Chins up! It makes me sad to see so many indie authors so down on themselves for no reason. I can say it until I’m purple in the face (because purple is cooler than blue) but I doubt anyone will listen. Regardless – a debut is not the same as a book two. A book one of a series is not the same as a book two of a series. Not all genres are created equal, and the list goes on.
I have authors who look at me as some success story. To me, this is laughable. While I have achieved my indie goals, I sure haven’t done the impossible. And I still have a long way to go to be where I want to be. Hell, there are days when I’m not even clear what my goals are. So to see brand new authors upset about small newsletters, inactive groups, low followings or coffee fund royalty checks is hard for me.
Writing, especially in indie, is NOT a sprint. It’s a marathon and not the kind you can run in a day. Five years of seven days a week with very few days off is what it took for me to get where I currently am. And in many ways, I’m two years behind where I should be and where I even was. Like in life, we move forward only to take steps back and that’s all okay! It’s all part of the journey.
Stephen King once said that if a person is paid actual money for actual words, they can consider themselves a successful and professional author. I can’t agree more. It’s not about the number on a royalty check. It’s about the fact that someone believed enough in your words to pay you for them. That matters.
If I could wish one thing for newer authors, it’s that they would stop obsessing over ranks and numbers. Those things come! Leave the math to publishers and people who wear suits to work. Let the art commence, stay consistent and disciplined and that math will work out too. It took me eight books to see tangible money. It took me twelve to see money I could use for real life bills. This takes time.
Trends come and go. What readers want and don’t want can change from one day to the next. Hell, even the platforms and their TOS rules change. That’s okay too. We are on a bumpy road and the best thing to do is let those bumps tickle our stomachs and do our best not to get car sick. Find mentors, peers, and others who have lived it and are willing to be honest about their own mistakes and curves in the road.
I am five years in and can tell you I have a long way to go. I suck at twitter. I can’t tweet to save my actual life. I also could not make a google doc if my children’s lives depended on it. I forget my own releases, I’m about as organized as a chimpanzee, and if it wasn’t for my PA, I doubt I’d even know my own deadlines. So, yeah – far from perfect and a long way to go.
New authors: Lose the egos. Engage with readers. Drop the pity parties too – or at least keep them off the feeds; it’s a horrible look. Understand that the right readers will find you. Know that once you gain an organic reader (not Grandma) they will stick with you. Don’t underestimate them – readers are pretty adventurous too if they see you have the right attitude. Most of all? BE YOU. There’s no use getting to know anyone or doing networking of any kind if you aren’t real about yourself and your brand. To me? One organic, true reader who you have touched is better than 30 buys from the relatives. One person whose world you have changed with your work? Better than any big royalty check to me.
Coming from one of the “flooders” of indie, I can tell you, there are times to slow down too. Stop and see how far you’ve come! Take a moment to celebrate the journey. This is an adventure and while it can’t always be fun (what road trip is?) readers want to see that side of you too. Take them with you.
Until next time, chin up, buttercups. We’re in this together.
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USA Today Bestselling multi genre author unafraid to chase the madness.