Last month marked two years that I’ve been an independent published author. On June 25, 2010, I uploaded my novel, Have You Seen Her? to Kindle and a few months later to Barnes & Noble’s Nook. I’d like to share what I believe I have learned along the way.1) Hiring a professional editor is essential.
Readers are very particular, and they have the right to be, even if they’re only paying 99 cents for your work. But I have noticed that readers are overly critical of indie authors when it comes to typos, grammatical errors and even formatting errors. Considering the fact that I’ve seen these same types of errors in almost every single book I’ve read recently from major publishers, I think the harsh criticism indie authors have received is extreme.
Even though my critique group read every line of each of my manuscripts, we didn’t catch the errors. I didn’t have the money to hire a professional editor with my first three books, but once the royalties started coming in, I used that money to pay for editing on the last three. Since then, I’ve gone back over the first two and re-edited them myself. One more to go …
2) Marketing and promotion can take over your life, if you let it.
For a while, I had allowed those tasks to do just that, until I got to the place where I felt overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated, irritable and wasn’t fit for human companionship. I’d made the mistake of trying to do everything, which is virtually impossible.
It didn’t take me long to understand why most bestselling authors have assistants. The amount of work an author needs to do every day is enough for two or even three people. Being an indie author, all of the responsibility falls on you, so it’s imperative to learn how to balance writing, marketing and promotion and your business and personal reading. I’m still learning.
If you are able to hire an author’s assistant, do it. If not, it might be possible to delegate certain tasks to a very organized, trustworthy family member.
Since June 2010, I have also discovered that I am capable of learning anything I need to. Formatting for Kindle and Nook was daunting, but I figured it out and became better at it with each new book. Formatting is just the first challenge an e-book author will face. If new e-authors let the first challenge beat them, surely they will be crushed by the other challenges that are soon to come.
Some new e-book authors allow the formatting to frighten them, and they end up paying a service to do it. If you have the extra cash to do that, I say go for it, but if you’re just starting out and have no budget, this is an unnecessary expense. There are many places where you can get help with your formatting, from the Kindle and PubIt! forums to wonderful sites like http://www.cjs-easy-as-pie.com/. Keep that money in your own pocket.
3) Entering the social networking world as an author can be unnerving at best. The differences between groups, boards, pages, and networks could fill an encyclopedia volume. It takes time to learn what’s allowed, when and where. A couple of times I got myself banned from a particular board for posting a promo in the wrong thread on the wrong day, but I sucked it up and moved on. In my opinion, if these folks are that picky about an unintentional slip, then I don’t want to be bothered with them. There are thousands of other places to promote.
That being said, online promotion and marketing takes tact, courtesy, the ability to follow instructions, comply with rules or regulations, and submitting to somebody's authority.
4) Possibly the most important thing I’ve learned is that the indie reading and writing community is incredible. In the past two years, I have met hundreds of wonderful supportive people that have assisted me by answering my questions, directing me to places where I could get help and, most of all, by promoting my work. These folks have invited me to participate in anthologies, to chat with their group online, to speak in person, to visit their blogs/web sites, all free of charge.
The indie book community is an amazing machine that is fueled by reciprocation. When we do unto others as we would have them do unto us, great things happen.
I read that before the advent of electronic publishing, the average self-published author only sold a total of 100 copies of his/her book. E-publishing and social networking have allowed me to sell sixty times that amount in less than twenty-four months. The book bloggers, reviewers, bookclubs, and general book lovers have helped to make my dream possible. Women like Dee Dee Scott are doing a fabulous job in telling the reading public about the work of independent authors like myself. All I can say is thank you!
I dare not compare myself with Joe Konrath, Amanda Hocking or John Locke, but I do consider myself a successful author. Of course, sales are important, but I have also given away thousands of books in order to build a readership. My readership is growing daily. There is nothing like the joy I get from reading letters from my readers. My readers. Just saying that phrase is surreal. Getting fan mail is amazing, and I answer every single one I receive.
Can’t wait to see what the next two years brings!