Let me tell you about the glamorous life of an Indie Author. Of all the money we make. The fame, the countless lovers we could have, the long leisurely days spent relaxing on sunny beaches. The all-night parties we throw every weekend, and the designer clothes we wear.
Dream on, my dear reader, dream on. Unfortunately, reality is nowhere near as idyllic as that.
Table of Contents
The Money Mill
Being a writer—and even more being an Indie author—is not a get rich quick scheme.
Writing a book costs money. At the very least, we need pen and paper. That’s not a huge investment, although pretty notebooks and beautiful pens (us writers, we like pretty things) can be pricey. However, most of us will use a computer. We can get by on a cheap laptop, but still…
We need writing software. Some of that, like Google Docs, is free, but MS Word (which many of us rely on) uses a subscription model. Right now, that’s $99 every year. Other paid alternatives include Scrivener, Plottr, Novlr, Campfire… the list goes on and on.
Notice that I haven’t said a word about publication yet. But let’s break the costs of publishing down.
The cost of publication
You’ll need to have your manuscript edited and proofread by a professional. These people are not cheap. And you’ll typically need at least one round of developmental editing, one round of line editing, and one round of proofreading. We’re easily looking at a couple thousand dollars here.
Then, you’ll need a professional cover, because home-made covers… They look like it and won’t sell. And that’s basically a cover’s job: It’s not just a pretty picture. It’s an advertisement.
You’ll also need your book formatted. This is something you can do yourself if you’ve got the right software, the time, and the know-how. And, talking about formatting, you may want or need interior illustrations. And no, you can’t ask your 10-year-old to make those for you.
It all adds up, and rather quickly, too. You haven’t sold a single copy yet, and already you are a couple thousands dollars further. You’ll need to sell a lot of books to earn that investment back. (Also, don’t forget that you’ll have to hand over a good portion of your hard-earned money to the state. Taxes are no joke.)
The sad truth is, a lot of us never get to that point. Yet, we continue to publish books. Why? Are we gluttons for punishment? Maybe. Or maybe it’s because what we are doing is a labour of love.
How to pay the bills
That said, some of us are lucky enough to be able to make a living from their writing. They have to work hard at it, writing to market and churning out several books a year. That’s not something every writer can do.
Those of us who can’t make a living from their writing—the great majority—need another source of income. Usually, that means they have to work a muggle job so they can at least pay the rent.
I’m fortunate. I don’t have to work a muggle job because… I make enormous amounts of money from my writing. Just kidding! Some months, I don’t even sell a single book. Not. One. Single. Copy.
Yay for being disabled enough to receive a full disability allowance. At least, I won’t starve while I’m trying to sell my books.
But you know what? You can help me earn at least a tiny fraction of my investments back. And it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Just buy my debut novel Night’s Reign and get sucked into a fantasy world like none other. Bond with realistic disabled characters and enjoy the magic.
The Daily Life of an Indie Author
Since we already established that we don’t spend our days lazing about on sun-soaked shores, what’s it really like, the daily life of an Indie author?
An ordinary day
Here’s what an ordinary day might look like for me. I usually wake up between eight and nine AM. If I’m lucky, I even had a good night’s sleep and feel more or less rested.
However, my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and autism really like to rear their ugly heads at night, keeping me awake. Additionally, the EDS ensures that my batteries never fill up fully, no matter how long or how well I sleep. This means I’m always tired.
But I won’t let that stop me. I still have a life to live, and I intend to live it to the fullest.
The Workday Begins
Get up, brush teeth, get dressed. Breakfast, tea… Here goes nothing.
I start up my laptop and log in to Trello. Let’s see what today has in store for me.
Ah, today looks pretty good. I only have to get some administrative work done, plan and write some Patreon content, write a couple of blog posts, and maybe have another stab at that blurb. Could be worse.
At least, today, I won’t have to create any social media content. My upcoming novella is at the editor’s, so no headaches about that one just yet. But I do need to write another chapter of my non-fiction project, and there’s no way I’ll be able to do that today.
Drat, the month has only just begun, and already I’m behind.
It’s a social affair
Social media. Some love it, some hate it, but in today’s society, we basically need it.
Personally, I hate social media. I’m not comfortable engaging with people. (Thanks, autism!) And yet, there’s no way around it. As an Indie Author on a budget, I need social media. How else will I reach my audience?
That said, reaching your audience on social media is far easier said than done, and frankly, I’m struggling. I don’t know how to strike the right tone, or how to react to comments on my posts. And taking the initiative and engaging with others’ content? That’s even harder. It’s not that I don’t want to, but rather that I’m just too awkward.
If you’ve got a publishing contract with one of the Big Five, you probably won’t have to worry about marketing as much, but even then…
Even they will expect you to do your own share in marketing your books.
So how do you market your books as a new(ish) Indie Author on a too-tight budget? Social media?
My personal experience suggests otherwise. You can spend all your time creating and posting social media content, burning yourself out, and still get exactly zero sales.
So what other options do we have?
Marketing ideas for the Indie Author
- Advertisements: Some Indie authors have at least a moderate amount of success advertising on social media and/or Amazon. But there are no guarantees, and it can easily get very costly.
- Press releases: Write a press release when you’re launching a new book and send it out to media outlets that might be interested in publishing it.
- In person events: These, I understand, work best. Book signings, book fairs or related events in your area should be viable options for most of us.
- Local bookshops: Ask local bookshop owners if they’d be willing to give your books a chance.
- Your social circle: Talk to your hairdresser, the butcher, the baker, the guy next door… People who already know and like you, may be more willing to buy your books. And if they like them, they might give you…
- Word of mouth publicity. And that’s the best publicity you can get.
Yes, marketing is hard. And if you happen to find the magic formula to make it all pay off, please let me know.
Otherwise, just buy a book—or two. Because every little bit helps. I suggest you start with my debut novel Night’s Reign.
Social media advice
When looking for guidance on how to make your social media presence count, I found an insightful article on Medium which recommends the following strategies.
- No maximum amount of posts
- End with a call to action
- Minimum of 30 minutes between posts
- Don’t follow more than 1K people
- Engage, engage, engage
- Two posts per day max
- Minimum of three hours between posts
- Post 1-10 Stories per day
- People LOVE behind-the-scenes stuff
- Keep a regular posting schedule
- Three posts max per day
- Minimum of three hours between posts
- Apparently posts with links perform better
- Keep your content varied
- Include a call to action
I have not tested this exact approach yet, and am not even sure that I will, but it seems like pretty sensible advice. And it’s coming directly from one of the Big Five. That should count for something.
Balancing Work and Life as an Indie Author
So there we have it. An Indie author’s job is much more than “just” writing those books. It also includes marketing, being active on social media, and—more often than not—working a muggle job to pay the bills.
We also need to take care of our homes and family lives. You know, those little things like cleaning, cooking, spending time with your pets and loved ones…
Do I wish I had a house-elf to do my laundry, dust and vacuum, and cook my meals? Hell yes! But if I want to eat, I need to buy my own groceries and prepare my own meals. And since I don’t perform well on an empty stomach…
Good thing I enjoy cooking.
Psst! Don’t foget to grab your copy of Night’s Reign, a unique fantasy novel with two disabled main characters: an autistic priest and his wheelchair dependent cantor. You can even read the first five chapters for free.