Monday, July 19, 2010
Lisa graciously asked me to blog about my experience as an indie author with my first book, The Crown in the Heather, the Bruce Trilogy: Book I, and I’m more than happy to share here. I truly believe in paying forward and I hope that by sharing what I’ve been through so far, it will help others consider whether or not this is the right path for them.
In regards to promotion, I believe maintaining an online presence is the most powerful factor that an indie author can utilize. At the urging of some of my fellow critique group members, I’d started a blog, My Dog At My Manuscript (http://ngeminisasson.blogspot.com/) well over a year ago. Initially I mostly wrote posts on the writing process, but there are so many good blogs out there on that already that I didn’t see the need to reinvent the wheel. So, I figured that while I couldn’t claim to be an expert in any certain field, I could serve as a filter for information: on the publishing industry in general and on self-publishing in particular. As my readership builds, I plan to slowly shift toward a focus on the history of the eras I write about. I also write reviews for The Historical Novel Review blog (http://historicalnovelreview.blogspot.com/) which helps keep me current with what’s being published. The part I love about that is discovering new voices. I also participate in various forums, like Historical Fiction Online, as well as dip in on the publishing and writer chatter on Twitter.
Promoting your book isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. If your writing is engaging and the story worth reading, word will gradually get out and spread from person to person. At the same time, you can’t hide in a corner and just hope that sales will magically rocket skyward. You have to be willing to seek out honest reviewers and take the lumps along with the praise. I’ve sent off a few review copies, but I also plan to contact Scottish societies and retailers and let them know about my Robert the Bruce trilogy. Target your niche market, but also hang out where your genre readers congregate – just try not to be overly pushy about your books! You want to be social, not obnoxious.
Another thing I did was to set my web site up well in advance: http://www.ngeminisasson.com/. The advantage to doing this before your book comes out is that it’s one less thing to worry about as you deal with all the book-launch craziness. Another plan is to create a book trailer – although I want to make sure I have other things out of the way first, because I could waste days playing with Windows Movie Maker.
The most surprising thing for me has been to have readers finish The Crown in the Heather, say how much they enjoyed it and immediately ask when the next book will be available. That’s a shot of adrenalin. For so long, as a writer of historical fiction who often spends years going from research to finished product, you’re ‘writing into a void’, as I say. It’s strange to finally get that story into readers’ hands and have them clamor for more. Once it sinks in, you realize that being a writer isn’t about who publishes you or how much money you make, it’s about reaching readers and, for a few hours, taking them away to another world. That gets me excited about getting back to writing and getting the next book into print.
Of course friends and my fellow critique partners have been enormously enthusiastic, but more than anything, I’ve been amazed at the support offered by many traditionally published authors. A lot of them seem to have respect for any writer who has the guts to launch a book on their own – and it’s astounding to discover how many of them started out the same way. You do run into a few naysayers here and there, but I believe most of them are either well-intentioned and just don’t want to see someone they care about fail to hit it big, or they tend to be faultfinders by nature who could never dream of taking such a risk themselves. I just deal with that sort by acknowledging that my journey is mine, not theirs – and I say you can’t get anywhere in life if you’re standing still.
Writers these days have to do more than just write. Many of us would love to be recluses like J.D. Salinger, but if you want to be widely read and make a career out of writing, you have to find ways to let folks know about your stories – and that does take time away from writing and family. As an indie author, you also have to see to additional fine details, like formatting the interior layout, coordinating with a graphic artist for cover design, and listing your title in all the appropriate places. After the initial crunch, it does even out and life begins to return to normal – although I’m not sure what ‘normal’ is, because my life goes in about a dozen directions every single day. Now, only a month after the publication date of The Crown in the Heather, I can happily report that life has returned to a more normal rhythm. One benefit to being an indie author is that you set your own schedules and deadlines – and you can adjust them on a whim.
If I had one bit of advice to share, it’s to not try to do everything all at once. Don’t make yourself crazy. Plan, forge forward, learn from mistakes, but make room for real life. And always, always remember why you began writing in the first place – so you could share a story with readers, transport them to another place and time, and communicate about the human experience. No matter what road you take to publication, that is truly what it’s all about.
Thank you, Gemi.
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