September 20, 2014

An Indie Author’s Journey: What I’ve Learned

Today’s my birthday! *tosses confetti*

Hey, um, will someone sweep that up later?

Any-who…there’s something about grown-up birthdays that prompts you to evaluate your life. Since my birthday coincides with the passing of my books’ six-month mark since publication, I thought this would be a great time to fill you in on how things are going and what I’ve learned.

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Although I wrote several full-length novels that will never be published, I went into the plotting and planning of the Daughters of Saraqael Trilogy with the full intent of it being published. At the time, I thought that meant traditional publication.

Oh, how much things have changed.

Before last year, I had a whole different mindset about traditional publishing versus self-publishing. I was sadly uneducated about the ins and outs of both worlds. But I’ve always loved learning, so I took it upon myself to become more knowledgeable.

First, I learned how to write a synopsis, a book summary and a query letter. Then I went through the process of researching literary agents, and learned how to craft my query letter to best suit them. During this time, I also learned how to deal with rejection.

It was during the weeks that passed between the time a query was sent out and the rejection response came back that I began exploring self-publishing. I’m the first to admit that the image I had of self-publishing ran along the lines of vanity presses. Fortunately, times are changing, and so is the face of self-publishing.

Not long after I received a rejection from an agent who had taken more than three months to review a partial of Becoming, I made a decision that would change my life: I was going to become an indie author.

Fortunately, my husband fully supported my decision. Heck, he’d been telling me for weeks to go for it. Even though we didn’t have the money, he handed me a credit card and told me to find a cover designer because he was going to start formatting the books for publication. He helped me create a website and we spent hours every evening educating ourselves on the world of indie publishing.

I created a Twitter account last June. I went into it with a great deal of trepidation and complete ignorance of this fast-moving social medium. I was baffled by its mysterious hashtags and acronyms, and I had no idea how to get people to follow me or what to tweet. I still remember those early awkward days of tweeting quotes just because I didn’t know what in the world I was doing. Fun times.

While I was more familiar with Facebook, maintaining an author presence through this particular social network was obviously new to me. I’m only now really beginning to tap into Facebook and its amazing potential. But one thing at a time, as they say.

The Daughters of Saraqael Trilogy was published on July 24th. I had about ten Facebook friends and less than 100 Twitter followers. I had belonged to Goodreads for all of a month and didn’t have a clue what purpose it would serve. This was the extent of my social media network.

Cringing yet? If not, you should be.

The fact is, no one will believe in your work unless you do. And I went into this believing that my books are worth reading. I guess that came across to some folks as I clumsily and naively stumbled through building my author presence, and I will always be grateful to those early followers who have been with me through this amazing journey. You know who you are…and if you don’t, I hope you read the Acknowledgements page of Defy when it’s released in a couple months.

So, what did this newbie indie author manage to accomplish in the past six months (mind you, while working full-time as a wedding planner and continuing to raise a family)?

Here are the highlights:

- As of today, I’m just shy of 10,000 total book sales

- The books have maintained 5-star ratings on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and between 4 and 5 stars on Goodreads (with more than 200 reviews of Becoming alone)

- Becoming reached #15 on Amazon’s Paid Kindle Books list in the Romance->Fantasy category

- Including book reviews, author interviews and guest posts, the books have been featured more than 60 times on blogs around the ‘Net

- I’ve surpassed 4,000 followers on Twitter, 700 friends on Goodreads and 230 friends on Facebook (and I look forward to meeting more great folks!)

- I’ve joined Triberr, Google+, Pinterest, YALITCHAT, and the truly awesome team at The Writer’s Voice

- I wrote and published an Estilorian short story, The Prophecy, and I’m nearly done with book two of my follow-up Firstborn Trilogy

So there you have it! While I know I still have a lot to learn and I’ve only begun to tap into the potential marketing avenues for my books, it’s great to look back and see how far I’ve already come. Somehow, I’ve made this work. What I’m hoping this tells you is that if I can do it, you can, too!

On that note, I’ll leave you with just a few things I’ve learned that I hope will help some of you, too:

1. What works for one author might not work for you. This business involves a lot of trial and error. Don’t be discouraged if you try a marketing strategy that worked for someone else and it doesn’t work for you. Learn from that and adapt their strategies to suit you.

2. If you want to make money as a self-published author, you have to invest in yourself. Hire an editor…and I don’t mean your best friend’s cousin who gets good grades in English. I mean a professional editor. And if you don’t have a degree in design, hire a great cover designer, even if you’re “only” publishing e-books. And that leads me to…

3. Devan Edwards of Nimbi Design is most awesome. The majority of my first Twitter followers commented on my avatar. Because I didn’t have a professional head shot at the time, I opted to use Becoming‘s cover as my avatar. It was the best thing I could have done. For this, I owe my brilliant cover designer huge props.

4. Network, network, network. Stay in touch with fellow authors, avid readers, and bloggers. Join as many social networking sites as you can handle and participate as much as possible. Note: this doesn’t mean promoting yourself at every opportunity; rather, do what you can to help others!

