I began my indie author career as a creative outlet after I quit my job to raise my family. In 2005 the only legitimate option an author had to get their book in a reader’s hands was to spend two years chasing a publisher and hoping against hope that someone would pick up your book. Rather daunting prospect after writing the book, right? I ignored that fact and kept plugging away at my novel, Stealing Time, until 2012 when I discovered the wonderful world of self-publishing as an indie (independent) author. Thank goodness times have changed.
4 Invaluable Tips for Indie Authors
I have learned many lessons as an indie author. Here are some of my top tips:
1. Build Your Social Media Presence Well in Advance of Your Book Release
When I started on Twitter my lofty ambitions were to connect with celebrities in some odd pipe dream that out of the thousands of tweets they received in day, mine would magically glow and they’d respond to me. My life would be transformed. Now I couldn’t give a rat’s patootey about celebrity tweets.
Obviously, I hadn’t considered social media as a tool for selling my novel, in fact, I hadn’t even heard of an indie author at that point. Now two years later I have built a decent social media platform with over 12,000 followers across four platforms (2 Twitter accounts with a combined 10,708 followers, 3 Facebook accounts with a combined 854 likes, 905 followers on Pinterest, and Instagram with 267 followers) and will continue to grow it.
Why is this so important? Let me tell you what happens when you don’t. I have an author friend who spent a year writing his book. When he finished he published on Amazon and began promoting to his 100 followers on twitter. The first week he sold 20 copies and that was that. He had a few people re-tweet, but he’d tapped out his potential readership in a week. If he’d taken that year to grow his following by adding 20 people a day he’d have 7300 followers as a potential customer base. When growing your presence find other authors and promote their work by sharing their links and striking up conversations. They will be invaluable when you want to get your work into as many hands as possible because, if you have chosen well, you will have a large number of readers and other authors who will promote your work in their circles.
How do you know which platforms to use? You need to pick a few and do them well. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and spread too thin. For me the most interactive have been Facebook and Twitter. But don’t just push your agenda! Social media is exactly that–social. You have to invest some time talking to people about their interests and lives. There are writers out there who just tweet their books and never connect with people. This is not the venue for your typical marketing push. Your social media empire is built on your personality and charm, so use it and create a following that will find your posts worthy of more than a sales pitch to be ignored. Interact and have some fun.
I would love to know what social media platforms you use and what have you found the most helpful to market your work.
2. Continually Perfect Your Writing
I look back at what I wrote 8 years ago and have to laugh at the clumsiness of it all. To make it as a writer you have to work at improving in all areas of your writing. I am always reading helpful blogs, like Jeri’s, and other articles on writing, social media, and marketing, and strive to learn as much as I can to improve my skills as a writer and promoter of my work.
Every writer has a bag of tricks they use to create the magic of their craft. I’d love to know what you have used in your writing. Along my journey I found two books extremely helpful. One of the first things I did when I decided to write my novel was find a book to help me organize the storyline. I used The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall throughout the story development and writing stages. It also has a workbook you can buy separately that helps you finish each section with a bang, adding to the tension and pace of the novel.
The other book that has been a huge help to me in the editing stage is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King. Written by professional editors it teaches you how to fix the most common mistakes made by new authors including, exposition, point of view, interior monologue and dialog.
3. Pay For An Editor
If you want to be taken seriously as a writer you must have your work edited by a professional. Unless you’re amazing, magical AND a good editor you can’t possibly see all the issues with grammar, punctuation, spelling, keep track of your characters, their dialog, and their storylines. There are just too many things to sort through. A fresh set of eyes on your manuscript will make a world of difference, and I don’t mean your fabulous auntie who was an English major.
The very first indie author book I picked up was a time travel story I found at a bookstore “meet the author” event. I was so excited to meet a local self-published novel in my genre until I read the darned thing. The story caught my attention but Jeeze-Louise she should have edited it, if not only for her sake but to preserve the broader reputation of the indie author. It made me pause and think about what I was getting into. Did I want to be associated with the likes of this indie author and her badly written drivel?
Indie authors have come a long way since then, but don’t be that putz that makes it hard for the rest of us by putting out low quality work with simple typos and storyline problems. Any editor worth their salt can clean up your work and help you sell a lot more books. I have two author friends who have pulled their first novels off the Amazon shelves to re-edit their books. You simply can’t undo the damage to your reputation as an author by putting out sloppy work. Just like making a great book cover, why not put forth your very best professional work and keep that high standard as you move through your writing career? It is so much easier to start right than it is to try to fix it after a poor product is already out there. Yes, it is not cheap, but as an author don’t you owe it to yourself to put out your very best work and build a positive relationship with your readers and fans?
4. Create a Professional Looking Cover
You’ve finished that amazing novel, poured your heart and soul into it, and now you’re ready to release it! Don’t make the mistake of a lot of indie authors and create what looks like a homemade cover. You are competing with the rest of the publishing industry and the first thing a reader will know about your book will be what you’ve given them on the cover. If it is lame an unprofessional how do you expect someone to buy your book when they have James Patterson a few clicks away? Your book cover should capture the reader’s attention, evoke emotion, hint at the story without being cluttered, be visually pleasing, and be simple. I address these five book cover tips in my last guest blog that you can read here.
You can get a professional cover made for a few hundred dollars. There is no better return on your investment to get your book noticed and into the hands of your readers. Think of it as an investment for your social media sites as well because it is the perfect background photo to help promote your work.
I hope these tips have been helpful to you. Jeri, thank you so much for allowing me to guest blog on your site again. I’m still in awe of your massive following of intelligent and talented writers. Great job on your social media strategy, too, because blogging is another important tool to reach readers and conspiring writers.
What additional pointers can you share regarding tips for indie authors and bloggers alike? I’m eager to learn from you!
Image Credit: Ink Pot by asafesh.