A Day in the Life of an Independent Author
Updated: Oct 13, 2020
My plan for August was to write a deep and meaningful blog that would blow everybody’s mind, but as I sat down to write about the topic I had planned to explore, it very quickly became something that resembled a college thesis.
I think this blog may be forever fated to be a place for me to provide updates to you and tell some stories about my life. That beings said, you can be sure that once I have finished exploring the deeper questions I have planned, you will be able to find them here.
So, this month I would like to talk about Independent Authorship.
Since self-publishing I have met more and more people who are in the process of writing a book. Some of them are self-published, and others are looking to take the more painstaking but prestigious route of becoming traditionally published.
A question I receive repeatedly is “What made you decide to self-publish?” In my case, impatience is probably the most accurate answer.
That being said, I did research traditional publishing. I spoke with a family friend who had managed to take that route. But she ended up locked into a contract on her trilogy that she later needed legal aid to get out of.
I also found the invaluable resource Derek Murphy who talks about everything there is to talk about in the self-publishing world, but he did a particularly interesting video about the pros and cons of self- publishing vs traditional publishing.
The reality is that self-publishing will offer you more control over your work and you won’t have to wait for a year once you’ve finally won the uphill battle of getting your book accepted by a publishing house.
A quick side note: I designed both of my book covers with the help of the free book cover design course Derek offers on Youtube. If you are interested in self-publishing, definitely check out his website and his Youtube channel. If you are looking for a community of writers to bounce ideas off of or are looking for help getting into self-publishing, you can join his group on Facebook (Guerrilla Publishing: Book Marketing Support and Feedback for Authors). This has also been a huge resource for me.
That all being said, with all the freedom that comes with self-publishing, once you have your printed book it’s not a breeze.
You Need Reviews.
But how do you get reviews if nobody has seen your book, let alone read it?
I have been fighting with this problem for years now. Yes, I have plenty of friends and family who have been gracious enough to assist with this.
I have also reached out to other authors and offered an honest review for an honest review, but this is a long process that doesn’t always end in getting a review at all. I have tried Facebook Ads, and though I have had some mild success with getting people to purchase my books, I don’t believe it lead to any additional reviews.
And so my question has become this - how do you get your book in front of people who actually want to read it?
Amazon has a rating system that revolves around the number of positive reviews your book has and how many people buy it.
The common strategy is to join KDP (which gives Amazon exclusive rights to your book for a year if I remember correctly) so that you can offer your book for free. Before you publish the book you give it to loyal fans if you have any, but probably more often friends and family and you ask them to leave a review during the pre-release window. Then the book finally launches and a bunch of people download your book because it has a few good reviews and hey, it’s free! This boosts the Amazon ranking. Then once the launch ends and you have to put a price tag on your book, readers go looking for the next free kindle download and your book fades into the obscure areas of Amazon.
I know I may sound Jaded but honestly I’m not. Mildly frustrated, maybe - but WM&MM has been in the top 5K (for its category) for over 2 years now so honestly I’ve done pretty well.
Anyway, I believe that the best way to get your book in front of someone is for it to be quite literally in front of them in a store, and if you wanted it to be in front of someone who actually might want to read it, it would need to be a book store…
I have reached out to a handful of stores asking how to get books on display. Most of the indie-stores I reached out to charge the author for that as it is considered advertisement. To top it off, in most cases my book has not been eligible to be sold in their store for one reason or another.
So the other night, I stared at the author copies I had left on my shelf and debated the famous question. How can I get these to people who will read them? I sat down and wrote out a little message explaining that I am a local author and that I would appreciate any and all support in the forms of reviews, social media follows, or giving the book to a friend. I copied this message into each book and signed them. I figured I could leave them in the Hannaford book bin and hope for the best.
It turns out before I made it to a Hannaford, Chantal and I decided to take a trip down to the Used Book Superstore in Burlington, MA.
I first discovered this place probably two years ago when I was on the hunt for some affordable Stephen King novels.
I confess on this particular day I was there looking mainly for DVDs.
As I walked up to the counter, I asked about their books on display. Were they paid advertisements or were they picked arbitrarily? The nice girl at the checkout counter introduced me to the manager who in turn told me that the owner picked them. I asked if I could submit my books for consideration. The manager began to jot down my information, but when I asked him to relay that I wasn’t looking for commission and I just wanted to get my books in front of readers, he stopped.
He asked me if I had any copies on me and waited for me as I went out to my car to get them. When I returned he had cleared a spot for my books on the table by the door.
It’s amazing, the little things that can make a person’s day. Maybe it’s buying the coffee for the person in line behind you, maybe it’s a simple smile and wave, and maybe it is putting someone’s book on a table and leaving it alone.
It was a simple action but it meant a lot to me. It gave my book a fighting chance!
What the manager didn’t know is that my father lives pretty close by. So when I told him what happened, he dropped by a few days later to see if they were selling. Turns out they have been. There were only three left of each (I think I had given them 10 a piece roughly).
So this month’s advice:
Write a review. Whether it’s a book, or a service, or a product - local businesses and independent artists need these to survive. Don’t just go to a local restaurant or order take out and then forget about them. Write a review letting people know how great they are… and if you happen to own a local business, consider putting a table by your front door and showcasing a local artist’s work.
Till next month!