I published my first book Shy Feet: Short Stories Inspired by Travel in August 2013. As I approach six months as a published author I find myself still taking hard steps up the steep learning curve that is indie publishing. That said, the more I learn, the more I feel calmer about the future of my book and the ones that will follow. If I could go back in time and speak to myself about two years ago when I first started planning Shy Feet, these are the things that I would tell myself.
1. Some People Will Really “Get” You.
That first five star review on Goodreads from somebody you don’t know, who picked your book out of nowhere and read it and enjoyed it and grabbed hold of the themes, the characters, the twists and the turns that you toiled and toiled over for months, well, that will feel pretty special. And when you realise that they then took the time to write a beautiful review and ask you when the next book will be out; when that happens you’ll realise that people “get” you and your book. That is the best feeling of all. That is why you must keep writing.
2. Some People Won’t “Get” You At All.
On the other end of the spectrum, you will find that some people buy your book, will get around to reading it one day and may never finish it. Or worse, there are those who feel compelled to leave a one star review (see #4 below). This is not the best feeling in the world, but it’s normal. We all have our own personal tastes and preferences, your book just isn’t to that particular person’s liking; it’s never anything more sinister or tragic than that.
3. Editing Will Take Much Longer Than Writing The First Draft
I wrote the first draft of my short story collection in one month (as part of NaNoWriMo). It took me nearly six times as long to edit the stories into something I was proud of. Never underestimate how long it takes to get your fiction where you want it to be (and never stop until it’s there).
4. Bad Reviews Happen To Everyone
Go to one of your favourite books on Amazon or Goodreads and check out all the reviews. You see the one and two star reviews? That is proof of #2 on this list and it is reason enough to never let a bad review bother you, unless of course they are providing helpful criticism because your book was badly formatted or had too many typos in it, in which case consider these reviews a “To Do” list of what needs to be improved upon next time.
5. That Writing Is The Most Fun You Can Have With Your Clothes On
By far the most surprising thing I’ve learned in the last year is that writing is one of the most fun activities I enjoy doing. It has made me laugh out loud, cry on to my keyboard and smile until my cheeks hurt.
6. There Are Good And Bad Times To Publish A Book
When I published my book I thought I’d cash in on the beach holiday market. As it happened, it was in the middle of a hot European summer, people were already on holiday, or those at home were out doing things at weekends so reading wasn’t everybody’s top priority. I think a better time to publish would have been earlier in the summer or later in autumn - indeed my sales saw a big peak in the run up to Christmas. I’ll be mindful of this next time.
7. Marketing Is Hard, But Not Impossible.
The hardest part of being an indie author is marketing myself and my books. I have found it isn’t something that comes naturally to me and I stutter and stammer as I try to “do it right”. But truth be told, even if I were an expert with years of experience, nobody can categorically tell you what works when it comes to selling books. As the old adage goes, only 50% of advertising works but no one knows which 50% it is. What I have learned, however, is that marketing gets a little easier when I think outside the box and get creative, which is why I’ve created playlists for writing and for reading my book, I’ve been interviewed for a number of book-loving blogs and I’ve run signed copy giveaways on my own blog. These are marketing activities I enjoy, which makes it all a little easier.
8. Thinking Big Is Not A Crime.
It’s okay to want more. It’s okay to push yourself. It’s okay to get frustrated with how slow things seem to move. It’s okay to cry, scream and laugh like a madwoman when it all gets too much. It’s okay to think big and set goals that you may never reach. What isn’t okay is punishing yourself if you don’t, because you will then end up slowing yourself down even more. Be your own best friend in terms of thinking big, but also go easy on yourself when chasing those dreams get tough.
9. This Isn’t Going To Get Easier
But it will come quicker, smoother, and more naturally. Just don’t expect any shortcuts or corner-cutting because it is in the struggle that you make beautiful art.
10. You Are Not Alone
By far the most important lesson I’ve learned in the last 18 months since I decided to self-publish my first book is that I am not alone in this. There are hundreds if not thousands of other indie authors out there battling with the same challenges and connecting with some of them via blogs, the Alliance of Independent Authors or on Goodreads has helped me understand that being an author doesn’t have to be as lonely as some people think.
Genre – Short Stories, Contemporary Fiction
Rating – PG13
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