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.

Tech Free Day

Last Saturday Storm Arwen battered most of the UK and although we escaped any damage to the house or garden, we did suffer the inevitable power cut. They are fairly common where we live so to wake up to no power was not much of a surprise. Usually they are pretty quick to fix but this one lasted 24 hours, which I think might be the longest we have ever gone without electricity and technology as a family.

At first, we didn’t panic. Well, I didn’t. Updates suggested we would be back on again by noon, so we got on with our usual Saturday. We then realised that none of the kids could do their weekend homework as these days it is all online. My 17 year old had a bit of a meltdown as she is in the final year of A-Levels and has a lot of coursework due in next week. She had planned to get stuck into it over the weekend and the thought of losing an entire day really upset her.

Aside from that and the gnawing guilt that there was nothing I could do to help her, we plodded on, fully expecting it to be back on for dinner time and our usual Saturday night movie night. We have a few traditions on Saturdays which have evolved due to the fact that we only have one car – which means all week I drive everyone everywhere and pick them all back up again. At the weekend I do not want to drive at all, and as husband usually works Saturdays, he gets the car and I get a break from it. This does leave us a bit stranded at home, but it is beautiful here with plenty to do and we never get bored on a Saturday. We usually have a to-do list of household chores, homework, gardening jobs and fun things. Towards the end of the day if we have ticked off all our jobs, the boys get to go on the PS4 and I enjoy a long hot bubble bath with a glass of wine and a good book. Perfect. After that, a dinner in front of the TV and movie night and sweeties.

Sadly, the updates suggested the power would not go on until 4pm, which soon became 5pm, then 6pm, then 10pm and of course long before that we had resigned ourselves to a very different kind of Saturday. One without any technology!

Doesn’t it make you realise as an adult how often you pick up your phone for no reason? Just to check it, just to feel it, just to look at it? It made me realise I am quite addicted to just simply checking it or scrolling social media when I am a bit bored.

I soon realised I felt better without it though. No more bad news running down my news feed. No more adverts trying to sell me things. No more posts about injustice, climate change, energy prices or corona virus. I felt quite free! It was like the bad news didn’t exist anymore so I decided to enjoy it.

I read a book until it was too dark to see and then we got out the candles and fairy lights and strung them up around the lounge. I was able to make dinner thanks to the gas oven, so me and three kids ate dinner by candlelight, under blankets! My 17 year old had no option but to join us and remarkably she soon cheered up.

Image by Jeremy Kyejo from Pixabay

In fact, what happened over the next five hours was really quiet lovely. For five hours, me and three of my children snuggled on the sofa surrounded by fairy lights and candles and just talked. There was absolutely nothing to do but stay under the blankets for warmth and talk to each other. I thought the 7 year old would get bored or restless but he didn’t. And for five hours we talked and laughed. It doesn’t seem possible now but it really was five hours. I made a few hot chocolates and we had our bowls of sweets without our movie, and we just talked and laughed until we all retired to bed at 10pm.

It was magical.

The next day the power was back on and inevitably we all turned to technology, watching Netflix, scrolling our phones and catching up on news. I stopped scrolling after a few moments though. I realised I just didn’t want it. In that moment, I could have quite happily took my phone and thrown it in the bin. I didn’t want the intrusion back.

I think if it wasn’t for my job, I would take all the social media apps off my phone. I keep them on there because I need to try and market my books and build up my company, and these days it all happens online. But the tech free day made me long for simpler times. Just recently I have got back into letter writing and it’s been a fascinating and wonderful connection with the written word, with patience, with anticipation and communication. I’ve been writing to my oldest sister who lives a few hours away and I feel like we have never communicated as well as we currently are through letters! I look forward to her replies and make a cup of tea to curl up and savour them with. We have stopped texting, and instead just wait patiently for the letters to arrive. Again, its quite magical in its honest simplicity.

I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of technology and plenty of it is marvellous. I couldn’t sell books without it. But I do think it’s important not to completely turn our backs on some of the old ways. I intend to embrace them when I can – turning my phone off at weekends, refusing to look at emails, writing letters and breaking my addiction to social media. I think I will be much happier for it.

What about you? Are you a tech addict or a social media slave? How long do you think you could go without them? Do you miss anything that used to be the norm in the past but is now unusual? Feel free to comment and share!

10 Things I’ve Learnt From 10 Years on Social Media

Thanks to my Timehop app I realised the other day that I have been on social media for ten years. It was ten years ago that I first joined Facebook and from there, went on to start a blog, share my writing, join Twitter and Instagram and the rest of it. Like anything new to us, navigating social media in the early days is tricky. I can look back now and see that I have learned a lot about how to use it, how positive and how destructive it can be. Here are ten things I’ve learned from ten years on social media.

