Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Brutal Honesty from a Newbie Indie Author

A new writing aquaintance and I were discussing this article via Facebook and it really got me thinking. I've been studying publishing for years and have spent some time working on the pre-press side of publishing, but I am technically a brand new Indie author. As someone who is just entering the trenches, why not be brutally honest about it? I started making a list of things that I have learned so far and I have to say that the list is already enormous. Rather than dwell on all the many honesties I could share with other authors, I'm going to start right here, right now, talking about my progress so far... and I promise to tell the truth.

I believe there are many Independent Authors getting started who would appreciate a real rather than inflated glimpse of the process. The truth is, most independent authors aren't selling thousands of books. Most of us aren't even selling hundreds. Satisfaction isn't necessarily 100% wrapped up in the number of books sold, however.

So here is where I will start, the beginning.

On March 13, 2013, I released my first novel, Tiger Hunting, as an ebook. In a presentation that I gave later about the act, I referred to Tiger Hunting as my pull-off-the-bandaid novel. I've been writing and publishing in various forms (not novels, not books) for many years and the idea of publishing my own work of fiction, quite frankly, remained a huge and scary endeavor in my mind. Personally, I was at a now-or-never moment of my life. I'd spent plenty of years learning about the craft of writing and had ample time to perfect all the procrastinations and obstacles that might stand in the way of publishing.

If you want a little more backstory on the specifics of writing Tiger Hunting, you can read it here, but the publishing part, once I had made up my mind, was kind of like the the decision to jump from the high platform at the swimming pool. There are a dozen opportunties to talk yourself out of doing it on the way up the ladder. Even once you are on the platform, you can dawdle, stand for hours staring at the water below, and even change your mind altogether. It's easy to decide not to jump.

I made up my mind to publish and, immediately, all the potential ways I could fail became crystal clear. The word count wasn't enough. My cover art detained me for weeks. I had difficulty settling on a title for my book. I agonized over what to name my press. I kept putting off the editing process, because I had this idea that I should perfect the manuscript first so an editor would find little to complain about.

Instead of stopping to make sure all of these issues were dealt with in an orderly manner, I became that kid who gets to the top of the ladder and just runs, hurtling myself off the edge of the platform before better sense had a chance to catch up with me. I held my breath from the beginning, I felt the thrill and terror of the free fall, and I grappled to plug my nose before hitting the water, having no choice but to feign confidence and believe I'd eventually come to the surface again and swim. 

As a result of my leap, I...

  • published a novel that would be more accurately categorized as a novella. I have read that the 50,000 word range is popular with commuters these days. People in Kansas still primarily drive their own cars, so I hope my local audience is not reading my book as they drive back and forth from work. They might miss seeing any stray tigers that cross the road if they are reading, and that would be a real shame.
  • still cringe just a bit when I see my book cover. I love it, but I do wish I'd had the budget to purchase the high resolution image required to get a better version of it put together. In fact, I really wish I'd had the budget to hire a really talented artist I know to create the cover for me. With luck, one day Tiger Hunting will have the revised cover of my dreams.
  • "released" my book (the ebook almost a full half month earlier than intended because I was just so excited I couldn't help myself) as the final edits were being completed, which means people who got the book early are probably still guffawing over a couple of my typos. (Yes, I'll call them typos.... completely innocent slips of the fingers on the keyboard.)
  • published my book without the guise of a publishing house, not even an independent one. I have since come up with a name, Chasing Tigers Press. I have all sorts of ideas germinating for Chasing Tigers, but none are ready to publicize just yet.
  • ended up with a published book and NO game plan for marketing. Let's just say there was/is a whole lot of improvising it going on.
I have been interacting with writers and learning about the various aspects of and possibilities for publishing for many years, primarily through the Kansas Authors Club, which hosts a wide range of writers at various stages of experience, including not yet published. I worked as a line and rewrite editor for a small press that ended up with a rather poor reputation. It closed its doors. I've had the pleasure of working freelance for a couple of book packagers, as well. I was helping people format their "ebooks" before e-readers were even a thing and every experience has taught me valuable things about publishing, yet I honestly didn't even take all of my own advice as I set out to publish my own first novel.

Ebooks, bound copies, marketing, sales, marketing some more... these are all topics I plan to write about here. Please feel free to leave questions in the comments section. I will do my best to answer those, as well.

In the spirit of brutal honesty, I will go ahead and share my sales data to date.

My book is now available as an ebook and print-on-demand. I began with the ebook on Smashwords. I later withdrew it and published with the Kindle Select program. Most of the sales I have made, to date, are from physical copies of the book that I purchased at cost and sold myself. Book signings and readings are the most sure way for a new author (the way I see it) to move books. There are a lot of avenues I have not pursued, however, particularly regarding driving traffic toward sales online.

To Date:
Physical copies sold by my direct efforts: 90
Physical copies sold through CreateSpace (primarily Amazon sales): 16
Ebooks sold (Smashwords and Amazon combined): 34
Ebooks given away via Kindle Select Promotion: 1,008 (a whole brutally honest post, or two, to come about this!)

The good news is that this whole adventure as an independent author is not over. I see this as just a beginning.


Tracy Million Simmons is the author of Tiger Hunting, available for purchase from this website, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and at your local bookstore (it can be ordered it if they do not carry it!) You are invited to share a link to this post on Facebook or your personal website, as long as full attribution to the author remains. Use the options at right to follow this blog, sign up for posts via email, or like my author page on Facebook.

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Brutal Honesty from a Newbie Indie Author by Tracy Million Simmons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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1 comment:

  1. I love your brutal honesty, Tracy! It takes lots of guts to put a book out there for mass consumption, and it's definitely not a get-rich-quick endeavor.

    I've thought a lot about self-publishing a collection of my short stories, but I have no idea how to go about it. I have a loooot of homework in front of me if that's what I decide to do. I'll be memorizing all your brutally honest posts for tips and tricks!

    I used to think that all writers did was write, and that couldn't be further from the truth!


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