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.

Indie Author of the Month – Mick Williams

Hi everyone!

I hope you are all doing well. I have not blogged myself for a while due to all the guest posts I was lucky enough to receive for the pandemic collection. More on that another day! I’ve also neglected to highlight any indie authors lately too, but I’m putting that right today with a special interview. Mick Williams is an author I’ve followed for some time on social media and recently I had the pleasure of reading his latest book, Final Clearance. Mick must be the most versatile author I have come across, with romantic comedies, mysteries, action and adventure and more all under his belt. He is well worth checking out for that reason alone. You are sure to find something that appeals to you. Here he tells us all about his new book, (a dark comedy about a serial killer with a heart) his writing process, proudest moments and what to expect from him next! Enjoy!

1. You seem to be a very versatile author – what genres have you written in so far?

I think I’ve covered most of them! Some of my books seem to be a combination of genres, which makes it difficult to categorise, so it’s probably easier to say that I haven’t tackled historical drama, auto-biography or, as my sister would say, witty-woo stories!! Everything else is probably in at least one of my books. Every one of them has a sprinkle of romance, tons of action and humour and a strong female character.

2. Is there any genre you wouldn’t consider trying and if so, why not?

Yep – witty woo. My Mum reads my books and I’d never dare show my face if she read something overly racy in one of them. I think I’m still her little angel. All of my books have at least a sprinkling of romance in them, and some of my characters might get sexy ideas, but I tend to steer away from being graphic with that stuff and let the readers use their imagination. They probably have a much better time that way, anyway.

3. What comes to you first, the characters or the plot?

This has worked both ways (and a few others, too). For A Reason to Grieve, I had the Doris character in mind from the get-go and wanted to work her into the story. She’s still one of my favourite characters. The Old Farts Club is based on a group of men I saw sitting in a fast-food restaurant one morning: a group of military veterans ranging from men well into their sixties, to a forty-something. They had to have a story (Exodus) and have now become their own series! Location is also something that gives me ideas. The forest in Whatever it Takes is here in Kentucky and loads of the scenes in Exodus came from a trip to Jamaica.

4. Do you imagine what audience would like your book before or after you write it?

Honestly, neither! Writing in different genres is probably holding me back, in that I’m not able to promote myself in one particular area, but all of my books have plenty of action, twists, comedy and a touch of romance. I’d like to think that the people that read my books now come to expect that but, truthfully, I write what comes to mind and hope that people like it.

5. Where did the idea for Final Clearance come from?

I got tired of reading ‘write what you know’ and finally considered what I know! I’ve worked and trained in retail and customer service for decades and thought about that. Then, I saw a video of an obnoxious woman berating and insulting a store worker who, fearing for her job, just stood there and took the abuse. Chances are that the same meeting in a bar or a car park would have resulted in the woman getting a bloody nose! Brody takes it a step further (well, a few steps!) but it served to set him up as a conflicted good guy who can’t stand bad guys and resolves to do something about it. Going back to question three, I bought a sofa in a store like Brody’s, and the location for the end of the book is about a mile from where I live.

6. How did you come up with a complex character like Brody Coulson?

Bit by bit! I didn’t want a stereotypical ‘nice guy turned evil’ kind of character. Brody is just a regular man working a job he doesn’t enjoy, whose patience runs out and he impulsively does something bad. To balance his bad deeds, I needed him to be a caring soul too, which is where Javier and Anita come in. I’d like to think we’re all trying to ‘do our part’ for the people around us, and I thought it would be fun to have a character that would do that – only to extremes. How would he justify murder, and how would he go from killing someone to going home to babysit a ten-year old?

7. What is the hardest part of writing a book for you?

Finding the time – I don’t know how you do it! I still work a full-time job and have a family, so it’s a hard balancing act to accommodate everything. The only way I manage it is to create time and write when I can, which is not conducive to continuity!! There are times I have to re-read what I’ve previously written before I can get going again. I also go back and forth between completely outlining a story and just writing to see what happens, and I spend way too much time procrastinating and trying to decide what to do! I think (or at least hope) that I’ve managed to get my stories told either way with some degree of success.

