I am an author. I know several other authors – some at the very top of the Book Tree, others setting out at grass-root level taking their first hesitant steps into the World of Publishing. Some are mainstream. Some are Indie. Some are fabulous, some are – well, let’s just say their book/s need a little extra polish one way or another to give that final shine.
It takes a lot of effort – and hard work – to produce a readable, entertaining novel; especially if you are an Indie Writer with no agent or publishing house to back you up and help with sales and marketing. Being an indie author can be a very lonely occupation. There’s the writer’s block to wade through; the confidence to delete scenes you think aren’t working (the confidence to keep going with the ones that are!) The getting the first draft finished – then re-writing the second, third, fourth (how long is a piece of string) draft. Then there is editing by a (preferably) professional editor – and yet another re-write. The copy-edit. (and then doing the corrections) The proof-read (ditto corrections). Getting it published. Getting it noticed. Marketing and more marketing. Blogging about it, answering emails. Getting annoyed with Amazon because they are insisting your book is not in print (when you know perfectly well it is.) Networking on Facebook / Twitter / Wherever – oh, did I mention marketing?
And then your sales statement comes in. All that for x (low figure) books sold. Deep breath. Back to the marketing….
So why do we write novels? The simplest answer is because it is compulsive. Like that invasive ‘ear-worm’ music: ‘la la la – can’t get you out of my head’ (hrrmph, thanks Kylie…)
A character, an idea pops into your mind, maybe an incident sparks the thought – or a dream or – well anything really. The character is there, the plot grows with the rapid speed of grass on a lawn – the story takes shape, and that character nags, and nags and nags until you have to write everything down.
Sometimes that writing takes years: a chapter added here, a paragraph inserted there. It took me ten years to research and write what turned out to be book one of my Arthurian Trilogy. (The Kingmaking) Three years to write the next two in the trilogy and some more years to write another two books.
In contrast, Sea Witch the first of my Pirate-based nautical adventures took me three months. I stopped writing for only one day – Christmas Day. I ‘met’ my lead character, Captain Jesamiah Acorne, on a rain-drizzled English beach one October afternoon while on vacation. When I got home I started writing and the words poured out of me.
I put my heart into that book – and fell in love with my pirate.
Setback. My agent insisted I write the story for teenage boys. But I had specifically written it for grown-ups – look how many adults became infatuated with the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie? I insisted I was not going to budge. We parted company – and (coincidentally?) my mainstream publisher dropped me at the same time. I spent two weeks sobbing my heart out, then picked myself up and went Indie. Possibly one of the best things I ever did – but – did I mention marketing? Oh. Yes, I believe I did.
Trying to get people to read (buy) your books is hard work. Even the cheaper e-book versions. We write these novels with one intention – to share the story. (If you are writing to make your fortune – forget it! Very few authors make enough to live on. For every J.K. Rowling there are several thousand ‘ordinary’ authors.) Write for the pleasure of it – as a hobby even. If you do well – good luck to you! But without letting readers know your book is out there, ready to be read and enjoyed no one will know anything about it or you.
Yes get your book on Amazon and Goodreads. Yes collect a string of comments and reviews (all 5 star of course!) Have a fabulous all bells and whistles website but – if no one knows about your book or your website or your Facebook page – how are they to buy a copy?
Hence the marketing.
The best way to sell books is by word of mouth.
Did you know the first Harry Potter book almost failed? J.K.R. was lucky. People read it, started talking about it to their friends – friends who spread word to their friends…. Look how far that buzz went! Me? Envious? Nah! (fib)
Which is where you (yes – YOU – the person reading this) comes in! I’m not just saying this for my books – any book fits the bill here: if you’ve enjoyed a good read SHARE it. Tell your friends. Mention it when you go into bookshops or libraries. Put a quick post on Facebook or Twitter.
You may not realise just how valuable – and important – you are to an author. You can make a huge difference by ‘spreading the word’. In my case a ‘fan’ even found me a publisher!
I received an email from a German reader asking if my Arthurian Trilogy had been translated into German (only the first two had, but they went out of print years ago.) She shyly asked “Would you mind if I tried to find a German publisher for you?”
I was delighted – especially when a few months later I signed a contract for the translation rights of the entire trilogy with a German company!
Now that’s what I call a ‘fan”!
Authors don’t expect you to go to that length – but maybe you could show your appreciation for our side of the hard work in producing an enjoyable and entertaining book for you to read by telling others about it where, when and as much as you can? We’d be awfully grateful!
Obviously I’d rather you did this for my books first and foremost though!
I so agree, Helen! I believe one of the best ways to garner new fans is with reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Reviews definitely help us sell books.
and funnily enough, Florence, that includes those not very good (bordering on outright rude) reviews. Some of them are so obviously deliberately nasty (jealousy perhaps?) that readers go out of their way to see what all the fuss is about!
Thanks for leaving a comment!
As things stand I have (known) 14 reviews on Amazon outstanding for my last book! people forget / claim not to know how / scared to put words into print etc etc. There is a limit on how often to give a gentle nudge…before it begins too smack of harassment!
Thanks Florence – reviews do help, but word of mouth “Have you read this book?” is invaluable!
Oh I do, so often talk of your books to others and recommend them, plus those of other authors. Love sharing the word!
I am assuming that a small percent of the people that read a book leave a review. When I ask random people – ones who are not bloggers, authors or know an author- it seems they rarely leave a review. They actually have no idea how much we crave them! They are more apt to buy a book that a friend recommends to them. I guess that it all starts with a good book and the right audience.
I think it might be worthwhile for us to ask our readers what makes them buy a book – besides reading it for indieBRAG!
From the heart, Helen, as always – and speaking for so many of us, not just yourself. That’s why folk like you who are generous with your time and your blogging efforts to help others are also so important. AND help us authors remember that we too should be writing reviews – after all we are readers too. (Oh and how interesting that your German publishing deal came from a fan – that’s great.)
Fabby post and I did indeed recommend your historical novels to my friend, she devoured them, loved everyone and couldn’t stop reading until she had downloaded them all. So yep sometimes it works when you recommend a good book by a great author. xxx
That might be a good idea Geri
You, Jel Cel are an absolute star!
I agree Carol – when does ‘pretty please’ become ‘darn nuisance’?
On and off, after seeing books with shiny medallions, I had been on a mission to “Finding BRAG.” Today, your e-mail news flash finally led me to it.
As usual, your article is not only timely, but encouraging about the ever-present need for the Indie Author to market those books. Thank you, Helen, Well said and noted.