Welcome Delaney Diamond with her insight into what it takes to become a successful indie author. Read on!
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
That quote has been attributed to Chinese philosopher Confucius, and it’s one of my favorite quotes. I often think of it whenever I hear authors commenting how they don’t care about the money when they write – as if there’s something to be ashamed of in making money writing. I actually think authors feel guilty about wanting to make money at their art. I’m here to tell you there’s no shame in it, and it’s wonderful when you can have a marriage of creativity and business.
What it means to be an indie author
Being an indie author (or self-published author, depending on your preference) is time-consuming and labor-intensive. Not only are you responsible for doing the writing (creative), you also have to take control of the business aspects, which a publisher would normally manage. But it’s the best of both worlds, and there’s nothing like being in control of your own career path. Doing so is not as daunting as some people think. In fact, there are two main ways to ensure success.
- Be customer-friendly.
- Produce good books.
Businesses know the way to stand out and have longevity is to be customer-friendly, so do like any good business and treat your audience well. That includes being professional and taking care of your regular customers. As writers, our customers are our readers.
Be professional. First of all, don’t respond to negative reviews. It’s not a good look. There’s no way an author can win, no matter how reasonable you think your argument is. Unfortunately, indie authors have a bad reputation of responding to negative reviews and accusing reviewers of destroying their livelihood. Some have even accused reviewers of having a personal vendetta against them.
When you get a negative review, do what I do. Take a deep breath and go eat some ice cream. While you’re eating the ice cream, read all the positive reviews you’ve received and reread all the emails you’ve been sent telling you how wonderful your book is and how they can’t wait for the next one. Everyone gets negative reviews once in a while. As of this writing, book one of Fifty Shades of Grey has 5,845 1-star reviews, but I’m pretty sure E.L. James never responded to a single one. She’s too busy working on her business, and you should be, too.
Be positive and friendly. One of my favorite things to do is communicate with readers. I respond to emails, and I chat with them on Facebook and Twitter. Not only does this humanize you, it builds a relationship with your readers that will be hard to break.
Put your best foot forward. When participating in reader events, such as meet-and-greets, make sure you dress the part and act the part. If you’re having a bad day, suck it up and put a smile on your face, and no pouting until you get home. They’ve taken time out of their schedule and some have come a long way to see you, so make it a pleasant experience—one they’ll go home and brag about. We all know word-of-mouth is the best advertising, and you want them sharing positive messages about you, not negative ones.
Reward your loyal customers. In the writing world, or loyal customers are called fans. They’re the ones who follow your blog, Twitter, and Facebook. They repin your images on Pinterest and friend you on GoodReads. They’ll buy almost all, if not all, of your releases, so be sure to take care of them. Make it worth their while to follow you.
Here are some suggestions: Offer exclusive content and free short stories with spin-off characters; notify them first of new releases or works in progress; have contests only they can win where prizes could be autographed books, swag, or gift cards; let them know about book discounts and packaged bundles.
Produce good books
Our products are our books, so we should put out the best product possible. No one wants to spend their hard-earned money on subpar material.
Study your craft. While it’s true the more you write the better you’ll become at it, it doesn’t hurt to take writing classes and get refreshers. Two of my favorite books on writing are James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure and Kate Walker’s 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance. Those books are filled with highlighting and underlines and notes in the margin, and every now and again I take them off the shelf to refresh my memory about the areas I need to focus on.
Another way to study your craft is to read other books in and outside of your genre. What did you like and not like about them? Analyze the novels and figure out what caused you to have an emotional response to a particular story. Can you duplicate the same in your own books?
Learn from mistakes. Remember those negative reviews? Maybe it’s worth paying closer attention to see if there’s anything you could learn from them. While positive reviews let us know when we’re on the right track, negative reviews could provide insight that we’re not.
Hire an editor. It seems crazy that I’d have to mention this, but so many indie authors don’t use editors. Part of being a professional is putting out a professional product. As one reader said, editing is part of the package, so saying you can’t afford an editor is a poor excuse. You wouldn’t put out a book without a cover because you couldn’t afford it, would you?
We can’t edit our work because we’re too close to it—our brain fills in missing words and corrects typos. The easiest way to find an editor is through referrals. Talk to other authors about who they’re using. Editors usually have testimonials or a list of references, and every editor I’ve ever worked with offered a sample edit of 5-10 pages so I could see their work and make sure we could work well together.
Create attractive book covers. Unless you’re a whiz at graphic design, hire a cover artist. If I like the cover of a book, I usually peruse the inside to see if the author gave the cover artist credit, and then I go to their website to check out their other work.
Outsource. Don’t try to do everything yourself! Businesses have employees and they outsource tasks to other business that can do the same work better and more efficiently, and you should do the same. So outsource your cover design and your formatting if you need to and spend that time writing. Many authors are using author assistants to update their websites, handle marketing, help with research, and upload books to the online retailers. In the long run you’ll be better off because you’ll get the money back in the time you save and the professionalism of your product.
Have you self published? Have any great advice on how to do it?
Join us on Wednesday for author Codi Gary.
Bio: Delaney Diamond writes sweet and sensual romance novels and is the site manager of Romance Novels in Color, where diversity in romance is celebrated. When she’s not reading or writing she’s trying out new recipes or traveling to an interesting locale. Find free reads and the first chapter of all her books at www.delaneydiamond.com.
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- Part One: Reflections on My First Year as an Indie Author – by Heatherly Bell
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