The Ups & Downs (and way downs) of Being an Independent Author
Being an Independent Author sounds easy. It sounds like a ton of fun. First, you get to write. I love that part. Second, you don’t have to deal with the hassles of agents, query letters, chapter submissions, and the countless months waiting for answers. I love that part, too. And with the invention of KDP, Nook Press, and Smashwords (just to name a few) it is fairly easy to get your work published. All this adds up to a very quick time from finishing a book to having it available to readers. All of these reasons are exactly why I went the Independent Author route. I had stories I wanted to tell and I wanted to reach readers quickly without the hassles of the traditional route.
Sounds easy doesn’t it. A lot of people say it is easy. Well that isn’t entirely true. No one ever told me it would be easy. They made is sound easy, they made it seem like the right path. But no one ever said, this is the easy way to go. And, I’m telling you right now… This is not the easy way to go.
Marketing as an independent author is hard, bordering on impossible. There are so many authors standing on the roof tops yelling, “Buy my book!” that no one really listens anymore. I am a member of several Facebook groups, and they are filled with nothing but “Buy my book” posts. Now I wonder if anyone going to these groups looks for books to buy, or are they all coming to these groups to tell me to buy. And your Facebook page and Twitter page will only reach a limited audience, and if all you do is try to sell you’re follower numbers shrink even more. I love my blog audience, but again this is a tiny group of people.
Independent Authors talk a lot about the way we should share each others posts, help build the word of mouth, but in actuality they rarely step up to the task. Is that bad of them? No, they should only share what they want to share. Not just share because I say they should. But the point being is that social media is not the selling tool everyone thinks it is. It is not a direct selling method. That is to say that if you expect to tweet your book link and get clicks and sales from that, it won’t work. But if you expect people to follow you for you (because they like what you post about), well then you just might get somewhere.
Don’t even get me started on how Facebook has destroyed the ability for the Indie author to reach out. Let just say, now that only roughly 10-25% of my followers even see my posts, it has really killed my ability to use them for anything.
With the release of Volition Agent, a novel which I thought was anticipated by my readers, I have found that there are many down sides to being an Indie Author. My sales numbers for Volition Agent have been so low I’ve found myself fighting off a bit of depression. It is hard when you’re very excited about a novel, and the release day comes and you get no love. It stings actually. No, stings isn’t the right word. It makes you sink so low that you wonder if writing is even your calling. It makes you want to throw everything away and yell “FUCK IT” and walk away.
Then you get your first review on Amazon. I was so happy to see a five star rating on Amazon.com. It was a short review, “Although I’m only a third of the way through the book, I’ve found the ideas and writing style to be so good that I want to read more. Highly recommend this.” But that review lifted me up. They like the book, they like it so much they want others to know before they even finished it. So naturally I shared this with all the writing groups I am on.
In one particular group, another user commented. That user said. “Only a third of the way through the book, and already recommending it? Based on what I’ve seen I would wait for it to come the the library, rather than pay money for it.”
Talk about a slap down to Earth. This hurt for several reasons: First this is an authors and artists group. Not one other Author in that group spoke up in my defense. Not even the admin. It is a fairly standard rule the constructive criticism is acceptable, but there is nothing constructive here. The comment was meant solely to crush my positive review. What happened to the Independent authors banding together? Of course now, I find it funny that he would criticize a review simply because they passed judgement when they were 1/3 through, but he passed judgement without reading a word.
Then I go to seek comfort in my sales numbers, to which I found no comfort. I simply slipped way down into the depths of a depression and the “screw it” mentality that I stopped planning anymore writing projects. I simply shut down, and had enough. Being an independent author hurts and there is no respect in it. I’ve tried a lot to get some hype built. My giveaway on Goodreads is doing well enough. My giveaway on Rafflecopter is a laughing matter, with only 7 entries. The photo contest will likely be canceled because of no entries. I’m still trying to get people to click on my Goodreads ads (with no luck and a lot of money still tied up). And neither book has even broke even yet.
It isn’t about money for me. It never has been. I just want to be read, and accepted by readers. I just want people to enjoy my stories, but how do I make them aware I even exist. I love the fans I have, and I am sure some of them are telling their friends to get my books, but I want to find some new readers. For the independent author this is the hard part.
So between this new level of depression and the 60 hour work weeks of my day job, I haven’t bothered to care about writing anything. I know I am not the only indie author that feels this way. I know I am not the only one that feels like they’ve tried everything to get people excited and talking about their work, only to find that no one cares. I know I am not alone, but it certainly feels that way.
There are ups too. Like getting an Amazon review, a Goodreads review, and especially a blog review. Yesterday I got a very nice, actually it was excellent, review from the Devoted Mommy of 3 blog. I know of a review coming for Volition Agent, though I don’t know when yet. And I’ve had a few positive words from others about my books. So, I started another novel. I’ll keep writing because I have faith that eventually readers will discover me, and when they do they will want to read as much of what I have written has they can find. So for them I keep writing, and for them I will stay on the independent path for now.
Now many of you writers might be reading my blog and thinking; Oh man, Independent Authoring sucks! I’m going traditional. Well, that is a choice that is up to you. I think every author needs to ask themselves three questions before deciding if traditional or Independent in the right choice for them.
Why do I write? If you are writing to get your stories out to readers as quickly as possible then that leans to the independent side. If you are writing to get “discovered” and make a good living on it, you might want to think about the traditional route. That doesn’t mean that indie authors don’t get discovered, it just means that your odds are lower.
Where do you want to see your books sold? If you want to see your books in B&N stores nationwide, traditional. If your writing to see your works published quickly on the major online retailers, indie. If you are happy with local book sellers, you might try the indie route, but be prepared to do some convincing. If you want book tours, book signings, and all that fun stuff, traditional is your choice. If you want blog tours, indie is good.
Do you want to make this your career? If you plan to write for a career, I don’t know that Indie is your choice. It certainly isn’t the faster way to do it. I am still in the negative for Dissolution of Peace, which I have spent roughly $500 on to date. I think I have made about $150 on the book so far, I am still -$35o on the book. I’m already into Volition Agent for around $350, I’ve just now hit $15 into that. You don’t get rich in the indie market, at least not easily. All marketing, cover art, editor, and promotional costs are on you. I haven’t even included the free books I’ve give away in the costs above. You won’t make a lot of money easily. But, there is no guarantee you’ll make it big in the traditional method either. Even if you make a sale, most books don’t earn out their advance and start earning royalties.
Typically this would be the part where I tell you that you can help me in a few simple steps. You know the drill because it is on every Independent Author blog. You know, write reviews, tell a friend, blah blah blah. I’m going to skip all that. You’ve heard it before and either you are doing it, or you are not. That is your choice to make.
The point of this blog is simple. Being an independent author is not easy. If you are planing to be one, or are one, because you thought it would be the easier way. You’ll get a rude awakening. The independent author road is filled with a lot of ups and downs, and the down can be really bad. But don’t give up either. There will be critics, there will be praise, and most commonly there will be readers who will say nothing. Just breath, get out of the funk, and start writing the next one. I’m glad I saw that and started my third novel.