  1. Some people use social media like a sort of online diary. I think I used to do this a bit myself until my Timehop app memories shamed me into stopping! But I try not to judge others who like to share their dinner, their bad day, their little triumphs, their new haircut, their kid losing their first tooth or what the weather is like. I think it shows that people want to communicate with each other and there is something sort of sweet and sad about that.
  2. I wouldn’t sell any books without it. True story. For an indie author on a very limited budget, I am constantly amazed that I sell any books at all. I definitely wouldn’t sell any without social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and this blog have helped me shape my author platform over the years and allowed me to engage with potential readers and showcase my writing. I don’t know how I would reach any of these people without social media!
  3. It can be a real force for good. I am forever surprised and humbled by the kindness I see on social media. From people starting petitions to help others, people signing and sharing, people starting fundraisers and people donating what they can. The words of support and empathy that are shared with those who are struggling. The fact that people can post on social media that they are having a hard time and get a loving response. Even the small things, like people asking for recommendations, asking for general advice, people helping people out. I love watching videos on Facebook of animals being rescued by people who go out of their way to do it. Always restores my faith in humanity! There are some lovely feel-good stories out there that the TV news just doesn’t tell us about anymore.
  4. It can be a force for bad. Undoubtedly, there is a destructive side to social media. Online bullying, stalking and harassment. Dick pics, racism, sexism, homophobia and animal abuse. All of these things thrive on social media but I guess it’s inevitable. People are good and people are bad. People are kind and people are destructive, so you are always going to get both sides on social media platforms. It can bring you down. Sometimes my feed is full of bad news and horror stories, and if I ever make the mistake of reading comments under political posts…ugh. Sometimes it hurts my heart to see and read how some people think and feel about others. It can also be used for spreading fear, propaganda and lies. Something we need to be increasingly wary of.
  5. People follow you so that you will follow them back and then they unfollow you. It took me a while to realise this as an author. I don’t tend to like or follow other accounts unless I am really interested, and at the moment I’m trying to pare down what I do see and follow. But over the years, if someone, usually other authors, have made the point of liking my page or following my Instagram, I would nearly always return the favour. Sometimes authors ask for this, which I do find a bit rude! Nevertheless, I started out returning the favour only to realise further down the line that person had unliked or unfollowed me. I now see this is a thing people do. Follow you on Instagram, for example, so you follow back, and then they almost instantly unfollow you. They were never interested in following you in the first place. They just wanted to prompt you to follow them to boost their numbers. Now that I know this, I only ever follow back if I am really interested in their content and every now and then I go through my lists and have a purge.
  6. Likes for Likes posts are counterproductive. I have to admit doing these ‘like for like’ things is probably how I got my author Facebook page rolling in the very early days. There were various groups and sites where you could post your page and if people followed you, you were obliged to follow back. I actually met some good online writer friends this way and read some awesome books. But I’m jaded by it now and have vowed not to do it anymore. As tempting as it is, to paste your page link under a ‘let’s follow each other’ post, I don’t see the point. If people want to follow your page because they like your writing, that’s fine. No one should be swapping likes for the sake of it. Chances are you end up with 2,000 likes on your page, most of whom are other authors in other genres who have no intention of ever reading your work and vice versa. I’d rather have less likes but they be from people who have found me themselves and stayed because they like what I post.
  7. You will never change someone’s mind with political posts. Well, I exaggerate slightly, because over the years I have posted the odd thing that someone has responded to, saying it made them think or question something or even change their mind. I could probably count the amount of times this has happened on one hand though. Mostly what happens is the people who think the same as you agree with it and share it. The people who disagree with it, let you know and an argument commences. And the people who don’t give a shit about politics continue to not give a shit about politics. I try really hard not to post too much political stuff these days, but it is very hard! I do realise when I post them though that I am largely wasting my time. Everyone believes what they want to believe and they will find the evidence and data to back it up to suit themselves and yes I am guilty of this too.
  8. A lot of activity on social media is attention seeking. But can you blame us? We live in a crazy, mess-up, potentially doomed world. We have horror at our fingertips any time we want it. We don’t know what to believe anymore, we don’t know what is true and what is fake news. We are all overworked and underpaid. There are no jobs for life and the safety net is being eroded. We are all insecure about our looks and we all have anxiety and depression and repressed rage. We don’t know what to do. We don’t know how to feel. We are disconnected from each other, with no time to catch our breath. It’s an effort to make contact with real friends in real life, so we use social media instead and let’s be honest, most of us do it for attention. Just a Like. A smiley face, a laughing face, a comment, a share. Some recognition, some validation, some sympathy and empathy, or just something to laugh about together. Sometimes that small connection with someone else will help you get through the day.
  9. Sometimes strangers on social media are more supportive than your own friends and family. Another true story! A weird one. Strangers on the internet can become friends, good friends! People who check in with you, message you, chat with you at weird times, support you and share your news. I’ve always found that strangers online are more receptive to and interested in my writing than my actual friends and family. If I post something about my writing to my personal page, it will mostly be ignored. If I post something to my author page, I can usually guarantee a response and some engagement, which is absolutely lovely and keeps me going!
  10. It’s capable of changing the world and it’s not going away. Scary but true. There’s that whole herd mentality thing. Public opinion can be swayed greatly by whatever is going viral and sweeping the internet. You just have to hope it’s something that will work in your favour! I think the thing I have realised though is that social media is here to stay and you are far better off embracing it and trying to understand it, than shunning it and fearing it. This is particularly important if you have kids who are almost certainly going to end up on it at some point. It would be nice, wouldn’t it? To wrap them up in a bubble and shield them from the awful, cruel world and the awful, cruel things that pop up on social media. But knowledge is power and I think parents are better off joining in and getting to understand social media so that they can help their kids navigate it when the time comes. There’s a real risk in allowing your kids to join a site you have no clue about, or even trying to keep them away from it all for as long as possible. It is still going to be there and eventually they will find it. Maybe they will decide it’s not for them, but I think parents are far better able to help kids understand it and use it safely if they have that understanding and experience themselves!

So, how about you? How long have you been using social media? Which are your favourite sites and why? What do you think are the pros and cons of social media? What has it taught you?

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.