Being an indie author is like standing in line for the Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios. At first it's exciting. The line looks like the movie set and you think, “I’m here! I’m actually here.” Then an hour rolls by and you think, “I’m here … I’m still here?” As hour two approaches you wonder if you’ve wasted your time. Was it really worth it?
When you finally make hop on that ride it’s AWESOME! Better than you could’ve ever imagined. It was SO amazing you think, “I’ve gotta do this again!” When you walk back to the end of the line it hits you. Is it worth another wait?
Unfortunately, this scenario is all-too-similar to my experience in indie publishing. Because it’s hard. It’s immensely harder than I ever realized—doing everything on my own and feeling like a failure sometimes.
Don’t get me wrong, there were times I’ve been successful. Like when I launched my first novel, I sold almost 50 copies in 1 week. Or when I did a free promo for my devotional. After almost 90 days on the market it finally got some notice—shooting from #1758 in paid devotionals to #1 free devotional overnight.
Yet those were only fleeting successes, 4-7 days max. So far, there’s no afterboom. Not even a tiny little aftershock, just a sliver of a residue from the two perks I’ve experienced as an indie author. The devotional is down, but my glorious debut novel is consistently in the top 100 - 200 in its category, Christian Fantasy, thanks to Kindle Unlimited borrows. And hopefully they will only build from there.
After 9 months of indie authorship I still have times where I feel like throwing in the towel. But I know I can’t. Because indie publishing is the opposite of traditional publishing.
The Slow Build
Traditional publishing, the kind that gets you in brick-and-mortar stores or on NYT bestseller lists, is all about the first 90 days. They do everything they can to prepare for a big flashy book launch to sell as many copies in the first three months as possible. Why? Because that’s the best way to hit the bestseller lists, and then the book will sell itself. That’s why it takes 1-2 years to get a traditional book ready for market.
Indie publishing is the exact opposite. It takes time to build your audience, and there’s no one right way to do that. Many indies espouse writing more books, that 5-10 books on the market will up your readership. But I’ve seen tons of good reviews and endorsements do the same thing for a really good book. There’s also tons of theories out there about marketing your indie book that in my experience are simply trial-and-error. One strategy that works for a certain author may not work for my book.
The Tailor-made Path
Where does that leave someone like me, a debut indie author just trying to make her way? When it comes to my dreams, I don’t like wasting my time. I’ve discovered that I have to find my own path—one that I have to tailor-make for myself.
If something everyone does, like free FB marketing, doesn’t work for me, I research other avenues and move on. I don’t have the energy to keep beating my head against a wall hoping someone else’s “successful” method will eventually work for me. So how much time to I spend trying new methods? At least a month, as much time as I feel it takes to fully vet that marketing strategy.
Keep an Open Mind
Keep your options open, evaluate the results, and be honest with yourself. Truthfully, I really love the idea of free FB marketing to book groups. It’s easy and cheap. But I’ve tracked the clicks using booklinker.net, and found that at first I sold 2-3 books a week, but now get no traction. None. Will I still use the FB method? Yes, I’ll still experiment with different memes just to see if a new format makes the difference. But there’s no point spending hours a day on something that doesn’t work.
I like to say, “Don’t knock it till you try it,” but that doesn’t mean try everything. In the end, I think the best strategy is to keep an open mind, and do your research. Keep telling yourself, “Don’t give up,” even when you feel like throwing in the towel. It’s what we do when things get difficult that shows who we are really are on the inside.
Have you overcome something difficult recently? Do tell! We could use some inspiration over here.
Barbara Hartzler is the debut author of The Nexis Secret—the story a girl with a gift to see the unseen world of angels. And the two secret societies vying for The Seer's allegiance. The Nexis Secret is inspired by Barbara’s college experiences and peppered with anecdotes from her teen missions trip to New York City. She’s always wanted to write, not necessarily about angels, but the idea was too good to pass up. As a former barista and graphic designer, she loves all things sparkly and purple and is always jonesing for a good cup of joe.