Lessons from an Indie Author

An impromptu holiday book photoshoot.

I’m not new to writing. I’m not new to marketing. I’m not an extrovert. I’m not a natural salesperson. My books aren’t listed in Amazon’s top 100. Not yet, anyway. But I’ve learned a few simple lessons that I see so many writers ignoring.

You don’t have to be a genius to know that one of the first rules of selling is to tell people that you have a product to sell in the first place. (And by sell, I mean sell. Don’t give your work away without compensation of some sort. If you don’t value you, they won’t value you.) If you’re an author that means you’ve probably got lots of books stored at your house. If you are a blogger, a poet, or content writer then talk about it!

Americans love to ask each other what we do for a living. Your first response should be that you are a writer and not that you are a teacher, accountant, waitress, or whatever you do to pay the bills. You are a writer first! That other thing you do is just a forty-hour a week side hustle to keep food in the fridge and the lights on.

I’ve discovered that despite the fact that I hate talking about myself, most people are fascinated that I write full-length, honest to God books. They immediately want to know what genre and if they sell. My answer is, of course, romance and yes they do. I then try to mention as casually as I can that they have won a few awards and that they are paranormal which is a very popular subgenre of romance.

Look what Santa left under the Christmas tee!

Then comes the next lesson, and that is, to make a sale you have to put the product in the hands of the customer. Authors, bloggers, writers…carry a copy of your book, business card, or promotional something with you at all times. If you are an author, at the very least you need an eyecatching bookmark. The bookmark or postcard-sized whatever should have your book cover and all your contact information on it. You want the person you’re chatting with to take it home with them.

As a woman who is never without her oversized purse, I’ve made it a habit of carrying my latest book with me everywhere I go. I have one of those large makeup bags that has never been used for makeup. Two of my books fit perfectly inside it. I also keep bookmarks and my business card in that bag.

This magical technique works for any writer. If you are still plugging away at your book, carry a business card with your social media contacts listed on it. If you’re a poet, a blogger, a content writer the same thing applies. Every time you meet someone, it is another opportunity for you to gain a follower or a fan. But they won’t remember your web address, the title of your book, or your name in some cases if they don’t have something physical to reference later.

Ho Ho Ho Santa says, “Give romance for the holidays.”

Yesterday a fellow author and I visited our local downtown shops. At first we were just killing time. Neither one of us had been very productive that morning at the coffee shop. But as we ducked in and out of the holiday-decorated stores, I began taking pictures of my books among the Christmas decorations. We chatted with the manager of one shop about the possibility of them creating a section in their store dedicated to books by local authors. We told strangers about our upcoming book signings. And, I walked away with a slew of early holiday promotional pictures I can use across my social media. All that potential possibility in such a short time because I carry my books with me!

A little over a month ago, I helped a friend with her yard sale. I talked about my books as I chatted with shoppers and made sales while sending others home with bookmarks.

I ran into a friend while I was leaving Goodwill last week. She’d been following my progress on Facebook and we spent ten minutes talking about my writing. We exchanged business cards and I know that eventually that encounter will pay-off in some way.

I went to support another author’s book signing last month and after mentioning that I too am an author to those who lingered to order drinks, I sold two of my own books because I carry them with me.

My latest book, just in time for Christmas and looking picture-perfect.

It’s not about being pushy or obnoxious when it comes to the topic of who you are and what you do. The lesson I’ve learned is a fundamental one and I hope you too will embrace it. And that is, dare to put your writing at the forefront of who you are. It’s a change in mindset that I’m talking about. Yes, you’re probably going to have to drag yourself out of bed to punch that damn time clock again today, but that’s not who you are. You’re a writer first. An author first. A blogger and a marketing guru first. Tell the world and yourself that narrative. Be brave. Own it!

Embrace that mindset and then the sales, followers, and readers will naturally come afterward.

She Persisted…

She persisted has become my mantra when it comes to this crazy writing thing I do.

When I check my lagging book sales and social media feels like I’m yelling into a void; I take a deep breath, turn on my laptop, and write another chapter. When the book reviews don’t magically appear, I tell myself that there are people reading the books even if they don’t leave a review behind. When I hear someone say that they don’t really have time to read or they don’t like reading at all, I shrug it off. I’ve visited the worlds and befriended the characters they’ll never know. When my own family congratulates me on publishing yet another book but never takes the time to read or share it, I sigh and give the people I love a pass. I write romance and the sex scenes probably make them uncomfortable.

Some days I persist out of sheer stubbornness, just a big f*ck you to the world at large. Some days I persist because I’m too afraid to admit that I’ve failed at the one thing I am really good at doing. Some days I have to remind myself that there are so many creative souls who come and go and who’s work is never appreciated — and yet, they managed to keep true to their creative voice. How could I do less?

When I had no money and wrote after a full day’s work, I persisted. Despite not knowing if my first book would be published or if it was all just an exercise in self-indulgence, I persisted.

When I’m depressed, I persist. When I’m frustrated, I persist. When it’s a struggle to string the sentences together, I persist.

Persisting makes me annoying for some people, but persisting has become a habit with me. It means that I’ll continue to put words on paper. It means the stories that take root in my mind will find their way into the world. And as long as I do that, then I’ll eventually reach the heart of the reader I’ve been writing for all this time.

Just Scribbling on the Chalkboard

A life update:

For those that don’t follow my Facebook posts, I’d been twiddling my thumbs and gnawing at my fingernails while I waited for my copies of The Fate of Wolves to arrive in time for this weekend’s release party. Though delayed, thankfully the books have arrived! I’ve never been so happy to see a poorly packaged box of books in my entire life!

Not a single bit of paper or cardboard was placed in this box to keep the books from damage. Good job, Amazon. Luckily, every book was okay.

The Madison Chili Cook-off this Saturday:

Be assured, I am using every magickal spell I know to keep the predicted rain at bay – at least until Saturday evening. As it stands right now, the Madison Writers Group will be at the Chili Cook-off selling and signing our books. And I will have plenty of copies of The Fate of Wolves for those who want them.

I’m very proud of this new book and can’t wait to share it with everyone. I’m so excited, in fact, that if you run into me on the streets of Madison you can be sure that I’ll have a copy in my purse to sell you. (And probably more in the car.) An author should never be caught without her books and promotional material.

In other news:

After taking a break to get The Fate of Wolves ready for publication, I’m now back on Medium. Most of my work there falls in the realm of poetic prose or straight-up bad poetry. If you are interested, pop on over to my profile page. https://medium.com/@starrantsmith

Just so you know, the Medium platform is changing the way it pays its authors. Instead of a combination of claps and highlights to determine what it pays out, the algorithm will focus on reading time beginning next month. Most of my work is short so I don’t know how this will affect my coffee income. Hopefully, I’ll still be able to afford my coffee at Perk Avenue Coffeehouse after the change goes into effect.

And as for Samhain (Halloween for you muggles)… I’ll be dressed in my usual witchy garb all-day. October 31st is the only time I can wear the entire outfit without causing alarm. So look for the broom parked outside the coffee shop that day. I’ll be practicing a little Hocus Pocus on the laptop. Maybe even finishing up the first draft of The Souls of Witches. Wouldn’t that be appropriate!