2015 was called “The Year of the Indie”. So was 2014. And 2013. It turns out, they’re right. Every year since 2011 has been The Year of the Indie, and that trend hasn’t changed for 2016.
10. Coming into this in 2016 is tough. There are more of us than ever. We are gaining market-share over traditional publishers, and according to Mark Coker of Smashwords, there are more Indie authors on the bestseller lists every month. The days of writing for three months, slapping a photoshopped cover on your word document and selling thousands of copies are long gone, and I say good riddance. I waded through a lot of terrible, unedited writing to find some gems. Readers shouldn’t have to go through that.
9. Editing is more important than ever, and has to be BETTER than traditional publishing. Readers know that traditionally published books have been edited. They assume that indie books have not. I have a copy of The Stand by Stephen King that contains several spelling and grammatical errors. I read past them and move on. My book Remnants: The Colcoa Wars was edited by SIX different editors. It has VERY few errors. But every time someone finds one, or a rule of grammar that they don’t understand I hear about it in the reviews. Traditional publishers get a pass on editing, because there is an assumption. Indies get penalized very hard for it. Expect to spend between $250 and $350 per editor (or more), and hire several of them.
8. Cover design matters. I’m going to say that again. Cover design matters. Hire someone. Do not put out a product that isn’t finished. If you are a professional graphic designer who also happens to write, you should STILL hire someone. Because they may have a different perspective. They may know more about the science of cover design. Be ready to spend another $250 – $500 on cover design. Graphic designers wouldn’t exist if they couldn’t make a living at it. They deserve to be paid what they’re worth.
7. Build a platform. That’s what everyone says. What the heck is a platform, and what is it made out of? Your platform is a metaphor for the place you stand when you want to be heard. It could easily be called a soap-box. But they chose platform. Create an author page on Facebook. You’ll never sell books on facebook, but you will sell yourself. And that’s way more important. Post about *stuff*. Don’t post about books. Sure, the occasional #AmWriting post is good. The occasional teaser about what you’re working on is great. But for the love of all that is good in the world, never post Buy My Book! (Or worse, PLEASE buy my book!). Don’t sell to people from your platform. Talk to them. Be a real person. Post pictures, post updates. And let them know when you’ve released a new book and where they can go to get it if they choose.
6. Know your demographics. Who is your target audience? Knowing that will help you figure out which social networks to focus on. If you write zombie fiction, typically your demographic is going to skew male. It doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of time on Pinterest, as the vast majority of Pinterest users are female. Reddit, on the other hand, is mostly males 18 – 35.
5. Nothing sells your first book like the second. No matter how much you want people to read your work, no matter how much pressure you feel to spend time marketing, the majority of your time needs to be spent writing. No amount of marketing will have more effect on sales than the second book.
4. You can’t charge for a product that isn’t worth money. We are authors. We create a product. That product is a story, but it’s not JUST the story. It’s the entire experience, from finding it online to the back cover. It’s the emotional roller coaster, and it’s the connection with people. Make sure your product is polished.
3. Don’t underestimate your value. So many authors just want to build their name they give the book away to everyone who will take it. That *might* be a good strategy if you have 5 or 6 books in a series. But if you only have one book what is the point of giving it away? You put real work, real dollars, and real energy into creating a polished product. You deserve to be compensated. People line up for a $5 cup of coffee. Never let anyone tell you your 3 or 6 or 12 months worth of work isn’t worth $0.99 or 3.99. An average novel takes 4 hours to read. People pay $12 (plus popcorn and soda!) for a 2 hour movie.
2. You’re not going to sell thousands of copies of any one book per month. Or year. If you sell a single copy to a non-friend/family member in your first month you should celebrate it. If you sell 10 copies per month you should consider yourself successful. Most don’t make it to double digits. This is a hard thing to hear, but it’s the truth.
1. The way to make money as an indie author is volume. Making the NYT bestseller list is like hitting the lottery. You’ll never win if you don’t play. The only way to ensure you win the lottery is to buy one of every number combination. The only way to make a living as an Indie Author is to keep writing books. If you sold 2 copies per day of one book, you’d make roughly $6 per day. If you sold 2 copies per day of 20 different books, you’d make $120 per day.
What do you think are the most important things a new Indie Author should know? Let me know in the comments!