Friday, February 16, 2018

7 Success Tips for Indie Authors

If you've been following me for a while, you know I've written since I crept into my early teens. Writing is a part of me. It's no longer a task I merely want to do; it's something I have to do. As a young adult, I didn't think about publishing my stories. They were mine. My babies, my hard work and, most importantly, my means of escape. To share a part of me that personal didn't seem feasible.

Until it was.

When I drafted my first novel I intended to send out into the world, I went through all the fundamental steps of seeking representation and publication. Blurb, synopsis, polished chapters, followed by query letters and elevator pitches to agents and editors at writers' conferences. Rejection after rejection hit my inbox. I entered contests, won contests. Got pretty certificates I framed and hung on the wall. Sent more query letters. More rejections ensued.

"You've got a great voice, but the story is not we're looking for."

"Enjoyed the writing, but no one does prologues anymore."

"Do you have something else?"

At this point, I was already into the second novel, a spin-off from the first. With a full time job and limited time to write, I knew I didn't have time for another several months of going back and forth.

I wanted to write. I wanted to publish. And then I wanted to move on to the next story.

So, that's exactly what I did. Six years later, I couldn't be happier. However, being an indie author isn't all sunshine and daisies, easy-peasy, write a book, edit a book, pick a pretty cover and voila! I'm published! It's hard work. We're talking writing, reading, editing, re-writes, choosing the right cover artist, bookmarks and author swag, promotions, signings and other events...the list goes on and on. Usually, the indie author is in charge of this all by herself, because...yeah, you guessed it: There's no big, beautiful publishing company behind an indie author. For all intents and purposes, she is On. Her. Own.

Everyone's writing journey is different, and there's never a time when you stop learning and growing. If you write, you grow. It just happens. Here's a few tips I've picked up along the way:

1. Write. Oh, you'd thought #1 would be some profound tidbit of wisdom, did you? Well, lucky you--it is. Place butt in chair and write. Not feeling inspired? Write anyway. Many years ago, I took a fiction writing class with about twenty other authors. About halfway through the semester, someone raised their hand and asked, "But if I force myself to write, won't it come out all terrible and choppy?" The teacher smiled and said, "One, that's what editing is for and, two, I'll be willing to stake money, right here, right now, that once you go back to do those edits, you won't know what was 'forced' and what 'flowed like a river.'" And you know what? She was right. Write. Just do it.

2. Read. This goes without saying. Read your genre. Read other genres. Reading a bestseller? Study what makes that story work. Reading is inspiring, folks. Whether it's a great novel or a bad one, reading other authors' work pushes you to write your own. If you're aiming to be a writer--a professional writer--reading is a necessity, not an option.

3. Play. Get out. Walk. Breathe the fresh air. With or without headphones, doesn't matter. I prefer with. Submerge yourself in a public place and people-watch. Go to a fabric store and run your fingers along the different materials, take in the colors. The idea is to work your brain and, therefore, your imagination. Inspiration is everywhere; you just to be open-minded and willing to find it.

4. Absorb. You're a writer. In some ways, you are ALWAYS writing. For example, if I'm over the stove-top cooking dinner, I'm usually listening to music and thinking of a scene or character. If I'm watching Friends reruns on Netflix, sure, it's funny and relaxing, but I'm also absorbing the relationships and interactions between the characters. What makes those scenes work? What made the editors cut certain scenes? How did one sequence flow into another to create an entire episode? Being a writer is a way of life, in my opinion. I allow myself to feed off my surroundings and experiences. What I read, what I see, what I hear...all inspire what goes to the page.

5. Focus. Being an indie author means setting goals, reaching goals and moving on to the next goal. Not saying you can't take a break, but if you follow even a handful of successful indie authors on social media, you'll notice they're always promoting novels, offering giveaways, doing live videos and/or promoting other authors. The same teacher I mentioned above used to also tell us, "Writing is fun, sure it is, but writing is also hard."

6. Connect. Connecting with other writers and readers is not only important, but it's also a way to rejuvenate your passion for writing. I don't attend many writers' conferences, maybe only one or two a year, but being around like-minded people helps me remember why I do this; why I love writing people and putting them in situations that shape and mold them. Likewise, scheduling book signings and attending conventions, etc. connects you with potential readers. Talking with others about what they like to read, what they're reading right now and why they love their favorite authors helps you grow as a writer. There is no greater thrill for me than when a reader tells me about a scene she loved or who her favorite character is and why.

7. Rejuvenate. A couple of weeks back, our stress level picked up to about an eleven at the day job. New year, new ideas, more work. You get the picture. And while it's easy to say, "Leave your job at your desk, when you walk out the door," it's hard to turn off your brain, when it's been focused on another project--not your WIP--for hours and days upon end. If you work from home, this could tally up to a heap of chores, school projects for the kids, basketball practices and games--the list goes on and on. Suddenly, your beautiful novel is sitting cold inside your closed laptop. Self-doubt settles in. Me? I'm the world's worst at allowing anxiety to take over body and brain. When this happens, I, one, admit that it's happening, I'm overwhelmed, then, two, start the steps that lead back to where I want to be. I listen to music that soothes me, give myself pep talks--sometimes, oftentimes out loud. I try to eat healthier, drink more water, enjoy quiet moments outside with a cup of coffee in my favorite mug. I re-read manuscripts--finished or unfinished, doesn't matter--I've written in the past. Whatever works for you, do it. You're a writer. So, keep writing.

If you're an indie writer, I'd love to hear your tips for success!

1 comment

Andrew Leon said...

I'm good with just one and two from your list.
Or, at least, I was until November of 2016. I suppose, now, I would have to say to spend some time closed off from the outside world. It's very... distracting.

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