5 Harsh Truths About Being an Indie Author

Deciding to become an author has been one of the greatest choices in my life, and I’m sure a lot of other independent authors feel the same way about their careers. However, while being an author has its rewards, it’s not going to be a fun ride 100% of the time. In fact, there are many obstacles that you will have to deal with if you join the author game. Here are just a few of the harsh truths about being an indie author.

1. You Probably Won’t Become Rich

There are some independent authors out there who managed to strike gold and become rich and famous, such as E.L. James or Andy Weir. There are even more independent authors who aren’t rich but have done very well for themselves and can completely live off their ventures. But in truth, a majority of self-published and independent authors are not very wealthy.

If you’re self-publishing books and hoping to become the next Stephen King or Colleen Hoover overnight, you’re going to be disappointed. That’s not to say that you won’t become financially secure from your writing, but you should have realistic expectations.

2. Not Everyone Is Going To Enjoy Your Work

Head on over to Amazon and look at some of the most popular books that are selling right now. Now take a look at the 1-star reviews. Not even those books can escape poor reception. Entertainment and taste are subjective, and no matter what you write, you cannot expect every single person to enjoy it.

You need a thick skin to be an author who plans to put their work out there, especially nowadays when the Internet has given everyone a voice, and some people will use that voice to spread negativity more than positivity.

3. You May Get Sick Of Your Own Writing

Many authors write the stories that they want to read. When you write, you have the choice to create a world exactly how you see fit. No matter how exciting a book premise is, you might get sick of your own writing after a while.

Just imagine your favorite movie and being forced to watch it over and over and over again. I can’t even re-read my own books after I’ve published them because I’ve already heard the story many times.

4. Not All Fellow Authors Are Nice

I’m very lucky in the fact that 99% of the independent authors I’ve met are extremely friendly and supportive. Unfortunately, there is still that small percentage of authors out there who aren’t as nice. These authors seem to see others as competition and will refuse to give you so much as the time of day.

I’ve spoken with fellow authors who tell me stories about how they’ve gotten the cold shoulder so many times that they’ve considered leaving the author world. I’ve also been part of Facebook groups where authors (some of which are very successful in their endeavors) are some of the rudest people you would ever meet and can’t even answer a question without giving you an attitude.

5. Not Everyone Will Support You

When I first published a book back in 2011, a lot of people were happy for me. A few bought copies of the book to show their support. And then there were a couple of people (mostly former coworkers) who mocked me. There was an incident of someone actually editing one of my covers with an inappropriate image and sharing it on their Facebook as a mean-spirited joke.

There are going to be people who won’t take your work seriously, and there will be people who will go the extra mile just to make you feel bad. I don’t have much advice besides ignoring it. Going back to my earlier point: you can’t please everyone. Fortunately, many of the “haters” who go out of their way to mock your career are typically insecure and jealous, so you can relish in that fact and use it as fuel to continue your work.

5 Helpful Tips For Book Events

Over the course of my author career, I’ve explored all the different methods of marketing my books, such as social media, paid advertising, word-of-mouth, and even “stealth” marketing (e.g. I put my business card inside of books at Barnes & Noble). While I’ve seen some success in all these avenues, my most successful ventures are book events. That is why I always recommend that other authors (self-published or traditionally published) consider doing book events to help get their names out there.

However, before you go signing up for the first book festival that shows up on Google, make sure you check out these helpful tips for book events.

1. Do Your Research

When searching for a book event to attend, do your due diligence and research your options. Is this a new event, or has it been going on for a while? Who is hosting the event? Are they reputable? Is it indoors or outdoors? Have other vendors had success at this event?

Most events charge vendors for spots, and they can cost a pretty penny, so you don’t want to rush into anything without doing your homework. Think of it like shopping for a new car; hardly anybody walks into a dealership, points at a car, and goes, “I am buying that one right now!” Research is critical.

2. Don’t Bring Too Much or Too Little

If you’re attending a new event that you’ve never experienced before, you might be wondering what kind of traffic to expect. It could be a huge turnout, or it could be a total dud. You want to bring enough books so you don’t run out of stock, but at the same time, you don’t want to be lugging boxes upon boxes of books back and forth from your car.

