Book Marketing and the Indie Author

I know what I know…and I know what I don’t know.

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

A few days ago, I and a fellow author sat down with someone who wanted to make a living writing. Our listener was a young aspiring author, soon to graduate with her degree in journalism. After talking and answering her questions about our experiences and the industry as a whole, I realized that without meaning to, I’ve become something of an expert in the realm of indie publishing. The two hours we spent together simply flew by and our captive pupil left with far more information than she ever wanted to know.

I know what I know, but I also know there is so much left to know about how to be successful in this changing industry.

I can, and did speak for hours on the importance of writing that first flawed draft. Don’t stop to edit it. Just write it. Get the story out. There’s plenty of time later to edit and rewrite. I know that it’s the act of writing that makes you a better writer and that your first book is only the beginning of your education. Writing a full-length book teaches you how to craft a story with a clear beginning, middle, and an end. It teaches you pacing and form. It also teaches you that every word on the page isn’t golden or even necessary.

Editing, proofreading, and formating play a huge roll in the success of your book. It’s worth the time and effort to find a support network of readers, editors, and proofreaders that will help you polish your manuscript. It still might make it to publication with an error or two, but that often happens to traditionally published books as well. I know that your cover design and title are crucial in catching the eye of a potential reader. Your indie book must be indistinguishable from other traditionally published works so that the stigma of being an indie author doesn’t have the chance to work against you. Because, let’s face facts, the stigma arose and persists for a reason.

And then, there are the marketing plan choices that must be made. Here’s where I sound like an expert but I realize that I have yet to crack the code to this all-important and mysterious step.

It’s not that I don’t know what to do. I’ve read every article on the web about book marketing. What to do. What not to do. Articles that might be entitled; the five fatal mistakes every new author makes, what you should be doing before you hit the publish button, the importance of author branding and networking, establishing your email list early, the correct marketing strategy for each social media platform, and how do you choose a price for your ebook…along with so many more. The point is, I’m overflowing with information and established methods for reaching readers. And yet, I still don’t know how to rise above the general marketing noise of millions of books flooding the marketplace on a daily bases.

And I know I don’t know.

I blog. I do book reviews for fellow indie authors. I have a social media presence. I share marketing resources with other authors. My books are professional looking and well-edited. I have even managed to garner a few awards. I write in a very popular genre. I give books away and discount my ebooks on occasion. I have a mailing list. I beg for reviews. I have paid for promotions, ads, and joined Facebook groups. The point is, I have followed the advice of all those articles and yet I haven’t hit on that combination of methods to boost my sales into the stratosphere.

I’m not here to complain. I love what I do. I love my author-life. I realize that my books might never be bestsellers. I would like them to be, but that might not be in the cards for me. I love my books and characters. The fact that those that follow my writing love them too is perhaps success enough.

This leads me to the most important advice I gave my young audience..and it didn’t have anything to do with the nuts and bolts of writing or marketing.

And that is…

You have to love what you write because that manuscript will forever be apart of you. You will be talking about that book for years to come. You have to love it because this industry is hard on dreamers. You have to love your work, your story, your book, because others will dismiss it, reject it, and overlook it. You have to love the work because you will read it over and over again during the editing process. No one will read your words more than yourself. No one will talk about your book more than you. You have to have the faith of a true believer.

I love my books and characters. They are forever apart of me. I love what I do though I am not a bestselling author. And, if I ever figure out the secret marketing combination to make me one, I promise to post it here.

Until then, I’ll keep writing.

A Quick Review, No Chaser

An Unwilling Bride: A Medieval Highland Romance is the first book in a series by Avery Maitland. It’s sold only in ebook format and strickly through Amazon. It has a cliffhanger ending. I know some readers hate cliffhanger endings, but if you know there’s one when you begin reading, it’s far less jarring.

This book was a quick read, a single afternoon, and exactly what one would expect in a highland romance. Managing expectations is key when reaching for this type of book. Never does the author attempt to elevate the story to something more than a trade book romance. And sometimes, that is exactly what a reader wants. Entertainment for entertainment’s sake. And that is why these types of romances have always been popular.

This book has just enough of dinnae, lass, aye, and ye in the dialogue to allow a reader to imagine the Scottish brogue without it overpowering the story. If you are an Outlander fan, then An Unwilling Bride will help satisfy your craving for all things Scottish.

The characters are predictable but well-drawn. The writing is solid and the story fast-paced. I wished the book had been longer, more detail given about the time and world. But again, that’s not the sort of book this is.

The only real negative I have to share has to do with Catriona’s character. She’s presented to the reader as being fiery and headstrong, quite the opposite of her older sister, Morag. But at times, Cat’s actions and reactions to events puts me in the mind of Maureen O’Hare in The Quiet Man. She’s constantly over-acting her part. There’s no subtlety to her character at all. After a while, her stubbornness becomes annoying. And because she refuses to accept her situation as Lachlann’s wife through the majority of the book, when the pivot in the story happens, it feels rushed.

That in itself is probably too much criticism for this book, but I can’t help but feel like the author sprinted to end of Cat and Lechlann’s story in order to set up the beginning framework for what will occur in book 2.

Will I jump into the next in this series? Perhaps, but only to follow up with Morag’s character whom I found much more appealing.

So here’s my humble opinion…if you searching for a little Highland romance with tartans, raids, and muscled men brandishing swords then An Unwilling Bride is a nice way to spend a cold winter’s day.

Isn’t it Difficult Enough?

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I’m sitting here in front of my computer and trying to gather my thoughts so that today’s post doesn’t come off as a rant or a whinny bit of complaining. So bear with me as I debate whether the word I should use is bear or bare. And wonder overly long if I can I really begin a sentence with and or the occasional but.