5. Write every day. Whether it’s a new paragraph on your WIP, a blog post, or an e-mail to a fan, write something every day that advances your writing career.

6. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s important to set goals, and we should strive to achieve them or they serve no purpose. But most indie authors are also full-time “something elses,” whether it’s another career, a spouse, a parent, etc. Acknowledge that life happens and just do the best you can. If you persevere, you’ll reach that goal!

Phew. That was quite the blog, eh? Thanks so much for reading to this point. If you have more tips that you’d like to share, I welcome your comments. For now, I’ll sign off with another round of thanks to everyone who has helped make these past six months the best birthday present I’ve ever received. You’re awesome!

Comments

  1. Happy, Happy Birthday!!!

  2. Thank you so much for writing this blog. You’ve inspired me to join Goodreads, although it might not happen for a couple weeks. What you said about believing in your work resonated with me. At first, I was shy about promoting my Kindle book, The Indestructible Relationship, but then I thought about how it really can help couples feel more at peace and argue less when under stress, and knowing that I am helping others helped me overcome any shyness and be more proactive about networking. Wishing you lots of success, Kimberly Pryor, http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004HIM3GU

  3. Happy Birthday, Raine!

    I’m impressed by what you’ve managed to do with the time you have and by putting in a lot of effort. It speaks to what we can achieve if we put our minds and energy to work. Wishing you even more success with Becoming!

    • Raine Thomas says:

      Thank you, Joy! You are one of those who has helped me along on the journey, and it means a lot to me. I appreciate you dropping by and checking out the post!

  4. Wow! This is truly encouraging. Congrats on all your success. I am in the process of publishing my first children’s book and it helps to read about your journey. I wish you continued success!

  5. andy says:

    wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! you have really rocked it girl…

    10k sales in 6 mo’s ….. great to have such a supportive spouse (i do too)

    keep the inspiration coming, a

  6. Happy birthday again! Wow, what a good six months run! I truly wish your books continue to do awesomely well.

  7. LadyJai says:

    First, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
    Second, Amazing story and I am so happy to read a success and someone not bashing traditional publishing.

  8. A. R. Braun says:

    Great blog, Raine! One author’s treasure is another’s poison, for sure. A writer has to find the best way to go, which may not be another’s way.

    • Raine Thomas says:

      I appreciate the comments, A.R.! It’s easy to get discouraged when comparing one’s own marketing efforts to those of another, but audiences differ by genre and author. It’s all about learning to identify your audience and finding out what works best to reach them.

  9. Lovely post, Raine. You’re one of those special authors who gives so generously of her insights. I hope your story inspires other authors to join our wonderful Indie Tribe. Wishing you continued publishing success in 2012.

  10. Thanks for sharing this, Raine. It’s a pleasure being part of the community with you and so many others. The future is bright!!

  11. Mary says:

    Happy Birthday! Thanks for posting this. What a great story to success you have. If I do 1/2 as well as you, I’ll be thrilled.

  12. Ana says:

    Great post Raine! Wishing you a very happy birthday…let’s hope there’s cake and balloons and presents…maybe even breakfast for dinner!! :)

  13. Congrats! I’ve been indie publishing for almost two years and love it! I like what you said about trial and error. I intend to experiment with Kindle Select soon.

    • Raine Thomas says:

      That’s wonderful, James! It will be interesting to see the overall consensus on the KDP Select Program over the coming months. My short story is published through it, too.

  14. Happy Birthday again Raine! I’ve been so fortunate to have found you and working with you has in turn helped changed my world around too! You are most awesome for helping support me in return, and I will forever be greatful and thankful to you for that! Thanks for being such a fun person to work with and an amazing client and fabulous author! :) Hugs!!

  15. Wow. 10k books in six months is astounding. If you have other marketing tips, I’d love to hear them. I did use KDP Select quite successfully a few weeks ago, but I’m always looking for new ideas.

    Congratulations — and Happy Birthday !

    • Raine Thomas says:

      Thanks, Rob! I really appreciate you stopping by and commenting. One big thing that I’ve seen suggested elsewhere and will add (because it’s VERY true) is to get as many books as you can written and published (all of them polished, of course!). The more work you have out there, the more people will buy your books. So write, write, write!

      Please feel free to e-mail me (raine AT rainethomas DOT com) or connect elsewhere, like Facebook, to exchange more of a dialogue. :)

  16. Lisa Bergren says:

    Happy, happy birthday! I’m so happy you’ve found good success out there. I’m a traditionally published author looking at going indie (sound the rebel yell) and stories like yours give me hope. Thanks for sharing! And may you continue to enjoy much success.

    • Raine Thomas says:

      That sounds like an exciting venture, Lisa! I wish you all the luck in the world with it. As I said, if I can do it, you can, too. The fact that you already have industry experience and an established readership will only help. Very excited for you!

  17. Thanks so much for sharing this post and congratulations on everything. I wish you the best. I’m a newbie, and look forward to staying connected and learning from authors like you.

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