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Sunday, April 27, 2014
Happy Birthday Indie Author! 7 Things I Learned My First Year
It’s hard to believe one year has passed since I published my first novel, “Blue Hydrangeas.” It was a project eleven years in the making, fraught with frustration, disappointment, joy, and surprise. I learned a lot from this experience, and thought I’d share it here.
#1 I Need Help
Indie publishing is not for the faint of heart. Never did I dream how much I had to learn and how much I had to do in order to be successful. If I had, I probably would have let the manuscript languish on my hard drive for eternity. Since early childhood, I always had to do everything myself, and have a hard time asking for help. But some things I just can’t do. Formatting a manuscript is at the top of that list. My repetitive strain injuries would not allow this no matter how many times I tried and how many strategies I used to get around the crippling pain. In the end, I asked for help and realized I don’t have to do everything nor cripple myself to do it all. There are many skills needed to make a book, and no one person possesses all of them to do it expertly. Part of being an indie author is knowing when to call in the professionals to help make your book the best it can be. That’s why big publishing houses employ a staff of pros to turn out a book. It was foolish to think I could make it on my own.
One thing about book people: they’re helpful. I learned this at a writer’s conference a number of years ago. It must be a writer thing, this urge to share information, to write about your experiences, to answer when called upon for advice. I received information and help from many different sources: authors, publishers, editors, bloggers, and web sites, usually for free. I haven’t experienced such generosity in any other field. In turn, I give of myself, sharing what I've learned, letting others in on a good deal or a bad experience. When indie authors work together, we all win. It elevates our industry, and makes us all better at what we do. In the end, readers benefit, and that’s what we’re all here for, isn't it?
People notice. They do, whether you’re commenting on someone’s Facebook status, a blog post, or retweeting a tweet. In order to be in this game, you need to put yourself out there, build a presence both online and in your community, letting the world know you’re an author with something to share, which leads me to the next thing I learned.
#4 Don’t Be Shy
No, you can’t be shy. This is not the time to be bashful, or wait for someone else to tell the world what you have to offer. Self-promotion doesn't come easy to me. I tend to do things quietly. But, in publishing you can’t sit back. You need to tell the world about your book, your next appearance, your latest interview. We indie authors are just drops in the ocean; there are thousands of us with thousands of books out there jockeying for attention. In order for us to reach readers, we must be our own best fans.
It’s true. I never realized it before but I am important. I’m the only one who’s written this book, this story, about an important topic, one that affects millions of lives, and one that has moved many people to write to me and post reviews on Amazon and Goodreads letting me know how my work has touched them. And when I started to realize that, in my own small way, in my own little niche, I’m important, I started to act important, and then other people acted like I’m important. I accomplish so much more this way.
This is a tough business. There are times I feel like giving up. Why did I ever get involved with this? How am I ever going to get it all done? But, after a little respite I get my equilibrium back and keep plugging along. In the end, I do get it all done, astonishing myself. Things may not happen overnight, or when I want them to, but things happen: the invitation to speak at the conference arrives; the interview with the alumni magazine is published; the host of the radio show wants an interview; the royalties are direct deposited. I never know what’s going to happen next, what opportunity will present itself to help me advance as an author, a writer, to build my reputation, to grow my brand. Each day brings a new adventure. Or not. During the slow times, I play catch up, and dream.
I wouldn't change anything. Every ounce of frustration and disappointment is worth every moment of joy. This is a journey, and not everyone is destined to take it or make it. The end is nowhere close, but I continue to work, a little each day to make my dream come true.