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?