Saturday, December 7, 2019

Do's and Don'ts of Indie Author Professionalism

Four years ago from Thursday, I became an indie author. *throws confetti* Woohooo! How cool is that?

I published Skies of Dripping Gold on 12/05/2015 and things took off from there. I didn't have a business model to look to, nobody in my family knew anything about publishing, and I didn't really know a lot of other indie authors. It was a bit disorienting, but also meant that I had the opportunity to build my indie author business from the ground up with no rules.

It's the beauty of indie publishing.

But also the downfall.

There are so many incredible indie authors out there, but there are also a lot of unprofessional practices going on, too. The lack of hard-and-fast rules combined with people's creative flares has, unfortunately, led to indie authors who run themselves into the ground because they don't know how to handle a business. Let's talk about how you can make sure you are being the best, most professional (but still personable) indie author you can be.

But, before we get started: In honor of my four year indie-versary, I'm holding a giveaway! All the details are below, so keep reading:

Do's and Don'ts of Indie Author Professionalism

Do: Get help, or hire people. Don't know how to write a blurb? Ask you market-savvy friends. Can't draw to save your life? Hire a cover designer. Confused by formatting? Pay a professional to do it for you. Being an indie author doesn't mean you have to do every little thing by yourself. This is so important that I'm going to repeat it again, but in a different point:

Don't: Try to design your own cover, format your own books, or edit your own story if you don't have the skillset. Seriously. I can't tell you how many indies have lost future sales because they've published a fairly interesting book that is riddled with errors. Or who don't sell at all because their cover looks like a baby tried to use photoshop with their non-dominant hand. It's bad, guys. Don't be that indie author. If you can't do something, hire someone. If you can do something, invest in tools that will allow you to do them in a professional way (like Adobe or Clip Studio Paint for cover design).

Do: Ask nicely for reviews. ONCE. Only once. And even then, it's important to use discretion. If there is a reader who you have 1) interacted with and 2) has very publicly stated that they've read your book, consider privately reaching out and asking them to write a quick review. But only ask once. And be very nice.

This is something that I did when I released by debut story because I knew reviews will make or break a new indie author. However, I don't tend to do it very often anymore because I have a fanbase and know that I'll always have a decent number of reviews per story.

Basically, this is a tricky thing. Use discretion and tact, and remember that your readers don't owe you a review.

Don't: Harass people for (or about) reviews. This is a huge no-no. Never bother people for not reviewing your book. And NEVER contact a reader if you dislike their review. This is very unprofessional and off-putting. I had an indie author complain to me about my review via private message and, well. Guess which indie author I will never read again? Yup.

Don't be that person.

Do: Have a professional website. Guys. If you only take one thing away from this post, it should be this point. Having a clean, easy-to-maneuver post is essential. It shows that you care. It makes it easy for your readers to learn more about you and your books.

Yes, websites cost money. And yeah, if you aren't good at web design, you're going to have to higher someone to do it for you. But it is very worth it. It sets the professionals apart from the amateurs. Check out some of these indie author websites to get an idea of what works:

Don't: Forget to link said website on all your social medias. What's the point of having a website if you don't publicize it? Always link your website on your social media profiles. Not your Amazon page. Not your Goodreads account. Your website.

I can't tell you how painful it is when I want to learn more about an indie author, but can't locate their website on any of their social media accounts. It makes it impossible to support them, and leave us readers feeling like:

Ostrich chasing giraffe with the text "Let me love you!"

Do: Plan your releases carefully. You're gonna need sleek promotional graphics. Pre-order links. ARCs. Cover and blurb reveals. Newsletter notifications. Blog tours (depending on the type of release you're going for). All of this takes time, so you'll want to start working on your release plan well before your release date. This increases your visibility and shows people that you are very serious about your story.

Don't: Be self-deprecatory. This is a really bad look. People often buy indie books because they like that author's presence online. They like what the author has to say about their work. But if an author is constantly putting themselves and their work down? Nobody wants to see that. It's annoying, unsettling, and undermines your work. It also can sometimes feel like you're fishing for compliments, which gets really old really fast.

Do: Interact with your readers. Indie authors have a special thing going because they can interact with their readers on a very personal level. Being an indie author often has more to do with marketing yourself as an author than it does with marketing individual stories (it is often the opposite in traditional publishing). Because of this, it's important to be kind and accessible to your audience. Respond to tweets, answer emails, thank people when they tag you in reviews or shout-outs.

Don't: Slam the traditional publishing industry, fellow indies, or readers. This is gross, guys. Traditional publishing is not the enemy. Neither are fellow indie authors or that one reader who left you a bad review. Constantly slamming people in your circles is highly unprofessional and a huge red flag for both readers and those in your industry.

Along the same line, you shouldn't ever be using your author platform to constantly talk about politics or business you hate or....anything that isn't related to your brand, honestly. Before you post something, ask yourself: "Will this help me get where I'm planning to go?" and "Is this right and kind?" If the answer is no, don't publish it.

It's not hard, people.

Do: Run your platform like a business. This means you need a solid profile picture, a good author bio, a nice website. You respond to emails in a timely manner. You don't spam people by only posting about your own publications. You use a real name or a pen name (rather than a screen name like BabyYoda394). Always stay on topic.

Don't: Be robotic. Being professional doesn't mean you can't add a personal flare. If you're a nerd, don't be afraid to make nerd references online. Like sports? The occasional tweet about your favorite sport thingy is fine. You don't want to come across as a robot who is trying to impersonate a business professional, so don't feel like you have to only ever talk about books and the genre that you write. Just create a brand and stick to it.

Have questions about specific indie author conundrums? Feel free to leave them below and I'll answer as best I can!


On to the free stuff:

Please feel free to share this giveaway around the internet! I'm excited to see who wins.

Related articles:
11 Things Nobody Tells You About Being An Indie Author (Until It's Too Late)
A List of Great Self-Published Books You Should Read (Part 2)

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  1. Congrats on your 4 Year Anniversary Hannah! And great post.

  2. Congrats on your anniversary! I think Skies of Dripping Gold might be my favorite thing you've written. If I don't win the signed copy, I might have to hunt you down.

    1. Aw, thank you! Skies of Dripping Gold means so much to me for so many reasons. I'm pleased that it's your favorite!

      And lol! I will be ready for you.

  3. Definitely some things I'll be keeping in mind. I plan on indie publishing eventually, though I'm nowhere near actually publishing yet.

    1. YAY! I'm so excited to hear that. I'm cheering you on.

  4. So, question. I indie published a book in May of this year, and I created my own cover, wrote my own blurb, everything. While I feel like I'm not so great at doing blurbs- so much stress!!- I feel like my cover came out really good. I'm not trained in graphic design or anything, though, so would I still need to hire someone for this? I'm just trying to clarify what you mean by 'having the skillset' for something.

    I love this post, by the way! So helpful to get advice from an indie veteran while I'm just trying to break out.


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