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
5. Build a small but strong support group
6. Time or money?
7. Watch out for scams
8. Play the long game
And now here’s four more things I learned this year!
9. Do this for yourself
To quote my first blog post, what does success mean to you?
When I set out to write my first novel, I did it utterly and completely for my own happiness. I wrote a book I enjoyed writing. I didn’t try to game the system, trick readers, or anticipate trends to write an instant bestseller. It wasn’t to get famous or sell a certain number of copies. I did it because I wanted to, and I enjoyed it.
Now, I realize my reasons may not be the same as your reasons, but the one thing I’ve always tried to remember is that I’m doing this for myself. That makes it a lot easier to do the work, to handle the rejection letters, to cope with the mean reviews, to find joy in each step of the process.
I knew I was writing a book I enjoyed, and I trusted that if I enjoyed it, at least one other person out there would enjoy it too, and that was enough for me.
Obviously I did hope a lot of people would like it. I even entertained the occasional fame daydreams – I’m only human – and yes, I strove to produce a quality book that would sell a good number of copies and make me some money. But the root goal always remained the same: to have fun writing and publishing a book. Everything else after that was just a bonus.
I recommend you do this for yourself. Be authentic, have fun, make mistakes, and enjoy every step of the messy process.
10. Don’t let people tear you down
I got my first 1-star reviews recently. Actually a few not-so nice reviews arrived in a row. Hopefully one day I’ll have so many reviews coming in that I won’t have time to read them all, but for now, I like reading them – even the mean ones. I like to see if people have any good suggestions or valid critiques.
Some reviewers are great, they offer positives and negatives, and give actionable feedback. But most people just get off on tearing other people down. They like to be vitriolic and act as if your book personally affronted them. That’s fine, I guess. If that’s who they are – people who like being nasty because it makes them feel better. I mean, there’s a word for people like that – in fact, there are several great words… But I’ll save them for my next villainous character descriptions.
Early on in the publishing process, I actually challenged myself to tear apart my book and envision all the mean critiques someone could lodge against me. I think it was a good exercise, because a) it actually prompted me to address a few issues before I published, and b) it helped me develop a coping strategy. Now I have a ready response to make myself feel better in case a reviewer hates my book. I can shrug them off, or I can say, “yeah they have a point, but here’s the reason why I decided not to address that issue in this book”.
There will always be people who don’t like your book, or who don’t like you. It’s a rite of passage to get nasty reviews, but as long as YOU like your book and you’re proud of your work, that’s all that matters.
11. Read a LOT
Another tip you see a lot in the Indie Author vlog-blog-o-sphere is that you need to read. Admittedly, this is a tip I didn’t believe at first. I was arrogant, and completely convinced that I was already a super awesome writer, who didn’t need to work on her craft. Reading more books would only take my time and distract me from writing my own books.
It’s true, reading takes time. Everyone is always saying “I wish I had time to read” while sitting and binging TV (admittedly, also a good way to learn about storytelling). But, trust me, you have time to read. You just need to prioritize it a bit more.
There’s a difference between reading to read, and reading to learn how to write. When I read fantasy books now, my mind works in a different way than it did before. It analyzes the plot, characters, and world building, trying to see why I find some books more satisfying than others. I revel in beautiful language, taking note of unique vocabulary and stylistic choices.
More than anything, I use reading as a way to give my brain a break. When I feel creatively drained or just unenthused about my own work, but I don’t want to be “unproductive”, I immerse myself in someone else’s story. It’s a respite from the responsibilities of my own creative world for a while. And getting excited about someone else’s creative project is often enough to jumpstart my own creative engine. And you might discover an author who’s voice inspires you or challenges you to be better. I especially encourage you to read other Indie Authors. It’s good to support each other! And it’s good to see what other people are doing in your niche.
12. Take it seriously
This might be one of the most important things I’ve discovered in my life. Take your dreams seriously. As a musician, author, and all around artsy weirdo who doesn’t fit into society’s cookie cutters, I have encountered endless streams of doubters and naysayers, as well as artistic aspirationals who are full of excuses about why they don’t do the art they claim is important to them.
When I was in grade 12, heading off to do my undergrad in music, the number one question people asked me (with skepticism and a healthy dose of pity on their face) was “oh, what are you going to do with that degree?”
Limited, imaginationless, pessimistic, poopoo brains!
I’ll tell you what I’m going to do with it: WHATEVER I WANT! Whatever I dare to dream is possible!
Okay… calming down now…
You know what I’ve realized, I absolutely do NOT need to justify my dreams to anyone else. They are my dreams and if I want to achieve them, I will. It all begins with me taking them seriously, because nobody is going to take them seriously unless I do it first.
I believe in my dreams. I believe they have value and worth and I believe I can achieve them. My dreams deserve my time, they deserve my effort.
This dream I had, of publishing my own books, well I took it VERY seriously. I wasn’t content to just crank out the first draft and be done with it. My dreams deserve the best of what I can offer them. Absolutely nothing less. Yes, it’s a lot of hard work, but I don’t see any other option. My dreams deserve to be taken seriously. And yours do too.