I always recommend bringing about 10 of each of your books maximum to a new event. This way, you won’t exhaust yourself setting everything up or breaking it down, and you’ll still have plenty of copies to go around.

3. Bring the Right Supplies For Yourself

Some events can go on for hours, and you don’t want to be stuck at your table with nothing but your books and your phone keeping you company. Here are a few supplies I recommend bringing with you to your event:

  • Portable charger
  • Book to read
  • Laptop
  • Mints/gum
  • A snack
  • Water
  • Pens
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Tissues

In addition to all this, you’ll want to check with the event coordinator to see if they will supply you with a table, chair, and tablecloth. If not, then make sure you have these as well!

4. Offer Goodies With Your Books

Besides your book, look at other things you can offer/sell. Whenever I sell a book, I include a bookmark, a business card, a small paper with a sneak-peek at one of my novels, and a bag with my name and website on it. I also occasionally sell t-shirts, posters, mugs, and keychains. Even though you’re an author, don’t restrict yourself to offering just books.

One thing I advise against, and many other attendees may disagree with me on this, is having a candy bowl. Sure, you’ll have plenty of people coming to get candy, but from my experience, they don’t actually buy. Also, there are some children out there who don’t understand the concept of “Please, only take one.”

5. Have Fun!

Book events should be fun; not a chore. If you aren’t the social type, then events may not be for you since you have to regularly engage with people if you want to sell any books. I’ve seen more than one author who spent the entire event sitting at their table with their arms crossed and a scowl on their face. Others would keep their faces buried in their phones or laptops and give one-word answers to anyone who spoke to them.

I’m a bit of an introvert. It was hard for me to engage strangers when I started doing events. Over time, I became more comfortable with at least saying hello to anyone that passed my table and having open conversations with them, even if it’s not about my books.

If you’re having trouble with opening up at an event, make friends with the authors next to you to lighten the mood and help you relax. Good moods are contagious, and shoppers are more likely to gravitate toward areas with a positive atmosphere.

How to Balance Your Author Career and a Full-Time Job

Let’s get real for a second: if you decide to become an author, the chances of writing a best-seller and being able to live off the profits right out the gate are slim to none. Are there authors who have achieved that? Sure, but those are a few people out of tens of thousands. For many authors, such as myself, it’s not uncommon to have a full-time job in addition to your author career, which can be a rigorous job in itself.

If you’re an author who works an additional full-time job, it’s important that you strike a proper balance between the two. Being an author is your passion, but your other job is (hopefully) going to pay the bills and offer you health insurance. Therefore, you cannot allow yourself to lose focus in either area. Here are some tips to help you balance your author career with your full-time job.

Note: The term “author” can be attributed to anyone who composes an article, report, essay, etc. In this article, I’m using the term strictly to refer to people writing and/or publishing their own creative works like novels, short story collections, poetry compilations, etc. I am also using the term “job” to refer to an additional full-time position outside of authoring.

Don’t Feel Despondent

As mentioned before, the chances of immediately becoming a self-supporting author are very low. I’ve published nine books and I’m currently entering my 12th year as a self-published author, and I still work a full-time job outside of my author career. I know authors who have been doing the same for decades. While it may feel good knowing that you can support yourself solely on your books, there is nothing to be ashamed about if you need the extra assistance of a full-time job. Do not let these negative feelings affect you or else you can find yourself losing interest in your authorship because you see it as a lost cause. One of the key ways to balance your author career is to keep your morale up.

Celebrate the Small Wins

I’m a firm believer in celebrating the small wins in all aspects of life. A win is a win. That logic should apply to your attempts when trying to balance your author career with your full-time job. Did an agent request to see your full manuscript? Did you manage to sell 10 copies of your book in a month? Did you publish your very first book? Then celebrate! Allowing yourself to cherish and celebrate these “small” wins will do wonders for your morale and motivation. Some people never make it to those benchmarks, and you managed to do it while still working a full-time job! You deserve a pat on the back.

