Confessions of an Indie Author

I’ve been doing this for a while now. Writing, my whole life and publishing since The Mess of Me came out in 2013. Since then I have published eleven more novels and a short story collection. In 2022 I will be releasing another collection, this time of short stories and poems and I also hope to publish the first book in my YA post-apocalyptic series, The Day The Earth Turned. On top of that, myself and Sim Sansford aim to publish the first book in the YA trilogy we have written together. I don’t think anyone can say I’m not committed to the process of writing, revising, editing, proofing and publishing. It’s the marketing and selling bit that still eludes me all these years later. It’s been playing on my mind lately so I feel like I need to get it off my chest. I’m hoping a good moan will get it out of my system so here goes.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay
  1. I still only sell a few books a month – the flip side of this is that I always sell something! I’ve never had a month without sales since I started so I am grateful for that. But I can only imagine what it feels like to sell books in their hundreds! It must feel like a dream.
  2. I lose faith and sometimes don’t post about my books for weeks on end – sometimes I don’t market my books enough because I am simply too busy writing and working and bringing up my kids, but other times its because I have lost faith. I just can’t be bothered sometimes. I’ll think about posting a quote meme, or I’ll consider Tweeting my books or sharing a review to Facebook and then this apathy just takes over me and my negative side thinks why? What’s the point? And I give up. Sometimes for weeks.
  3. I am rubbish at Twitter – to be honest, I don’t want to be good at it. I decided long ago Twitter wasn’t really for me. I am on it and my Facebook author page is linked to it, and I occasionally bother to Tweet but mostly I totally neglect it.
  4. I frequently forget to post on my blog – I seem to go through phases of blogging once a week for quite a while and then forgetting about it entirely. Ideally authors should maintain their blog as its your landing page, a place potential readers can go to find out more about you. It should reflect your voice as a person and an author and it should help highlight your books. I love blogging but there are some weeks when I can’t think of a subject to blog about, and there are way too many weeks when I just don’t get the time.
  5. I’m getting worse at keeping the Facebook page going – My Facebook page has always been one aspect of social media I’m quite proud of. I don’t have a huge following but I do post regularly and I enjoy doing so. Just lately though I’ve neglected it as well as everything else. Partly due to not having the time, partly due to apathy and partly due to simply forgetting! I am hoping to really kickstart it in the New Year though with some regular features I hopefully won’t forget about!
  6. Sometimes I wish it would all go away – sometimes I wish I didn’t have to try and market my books and lure readers in. Sometimes I wish all these extra things about being an author would just go away and leave me alone. Sometimes I wish I was one of those ultra successful authors, someone who can pay others to market their books!
  7. I just want to write, and write and write– It is my addiction. I have so many projects on the go, so many waiting their turn and a head full of ideas for even more books. I know there will never be time in my life for them all. If I didn’t have to spend time putting effort into marketing my books I could just get on with writing!
  8. I also really, really, really want people to read my books! – Yes, I do, I really do! And I don’t want to beg, and I can’t afford to spend money on it, so somehow I must work hard at the free options, building my platform, trying to lure readers in because yes, I really, really do want people to read my books!
  9. I very rarely get a new review – This is one of the most frustrating aspects I think. I’m grateful for sales but reviews let an author know the book has been read! Even if it wasn’t enjoyed, at least it didn’t fade away on someone’s Kindle and never get read. Reviews are fuel for authors. They let us know what readers like and don’t like and they keep us going. It is unbelievably exciting to think someone read your book and cared enough about it to leave a review!
  10. I don’t know how to get my books noticed – I have tried everything, apart from paid ads. I can’t do that. And sometimes I come across other indie authors who write similar things to me and their sales and reviews are much better. I can’t help but worry about this. What am I doing wrong in terms of marketing? Is there something I don’t know, something I haven’t tried yet? How the hell are they doing it? Or is that my books are crap? Or my covers? Sometimes it drives me crazy.
  11. I should be better at this by now – I really should. I should have figured it out. I should have grown my following and my audience. Instead it all seems to stay the same, no matter how many more books I write. I am doing something wrong.
  12. I sabotage myself daily – I do. I scroll social media or read emails and see endless things that could help me. Competitions to enter, articles to read, funding to access, chances to post about me and my books for free and nine times out of ten I just sigh and scroll on by. I tell myself I just don’t have the time but maybe it is more than that. Some weird mix of self-sabotage and self-care. Me protecting myself from frustration and rejection and burnout, and me assuming it won’t be worth it and its all too late now anyway.
  13. I want a Netflix deal – who doesn’t? I think about it all the time. My books devised into a Netflix series. I would have made it. I could be so proud. I could have faith in myself and my writing, and how amazing would it be to see my characters on screen??
  14. I want to be rich and famous – well, sometimes. And maybe not really. But yes I would love to make more money out of this, who wouldn’t? And I would love to have a little bit of recognition. It would be nice to think people recognise your author name, wouldn’t it?
  15. I want my friends and family to read my books and support me – This one haunts me a lot. All these years later and all these books later and I still can’t lure barely any of my family and friends in to support me. I try not to dwell on it try not think about it, but it is there. Often when I post about a new release, its just strangers that congratulate me, strangers that repost and strangers that buy and review. I know its unrealistic to expect loved ones to read all my books, but over the years I have written across multiple genres so surely there is something there for everyone? I’ll be honest. It hurts a lot.

So there you have it. Fifteen confessions from a weary indie author. But it’s not all doom and gloom. I am so excited about all my upcoming releases. I can’t help think each time, maybe this will be it? Maybe this will be the one that makes a difference and sets it all on fire? Maybe! Who knows? You’ve got to have hope, I guess. And writing is so much more to me than sales and support – writing is my lifeline, my obsession, my favourite thing to do in the world. I will always write just for me and I will always love every moment of that process.

