Monday, May 14, 2018

Happy 5th Birthday Indie Author!

In 2014, I compiled this list to celebrate the first book birthday of my first novel, Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer's love story. Five years have now passed since publication day, and I've learned even more from this experience. I'm reposting my original list with a few updates in an effort to help others who are starting out as authors.

#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 didn’t have to do everything, or 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.

UPDATE: I'll add to this that four years later I'm now teaching classes in self-publishing in the continuing education programs at three colleges. I've also mentored a number of people in publishing their own books. So, student became teacher. Who knew? Next step would be to write a book on the subject, but there are already so many good ones out there I'll save my energy for something else. I could do a webinar or a podcast, but that would require a whole new set of skills. Not sure if I'm up for that, but you never know...

#2 People are Helpful

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?

UPDATE: A few years ago I joined a wonderful writer's group, Clean Indie Reads, where I received not only knowledge but support. Through this affiliation I participated in numerous book sales and promotions, contests, blog tours, blog hops, podcasts, author interviews, guest blog posts, and more. Groups like this are essential for any author and I advise all aspiring authors to find one that suits them. As a result of this positive experience I helped create the AlzAuthors blog and writers group. This is a family of writers who share their dementia stories, paving the way for others dealing with the dementias to find resources to meet their needs. 

#3 I Am Not Invisible

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.

UPDATE: Some of the best things that have happened to me came by networking online in social media (see above.) Not all of these opportunities were online, but local, such as my recent participation in a regional authors event at a Barnes and Noble,  and at an Art Walk in a nearby town.  I learned of these opportunities through my involvement in Facebook groups. It is unlikely I would have learned of them otherwise. So time on social media is not wasted.

#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.

UPDATE: I still find this difficult. I sometimes go on whirlwind promotions but then sink back into obscurity. Neither is good. A consistent but not obnoxious prescence would be helpful. It's something I'm working on.

#5 I’m Important

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.

UPDATE: I tend to underestimate myself, so when I stand before an audience to talk about one of my books or in front of a roomful of students I surprise myself by what I know. I've picked up so much knowledge from my writer friends, bloggers, journals and podcasts, as well as my own practice. In time, you can do this too. It doesn't happen overnight, but with persistence, it happens.

#6 Don’t Give Up

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.

UPDATE: In five years, writing has not gotten easier because of my repetitive strain injuries. I still need frequent rest periods (sometimes weeks) but I have learned to plan and organize my projects to manage or eliminate stress. I don't think anyone ever gets the perfect writers life, anyway.

#7 I Love This!

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.

UPDATE: No change!

1 comment:

Lisa B Capp said...

Marianne, Your post inspires me....I've been blogging for a few years now and on the brink of writing that book.....someday!
Thank you.