Friday, July 13, 2018

11 Things Nobody Tells You About Being An Indie Author (Until It's Too Late)

Indie authoring is so, so much fun. It's a fight to the death with formatting, pushing for reviews without scaring people, learning how to design book covers, figuring out indie publishing jargon, and suffering through crippling rounds of imposter syndrome.

See? Fun.

But seriously. Being an indie author is incredibly rewarding. It allows us full creative control over all aspects of our writing, gives us the ability to market the way we want to, connect with readers who fully appreciate our stories, and meet other incredible, talented, entrepreneurial people. Totally worth it.

However, it would be nice if we'd been given a heads up on a few things. That's what this post is for. As an indie author, allow me to let you in on some "secrets" about being an indie author. If you've already indie published? That's okay. This post will at least make you laugh. Or maybe even give you a bit of help.
11 Things Nobody Tells You About Being An Indie Author (Until It's Too Late) - orange background with picture of table and writing materials

1. Star ratings mean different things to different readers. I've gotten rave 4-star reviews with nothing negative mentioned. Which always makes me wonder if they actually meant to click 5-stars...? But whatever. I've seen mean 3-star reviews and positive 3-star reviews that read like they were 4-stars. All this to say: Don't look at the number of stars. Look at the content of the reviews. Glow over the positive. Learn from the negative....Or completely disregard it because some people are mean or don't know what they're talking about. Just use your judgement.

2. Book covers matter. A lot. People do judge books by their covers. And because indie publishing can still be stigmatized, if your cover isn't professional (or at least cool-looking), then people will spurn your novel. So learn how to design a book cover well or hire somebody to do it for you.

3. Amazon does take down reviews for no reason, so get over it. The rumors are true. Amazon will remove reviews for no definable reason....They say it's to make sure that all reviews are legitimate and not paid or from family/friends. However, their algorithm is messed up and they take down random and legitimate reviews. It's annoying and unfair, but there's nothing you can do about it. Just let it go.
gif of Elsa from Frozen singing let it go.
As mucha as I dislike this movie, I couldn't pass up the gif.
Note: It's rumored that making sure your author Amazon account email isn't linked to any other accounts can help with this problem. While this doesn't always work, its worth a shot.

4. Formatting only has to be miserable once. Yep. That's right. Once you format a story correctly, you can use that document as a template for all future publications. In Mac's Pages, it looks like this:

Open Correctly Formatted Story, go to "file," then select "duplicate." Next, copy the text of New Story, go to the duplicated file, go to "edit," then "paste and match style." Viola! New Story is now formatted like the the original Correctly Formatted Story. Of course still go through to check for mistakes, but it should be clean.

You're welcome.

Sadly, I do not know how to do this on a PC computer because I believe that non-Apple operating systems are from hell and thus stay far away from them. However, I'm sure there is a similar procedure, so just poke around Word a bit and see what happens.

Also, to be clear: I'm not saying this will make formatting not suck, but it will make it suck less.

5. Indie readers are often weirdly lenient when it comes to typos. Chances are that you'll publish a novel and it'll still have typos. I've seen this happen with 99% of indie books, some which were professionally edited. It's okay. As long as you don't have tons (or ones that inhibit reader understanding), many of your readers will shrug it off. Many, but not all. So if you publish and then see typos afterwards, don't freak out. Just go in, edit, and play it off like a pro.

6. There are a lot of good, free ways to edit. Tip number 5 isn't a get-out-of-jail-free card for poor editing. Take the extra time to comb through your story. It's worth it. Check out a list of free, easy editing tips here.

7. You will almost never meet your release date. Indie publishing takes a long time. You have to write, re-write, edit, get beta readers, edit again, design, format, upload, market, etc. So if you set a release date, you probably won't meet it because at least one of these steps will go awry. I know you're excited and want to set a just-around-the-corner release date, but be careful not to choke on your aspirations. A good rule of thumb is to set your release date at least a month past what you expect you'll need.

8. Your social media presence is everything. Why? Because marketing is all about connections. If people like you on social media, they are far more likely to read your stories. So be nice. And don't spam.

9. It's important to keep the content coming. You want to keep your name out there because, let's face it: People have more important things to do besides sitting around and waiting for your next publication. The more you publish, the better your chances of hooking readers. It's simple math. I'd explain it to you, but I can't because I hate math, so just trust me when I say it has to do with marginal growth and bigger nets and other logic-based things. I know what I'm talking about, I swear.
That being said, if you publish too much, you will burn yourself out, publish sub-par material, or lose reader interest (or all three), so take the time to find a publishing schedule that works for you and your audience.

10. Things will go wrong all. the. time. No, seriously. You will lose files. And then when you find it and begin to upload it, uploading will take FOREVER and then your internet will disconnect and you'll have to start all over. Editing will also take forever and then once you move on to formatting, formatting will (surprise) take forever, but will also be incredibly agonizing and scream-inducing. Understanding Amazon indie publishing rules will make you turn into the human equivalent of Piglet, except one that is full of caffeine and rage.

So take a deep breath. Stay calm. And try not to kill anybody. It'll work itself out. 

11. It's okay to ask readers to leave reviews. If you know somebody has read your book, ask them to leave a review. But only ask once (unless you gave them a copy specifically for them to review it, then you can ask twice). If you're nice about it, it's not weird, annoying, or incorrect. Go for it. 

There are a few other things that nobody tells you about indie publishing, but I'll stop at these 11. Have any you'd like to add? I'd love to hear about them! 

Have writing, reading, or writer's life questions? Use the hashtag #ChatWithHannah below or on social media to have them answered on my Youtube channel!

Related articles:
How to Get Your Book Read and Reviewed
The 5-Star Rating System: What Book Reviewers Mean VS How Indie Authors Take It

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  1. The star system one is completely true. I don't even think I manage to be consistent with them when I leave reviews...I'm pretty sure I have three star reviews of books I like and of books I don't like, and books I gave four stars that I like better than books I gave five all depends on how I was feeling at the moment and yeah.

    Stars are a mess. Don't look at the stars.

    1. YES. Same here. I review a lot of books and as hard as a try, my star ratings still aren't as consistent as I'd like them to be.

      Thanks for the comment! So insightful. And hopefully helpful to other indie authors reading it. =D

  2. Hi Hannah, I thoroughly enjoyed your blog post. I wish I had read it before I self published for the first time. I recently wrote an article on my experience. I'd love for you to read it. This is the link from my website:
    Oh, and BTW, I won't ask twice. I promise.

  3. A great blogging friend of mine linked this post because I am indie publishing this August (crossing my fingers anyway) and I found this VERY insightful. All I have to say is PC is actually superior. XD XD (JK, different things work for different people, lol.)

    I think I will be sticking around because your writing style is very relatable, from the sarcasm to the straight up truth. <3

  4. It's true about Amazon. I've left reviews on indie published books only to have them taken down, and it's really annoying.
    And as for everything going wrong... Are you sure that's only indie publishing? Isn't it all writing? Or just all life? :P
    I'm currently trying to decide whether to go for indie or traditional publishing, so I'll be keeping this article in mind. Thanks :)

  5. So accurate lol!! The editing process can be BRUTAL ��
    I'm trying to be involved with my social media but blogging has been...interesting ��
    Also, love your posts! They've been helpful as well as entertaining ��

  6. Thanks so much for this post! I am going back and forth between indie and traditional publishing right now. Indie publishing sounds like A LOT more work, but I'm leaning towards it because it allows me to put out whatever I want, not just what they tell me will sell.

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