I recently posted an image of Oprah holding my book:
The pic was totally Photoshopped and, because I’m an independent author, I thought it was obvious I’m about as far removed from Oprah Winfrey as anyone could be. To quote Joey from friends: I’m so far removed from Oprah, she’s just a dot to me!
It turns out, quite a few people believed the photo was real. That got me thinking about peoples’ perceptions of independent authors. And about my perception of them several years back. I guess without knowing about how the whole process works, it’s easy to think an author with a book on Amazon has made it big.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and I wanted to share a bit about what it means to be an indie author.
Getting a book on Amazon isn’t just for “special” authors. Anyone – literally anyone – can put a book up there. Amazon has created a free service that allows authors to upload and release virtually anything. You could write a few pages about farts, load them full of typos and grammatical errors, and add them as a book to Amazon. I’m serious. Furthermore, you could charge whatever you wanted for the Farty Book of Farks (see even the title has a typo!).
That’s the great thing about Amazon’s service: they give any wannabe author the chance to release his/her work. But that also creates an INSANE INSANE amount of “competition” (for lack of a better word). If you look on Amazon right now, my book is one of millions. MILLIONS. I’m competing against millions of other books.
All by myself.
That’s another difficulty of being an indie author: I don’t have a marketing team or a publisher or anyone out there publicizing me. There’s just me. Independent authors do everything themselves. I wrote the book, found/hired my own editors, found/hired my own artists, formatted my own book, released it myself, etc…
So what does that mean? Well, my circle of potential readers right now consists solely of the people I know and have personally connected with. People may think I’ve sold thousands of copies of my book because it’s on Amazon. Nope. 99.9% of the copies out there are connected to friends and family.
That brings me to you, my readers. When I chose to self-publish my book, I essentially decided to put my fate into your hands.
You have so much power.
You have the power to make or break me as an author. I’m reliant on you to help spread my book. Word-of-mouth is the most important form of marketing that exists to me right now. At this point in my career, virtually no one is going to pick up a book by some nobody named Cody without a nudge from someone else.
It’s hella scary. And kinda intimidating. And kinda frustrating. And kinda everything.
But that’s beside the point. The point is that you can be the reason an author succeeds. But it also means that authors like me have to write posts like this and totally annoy the crap out of you. BUT, if you’ve read the book and liked it (or you like me), my pleading and annoyances may be OK. Especially if you want to support a fledgling author. Therefore, I want to share…
5 things you can do to save an independent author
(NOTE: If you didn’t like the book…well…just pretend none of this happened. For reals. Shoo! . . . Kidding. You can stay. But don’t make trouble.)
1. Give a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads and/or wherever.
People don’t realize how important reviews are to a book. When looking for new authors, gobs of readers rely on reviews. The more (positive) reviews your book has, the more likely readers are to check out an unknown self-published author. It’s like Yelp: when you see a restaurant with 489 good reviews, you tend to visit it over the place that has 4. This is especially true in my world because self-published authors can release anything. Believe me, I’ve seen some God-awful stuff out there. And reviews help separate the diamonds from the coal.
Reviews are absolutely crucial to new/independent authors. And I put “positive” in parentheses to highlight the fact that the reviews don’t even necessarily have to be great. Having 1,000 mixed reviews will sway more people than a book with 3 good reviews.
I know doing reviews can be a pain. We tend to think and overthink what we want to say. I’ve been there. But it’s totally worth it to support us unknown authors. And if you enjoyed a book, think about it this way: we put hundreds of hours into writing, you received hours and hours of enjoyment, and a review takes only 10-15 minutes.
2. Social media it.
Think about your favorite video for a second. I loved the “I like turtles” kid. And the fainting goats slay me!
Those videos got their starts from a single share.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a share. It’s not like voting where people say, “My one vote doesn’t really matter.” A vote doesn’t reach other people. It doesn’t engage them. Shares do. Your one share reaches people I don’t have access to. If one percent of your friends share, and one percent of their friends share, and so forth, that thing just became viral. That’s the dream and power of social networking.
3. Make it visible (OR Hide it under a bushel, NO!).
This one is so easy. And it doesn’t even require you to read! That means illiterate people can help indie authors (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d say).
Have you ever been at a Starbucks or airport, saw an intriguing book lying next to someone, and asked that person about it? I know I have. Just by having the book out in the open, those people made potential sales without even realizing it. Just carrying a book around can help it spread.
4. Simply talk about it.
Wow, so I’m having a supreme example of synchronicity right now. I’m chatting with a dear friend and he texted, “I’m listening to my new favorite song.” He has good taste in music so I replied, “Cool! Do you have a link?” He texted the YouTube link. The song was great! I bought it and am playing it as I write (right now!). When I told him how much I liked it, he said, “My sister downloaded it as soon as I played it for her.”
Bam. Two sales due to a few texts.
Just talking about an enjoyable book can have immense benefits.
5. Pass on your copy.
I re-read lots of books (including ones I don’t even necessarily like). On the flipside, I have tons and tons of books that sit collecting dust… forever. FOREVER! That includes books I enjoyed. If I took one to a friend and said, “I think you’d really like this,” chances are he/she would read it.
Receiving books as Christmas/birthday/whatever gifts is even more fun! I love receiving good books. Especially on a recommendation from another friend.
(NOTE: Unless it’s from my sister – there’s a particular book that we hated soooooooooo much, we now try to give it to each other as a gift every Christmas.)
Did you notice that each of these items had something in common? No? Let me give you a hint: They’re all free.
OK that was the worst hint ever.
But the point remains You can help an independent author without spending a cent. Well, I guess purchasing the book costs something. But that wasn’t on the list. So I have a loophole!
All righty. I know I’ve been talking about my book a lot lately. And to some of you, it’s like people who post nonstop pics of their babies***. So I’ll try to be less annoying. But let me give my defense: Those people who post baby pics don’t stand to make sales from it. It’s not like they’re selling their baby. I’m annoying people with my book because it DOES help. It helps a lot.
***I actually think baby pics are cute, so I’m not including myself in that group of people.