Dedicate Specific Time to Your Writing

Working full-time is no picnic, no matter what you do. Whether you work as a landscaper, or as a receptionist, or as a postal worker, or as a teacher, you might find yourself exhausted at the end of each day. You want to just watch a movie or hang out with friends rather than write since it feels like more work. However, if you don’t dedicate time to your writing, it just becomes harder and harder to get back into it after a break.

I always say that writing is like working out. The more you do it, the easier it is and the better you become. Much like if you were to dedicate time to exercising each day, you need to commit to writing if you want to see your author career take off. At the same time, it cannot interfere with your full-time job.

My own personal goal is to write at least 1,000 words a day (it doesn’t have to be all at once) This can be done in the morning, in the afternoon, or even on my lunch break. Some people may choose to block out specific times of their day for writing. One person in an old writing group told me how she tried to write a complete short story at least three times a week. There is no singular path to working out your writing muscle.

Give Yourself a Break

Your life shouldn’t be dedicated solely to being an author and working a full-time job. You have to give yourself a break every once in a while to balance your author career in a healthy manner. Aside from blocking out chunks of your day for your writing, you should also consider dedicating times to self-care. Go to a restaurant with your friends. Go see a movie. Read a book. Do some gardening. Giving yourself a break is an excellent way to maintain great mental health, which is necessary if you want to excel both in your author career and with your full-time job.

Learn to Prioritize

At the end of the day, you want to figure out what is most important to you. It’s at that point that you need to step back and re-evaluate your priorities. You may need to adjust one aspect of your life to accommodate the other. Maybe you will need to shorten your writing goals so that you can dedicate more time to your full-time job, or maybe you’ll want to modify your job so that you can properly dedicate time to your authorship.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of being able to do the latter. In this day and age, money is king, and many of us have a host of monetary responsibilities like paying bills or raising families. This means the authoring will usually have to take a backseat. However, if you find yourself in such a position, I recommend not giving up the author game completely. Even if you only have time to write a few sentences each week, make sure you take advantage of it.

This small amount of writing might not be your preferred way to balance your author career with your full-time job, but it’s important to keep that spark alive in case you want to reignite the author fire somewhere in the future when you have more time and freedom.

FAQ: Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing

When I first considered publishing, I didn’t have much guidance. I was basically told, “Hey, just Google it.” Well, Google is indeed a wonderful tool, but sometimes, you need something a little more direct to give you the answers you want and need. From my experience interacting with various writer groups as well as indie author communities, I’ve learned that one of the most common sources of confusion is in regards to self-publishing vs. traditional publishing.

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Overcoming Self-Doubt

Does your self-doubt lead to you writing page after page, and then going back and deleting all your work? Do you refuse to let anyone read your writing because you’re afraid of a negative reaction? Do you just think you’re a bad writer overall?

You’re not alone.

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It’s Been Done Before: Being Original When Writing

First off: my apologies for taking so long to pen a new writing post. I’m pretty embarrassed about waiting almost four months to write again. To be honest, it’s been a hectic couple of months. I’ve been tied up with the new job, I’ve finally published the sequel to Dodger’s Doorway, Return to Storyworld, and I’m moving into a new apartment tomorrow. It’s a crazy time for me. But that’s not much of an excuse. I set up this blog to help out fellow writers who needed advice, and although only a small handful of people actually read these posts, I still think it’s my duty to maintain a steady stream of blog posts. Now that my life has somewhat calmed down, I’m ready to kick off the New Year with a fresh batch of advice!

This week, we’re discussing a heavy topic that hits close to home for me: originality in writing.

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Making Time for Writing

If you’re reading this blog, you’re most likely a writer, or you wish to become one. If you’re not a writer yet, what’s stopping you? Do you not know what to write about? Do you think your writing is bad? Do you lack the patience to sit down and churn out words? Whatever the reason, there’s usually an easy solution. But there’s one particular writing issue that isn’t that simple to resolve: lack of time.

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Book Marketing 101

I’m going to be honest with you: no matter how great your book is, it won’t mean jack if you don’t know how to market it. You could literally write the next Great American Novel on par with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or The Catcher in the Rye, and it could end up gathering dust on the library shelves for years to come. In the world of authorship, writing is only half the battle. The real work is getting your book into the hands of readers. But how do you master the art of book marketing?

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