8. What is the easiest part of writing a book?

The Words. Once I manage to sit and write, the words normally come easily. Some days I can hammer out a couple of chapters and actually have them make sense.

9. What methods do you employ to market your books?

Not enough. Marketing is my downfall. Every time I complete another book, I tell myself that this will be the one I promote properly – blog tours, interviews, signings (at least in the ‘old world’), ad campaigns, emails. Then, I sit down and write the next one instead. Book number eight is with my publisher as I type this, and I’ve just released Final Clearance, and it seems as if I’m releasing them into the ether since, if I don’t let people know they’re there, no one is going to read them. It’s a frustrating vicious circle, and the part of this whole writing malarky that I don’t particularly enjoy. I have an author website (www.mickwilliamsauthor.com) which my much more talented son takes care of. I intend to start a blog on it to give readers something new to look at, and I promise I’ll get to it. After this. Or the next thing! I also have a Facebook page (also Mick Williams author) which I don’t interact with anywhere often as I should, and I also have an Instagram page which has the wrong name on it! I’ve given up with Twitter since, in the few months I had it, it got hacked four times.

10. Where do your ideas usually come from?

Everywhere. I have too many ideas and too little time. As I mentioned earlier, a location can be enough to give me an idea, or an overheard conversation. I read Wired magazine and generally get a few ideas out of every one of those. The most unusual event to give me a solid idea was a dream. I once woke at around three in the morning, fresh from a dream, and jotted down almost the entire plot for Callie’s Eyes – I even had her name and her family. If that could happen once every few months, I’d be able to retire and just write!

11. Do you suffer from writer’s block and if so, how do you tackle it?

Not writer’s block, as such, but I do sometimes reach a point in a scene where I’m not sure where to go next. When this happens, I either save my progress so far and attempt a different scene that I can add later or, if the sun is shining, I’ll go for a walk and mull it over. That’s helped me a few times. And back when I was young and healthy, way back, I’ve gone to the gym and done the same thing. It’s weird how stepping aside to do something else will let my mind wander and get me back to where I need to be.

12. Are you inspired by any particular books, films or TV shows?

To my detriment, yes. I’ve watched plenty of TV where something will happen that triggers an idea that I want to write RIGHT NOW, and I have to fight the urge and just make a note that I may get back to in the future (although it never seems to burn as bright by then). Reading books, to me, is writer homework. I love to read, and it’s another time sapping habit that takes away from the writing time. I’ve read Stephen King’s books since I was a teenager, and love all but one of his stories (I tried and tried to get into Delores Claiborne), but I find that, when I sit to write, his voice is still in my head and I end up writing in his style. I don’t realise it until I read back what I’ve written, and it’s glaringly obvious and I have to go back and rewrite it!

13. What are you working on next?

Two things at the moment, both sequels. My best reviewed book is A Reason to Grieve. It was my first story and I love the characters. I didn’t write it with a view to making it a series, but the characters have never left me so I’m about halfway through A Reason to Breathe, which picks up a few months after the first book ended. One of these days, I’m hoping to add a third, A Reason to Leave, to round out the story and give the characters some closure.

I’m also a few thousand words into the next Old Farts Club story. The first, Exodus, was well received and the second, Dark Target, is with my publisher right now awaiting edits. The third will be another stand-alone story with the same group of characters, and I have a vague outline for number four in that series that I keep dipping into. As I said – not enough time!

14. Do you have a favourite character from your books, if so who and why?

I’ve already mentioned Doris from A Reason to Grieve. As much as I love her, I think all the characters in that book are likeable; probably why I’m going back to them. The banter between them still makes me smile.

