In the previous post, 12 Tips for New Indie Authors – Part One, these were the four things I shared from my first year as an Indie Author:
1. It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun!
2. Figure out what you have the bandwidth to do
3. Trial and Error
4. Building an Audience Takes Time
And now here’s four more things I learned this year!
5. Build a small but strong support group
You know the list of acknowledgements at the end of every book? The whole part where the author lists people, gushing like they’re delivering a dramatic Oscar acceptance speech: “I couldn’t have done this without you” and “your support means so much to me” etc. Well, there’s a reason every book has that part. And it’s not just because every author has already secretly written their Oscar acceptance speeches.
Just because you’re an indie author, doesn’t mean you have to do everything all by yourself. Make use of the community around you, especially at the beginning. Most of your friends and family will be super excited for you when you publish your first book, but that excitement will dwindle a bit as the books go on, and that’s normal and fair. It doesn’t mean they’re not still supportive, it just means they don’t have the bandwidth to maintain the same level of enthusiasm after the novelty has worn off a bit.
So ask yourself, who are the people who are 100% invested in this for you? The people who want to beta read every single draft, who want to listen to you talk about the book for hours. The people who offer feedback and immediately buy 6 copies of the book to give to other people.
Those are the people you need the most. Cheerleaders, critique partners, beta readers etc. Rely on those people, and make sure they know how important they are!
6. Time or Money?
Ah yes, the money question. I could probably write an entire blog just on budgeting and the money aspect of being an Indie Author, but right now I’ll keep it simple. If you’re worrying about how much this endeavour will cost you, the answer is: it’s up to you.
Ask yourself what you have more of, time or money? If you have more time, then you can take on more tasks yourself, thereby reducing your expenses. If you have no time, you may find yourself outsourcing and paying people to do other tasks. Neither of these is right or wrong. It completely depends on you, your budget, and your time. Make the decision that’s right for you.
I spent a fair bit of money on publishing book one, and then reduced my expenses on book two and three because I knew what I was doing and I could do it more efficiently. This goes back to trial and error and bandwidth a bit. What do you have the time/bandwidth to do? And what expenses are most likely to have a good Return on Investment (that return could be literal cash income, or fans/followers, or it could be new skills or knowledge you acquire).
My advice is: respect your own time and try not to spend money unless it has a good ROI. Easier said than done, I know. But if you keep these things in mind as you move forward, hopefully it will help you. And remember to pace yourself. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
7. Watch out for scams
Okay so this is pretty obvious. But what’s not obvious, is how these scams present themselves. There’s an awful lot of blind trust expected in this industry. Instances where you’re asked to pay upfront for a service, with no concrete guarantee of a good ROI. Or people reaching out on social media to offer you their “expert” services.
My advice is to just be wary. Do a lot of research before spending your money. Some scams are malicious, designed to drain your wallet. Other scams are just genuine services that frankly don’t work. So you might try them once, realize they suck and then never do them again.
There are a lot of people out there who like to prey on people trying to follow their dreams. Things like Vanity Presses. I submitted my manuscript to one before I realized it was a vanity press. When they responded, I got excited that someone wanted to publish my book. Then I did some more research and realized it was a bad, bad, bad idea and I didn’t follow up with them.
At the end of the day, the more successful you are, the more scammers will come crawling out of the woodwork. So in a way, it’s kind of nice to get a lot of scuzzy messages. It means they think you have a level of success they can glom on to. So try to take that as a win, and just don’t let them actually glom on.
There are a lot of support groups on facebook and other platforms where authors share their experiences. Definitely join as many of those as you can. You don’t have to interact with anyone on them really. But you can benefit from access to their knowledge and learn from other authors’ mistakes.
8. Play the Long Game
It’s easy to get discouraged in the first year when you don’t immediately achieve bestseller success, or when you realize you worked insane hours and earned pennies, so your hourly pay rate amounted to something like $0.50/hour.
But I realized something very important. I realized that I will be a published author for the rest of my life, earning income in a gentle trickle for the rest of my life. And the bulk of the work involved in publishing the first book is over now. It’s a HUGE investment of time upfront, but the payoff is indeterminate.
Hypothetically, let’s say I earn $1000 per year that the book is published, and let’s say I live for another 60 years. That means the book could earn me $60,000, which is a fairly respectable salary for one year of work. And that’s only one book. The insane amount of work I did was actually to publish three books.
So let’s be simplistic and multiply that number by 3. Now I’ve earned $180,000 for one year of work. Which is a very nice amount, I think. The only drawback is that I have to accept it on a weird fluctuating payment plan, determined by other people’s whims and interests. And of course, I will keep doing marketing work in future years, so it’s not quite this cut and dry.
But the bottom line is that I’m in this for the long haul. I’m not going to evaluate my success after one year. It’s a lifelong journey and I’m going to reap the rewards of being a published author for the rest of my life, and then my estate will reap the rewards until my copyright expires 50 years after I die. Yay!