How Self-Publishing Dragged Me From my Comfort Zone

When I started my indie journey back in 2013, I was full of optimism and excitement. I, of course, had no idea how much hard work was ahead of me. I had no clue about the amount of disappointment and frustration heading my way. I also had no way of knowing then, how far out of my comfort zone I would be pulled.

Writers are by nature, shy, introverted creatures. I’m no exception. I was a quiet, bookish child. I loved my own company and always preferred reading and writing to socialising with real people. I always thought becoming a writer would be the perfect vocation for someone like me. I was intrigued and fascinated by people. I wanted to watch them and learn about them, but all without actually getting involved. I’d build a little warm bubble of imagination around my life and spend my days tapping away at the laptop, dreaming up stories and inventing new friends. Lovely stuff.

But alas, being an indie writer is not quite like that. You can’t really get away with hiding. You certainly can’t get away with not promoting or marketing your books. This was horrifying to me, to begin with. I loathed the thought of creating social media profiles and drawing attention to myself. What the hell would I say? Who would care? What about Twitter? I’d just be ignored, wouldn’t I? How would I get my books noticed?

And yet, look at me now. I’m still me. But I’m a much braver me. And maybe I have self-publishing to thank for that after all. I’ve built a platform slowly. I’ve grown my pages and my blog. I’ve networked (God how that word used to terrify me!!) I’ve grown and matured and learned so much. I even pass things on to others now. I write articles about writing and get paid to do so! I stand up in front of new writers and deliver talks and workshops!

And last Saturday, I did my first author event.

I’d heard about these but never felt brave enough to put myself forward. The thought of sitting there with my books, hoping people would buy them chilled me to the bone. But last year I changed my mind about a lot of things and realised I had to break out of my comfort zone. I had conquered my online fears and now I needed to conquer my real life ones. I had to actually get out there and talk to people and physically sell my books. I had to reach out to my local community as well as the global one. Show my face. Be seen and be proud. I had to do the thing I had never been very good at, interacting with people.

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And it was fun. I only sold three books, but to be honest, I wasn’t expecting to sell much more. I didn’t really know what to expect from the event itself and was really pleased and excited to see how the library had set each author up with their own table, book shelves and a very visible name tag. I felt an unexpected surge of pride and importance! It was very quiet though, so us authors started chatting and networking. We swapped cards and advice and took photos of each other to upload to social media. We had a laugh and a moan about the life of an indie writer. I also got chatting to members of the public who wanted to know about my book or my writing group. It was fun! 

And that’s how I’m going to approach it if this chance comes again. Fun. An opportunity to network with other authors, to support each other, and to feel proud of how far we have come. No, we don’t sell a lot of books and maybe we never will. But we wrote them. We stuck with them. We finished them, edited them, proofread and revised them. We found front covers, devised blurbs and started to learn how to promote them and grow a following. If I went back now and told the introverted child version of me, I don’t think she would believe a word of it.

I’m smashing my comfort zones because of self-publishing. I’ve achieved my childhood goals because of self-publishing. I’ve met some amazing authors, read some life changing books and gained some true friends because of self-publishing. I’ve started a writing group, I put on workshops, I work for others, I write articles, I write reviews, all because of self-publishing. I was brave enough to go on local radio, because of self-publishing. I’ve made mistakes and picked myself back up. I’ve had bad days and sad days, and I know the ups and downs will never end. But I’m stronger, braver, happier, more knowledgable and experienced and positive than I ever knew was possible and it’s all because I self-published.

Don’t get me wrong, indie publishing is not the answer to all of my dreams. I still long to be traditionally published, because it still seems to me this is the best way to get visibility, sales and reviews. I made a decision very recently to submit each new book I write, to a suitable press. Just in case. You can read about my reasons for this here; Self-publishing; Good times, bad times and ugly truths

Whatever happens, I will always be proud of my self-publishing journey. Sometimes I do need to remind myself how far I have come. I think we all do, from time to time. I will always be thankful to self-publishing for allowing me to get my books out there, for enabling me to connect with readers and grow a small, loyal following. It’s opened up other doors for me too, and dragged me all the way out of the introverted little bubble I used to hide away in.

What about you? What’s your comfort zone? Have you done anything recently or in the past that has dragged you from it? I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to comment and share!

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Have You Got What It Takes To Go Indie?

Life as an indie writer is not easy. It is a hard slog, full of ups and downs. It is a journey often plagued by a gnawing self-doubt as well as the added burden of feeling like you constantly have to prove yourself. Not only do you have to make all the key decisions about your book, with regards to editing, front cover, and how to market and promote it, you also sometimes feel like you have a shadow hanging over you. You have to fight harder to be seen, try every trick in the book to prove yourself, and all with the nagging question that just won’t seem to go away. Are you really good enough?

