(As with my first novel, this post kept creeping up there in word count, so I’ve split it into three posts! Haha I do that a lot!)
It’s been a year!
Alright so technically it has been a year and a half, but as we bid farewell to 2022, I have achieved the initial goal I set for myself: to publish three books in the span of 12 months.
I thought it would be nice to share 12 things I learned in my first year as an Indie Author. One for each month of the year, or one for each of the 12 days of Christmas… whatever you prefer!
1. It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun!
It probably goes without saying that being an Indie Author is a lot of work. You have to be the writer, the editor, the typesetter, the marketer, the salesperson, and everything in-between. There is a reason why the traditional publishing industry exists – most writers don’t have the time or the resources to wear all of these different hats.
Of course, me, I love wearing hats – the more the merrier. Bring on the hats.
The important thing to remember is that this will be an unbelievable amount of work. But if you’re anything like me, you will simply adore all of it. You won’t mind putting in 16-hour days, in fact, you’ll actually want to put in those hours!
But if you’re not really jazzed about the prospect of wearing so many hats it makes your head sweat, you might prefer to pursue traditional publishing. Or, if you’re in a strong financial position, you could still go the indie route and just outsource lots of work. However, one of my favourite perks of being an indie author is that it gives me all the power (POWER MUAHAHAH!). I like having all the control, and frankly, outsourcing work means giving up bits of control…
(Don’t touch my hats!)
Yeah, I’m not a great delegator, but maybe you are. I hope so, for your sake.
I can tell you, though, that having this much control over my creative dreams and investing my time and money in myself is the most satisfying, rewarding, engaging, and exciting work I have ever done. And as you may recall, I love to work, so this is saying a lot.
2. Figure out what you have the bandwidth to do
So, given that being an Indie Author is an unbelievable amount of work, you also need to be practical about how you spend your time. I like to pretend I can do all the work all the time, and all by my lonesome.
Wrong. So wrong!
It is impossible to do everything all the time. I know I’m only human and I know I can’t do everything. All through this process I’ve made decisions about what I do and don’t have the bandwidth to undertake myself. For example, cover design is not a skill I have. My stupid workaholic control freak brain wanted me to go get training and become an amazing cover designer, but my practical brain put its foot down. (I know, right? My brain has feet. So cool!) So I hired a cover designer, and she is amazing!
Another example is typesetting. I researched how to properly typeset a book and I was all prepared to do it myself, but that would have taken a lot of time and likely led to a lot of frustration and nit-picky work. So, I decided to invest in Vellum instead.
So, my advice to you is to figure out what your own limitations are. Definitely push yourself to try new things! But be strategic in how you spend your time (and money). What can you do and what can’t you do? Or no, not “can’t” I don’t like that word. So, let’s say, what should you do and what shouldn’t you do?
And remember that this is a long journey. You may end up doing different tasks as you get better and more efficient at this.
3. Trial and Error
There are a lot of vloggers, bloggers and Indie Author authorities out there who will tell you the right way and the wrong way to do something (I guess I am guilty of that too… sigh… sorry). But it can be quite stressful trying to follow everyone else’s guides and rules. I got all worked up about trying to make sure I did it the “right way” and then I was disappointed when I didn’t immediately sell a gazillion books.
Over time I realized that some of the “surefire” tips I was following simply didn’t work for me. Maybe they will work later or maybe they only work for people who publish in a very specific niche genre. Who knows, really? But I realized that there is no guaranteed, surefire strategy. So all you can do is trial and error.
Try a little bit of everything (within reason and still respecting your budget), assess its success and adjust. Keep researching new strategies, and keep trying new things. And remember that everything will change as you publish more books. What didn’t work on book one, when no one knew who you were, might work amazingly well on book 3 or 4. Don’t be afraid to try new things, and don’t be afraid to stop doing something if it isn’t working right now.
4. Building an Audience Takes Time
The number one recommendation I encountered on the Indie Author vlog-blog-o-sphere was to “build my author platform and audience”. It was always presented to me as if it were step 1, the crucial starting point, without which you could not hope to be successful.
But here’s the thing. Nobody wants to follow you if you have nothing to show them. Nobody cares about an author who hasn’t authored a book. So how the heck are you supposed to build a following before publishing your book?
But if I can’t sell books if I don’t have a following, and I can’t have a following if I don’t have books, then gah! Where do I start?!
Well, I realize now that it was my error to assume that “building an audience” was step 1. In fact, it isn’t really a step. It’s not a task you accomplish, it’s an ongoing development and conversation with a growing, changing community. It takes time to get your name out there, to find your readers and to get reviews.
It. Takes. TIME.
So don’t worry about it too much. Just have fun. Do some more trial and error. Be authentic and cherish the members of your audience that already exist. Who are they? Why do they care about you? Maybe these questions will help you to find more of them.