The same can be said for the guys in The Old Farts Club. I think that, by the time I reach the end of a book, I get to love all my characters. It’s like they’re my children, but I’m sharing them with the world – if that’s not too weird!

Callie from Callie’s Eyes is a lovely person, and I really enjoyed the chemistry between Cory and Ashley in Whatever it Takes. Hope and Charlie from Hope’s Game are two characters that really intrigue me, and that book was left with an open ending that will be revisited in the future. And Paul and Sabrina from A Guy Walks into a Bar also fascinate me, so much so that I have an idea for A Girl Walks into a Bar which will bring them back against some old adversaries. Again, I just enjoy the chemistry they share, it’s infectious and a lot of fun.

And then there are Brody and Javier from Final Clearance – they’re like my new-borns! They’re only a few months old, so they’re still dear to me. That being said, I THINK their story is told. But, you never know.

15. What’s been your proudest writing moment so far?

I’m fortunate to have a few.

Collaborating with my dear friend, Craig Ostrouchow, on a book (Hope’s Game) and releasing something I’m very proud of that did justice to a vision he created.

Winning the Imadjinn Best Thriller Novel award for Exodus- my first award, that sits by my laptop to remind me that I really can do this!

And every time I open the box of a set of new books. The thrill of seeing months of work formed into an actual book that other people can read never gets old.

If my answers have intrigued you, please stop by on Facebook, or at my website http://www.mickwilliamsauthor.com and say hello! If you mention this interview, I’ll be honoured to send you a free e-book version of either A Reason to Grieve or Callie’s Eyes.

For news and incredibly infrequent and non-rambling emails (see above answer on marketing!) sign up on the contact page, it really would be lovely to hear from you.

And thank you, Chantelle, for giving me this opportunity – it’s been fun!

A huge thank you to Mick Williams for agreeing to the interview! His links are below if you are interested in his books and as he mentioned above, if you contact him and mention reading this interview, he’ll send you a free ebook!

https://mickwilliamsauthor.com/index.php/about/

https://www.facebook.com/mickwilliamsauthor/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/13254873.Mick_Williams

Who Is My Reader?

One of the first pieces of advice I recall hearing when I started my indie publishing journey in 2013, was; ‘know your audience.’ It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Know your audience, know who your reader is. Once you know who they are you can figure out how to find them, where they hang out on the internet, what social media they are likely to be on, what tags you can use to get their attention, who to market your books at and so on.

I remember struggling with this at the time though. And I’m still struggling now. Back then, I had written The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, Parts One and Two, but while it was with beta readers, I very quickly churned out The Mess Of Me. The two were written side by side for a while until eventually The Mess Of me won the race and was released first.

The Mess Of Me has a 16-year-old protagonist and is essentially a book about growing up and the many teenage issues that go with it. At the time though, I didn’t think of it as Young Adult or as being aimed at teenagers.  I just listened to the voices in my head, as I always do, and they were young.  I soon figured out that not categorising and marketing The Mess Of me as YA was foolish and ridiculous. I had to get my head around something then. Was I a YA author? Did I just write YA?

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I didn’t have a problem with this as I have never grown out of loving YA books, and although I read a lot of genres, I do frequently return to YA and always feel like I am coming home. The problem was the next book. Though also having a teenage protagonist, and dealing with teenage issues, it was far harder to classify. Partly because the teenage narrator grows up and becomes an adult, and partly because there are two narrators for Parts One and Two, and the second narrator is an adult. In my head, this book was never aimed at anyone. I just had it in my head and wrote it.

I’ve got to be honest, this has mostly been my approach since too. This Is Nowhere features a grown man, but every other chapter dives back into the past to when the character is a young boy and teenager. I always felt like this one was probably better suited to adults though, so I categorised it accordingly.

The Tree Of Rebels was the first and only book I wrote with a deliberate audience in mind, and I think I mentioned on here several times while writing it, that this made it the hardest book to write. It sort of altered how I felt about the book. It was like I was trying to write to please someone the whole time.

