Two years ago I committed to myself that I would write a novel. At that time I had never heard the term Indie Author. Today, having met my commitment to myself, I am an Indie Author, with two published novels to my credit. The first, ‘Life of a Double Agent’ was published in late March 2013. Slightly over one year later, in May 2014, I published my second book, ‘The First Madam President (and the dirty bombs)’.
When I made that commitment two years ago I had no idea how I would get my book published. I knew a little about the conventional publishing route and I had heard of self-publishing, but I did not know what was involved in pursuing either approach.
I quickly learned the conventional publishing process is essentially out of reach to an unknown author unless he or she is incredibly lucky or has some connections. I also learned there are many self-publishing companies willing to publish any book and provide all the services needed to accomplish that task. All that is needed is money. After a short try at conventional publishing I decided to focus on self-publishing. I found a company, Xlibris, who offered several packages of services, and I chose one that seemed to fit my needs. I signed a contract with them to publish my book for a fee. I chose the package that provided copy editing, some basic marketing suggestions, cover design, formatting and internal design, copyright and ISBN numbers, and publication of an e-book, paperback and hard cover.
By the time I was ready to publish my second book, I had learned a great deal about the book publishing business, and decided I did not need all the services I had used the first time. I chose three separate self-publishing companies, one for a Kindle format e-book (KDP or Kindle Direct Publishing), one for all the other e-book formats (Smashwords.com), and one for a paperback (CreateSpace). I created my own cover artwork, and designed and formatted the interior myself, and was able to self-publish my second book for FREE.
With that background, I thought you might be interested in how self-published Indie Authors spend their time when they are not writing books. The simple answer is we spend our time marketing and selling our books. Most Indie Authors use social media for a major part of their marketing efforts. In addition we spend time on more “conventional” marketing activities, like press releases, book signings, seeking reviews, talking to book clubs and other groups, doing interviews for newspapers, radio and television when they can be done within one’s budget. The social media side of book marketing generally uses a three-legged approach; Facebook, Twitter, and a blog. In addition to the normal three main legs, some add Linkedin, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads, ASMSG, RaveReviewsBookClub, Independent Author Network, and many, many other social media sites.
Good Indie Authors are able to spend time on their social media efforts while writing their next book. Unfortunately, I am not that good at multi-tasking. When I am writing it becomes a full time effort. I do not have the energy to do social media marketing activities during my writing “season”. So, what I have done is focus on writing and editing for several months, and focus on marketing activities when I am not writing. I know the marketing activities need to be ongoing throughout the year, but unfortunately, I haven’t figured out how to do both activities simultaneously.
I read somewhere recently the average Indie Author will sell two to three hundred books to their family and friends and the people they attract through additional marketing efforts mentioned above. I don’t know the accuracy of that estimate.
Let me give you some additional personal perspective. First, some comments on Twitter. I have over 3000 followers on Twitter. Two years ago, I had no idea what Twitter was. During my marketing “season” I send approximately fifteen tweets per day, five days per week. In addition, I will re-tweet on average another ten to twenty tweets per day. Several of my followers have over 10,000 followers, and when they re-tweet my tweet, that gives a great multiplier to the number of people who see my tweet. My observation is that Twitter has been an effective way to improve the awareness of me, as an author, and my books. Literally tens of thousands of people, and possibly hundreds of thousands of people have seen my name and book titles through Twitter. That is an important step in marketing myself and my books. However, I have found Twitter is mostly a passive social media site. Generally, the only active response to a tweet is when someone re-tweets it. When the tweet asks the reader to click on a link, or take action like buy a copy of the book, I believe it is not very effective.
Second, some comments on Facebook. Prior to becoming an Indie Author, I had a personal Facebook page. When I published my first book, I created a “business” page, specifically for my book, ‘Life of a Double Agent’. My personal Facebook page has just over 400 Friends. My page devoted to my first book has less than 200 people who have LIKED it. I created a second “business” page for my second book and it currently has just over 200 people who have LIKED it. Both of my book Pages are open to the public, where my personal Page is limited to my Friends. I have used some promotional activities on Facebook and some advertising of my books, and I have seem some limited success. However, to be really successful as an Indie Author, you need to find ways to attract thousands of people to your Facebook Pages, not just a couple hundreds.
Finally, what about a blog? My blog is at https://kkerr19963.wordpress.com. There are other sites I could have used, but wordpress.com seems to be one of the popular sites for Indie Authors. I have had a few thousand visitors to my blog over the last two years and currently have approximately 100 Followers. I use the blog to talk about all things related to my writing activities. About six months ago, I became a member of an online book club, Rave Reviews Book Club. Through the book club, I have become active in reviewing other Indie Authors books, and posting my reviews on amazon.com, goodreads.com, and on my blog. I have also hosted several book blog tours for other authors as a way to help promote other authors and to improve traffic to my blog. These activities have proved to be very satisfying and have also helped promote and sell copies of my books.
During my social media marketing “season” I spend anywhere from one hour a day to four or five hours per day sending tweets, re-tweeting, posting content on Facebook, and writing posts for my blog.
That’s a basic introduction to the life of an indie author. My conclusion, after two years, is that writing is the easy part. Marketing a book is really hard. I have learned a lot over the past two years, about both writing and marketing, but I still have a lot more to learn before I can say I am a successful Indie Author.