Indie Survival Kit
When I first started out as an independently published author in 2013, I had no idea what was going to happen. I had no idea what I was doing, and it took me a long time to figure out what I needed to know. There is a lot of help and support out there for indies, if you know where to look, but it’s very difficult to find the time to research, when you are already spending a lot of time writing. With this in mind, here is an Indie Survival Kit. A list of things you will need! Imagine you are about to pack a bag and start a long, unknown journey. These are the things you might need to pack.
The Right Attitude.
You need grit, determination and self-belief. You need to believe your story is worth telling, and that you have the skills to tell it. You will need to grow a thick skin, and become good at self-promotion. You might wish you could just sit at home writing and not have to bother with the rest of it, but you can’t. Not if you want to succeed. So roll up your sleeves, open up your mind and get working.
Surround yourself with like-minded people. Become part of the author community. Read other authors and reach out to them, connect, support and join forces, as together you are stronger. It’s not all about you, and if you think it is, you won’t get very far. It’s amazing how supportive and helpful other author’s can be, so make sure you are involved. Invite authors to post on your social media pages, or on your blog or website, and offer to do the same for you. Interviews are always very popular and interesting to both writers and readers!
Social Media Checklist
Have you signed up to at least three social media sites? One of these should be your blog/website. Do you blog regularly? At least twice a month, although ideally more? Are you visible on social media? Do people know who you are, or have they forgotten about you because you haven’t posted anything interesting lately? Has Facebook assumed your fans are bored, and has unliked the page on their behalf? Keep things fresh and fun, start debates, run contests, let people know about your struggles and successes, link up your sites to save time, share articles of interest and so on! Do this daily, as much as you can and don’t neglect it.
Seek them out. Go after them. Don’t just rely on friends and family, or on the assumption that readers will remember to review. They rarely do. Go to review sites, and be prepared to pay for some and to be put on waiting lists for the ones that are free. The same applies for bloggers. Research them, make lists and do this weekly to build up those reviews. Remember that reviews help your book move forward; they encourage readers to buy and they convince Amazon to take your book more seriously.
Keep your skills up to date. Join writing groups online and in real life. Take courses. Udemy and FutureLearn are great sites that often have deals and freebies, so grab the offers when you can. Keep your skills sharpened and work to constantly improve your craft.
Be patient, but work on growing your fanbase at all times. Use your blog, Wattpad, Street Teams and social media sites to interact and connect with readers. Ask their opinions, share sneak peeks, freebies and competitions, share your ups and downs, your decision making processes and so on. Stay positive and upbeat. They will feel like they are on the journey with you. Offer free samples and short stories at the back of your books, or on your blog.
Look for free or cheap to help keep costs down. Canva.com is a great site for graphics and posters. You can create social media graphics, memes, posters, leaflets and even ebook covers on there. iAuthor is free, and is a great way to find the readers who are looking for your type of book. You simply add your books to the extremely diverse ‘themes’, or even make up your own. Wattpad is free, and is a great way to find readers and get feedback. Fiverr is a site where you can pay people as little as $5 for file conversions, artwork and more.
Follow the right people
There are so many great sites and pages out there for writers, it’s hard to know where to start. But do start. Follow organisations that will provide you with the information you need, so that you do’t have to go looking for it. The Alliance of Independent Authors, Author Unlimited, Writer’s Digest, The Writer’s Circle and Positive Writer are just some of the many pages/groups I follow to pick up tips and up to date information on the writing world.
Find other ways to make money out of writing. Ads on your blog, sending articles to sites who pay, short story submissions and competitions are all great options. You can also get paid work as a book reviewer. There are so many sites popping up now to provide reviews for indies and these sites also need reviewers! Offer editing and/or formatting to other indies, or even front cover design, graphics and art work if you are up to it. Many writers also make additional money by going into schools to run workshops, or by offering workshops to other writers. You can also do this online and sell the content. Copy writing, ghost writing, ad writing, all are other ways to pick up income through writing.
As an indie, you will more than likely have a love/hate relationship with the promotion of your books. You know you need to do it, but you don’t know how. You know you must figure it out in order for readers to know you exist, but all you really want to do is write. I think the sooner you get to grips with promotion and accept it as part of the deal, the better. It can even become fun. Your blog for instance, should be fun. After all, it should be your little stage, your platform to talk about anything you want to talk about. Again, social media should be fun, and it can be if you engage with it and make time for it. Set aside one day a week when you concentrate on promoting your books. I advise setting up a website/blog early on and making sure it is as professional as possible, after all it may be the main landing point for readers interested in your books. Everything else can come from here; your links to social media, links to your books and your style of writing itself. Set up a subscribe by email button, and another button that collects emails for a fan newsletter. Do this as soon as possible so that you can start building an email list of people who are genuinely interested in your writing. You can then treat them to freebies, sneak peeks and special events and you are on the way to building an audience.
These suggestions are all simple and relatively cheap, and they are all things I wish I had known before I started.