The Tree of Rebels

Since then, I returned to just writing what I wanted to write and not imagining the reader first. This is fine when writing, but presents all sorts of problems when the time comes to publish the book. What categories and keywords do I choose? How do I market it? What genre is it? How do I find the people who will like this book?

Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature is a classic example of why I am still in such a muddle and still struggling to find my readers. It has a young narrator, but also an adult one. The adult themes, for me, make it more suitable for adults than teens, but Elliot’s day to day life and outlook are something that will more than likely resonate with young people. I still find it hard to describe the genre of this book. Definitely coming-of-age but also contemporary women’s fiction? Maybe even UpLit?

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With Parts One and Two of the new, revised The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series almost ready to be released, and Parts Three and Four being polished up in the background, my mind has once again returned to my elusive reader. 2019 will continue to be busy as I plan to release YA novel, A Song For Bill Robinson and possibly it’s almost finished sequel, Emily’s Baby. My list of novels is growing longer, but I still don’t know who my audience is. It’s tricky when you cross over so many genres. Most of my books cross into two or more, with psychological thriller, suspense, crime, coming-of-age, mystery and dystopian all regularly showing up.

So, who is my reader? What sort of person reads my books and likes them? I only have a small audience, so it’s hard to speculate. But I suppose really, my reader must be someone quite similar to me. I imagine them as slightly scruffy, or at least not terribly groomed and over bothered with appearances. They probably make an effort when they can, and they probably berate themselves fairly often about sorting out some kind of ‘look’, but it never really feels urgent to do so. They are probably young at heart. Stuck in the past, tinged with nostalgia, reluctant to admit and give in to adulthood. I think they are a music fan. They probably like all sorts. They’re not narrow-minded about it at all. They’ll listen to anything, but they have their favourite era of course, and their favourite songs. They see life in songs. Soundtracks are everywhere.

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What else? I imagine them as liking animals and nature. Not in a really obsessed, or professional way, just in that seeing a bird or a deer unexpectedly will really make them smile and have a better day. I think they enjoy being outside, all weathers too. Being outside makes them feel more alive.

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I think they are introverted but friendly and warm. A bit cynical and suspicious at times. Prone to the odd dark mood. Likely to panic about once a month about how the world is utterly doomed. But they always brighten up and soldier on. Despite being naturally shy, they are really interested in people, genuinely intrigued by them. They love a spot of people watching and love a character-driven book they can really get their teeth into. They are looking for stories about humans they can relate to and empathise with, and they are looking for characters to fall in love with, characters they wish were real.

They want to disappear inside a book and come out feeling different. They don’t want anything too formulaic or predictable. I think they are a bit of an eccentric at heart. They probably talk to themselves.

This is how I imagine my readers to be and I shall continue to do my best to try to find them. What about you? If you are a writer, do you know who your audience is? If you don’t know, does it make it harder to sell your books? If you’re sure of your audience, tell me about them. What are these people like? If you’re a reader, do you imagine yourself as part of a genre tribe, full of similar and like-minded people all connected by an appreciation of mysteries, or romance, or horror?

Please feel free to comment and share!

Ssh…I’m Hiding

Lately, I’ve felt like I’m in hiding. Running away. I keep attempting to stand still and face my demons but it doesn’t last for long. Every now and then I give myself a good shake and even come up with a plan…but they tend to be short-lived and easily shirked. So, what is it I’m running from? What terrible thing have I been hiding from lately? Burying my head in the sand of my writing in the hope it will just go away and leave me alone?

The answer is book promotion.