Writing is hard. There are so many grammatical rules. Some of which are firm and unbreakable. Others feel more like guidelines because language and its usage is in a state of perpetual change. Lately, pronouns seem to me to be under attack. I often see one-word sentences and I no longer find page-length paragraphs in books or overly long Faulkner-like rambling prose. The preferred style of writing seems to be clipped, almost abrupt. Text-like.

As a lover of prose, I read with two minds. One as a writer… I would have said this if I had written it. I would have changed that. I can’t believe this got passed an editor. Is it past or passed? I know the author meant through but though is clearly on the page. This author loves commas. Or, where the hell are the commas!

But if the story is good and the characters are compelling, I read as an average reader might. Suddenly I don’t see the mistakes unless they’re glaring because their isn’t the same as they’re or there and it occurred in an important scene between the characters.

I usually don’t comment on errors in general when I write a book review for an author. I don’t because I know that the industry has changed. Many traditionally published books are full of errors. And no matter how they choose to publish, the authors are struggling with the same difficulties as I am. They’re human and have poured their imagination and heart into the writing of a book for the entire world to see and judge. And being so close to their own work, their mind simply can’t see the mistakes anymore.

Excellent writing doesn’t come naturally. It takes honing. It takes work and reworking. Writers agonize over word choice. Pacing. Sentence structure. Tense. Point of view. Should a story be told in first-person, second, or third. Only after the work has been edited and re-edited do writers begin to struggle with shaping their work into an accepted format for others to view. An editor has their preferred style of working through a manuscript. An agent or potential publisher will want to see the manuscript in a very specific format as well. And still later, the actual book’s format (ebook or print) will differ from both of these pre-published states. A lot can be overlooked during this process.

So when I begin reading a book and manage to get out of my writer-mind that knows too much into a reader-mind, I know it’s a good book.

I also feel a connection to an author who has published a book full of errors because I’ve already lived through that moment in my writing career. I have to admit the raking over the coals I received from a few less forgiving readers was absolutely brutal! I think at this point I’ve recovered, but the memory still stings.

Sometimes a book full of errors is because there was a rush to publish. Other times it’s because the editing, proofing, or formating was given over to an outside source that didn’t know what they were doing or didn’t care. Either way, it’s a painful learning lesson and my heart goes out to any other author who has or is dealing with such a thing.

It is hard enough creating the work, no matter the genre. That act of creating something from nothing takes courage. Even with the flaws, whether few or many, an author has given a piece of themselves to the world…to a reader. And that, my fellow book lovers, deserves to be celebrated and encouraged.

“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” (Confucius)

A Quick Review; No Chaser

Purchase it HERE! (universal link)

The Water Princess Claiming of Earth is the first book in the Elemental Chronicles by Gina Manis and it was my first ever reverse harem book. Oh My!

So where to begin…

Firstly, Gina Manis weaves an engaging story. There are strong folklore and fantasy components to her world-building; beautiful princess cursed to appear as a hag to others, ogres, magic, and so much more.  In many ways, this book is an adventure first and a romance second. It’s also a story told in first-person. I should pause here and say that I’m not a huge fan of the first-person perspective. I find that choosing that method of storytelling sometimes results in a choppy and abrupt feel to the sentences. But, that is a purely subjective reaction on my part and Manis’s prose and ability as a writer manages to rise above my personal objections.  

Because this is a no-spoiler review, let me say that Celine’s character was likable, capable, and more than just a little naive in her expectations of bonding with her three male rescuers. Managing one man’s ego is difficult enough, but three? Tate turns out to be an old love and is an earth element. Lindon is charming and seductive, a wind element. Brier is the seasoned warrior whose water element is broken. Then there’s Brown. Fairly soon I realized that Brown wasn’t what he appeared and by the end of the book I was rewarded in my suspicions. After all, in the world of magic there are four elements not just three.

I easily read this book in a day. By the end I was ready to download the second in the series, The Stolen Princess Taken by Fire. However, according to Amazon it is still on pre-order until January 21st so I guess I’m stuck having to wait to find out what happens to Celine next.

If you like fantasy romance, you will enjoy The Water Princess.

A Quick Review; No Chaser

Purchase it Here!

Song of Smoke: A Dragon Shifter Romance is book 1 in Jillian James’s King’s Series.  It was independently published in August of 2018 both in paperback and Kindle formats and is a quick read for all you romance lovers out there. Honestly, I devoured this book. The characters were compelling, the writing was good, and I love dragon-shifter books. As for world-building, Jillian James does an excellent job of creating a universe that can sustain many more books.

This book’s beginning was dark and a little disturbing. Seda is living in an extremely abusive patriarchal society where women are property. Humans live most of their lives underground because of the war between humans and dragons but women find themselves thrown into the dungeon for the smallest offenses. Despite her circumstances, Seda comes across as a spunky, strong-willed heroine that I could immediately embrace.

Dederic is the insanely handsome and dangerous hero every dragon-shifter book should provide, and the chemistry between the two main characters was tangible in this slow-burn romance. There was one secondary character, Odin, that caught and held my attention. I hope James will return to him in a later book to give him a mate of his own.

There were the occasional spelling and typo errors but I’m beginning to accept this new reality in all published books whether self-published or traditionally published. Either way, the mistakes weren’t enough to slow down my reading or dampen my enjoyment.

All and all, I would highly recommend this series to any fantasy romance fan. Book 2 in this series, Whisper of Water, will be available January 19th according to her website and I am looking forward to reading it.