Thursday, July 7, 2011

Letter to the Beginning Indie Author

Dear Indie Author,
Over the last two years, I’ve learned so much about publishing and marketing, but more importantly, I’ve learned that I’ve had expectations of an industry that does not bend to my wishes. Without boring you with the usual “get edited and a good book cover” redundancy, I’d like to share 5-Fascinating Facts I’ve learned that might help you with your book launch, and prepare you for an industry that’s filled with vipers and wild stallions.

1.     A Crash is Coming! If you’re a new or newer author without a platform, be prepared for a sales crash soon after your release. No matter how hard you market your book before you let that baby fly, you will only be able to reach so many people. Think about your family, friends, twitterverse, and facebook cult members. You may have hundreds or even thousands of peeps cheering for you, but they will only take your sales so far. A couple hundred sales on day one are great, but they will not keep your sales rolling. The rest is up to you. The days or weeks after a book launch to a newer author can feel like you’re the Grand Marshall of a parade who walked ten miles into an uninhabited desert, only to discover that you’re waving and smiling at no one. 

I don’t mean to discourage or scare you away from publishing your work. I do, however, want to prepare you for the rocky road ahead. Just be tough, and wait. There are a few affordable and effective marketing tools, but that’s another post all together.

2.     Dig Deep. If you’re an indie author or published with a small press, remember that you will be responsible for almost all of your marketing. There will be no paid book tours, no TV ads, and little to no internet marketing other than your publishers web page, mostly viewed by other authors looking to publish their book.  Dig your heels in deep, and plan to work hard, filling every extra minute of your time doing something to promote your novel while simultaneously writing your next book.

3.     Grow Gator Skin. No matter what your expectations are, be prepared for a let down. Grrrr. I hate to say that, especially because I’m usually very positive, but I have to be honest about this. I can’t be sure, but I’d bet that most authors have dreams and fantasies about the sales of their book and how much everyone is going to love it. But when the reviews and sales trickle in slower and less enthusiastic than expected, we can hit a wall…a very hard and dark wall, bringing some to the point of depression.

My point is this: Adjust your expectations and remember that you’re one of thousands of authors who picked that special day to publish and you will be competing against all of them, like a single droplet of water floating amidst Niagara Falls. Don’t take it personal. That’s just the way it is. Most writers begin to grow a hardened layer of skin at this point, an undesirable yet necessary part of authorship.

4.     More is Merrier. Prepare for the long haul. As you may have read, J.A. Konrath, Scott Nicholson and other successful indie authors agree that the key to indie success is having a damn good book, and having lots of them. As a newer author you generally have two choices: market yourself into a bestseller (i.e. going broke on an ad campaign), or prepare for the long haul. Many of these bestselling indie authors did not enjoy their successes until they had several books out. This is the “Getting more shelf space” concept, which means the more books you have on the digital bookshelf, the more visible you will become. Again, that will take time. Plan on this when you begin publishing that first or second novel. It will save you a lot of pain and Prozac.

5.     Build a Scaffold. Remember that your first book is an opportunity to build your platform, a scaffold to reach your dreams, not necessarily a shortcut to fortune and fame. Just because Joanna Penn wrote a top rated fiction on her first try, doesn’t mean you will, even if your book is head and shoulders better than Pentecost.

Joanna has put in her time blogging, guest blogging, videoing, writing non-fiction and developing literary relationships for years. Respect that. And know that if you are just joining the battle against the gatekeepers of the publishing world, you will have to put in your time, build an audience and continue to master the craft of writing. I am of the opinion that guest blogging is a great tool to accomplish this (I’ll address this later at my post-blog tour guest spots). For now, plan to schedule a blog tour, blog blitz, or guest blog anywhere you can to share your experiences and talk about your book.

This won’t be the last time you hear me say this, but I think writing is one of the most demanding professions around.  Writing and publishing is tough and it will test your character. As I stated in an article I wrote for The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog, Many great books have risen to the top and then sank to the bottom of the literary ocean, rusting and watching the crabs walk over their pages.

All I’m saying is… it’s best to prepare yourself for the ups and downs of the publishing experience before you come buzzing into an empty circus arena. And it is a circus. There are wonderful people who will help you along your journey, but also a few mean spirited folks as well. So wrap yourself with a breathable coat of thick skin and get that book published! But don’t stop there; write the next one and the next one and the next one until publishing becomes more about your full line of books than your breakout novel.

Of course there’s always room for a literary anomaly, and I hope you are that author. For the rest of us, as in the hundreds of thousands of the rest of us, we must ride our books like wild stallions, not knowing which way they may go, but carefully plotting the course for the long ride ahead. BOOM!

-Jeff Bennington
Author of REUNION 


  1. Thanks so much for this post. It's been almost two weeks since I published my first book. I'm getting a much better idea of what to expect. :)

  2. thanks Jeff for sharing this with us.:)

  3. Thanks for reading TS and Sheilagh. I hope this helps the throngs of Indie authors warm up to what publishing is REALLY like.

    Best of luck to you, TS...keep writing!


  4. 100% true.

    It's a tough gig. And it requires very long hours. And tremendous stamina. I routinely pull 18 hour days, as you can see from my tweet history. And I'm writing throughout that.

    So I can generate 4 or more books a year to a high level of finish. Mainly because I can fit two years of hours into one year, and I'm writing almost full time. Most aren't that lucky. Most have a day job, and other responsibilities.

    Best advice is hit every day with your game face on, and plan on slogging through a lot of very long days marketing and writing. It is a tough gig, and you have to love it. I do.

    Good blog, TS.

  5. This may post twice (blogger is messing with me, I think).

    Gladiator skin. I've developed diamond black one with emeralds pressed into my spine.

    The point that rings most true is point five. Building a platform is what we all should be doing.

    Great post.

  6. Many thanks for the advice. I guess it's similar to many professions - you have to work hard! (It's been heaps of hard work so far for me!)

  7. Thanks for replying folks!
    Miss Fletcher, Not sure about you, but the time required to build my platform is taking up a lot more time than I anticipated...yet another surprise that writing isn't just about getting the pages right.

    Katheryne, In my opinion, writing is so consuming because it is 100% enrepreneurial in nature.

    Moses, Thank you...thank you very much...huuuuh!

  8. Thanks, Jeff. Sobering, but very helpful! I'm just getting ready to publish an indie novel on Kindle, so you really had my attention. Thanks for sharing it! - Robert David MacNeil

  9. Hi Robert. Thanks for dropping by. Wishing you success on your book. If you have any questions don't hesitate to email me.

  10. Very interesting and informative, thanks Jeff.


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