Tag Archive | book marketing

The Amazing Resilience of Indie Authors

On the wall in my office

Just when you thought it was safe to finally self-publish your novel, a new challenge rears its’ ugly head to join the long list of problems facing authors today.

Writing a book and having it published is quite an accomplishment, no matter how you get there. Accomplishing that and having a successful career as an Indie (Independent) Author, is a whole other ball game.

Don’t Get Cocky

The latest challenge which played out on the internet recently was over Trademarking. Just search the word, “Cockygate” and you’ll find dozens of posts and articles describing what happened. The issue may take some time to fully resolve, but the bottom line is this case has the potential to forever change the way we use words, and how we as authors (and maybe even the rest of the world) can advertise.

Hopefully, it won’t be the worst-case scenario that many fear. But, it simply adds another brick to the growing wall of obstacles one faces when publishing on the internet.

What else, you may ask? Here’s just a few of the everyday challenges I see when talking with other Indie Authors on social media:

Pirates– illegal copies of books on websites, either for free or for sale (someone else making money off your hard work)

Troll reviewers– leaving bad reviews on books they never read, or due to shipping problems, or revealing spoilers

Retailers (especially the really big one) stripping pages read, stripping reviews, shutting down accounts with no explanation, accusing authors of breach of contract due to pirates having stolen their work, or scammers using their books without their knowledge, page reads suddenly dropping off, sales suddenly dropping off, not changing or correcting issues in a timely manner—all with no notice, little recourse and scant communication options

Losing money on pre-scheduled ads and promotions because of the above

Possibly unscrupulous readers obtaining books through giveaways and then selling them online, or returning them for money (when gifted online- of course they have the right; but did they get it for free to read, or just to get something for it? We never know).

Purchasers reading an entire series, and then returning all books for a refund (try that in any other industry. Not talking here about accidental purchases, but systematic read and returns).

 

I may have missed a few, feel free to add your own. This doesn’t even cover the subject of how e-books have been devalued due to so many free books on the market, but it bears consideration when looking at all the things which affect a career. Indies put so much time, effort, and money into their books, and get relatively little for each book in sales. So, any and all of the above challenges chip away at what could be profits.

However…

Despite all of the above, I have found the Indie Author community to be some of the most helpful, patient, kind, supportive, and resilient bunch of people I have ever come across. They love writing so much, they keep going despite all the problems. They share information on social media, in blog posts, and in craft books, to help other authors fight the good fight to get our work into the hands of readers.

Yes, there are a few bad apples, or those who inadvertently piss others off, even though they mean well. But the vast majority of authors know this:

WE ARE NOT EACH OTHER’S COMPETITION!

We are stronger banding together. The beauty of writing books is, readers keep reading.  Just because a reader has read every vampire romance novel out there, doesn’t mean she is done. If you write a good one, she’ll probably read that, too. So, having books that look similar, sound similar, have similar stories (tropes) are a good thing. It helps the readers find what they are looking for. Just because someone buys another author’s book, does not mean they won’t buy one of yours.

In fact, it usually has the opposite effect of spurring more sales, overall. Readers find new authors, authors find new readers.

Most Indie authors know this and strive to give the readers what they want. Yes, we all do “copy” each other—to a point. Except for plagiarism, of course. Don’t ever do that.

I was proud to be part of the Indie Author community this week, as I witnessed how creative the support for each other was. From sharing links to buying books, to joint promotions—Indies banded together like never before. There was even a hash tag, #ThisIsHowYouIndie.  It was solidarity at its finest. A few of us had been affected by the Trademark issue, so all of us were.

So, go find your Tribe, and love them hard. How else are we going to face all the challenges of Indie Publishing, and celebrate our wins?  We are all in these trenches together, so we may as well help each other.

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How Do Authors Measure Success?

Empty Road At Sunset And Sign For Success In Blurred Motion

The simple answer to the title question of this post is” sales of their books”, but there is so much more to author success than that.

I’ve been pondering the question since I attended a recent meeting of the Atlanta, Georgia chapter of the Romance Writers of America. The speaker was Georgia author Piper Huguley, and her presentation was, “Make a Way When There’s No Way: Creating your own niche in an ever-changing publishing market.” She went on to discuss her experience, as well as that of a few other authors, who found success by finding their own niche markets, and it was inspiring. Whether pursuing a traditional publishing path or going indie, her presentation had information everyone can use and relate to.

The Question

But one question she asked stuck with me, which was, “How do you define success?” Ms. Huguley made the important point that success is a very personal thing, and may have a different meaning for everyone. Some authors aspire to hit the New York Times Bestseller List; some have goals of a certain number of sales; while others consider success to be making enough money to pay off their car loan. And then, there is the mother of all author goals, considered by many to be the holy grail- making enough money from writing to quit your day job. (Sigh…..)

The Levels

I’ve been so busy “trying to become a writer” that I hadn’t given much thought to my goals, but now that I have thought about it, I realize that success has many levels. There are small victories, mid-level milestones, and big, exciting accomplishments. Here are a few possible examples:

Small Victories– finishing a first draft; getting positive feedback on a WIP; having a blog post shared or retweeted; finally getting a scene that I have struggled with to sound right; the little gems of writing, where you amaze yourself (“where did that come from?”)

Mid-level Successes– when someone well-known compliments your work; getting a WIP ready for querying or publication; hitting a publication milestone (five novels, etc).

Big, Exciting Accomplishments– Getting a contract or becoming self-published; your first sales; a certain number of sales; finaling for or winning an award; hitting any bestseller list; and yes, being able to quit your day job!

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

There are certain to be more one can add to these lists. For me, being published for the first time will be a biggie, a personal accomplishment. I have been an entrepreneur for many years, so my goal after that will be to earn out the money I put into self-publishing, and become profitable. Beyond that, I’ll be happy simply to find an audience that likes my books and wants more. If the income is better than I hoped and I get to enjoy some of those other big, exciting, accomplishments, then that’s extra.

The Downside

But there’s a negative side to all this. What if you can’t hit some of your success goals? I had an attack of doubt last night, after discovering the Twitter hashtag #MSWL, which stands for Manuscript Wish List. Agents and Editors tweet about the kinds of stories they are looking for, which is useful information, even if you’re planning on self-publishing, as I am. I was being nosy, curious to see if I could find out what might be trending in the marketplace.

But it’s disheartening when you read, “DO NOT want X, Y, and Z stories. And never any A or B”, and you realize that statement encompasses everything you’re working on! And then you see others saying variations of the same thing, meanwhile they are all asking for “new and improved” variations of stories you have seen recently done to death.

So…in that situation, should you keep on writing what you want to write, even though there may be no (or at least, a very small) market for it? If you know, going in, the chance of success is small?

Overworked, depressed and exhausted businessman at his desk with

The answer to that question is whatever you think it is. Some may say “No, write a sure thing, give the readers what they want”. Others may say, “I gotta be me.”

When my fears about the marketplace subsided, I remembered Piper Huguley’s example. She was told by a well-known agent that it would likely be twenty years before her work would be able to sell in the marketplace, because of the subject matter and type of characters. But she went ahead and published them herself, and guess what? They sold, better than even she had expected. There was a market for her work. She counted that as a success, and so do I.

I can’t stop now, change my WIPs around, or start all over just to chase the market. Maybe when I become more experienced and skilled, I can cater to trends. But for now, I gotta be me, and do what I love to do.

And that is how I measure success.

 

How about you? What are your levels of success? How many have you reached?