7 Things I Learned in 7 Years as an Indie Author

Some of you have asked what it’s like to take the indie author road instead of traditional publishing. So I’ll tell you. It’s a bit like typing in Spanish with one hand and Greek with the other, while you’re blindfolded and going fifty-five on a hoverboard. Except with less nausea and bloodshed. I kid, of course. It’s worse than that. Why do it, then? Because I can. Because I like to be in control of my work. I’ve been self-publishing for seven years now—long enough to learn a few things, and also long enough to realize there’s a lot I still don’t know. Here are a few things I’ve learned in my seven years of independence.

1. It helps to stay current.The publishing market is always changing. Sales outlets change; advertisers change; Amazon algorithms reallychange. What worked like gangbusters for one author one day might be a flat bust for another…or even for the same book two months later. This is why I read a handful of publishing blogs and bother my colleagues with questions about what’s working—and not working—for them. 

2. Reviews are for readers. A hard lesson I learned was that once I publish a book, I have no control over what readers will say about it. Zip. Zero. I still hope for reviews. They make me feel good, especially when readers like my work, but I stopped getting hung up over the “negative” ones. Because, really, reviews are for readers. They tell other readers if a book is worth their precious leisure hours that they could be spending with Netflix or crafting avocado toast. If you hate first person, present tense stories about vampire mermaids with serious alpha billionaire issues (spoiler alert: this is not what I write), you’d want to see that reflected in a review, yes? Saves you oodles of time and frustration.

3. Goodreads is also for readers. Other than doing giveaways (which are now honking expensive so I stopped) I was never really comfortable wearing my author hat there. It felt kind of spammy and stalky to be lurking around. But I do like the site as a reader, with my shelves and to-reads and discussion groups and all that. Once in a while, I’ll mention a new book or a promotion or whatnot, but I try to keep it low-key.

4. Patience. Patience. Patience.I publish a book. I open my handy spreadsheet of bloggers and reviewers and send out queries or review copies. I wait. I wait patiently, I wait professionally. I wait…happily. Not that I’m sucking up or anything, but book bloggers and reviewers are gold. They are wonderful people who love books and want to talk about books, but they are BUSY. They don’t get paid for what they do, so they have jobs and stuff. So once I send, I don’t bother them. Ever. If they choose to review my book, I thank them; I share their blogs and try to get them more traffic.

5. The Oxygen Mask Rule. There’s that announcement in airplanes that if the oxygen mask drops, put yours on before assisting others. Promotion and marketing can take a lot of time and energy. I went out guns blazing when I started, and within a few years I was dragging. I had to make a tough decision: back away from promotion so it wouldn’t kill the joy I get from writing. When I was ready to return, I had a much better perspective on how I was balancing my time.

6. Play well with others. The internet truly is forever. So are a lot of readers’ memories. I cringe when I read public posts from authors bashing other authors, complaining about Draconian editors (not me, of course), or whining about book reviews. It makes them look like jerks. 

7. Do my own thing and be happy. As I said before, writing is one of my great joys and I like to have control over my work. So I want to write and publish in a way that makes me happy. If another author’s version of happy is publishing six romance novels a year or winning the Pulitzer or making a boatload of money, then I wish them well. Life is short and we all deserve a shot at being happy with what we make.

Thank you for being part of my adventure.

Lessons Learned from Broken Characters

file5721279006391I’m a bit different from some authors. Instead of outlining and building a character from scratch, I let one fall into my head. I follow him or her around as we find the story together. So sometimes (oh, who am I kidding; it happens nearly all the time) I get to work with characters who are a little broken, a little damaged, or who don’t always make the choices I want them to.

This means I often hear the same comment from my early readers: I wanted to SLAP her! Continue reading