This is a reboot of one of my most popular posts from 2016 in my blogging incarnation. The words in this post are just as true today as they were when it was posted. I’ve made some updates based on what I’ve learned along the way.
If you are like me, you are aware of the thousands of other authors that are in the indie-author universe on social media platforms. We all belong to groups on Facebook and we promote our books, blogs, giveaways, and events. We start to see the same names over and over relentlessly touting their work.
As I first entered the indie author world, I viewed all of these authors as people that were competing for my readers. I wanted to out-promote and out-sell all of them. Over the past two years, however, my view has changed. Instead of viewing my fellow authors as competitors, I have come to think of them as fellow pioneers. I selected the word pioneer for a reason.
Early American pioneers didn’t compete against each other. The amount of land and natural resources available were abundant. Pioneers worked together to build houses and cultivate crops so that they could all survive. If they had competed against each other, it is likely that none would have survived. Each pioneer shared the knowledge they gained through their experiences so that the next wave wouldn’t have to make the same mistakes.
Like these early settlers, I believe it is important for indie authors to work together. Besides writing, I have made it my goal to help authors as much as possible. We are encumbered with a stigma from those in the traditionally published world who perpetuate the notion that our work is not up to the same standard as the work coming out of publishing houses. In many cases, this is not a valid assertion. In some cases, unfortunately, it is true.
So how can we, as indie authors, help each other? Here are some of the things that I try to do in my quest to pay it forward.
1) Share the lessons I’ve learned – I’m about to publish my eighth book. The experience of publishing the first book was one that was very daunting. I had no idea how to format my book for the Kindle and paperback platforms. I knew nothing about marketing. I just wasn’t sure what to expect. I read some books (by indie authors) on how to get started, but a lot of the things that I tried were done on a trial and error basis. I made note of what worked and what didn’t. When it came time to publish my second book, I used some of the techniques that I picked up publishing the first one and it was a much smoother process. I felt like I wanted to share this information with other authors. I highly recommend that other authors do this and occasionally share tips so that we can all improve the craft that we obviously love.
2) Read each other’s work – It is important to read the work of other indie authors. The first indie author that I read was Hugh Howey. For those of you that have been under a rock in the indie author world, Hugh Howey is the extremely successful standard model for indie authors. He has made millions with his works and, now that he has gained fame and respect, has doggedly refused to go the traditionally published route. While Hugh Howey is the standard, I make it a point to read work from other indie authors. I have been pleasantly surprised in some cases and have offered advice in others. On the whole, I think that the assertion that self-published work is of a lower standard is greatly exaggerated.
Howey is not the only one to emerge from the shadows of indie publishing. Andy Weir, author of The Martian, also started out by publishing this book as a free serial on his blog.
3) Share your resources – There are certain tasks, as indie authors, that we should concentrate on. Editing, marketing, cover design, etc. are just a few of the common tasks that we all must undertake to ensure the quality of our work. Everyone has different approaches to these things. Some work very well, and others have mixed success. Let’s share our techniques and tools that we use to handle these tasks. We can all benefit. If you have a great cover designer, for instance, there is no benefit to you to keep their identity and talent a secret. Share their name with other authors. Your cover designer will appreciate the work and the growth in reputation and fellow authors will benefit through having nicely designed covers. This same principle is true for sharing editors, beta readers, and outsourced marketing. I now have all of these things that are traditionally provided by publishing houses in place, and I am more than happy to share with other authors.
One of the most important aspects of your author platform is building a following. This is often done through creating a mailing list. If you’re a new author, it’s extremely important to form a core group of fans and leverage them to use word-of-mouth to tell others about your work.
4) Make friends with as many authors as possible – Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are excellent forums for you to make friends with your fellow self-published authors. You should trade reviews with them, share tips, and promote their work and interviews through your own social media network. Your readers will thank you for introducing them to other work that they may enjoy and you will all benefit from the combined strength of your networks.
There are those short-sighted individuals that will yield their limited power and seek to trash your work. It’s just part of human nature. Like bitter movie or restaurant critics, those who disparage your work are just reflecting their own failures in many cases. The trick is to parse their criticism looking for things that you can act on to improve your work. If you find nothing, then acknowledge the uselessness of their critique and move on. Never, ever respond to a negative critique publicly. All this will do is give validation to the negative review and will make you look defensive.
Author events are an extremely useful venue to meet others and share techniques and tips. I have found this to be not only a useful networking method, but it’s fun too.
5) Help other authors one-on-one – I recently had the pleasure of returning to my hometown. I had the chance to meet with one of my fellow high-school graduates who is also a self-published author. We traded some tips and agreed to read each others books. It was very enjoyable for me to discuss the things I had gone through face-to-face with someone with common experiences. Additionally, I am participating in my first group author event in April. It will involve networking and book signing. I have received a great deal of help from other authors that have gone through these events before in terms of what I need and how I need to prepare.
The bottom line is, we are all in this together. To use a sports analogy, when Michael Jordan played basketball, his presence on the team raised the game of all of his teammates. He wasn’t selfish in using his talent to help others improve their game. We have people like Hugh Howey who can be compared to the Michael Jordan of indie authors. He is very willing to share his information and help us all raise our game. We should also seek to share our good information. There are plenty of readers willing to consume our work, so we should seek to provide them with the best quality product possible by working together.
As always, your comments and questions are welcome.