Almost a year ago I interviewed two great author’s about their experiences of writing and publishing, Kate Rigby and Alec John Belle. You can find the interviews here. I’ve been meaning to interview more author’s since then, and just have not had the chance to get around to it. Anyway, that’s all about to change! Joel Dennstedt is a very diverse indie author, and I have enjoyed all three of his novels. Here he chats to me about his indie journey so far, his books, his on-going travels, and his plans for the future.
1) You and your brother are currently travelling through South America. Could you tell us a bit about what made you decide to do this? And was there a conscious decision to write and blog about it as you went?
Everything was Steve’s idea. As of 2010, I was working for the same evil corporation as he, a criminal organization known as the largest bank in the United States. He couldn’t take it anymore and decided to retire. His wife could not take that, so they divorced. He said he was off to see the world. I had to ask him twice – he did not believe me the first time – if I could tag along. So, in April of 2012 we packed everything we owned into our backpacks and duffels and went off to see the world …. slowly. Four years later, we have made it to Peru. He began his blog a year before we left, and once we hit our first stop in Merida, Yucatan, MX he said: you should publish your novel Orange Cappuccino. So I did. Because he has really great ideas.
2) Your novels are all quite different. Could you tell us what inspired you to write each one? Where did each idea come from?
Orange Cappuccino is true. I wrote it as a novel for the style. It tells the story of my life with my second wife and our trials and tribulations in Alaska. I had to write that story to make way for other things. And yet, the first book I wrote was Hermit – A Novella. I wrote that during my breaks at work, and though the main character is a lot like me, the story was simply a fantasy to help me get through my days in the real world. I published Orange Cappuccino first, and Hermit only after a hundred hours of editing while ensconced in a hostel/brewery in the jungles of Honduras. Guanjo is my science fiction novel, a promise to myself when I was young. The idea came from two photographs I had collected along the way: one of a huge longhouse situated in the canopy of a rainforest; the other of a little native girl with her pet frog.
3) Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
I have never wanted or intended to be anything else. I considered myself an abject failure for 60 years of my life because I caved to the necessities of the real world.
4) What has been your journey so far as a writer? How would you describe the experiences you’ve had?
Mostly, I have felt rather lost. The writing is not fun. There has been little appreciation for my work. And yet, when I compare now to four years ago, that is not true at all. I have had a lot of fun. The appreciation has been immense. Now put those two feelings into one and shake them up every single day, and you know something of the rollercoaster ride that you and I are on. The experience of writing has called on every reserve of wisdom that I possess, and made me practice the path I follow with an intensity far beyond what I had known
before. The best things come unexpectedly. The worst come from my own expectations. The lesson: stop expecting and start accepting. And all I can say to that is when I do, things seem to progress perfectly.
5) What would you say are the best things about being an indie writer?
This is pretty easy. The creative control is great. The ability to immediately respond to any new idea, whether in the writing itself or in the marketing and sales keeps everything alive and fresh. The rebelliousness of it all. The interactions with other indie writers, their support and commiserations.
6) What would you say are the worst things about being an indie writer?
Only one thing that I know of: lack of exposure. The challenge to locate your audience, when mainstream authors seem to find their audience ready-made.
7) What are your personal top tips for indie survival?
Be prepared to do it all. Create, Write, Proofread, Edit, Produce, Promote, Market & Sell. If you don’t understand the essential elements of business, then enjoy the vanity of it all, but don’t expect success. And one personal tip for Indie Authors in general: if you don’t start learning to edit and correct your mistakes, you are going to fail. I read a lot of Indie works now, and I am nauseated by the typo’s, grammatical errors, misspellings, and simple format errors that permeate their books. It has given and will continue to give Indie Authors a bad reputation.
8) What are you working on at the moment?
I am supposed to be working on my literary novel: In the Church of the Blue-Eyed Prophets. Instead, I work most consistently on my blog, my collection of horror short stories, and my book reviews.
9) Who are your favourite authors?
My top 5 favorite authors are British: Barry Unsworth, Jean LeCarre, William Golding, Charles Dickens, and Graham Greene.
10) What are your dreams/hopes for the future in terms of your writing?
My biggest dream is to be accepted by the industry professionals and regarded as a writer of great literary merit. I know I ought to be seeking popular approval, but mostly I just want affirmation from those who know good writing.
11) Tell us about your writing routine/process
I guess that you’re assuming I have a routine. Not so much, really. I write what I want, when I want, at the pace I want. In this regard I pretty much go against all the advice of others. I do not write a certain number of words a day. I do not challenge myself to write so many pages. I do not even make myself write each day. It does not work for me. And even if it did, I would not do it. When I have experimented with such a program, what I wrote was trash, and I had to go back and rewrite every word. Sometimes I write a single paragraph in a day. Sometimes a page. Much more than that, and once again it turns to trash. I also ignore the trusted advice to just get the first draft out. Doesn’t work for me. I edit as I write. A lot. I cannot proceed until the writing is almost at the standard I maintain. And when I’m done, I go back and edit, edit, edit all over again. You see, writing does not come easily to me. And if I don’t take long breaks between, the writing suffers … a lot!
12) Tell us three interesting things about you
I am the son of a dwarf.
I believe that I am high-functioning autistic, enough not to be diagnosed.
I believe that animals can talk.