Where do we go from here?

When I first decided to go the indie publishing route, I honestly had no idea what I was doing. I was very much on my own. I had no editor, I had no clue…I was, quite possibly, as lost as I have ever been. My books were unedited, my covers were unprofessional, my promotion non existent. But then something magical happened. From the ashes rose a community of fellow authors hoping to blaze a path so bright and strong that nothing could possibly stop this new movement. That community was, surprisingly enough, hell-bent on helping one another present themselves and their work in as professional a way as possible. Many of us knew that by helping one another, we were helping a greater-good that would, in turn, help each and every member of the community.

It was no longer an embarrassment or point of contention to lay claim to indie publishing. It was something to be proud of. To say you were brave enough to lay down your work, without the help of the traditional publishers, was bold and brave. And then, all of a sudden, there was a community surrounding us that prop us all up when things got rough or when we had no idea what to do. The numbers grew and grew to the point where one particularly wonderful group, The Indie Writers Unite (on Facebook) quickly grew to over three-hundred helpful, supportive users. It was a support group, gang of friends, and collective of talented colleagues that could serve many purposes.

And so, here we are…humming away, churning out words, pimping our books on Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler and, when everything seems dark and dire, we turn to our virtual friends for support. Our sales are trickling in and we are doing everything we can to build a readership that will be lovely and loyal. But, the ugly truth is, we are building something big that requires to retrain the consumers to think a little differently. Gone are the days when the brick and mortar stores beckoned readers to “come buy” their wares. This is a completely new paradigm that will take time to shift in such a way that the consumer is comfortable. Just like it took nearly ten years for the ereader to gain any sort of traction, it will take time before the average consumer to default to ebooks over paper and hard backs.

The trouble is – many of us are impatient. We want to see serious sales now. We sit at our desks and hit refresh on the sales reports and huff when the digits do not increase. We wonder why the reviews are not pouring in…even though, from all accounts, the work is worthy. There are even times when we might hand our head and think giving up might actually be the best, least uncomfortable route to take.

That, my friends, would be a mistake. Why? As so many have said – this is a marathon. But what do those words of wisdom mean? It means we must take our time and continue on, no matter how much our bodies tell us to give up, because this will not, cannot happen over night. Think about it this way: When was the last time you heard of an author being an “overnight success”? JK Rowling couldn’t seem to get anyone to give the green light to Harry Potter. Now look at her. Every author that has ever been in print can spin story after story after story about their arduous journey to success (mostly moderate at that). Nothing is handed to us easily. We are artists and we must understand, absolutely and completely, that overnight success often leads to overnight obscurity. The very same thing happens in Hollywood and in the music industry – both industries known for chewing up and swallowing their young.

We indie authors are now in the middle of an uprising, where we actually have control over our future. Although we do not have control over whether or not the public deems our work worthy of purchase, we do have ultimate control over how our work is created, completed, and presented. We must be creative and diligent in our efforts and we must understand that this long and hard work will eventually pay off. And even beyond the soul and heart bleeding of writing, we must challenge ourselves to task our creativity to bridge the writing and the selling of our work. And if you’re at a loss for ways to pimp your wares, make sure you are doing most of the following:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tumbler
  • Podcasting
  • Blogging (both on your own site and guest blogs)

Now, even with that incredibly short list, it should be obvious there is a lot to do. And there is. But even more important is that we use all of that creative energy as much in our marketing as we do our books. And we must always remember these “rules”:

  • Do not be pushy when pimping.
  • Pimp lightly on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Pimp creatively – make readers laugh or intrigue them.
  • Pimp professionally.

Here’s the deal – using Twitter and Facebook for pimping is great, only if used intelligently. Do not jump onto Twitter or Facebook and say “Buy my book!” No one wants a salesman in their face. If that’s the case, you will lose followers and friends by the dozen. Instead use that creative brain to make people laugh, or want to know more about you or your book. And, more importantly, just make those friends and make people want to know more about YOU. Once those people desire more information about the writer, they will want to know about the writer’s work.

As to that question “Where do we go from here?” The answer is simple: Up. But going up, implies an uphill ride and that uphill ride will take work, diligence, patience, and perseverance. The destination is there and it will take some time to reach. Set a goal, but make that goal reasonable – say 2-5 years – so frustration doesn’t settle in on a daily basis. It’s okay to watch the sales numbers, but when you’re selling only 1-2 books a day for the first few months, don’t let it get you down. Just be happy the sales are happening and that your work is getting into the hands of readers. Which is, ultimately, the single most important point to writing – getting read. Readership is a tough nut to crack, but if you are diligent, honest, genuine, humble, and don’t take anything too seriously, those readers will arrive. Remember though, the arrival of those readers is an organic occurrence and can not be forced. If you do try to force the issue, you will fail.

I ask myself this question, nearly every day: “What do I need to do to get where I need to go?” The answer, almost inevitably, is ‘be patient’.