Sadly, since I started my own journey in 2013, I’ve seen indie author’s announce they are quitting on a regular basis, stating that they just can’t do it anymore. There are just so many of us out there now, all searching for the same thing. The Holy Grail. How to succeed as an indie writer.  It often feels like a step forward, followed by two steps back. Many give up when their books refuse to sell. Many become disenchanted when they fail to find an audience. Many become exhausted by the endless choice and costs involved in promoting their books.

So what does an indie need to survive? What sort of person to they need to be to get through the inevitable highs and lows? I believe survival comes down to four main things, four personality traits you are going to need in bucket loads, if you are going to stick with the indie life and not give up when the going gets tough.

You need to have an immense passion.You must believe in your stories. You might be good at writing, but you are going to need more than talent to survive the bumpy road ahead. Never mind your writing abilities or creative talents right now. Ask yourself this; do you truly have a passion, a deep and possessive passion for the stories? Do these stories keep you up at night? Are these stories begging to be told? Do they plague your daydreams and interrupt your ordinary life? Do you have something you desperately want to say and share? Is this idea driving you crazy? If yes, then you‘ve got the passion. But that is only half the battle. You have to keep that passion, especially when times get tough, as they inevitably will. It helps to have a lot of unwritten material sloshing around inside of you. A host of characters chattering away, urging you to get on and give them their turn. A desire to get it all out,whatever it takes, to keep writing and writing, no matter what.  The passion to write is perhaps the most important thing you will need. It will ensure you keep writing, because you have to write, because absolutely nothing is going to stop you.

Self-belief. In truth, for any writer, self-belief comes and goes. There are times you have lots of it and feel genuinely proud of your last paragraph or your final, finished product. But there are equally as many times when a first draft is anything but perfect. In fact it is ugly and clumsy and utterly different to how you envisioned it in your head. Quite simply you think you should give up and never write another word. This is quite normal, and I’m sure even the most successful and well known writers are regularly plagued with bouts of crippling self-doubt. There are days you just can’t write properly, nothing comes out the way you want it to, you compare yourself to others and feel you fall woefully short. This is all fine. But in order to succeed as an indie writer you need to have a rather solid foundation of genuine self-belief.You may not want to brag about it or declare it to the world, but deep down inside you must believe that you are good. You must believe that you can write. You can tell a story and make it work. You can make people care. You deserve this and can hold your head up with the best of them. Otherwise, the hurdles to come are going to knock you off course pretty quickly.

Hope. I think this applies to the indie more than any other writer. The indie needs passion and self-belief, in order to get that idea down on paper. They need talent and determination to edit, rewrite and perfect that work until it is ready to publish. They need to become an expert at marketing, promotion, an entrepreneur even, and in many respects a businessperson. But they also need to be an optimistic and hopeful kind of person in order to survive. Why? Because hope keeps you going through all the hard times, through the low sales and no sales, through bad reviews and no reviews, through feeling totally alone and out of depth and not to mention being penniless! You have hope that you‘ll become a better writer, that you will get better with every new thing you write. You have hope that your small following will continue to grow,and that fans will spread the word for you. You have hope that you‘ll one day land a nice big, traditional publishing deal, (if that’s what you want, and let’s face it, most indies would love to hand at least some of the control over to an enthusiastic professional!) You have hope that you‘ll make it. You‘ll succeed and realise your dreams, and achieve whatever level of success you are aiming for.

And finally, I believe you need to be a realistic dreamer. By that I mean, you need to dream big and aim high, but at the same time, you need to keep your feet on the ground and be realistic. I think perhaps too many writers jump into the indie game with their expectations too high. I know I was guilty of just this at the start of my journey. I sort of expected things to just take off. I thought all my friends and family would buy and love my book, would leave plentiful glowing reviews, and would then encourage all of their family and friends to do just the same, and my book would somehow just tumble forward, picking up speed until I made it! Oh how that makes me laugh now! No, I’m sorry, it’s just not going to happen like that. In my experience, people mean well, but when they say they will read or review your book, it does not always happen. People are busy. They have their own lives and interests, and they may not want to read your book for fear of offending you if it’s not their kind of thing. in truth, many of them are just not going to be interested at all. The indie journey can therefore be a lonely one at times, not to mention frustrating. Expect too much, and you are going to get disappointed. Be realistic. Recognise that it is not a race, but more a journey of development and discovery. The fact is, you will get better at all of it. You will get better at writing, and at marketing, and you will realise you don’t need your family and friends to push you forward. You need to find your own audience, and finding them, is quite simply part of the package you sign up to. Getting reviews and exposure, gaining readers and fans, winning awards and so on; all of these things are down to you.

I believe that if you have enough passion, self-belief and hope, you will be able to maintain longevity as an indie writer. Keep your feet on the ground and your expectations realistic, while not ever giving up on the dream. They may all get dented and bashed about from time to time, but as long as the reserves are deep, you should be able to keep going. Who knows what is around the corner as long as you don’t give up your dream?