I’m back! Sorry I was away for so long. My debut novel, Batter Days, launched at the end of September. Getting to the finish line was insane. There was so much to do in a short time. I had to take a step back from the blog for a minute to get my book baby off the ground.
Now that she’s out there in the world, I’m taking some time to reflect on some things I’ve learned. I did a lot of research into being an indie author before I started my first draft, but no amount of research could have prepared me for actually going through the process. There were so many unexpected things I had to learn on the fly. Shoot! I’m still learning, but maybe some of what I’ve learned along the way can help you on your journey.
Here are the top five things I wish I’d known before I became an author.
WRITING IS THE SMALLEST AMOUNT OF THE WORK
I think most of us have this romanticized view of authors’ lives. They sit in front of their computers all day in comfy clothes and reading glasses with endless cups of coffee and tea to keep them going. All they have to do is put the words on the page. As long as they keep writing, everything else will be fine, right? Wrong! As an author, you spend just as much time building your platform as you do writing. Maybe more.
Building an author platform is a ton of work. There are newsletters, websites, social media, and all that comes with it. It’s a lot. You have to be just as on top of that as you do everything else. Even this blog post is part of it. Writing the best book in the world does you no good if nobody knows to read it. Investing in building your platform is every bit as important as actually writing your book, and the time you spend on it should reflect that.
HIDDEN COSTS OF BEING AN AUTHOR
Being an indie author means you take all the production cost on yourself. I knew that going in. I was fully prepared to spend good money on editors and cover designers. As writers, we are often too close to the content we create to see the errors. We need editors to let us know where we are falling short. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve totally bought a book just because of the cover before. I want my book to look good so people will buy it, and I don’t have the skills to make that happen. That’s fine. I was expecting that. What I wasn’t expecting were the thousand other things that kept popping up.
Did you know that a single ISBN number is $125, and every version of your book needs a unique ISBN? That means the paperback, ebook, hardcover, etc., they all need their own ISBN numbers. Buying in bulk gets you a discount, but that is still a lot of money when you are first starting out. You also have to pay for your website domain and possibly your newsletter, depending on what you are looking for. And let’s not forget the design and marketing tools. Yes, there are free options for a lot of this stuff, but what you get out of it is limited. Saving the small piece of your sanity the account upgrade brings may very well be worth it if you plan on doing the whole author thing long-term.
AUTHOR EVENTS AND PROMOTIONS
So, this is something that was most definitely not on my radar before launch. I had no expectation of doing author events or needing a way to sell signed copies. This is my first book. The idea that there would be an audience for that kind of thing was laughable. I don’t have the following. My plan was to stick to social media and grassroots marketing. Maybe I’d get lucky and could expand more on the next book. Yeah. No.
Apparently, there is a demand for events regardless of where you are in your journey. People want to talk to authors about their process and how they got to where they are. They don’t care if you are a bestseller or in the dollar bin. They just want to be able to talk to somebody that wrote a book.
Paid promotions are popular too. I’m not just talking social media ads. That’s a whole other ball of wax I’m going to have to unpack and melt. I’m talking mini virtual blog or social media tours where other people feature your book for a week. People actually do this as a business, and first-time authors rely on them to get the word out. I’m looking into a few right now, and it is blowing my mind. Why didn’t I know about this sooner?
MORE PEOPLE WANT TO SUPPORT YOU THAN SEE YOU FAIL
I didn’t talk about my novel much outside of social media and a few very close friends before launch. I know. You have to tell people about your book if you want them to buy it, but hear me out. Writing a novel is a very vulnerable thing. You’re basically cutting open a vein and bleeding onto a page in hopes that someone will bring you a bandage before you bleed out. For every person that loves your book, there will be someone that hates it. Creative endeavors are so personal and the results so subjective that it can be hard to talk about what you’re doing for fear of rejection. But let me tell you, even if what you are doing isn’t someone’s cup of tea, they will still be excited for you.
People I never thought would be onboard with me writing a romance novel are fascinated by the process and want to talk to me about it. People are bringing me their copies to sign while others are messaging me on social media asking how to order a signed copy. I wasn’t even planning on doing that! Avenues keep opening up because people are rooting for me. People I didn’t think would care. It’s overwhelming but in the best way possible.
No matter how prepared you think you are, there are things about becoming a published author that will surprise you. Some are not so pleasant, and some are amazingly positive. It’s those positive ones that give me the motivation to keep getting up early to write before my day job and pressing forward on weekends so I can reach my next deadline. It’s amazing. And as hard as the work is, I wouldn’t have it any other way.