The Temptation to Do Nothing

No one ever said that being an indie author would be easy. It’s not. It’s hard work and I made my peace with that a long time ago. I never expected to sell thousands or even hundreds of books. I’ve always reminded myself that to sell anything at all is a massive achievement, and I still believe that.

Over the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve had a bumpy ride, full of highs and lows, expectations and dreams, disappointments and achievements. Again, I remind myself when I feel thwarted, or dispirited, to look back and see how far I have come. And it works. Mostly. I do sell books every month. I have never had a month without sales since I started in 2013.

Every now and then though, I feel the need to stop, take stock of what’s going on, what’s bothering me or making me anxious, and do nothing. I don’t mean stop writing. I could never do that. If there is one thing I am certain of it’s that I will never ever stop writing and releasing books. I’m desperately addicted to writing, it’s who I am, it saves me on a daily basis, makes life worth living, fulfills me in so many ways, and allows me to release what is inside of me. I love it, and if you follow this blog, you will know that.

It’s trying to sell books that I often consider quitting. Trying to sell books is stressful. Without money, it’s almost impossible. I feel I have worked really hard over the years to build my author platform. Building up this blog, my facebook author page, Instagram, newsletters, you name it. Writing articles for Authors Publish and more. There is nothing I have not tried. Nothing free anyway.

And I guess, to some extent it works. I get sales every month. Some months are better than others and I can never work out how or why. No one ever said that selling books was easy either.

I’ve seen so many indie authors quit over the years. Announce they are closing their blog or their Facebook page, that it’s too hard and they can’t justify the time and effort anymore. I get that totally. But that will never be me, not while I still have so many books lined up to write.

Selling books is hard if you are naturally an introvert. You’re drawing attention to yourself. You’re saying, hey look at me! Look over here! Buy my books! You’re sending out free copies with your newsletter. You’re offering people ARC copies of upcoming releases. You’re contacting reviewers and bloggers for help. You’re messaging friends and relatives to see if they’re interested. You’re setting up street teams and asking for help. Introverts do not like asking for help. Introverts will do everything themselves and then cry about it. There’s a martyr inside every one of us, I swear.

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It makes us uncomfortable. And then come the rejections. Of course, you’re used to rejection if you’re a writer. You’ve got the scars from endless rejections from agents and publishers. You put on your big girl pants and went solo. Became an indie. Fab stuff. Only now there’s no one to help you, you have to force yourself to be brave, day in, day out. Put on a big professional sunny convincing smile when really you just want to climb under your duvet and hide.

I’ve had a lot of disappointments lately. I’m not going to go into them, because I really don’t want this to be a pity party. I hate it when authors moan on social media about being an author and not getting sales. I don’t want to be that person. This isn’t really about sales either. This is about being tired.

I’m tired of doing everything I can only to have it not make an impact. I’m tired of giving away free books that people don’t then review. I’m tired of the expense of sending out paperbacks that people don’t then review. I’m tired of asking and hoping and suggesting that people share my posts, comment, read or review. I’m tired of feeling like I am wasting my time. I’m tired of sharing my books on Twitter and Facebook when I know there is no point. Every time my finger hovers over the share button I’m so tempted to do nothing. And every now and again I let it win and I go with the temptation to do nothing and I hide away I write my books and my blogs and my poems and I hide away from sharing and trying to sell.

Maybe it does me some good every now and then to have a little retreat from the business of selling and just focus on the writing. I am so tempted to do that again right now. But then I feel guilty about my books, and I so want people to read them, I don’t want to quit or be a quitter. Maybe I just need a rest. A chance to refuel and come back stronger.

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Because if you don’t try, you can’t fail. There’s nothing to lose. But if you do try, and try and try, then you have to deal with the inevitable disappointments. It’s tempting not to try, believe me. And I’ve been here before. I didn’t try to publish my books until I was in my mid-thirties. All those years I wasted because I was too afraid of failure to even try. I got over that somehow, and I’ve moved on. But there it is again, the urge to do nothing. If my books don’t sell, it’s because I’m not trying and that’s easier to deal with.

But then I got thinking and I remembered a quote from a song that I once decided would look good on my gravestone. This is the full quote;

Not everyone grows up to be an astronaut,
Not everyone was born to be a king,
Not everyone can be Freddie Mercury,
But everyone can raise their glass and sing.
Well I haven’t always been a perfect person,
Well I haven’t done what mum and dad had dreamed,
But on the day I die, I’ll say at least I fucking tried.
That’s the only eulogy I need,
That’s the only eulogy I need.

(Eulogy, by Frank Turner)

It struck a chord with me the first time I heard it, and I laughed and joked that I’d have those words on my headstone. At least I fucking tried…

Some days that doesn’t feel like enough.

Other days, calmer days, sunnier days, it really, really does.

Because it’s pretty fucking brave to keep trying.

It would be so much easier to quit. And I’m going to have those days. I’m always going to have those days. I’m going to wallow in it some days. I’m going to cry about it on others. I’m going to seethe and fret and grumble and moan. Mostly to myself. I’m always going to have days where self-doubt gets it claws into me and won’t let go. I’m going to hear those voices in my head that have been with me for so long…you’re rubbish, you’re stupid, you’re ugly, you’re fat, you’re a joke…

But that’s okay. That’s being human. Deep inside, we all want attention, we want validation, we want to know what we’re doing is worthwhile and appreciated, and when we don’t quite get that, we turn on ourselves pretty viciously.

But I suppose the thing is to let those days run their course, as they will do, again and again, but then come out of the other side and just keep going. Just keep doing it anyway. Because at least you can say you gave it your best. So for now at least, for me, it’s business as usual. The temptation to do nothing has not won.