and write and write. And I’m eternally grateful for every reader I’ve had.

What about my fellow Indie Authors – what’s your Indie Author Secret Life look like?

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Thank You for Reading!

A Big Thank You! 

to the recent purchasers of “Chasing the Wind”

Today is the last day to get your FREE copy on amazon.com!

Reviews are appreciated.

NaNoWriMo…Here We Go!

 

Today marks the first day of #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 on November 30th.

So, here we go…

 

The Either Or Bookstore was a twisty maze of shelves that went from floor to ceiling. It was only about twenty foot wide but about fifty foot deep. There were a few new books, mostly from independent authors, but it was comprised mostly of used books. There were books piled on the floor in front of the shelves and boxes of books that hadn’t been gone through yet. Audra wasn’t sure how Roy made any money being so disorganized. But somehow, he’d managed to keep the store open for about thirty years, from what she understood.

She walked past the fantasy section and grimaced. She didn’t see how anyone could read that drivel. She stopped in the self-help section and looked around to make sure she was alone. She sat down in the ‘relationship’ section. There were books about catching a man, saving a marriage, taming a woman, etc. One with a bright blue cover caught her eye: “When You Don’t Have Time for a Man.” She sat down against the shelves, pulled it out, and began to thumb through it.

It was as though she was reading her own life right there in black and white. All her excuses were there in the chapter titles: No Time No Way, Let Go of Your Past, Putting Your Career Ahead of Him, When He Doesn’t Show Up

Someone appeared at the edge of the tiny aisle, and it startled her.

“Oh!” she said and dropped the book.

The tall stranger bent down to pick it up. She was mortified as he read the title.

“Do you recommend this one?” he asked and smiled.

She stood awkwardly and reached for the book. “Oh, uh…I’m not…I just…I haven’t read it.” She was sure she was bright red.

He laughed a little.

“I didn’t mean to startle you,” he said.

The guy was handsome, and she tried desperately to cover the smear of red strawberry jam on her tank top. She also fumbled with her hair and tucked a strand behind her ear, hoping to look a little better. But she knew there was no hope.

“Ethan! Are you here?!” a woman called.

“Back here mom!” he said, his tall, lean stature stepping back to wave to the woman.

Dotty ran up and hugged his waist tightly. She was only as tall as his shoulder.

Mom? Dotty’s your Mom? Audra thought to herself.

“Oh, Audra! I see you met my Ethan!” Dotty said. “Isn’t it wonderful? He’s home!” she squealed and hugged him tighter.

He pried himself away from her grip and reached for Audra’s hand.

“It’s nice to meet you…Audra, was it?” he asked.

Audra smiled and shook his hand. “Yes.”

Dotty pushed her way between them. “Audra, this is my Ethan! Isn’t he handsome?” Then Dotty turned back to Ethan, “Oh, I just can’t believe you’re home! And for good!”

“Now, Mom. I’m not sure for how long, okay?” Ethan corrected.

“Yes, well. Look at you! You’re so skinny! First thing you need is a home-cooked meal. Come on!” she said and dragged him out of the store by the hand.

He looked over his shoulder. “See you again?” he called to Audra.

She waved. “Maybe!” she said.

When they left the store, Audra said to herself, “He belongs to Roy and Dotty? But how?”

She also realized how homely she looked and knew he was way out of her league. Why did she always meet the good ones when she was a mess?

 

to be continued…

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, best of luck! Happy writing!

There’s Nothing Wrong with “Happily Ever After”

In certain writer’s circles, “happily ever after” is frowned upon. It’s “predictable,” it “isn’t real life,” things don’t always turn out the way you want them to.

I may get thrown out of the Indie Writer’s Club (not a real thing) but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there is nothing wrong with “happily ever after.” Hallmark has made a million dollar industry off predictable, simple, and formulaic scripts. Do you know why? Because people like happily ever after. That’s it. It’s just that simple.

Spoiler alert: my novels have happily ever after endings. Why? Because I like happily ever after. I was one of those girls who believed my prince would come (and he did). Sure, he was a D&D playing nerd in a bar, but he’s my prince nonetheless.

I have to tell you that I loathe stories that don’t resolve themselves, or movies that I invest two or more hours of my time in, only to find out that the hero dies senselessly, or worse, to find out the murderer gets away with it. Can I tell you that the end of “Gone Girl” (the movie) made me absolutely insane?!

Happily ever after offers the reader hope and then delivers. Happily ever after promises a smile from the reader as they read “The End.” Happily ever after doesn’t necessarily mean “romance” either. Happily ever after just means that all the characters find what they’re looking for, or at least get where they want to go.

So, if you’re a writer of sweet romance or family saga or just contemporary fiction that has happily ever after…embrace it. Write the story you want to write. There’s enough trouble in the real world, sometimes people want to escape for a while.

And if you’re a reader of contemporary fiction and like a story with happily ever after, check out Hope for Haley or Understanding Kasey. Spoiler alert – they end happily ever after.

Here’s to “Happily Ever After”…may you continue to give readers all the hope and joy they can stand.

The Fiction Underground and a bit of Nostalgia

I Love Writing…Publishing? Not so much.

For so long as I can remember, I’ve been a writer in some aspect. In my younger years, it was poetry. In fact, my angsty poetry is what got me through puberty and high school. Thank goodness most of that is lost by now.

Like many authors, however, the marketing and business side of writing leaves us feeling less than adequate…and a little bored.

If only there was a “Fiction Underground.”

In the 80s, before self-publishing, and before computers were in every household, there were Underground Magazines (‘Zines, for short). If you were into punk rock, you probably remember them. These homemade magazines were handwritten, sometimes typed, compiled, then photocopied, folded and stapled, and distributed at clubs, record stores, or through local bands.

I’m not even sure who put them together, I just know they were easy to come by. You could find them at the local thrift store where punks and alternative music fans bought most of their clothes. Ahhh…to be able to rock a trench coat and a leather mini skirt again. But I digress.

The beauty of the Underground Magazine was that it didn’t have to find readers. It didn’t have to do market research, or social networking to find followers. Their readers flocked to them like liberty spikes to Murray’s Beeswax. You couldn’t wait to get the next issue to see what controversial subject was in it, or what bands had their lyrics listed, or where the newest underground club was meeting that week. It was a thing of beauty.

Which leads me back to self-publishing.

I wish there was a way to establish a “Fiction Underground ‘Zine.”

There are days when I want to hand out my books door-to-door, or just set them on the front counter of the local thrift shop, or set them by the door of the Mom’s Club meeting down the street and watch as people wait eagerly for the next chapter or book. How much simpler that would be than jumping through the hoops that self-publishing dangles in front of us.

Imagine if all self-published novelists had an “underground” way to reach their audience. Imagine if it didn’t cost a thing. Imagine if you could reach your audience without even trying. We spend so much time “building a platform” and “networking.” Imagine if we could spend that much time just writing good quality novels and let the ‘zine reach our audience.

So, who’s in? Anyone else want to join the “Fiction Underground?”