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The reasons are these;

  1. I’ve got too much to write. I’ve written about this lately in The Return of the Voices (and the nervous stomach) I won’t bore you with how many projects I am working on or have in progress at the moment, but I will say they are all moving on. They are all coming together. But I’ve never given myself a workload quite like this one…I just don’t have time to fit book promotion into my daily life. Or so I keep telling myself anyway. I just want to get these books done.
  2. Touched on above, there is just not enough time. There are the books I am trying to get ready for release, and then there is my writing business, Chasing Driftwood Writing Group which is quite rightly taking up more and more of my time. I’ve got two big projects I am trying to get funding for, plus the regular writing groups and workshops to prepare for, plus just the day to day running of a company, which is all very new to me! Then there’s the four kids and house and garden and pets…Book promotion just doesn’t get a look in!
  3. I’m bored of it. I do go through phases where social media and book promotion bore me intensely. I do love my blog and my Facebook author page, but that’s where the love ends. I tend to post more pictures of dogs and kids on my Instagram, often completely forgetting that it’s a business account to be used for selling books! I go onto Amazon and check for reviews and know I should send out some Tweets and so on…but it’s boring. I’m bored of it.
  4. I can’t afford it. Obviously, social media is free to an extent, and blogs and websites but pretty much everything else costs. Even your Facebook author page can be a cost now, requiring you to pay to boost posts to reach people who have already liked your page. And all of the worthwhile book promotion sites cost big money. I just don’t have it.
  5. It doesn’t work. As you can tell, I’m feeling a bit cynical about it all at the moment! I’ll probably feel differently in a few weeks time. I think I’m one of those indie authors who is still fruitlessly searching for the holy grail of effective book promotion. I think I’ve tried everything they suggest. Starting a blog, posting regularly (okay I flagged a bit recently but I seem to be picking up again now) running a Facebook author page, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, setting up email newsletters, Street Teams, discounting books, holding giveaways and events and competitions. And I’ve tried paid promotions many times and not had any success. I truly believe the answer is not simple and the one thing you think will work, does not exist. It’s a marathon, a platform you build over years of hard work. If I thought posting daily tweets and quotes from my reviews got me sales, I’d do it more often! But I’m pretty sure nothing much has worked so far…
  6. I’m jaded with it all… Yep, I’m tired of the whole thing. Hence, my efforts to find a publisher for my last novel The Tree Of Novels and next release Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature. Self-publishing can be a lot of fun, but it’s hard work with not a lot to show for it. And I’m well aware that authors signed to publishers also need to good at marketing themselves and their books and also have to endure the litany of promo related stuff I mentioned above…but oh how nice it would be to have someone do it all for me! So I could just write!!
  7. I’m out of ideas.  This is a big part of the problem, and I’ve been here before. Therefore I do know that I will eventually come out the other side of this standoff with fresh ideas and enthusiasm for promoting my books. I’m just feeling so lethargic about it at the moment, I can’t muster the energy. I’ve sort of given up on sales and reviews and just thrown myself into the actual writing. I’m addicted to the writing, you see. It’s the one thing I want to do passionately every day. The one thing I would choose above almost anything else in this world. I feel annoyed when I have to do other things! I turn on my laptop in the evening and I don’t want to think about promoting my books, I just want to start writing…
  8. The writing wins...Yep, at the moment anyway, the writing just wins every time. the odd tweet, the odd share of a review, the odd book selfie even, but that’s it. I want to be writing, I need to be writing, I can’t rest until this current workload is shifted.

So, that’s where my head is currently at when it comes to the marketing and promotion of my books! I am ashamed to admit that I have been utterly crap at promoting my books for a fair few months now. There are so many things I could do to remedy this, and I will. Starting maybe with a piece of paper stuck to my wall beside my laptop…A piece of paper with weekly goals and daily goals. A piece of paper with a blank space there for any bright ideas I pick up while online.

What do you think, fellow readers and writers? Any hot tips? As a writer, how do you go about promoting your books? What works and what doesn’t? Do you go through slumps where you would much rather hide from promotion and just get on with the writing? Or do you enjoy marketing your books and finding your audience?

What about you readers? What sort of book promotion works for you? What has drawn you to look up certain authors or pick up a certain book!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this so do please feel free to comment and share…