I've only been a published author for a month, but it seems I've learned a decades worth of information about independent publishing in this short amount of time. Right now, I'm pretty cynical about the process. If book sales were my goal then I would certainly consider paying a small publishing company to publish my book, or try the traditional route of obtaining an agent.
1. There is real cost to independent publishing.
I thought the cheapest route to go was independent publishing, but I have discovered there are many hidden costs I wasn't expecting. Marketing is expensive and essential. Come to find out my book cover should have been professionally designed and that is expensive as well. I was lucky enough to have access to an editor free of charge, but not all independent (indie) authors have that resource. This is a great article on the real cost of indie publishing. http://mediashift.org/2013/05/the-real-costs-of-self-publishing-book/
2. Independently published books are still snubbed in the market place.
Anyone can be an author now. There is debate in the industry as to where indie publishing will take the market. The number of readers remains consistent but the number of books produced through indie publishing has glutted the market exponentially. There are millions more books than there are readers for them. This means that unless you have the backing of a traditional publisher, your book is lumped in with the masses and not recognized as up to standard. Yes, there are success stories, but they are few.
3. It appears most indie authors don't generate primary income from their books.
From what I have observed indie authors generate income by selling other products and services about indie publishing to other indie authors. It's really crazy on the internet. You can buy products and services on marketing, formatting, editing, book reviews, and how to anything related to indie publishing. I've even seen a list of blog post ideas for sale. This tells me that if my goal were to make an income from being an author, I better start writing about how to write, edit, market, and publish books.
4. The traditional publishing world is not interested in memoirs.
I have read from multiple sources that unless you are famous the chances of you pitching an idea to a publisher and having them catch the pitch for a memoir is 0%. They just aren't interested. In one article I read, not only would publishers not be interested in my memoir, but I wrote it completely wrong. Again, if my goal were book sales, I'd be worried.
5. Self marketing your book takes time, creativity and lots of failures.
In the last month, I have schemed and created marketing from all angles. I've used social media, direct mail, free give away-s, gimmicks and tricks. Most of which have failed. Oh, I'll keep trying because of the challenge and because my goal is to reach as many people with my story as I can. I can accomplish this without book sales. However, the book is a tool to convey my story of redemption. I am the walking, talking storyteller. So I am really marketing myself but not for financial gain. I am marketing strictly for Kingdom of God building. That mindset doesn't lend itself to dollar sign marketing techniques.
6. Press Releases are a waste of time.
I've used free press releases, but even if I paid for them they wouldn't have helped me much. Let's be realistic, what news agency cares about an indie author they have never heard of with a memoir. I have decided not to waste any more time on press releases. They have not driven any traffic to my website. I have only one source of publication of a press releases, which I highly suspect is a mock-up website with no real following.
7. Social media is not a marketing tool.
There are only so many times you can go to the well of social media for marketing your book. I try hard not to come across with "Buy my book" messages, but of course that is the undertone of the my posts. I also have followers who follow me only because of my book. I have to post regularly for that audience. I can almost hear the eye rolls of family and friends who are viewing yet another post. I have been successful through Facebook ads to drive some new traffic into my author Facebook page. I don't have enough twitter followers who are too concerned with my indie book. I don't really use Instagram and other social media sites. But social media is more like the radio in your car it isn't the engine running your marketing.
8. Establishing a platform, who knew? No one knows!
An author platform is an ambiguous term. No one really knows how to define it, yet every author, especially non-fiction authors, must have one. The basic idea of an author platform is figuring out how to establish your credibility within the market place. Trying to build this nebulous platform is like catching bubbles. You must have a website and your own domain name. The freebie websites and even free email, like gmail, are viewed as non-professional. I've had to pursue recommendations, endorsements and references from respected individuals in order to establish some sort of credibility. Another essential is you must have a media kit. This includes things like a video book trailer, author biography, endorsements, etc. You can view my press room here https://www.aliasintown.com/press-room. Having those resources at the fingertips of anyone interested in interviewing you, hosting you for a book signing or speaking engagement is an absolute must. The rest of my platform I will have to figure out as I continue to plod along as an indie author. Since, there is no definition of what an author platform actually is or looks like it should make the rest of this year interesting.
9. It is difficult to drive new traffic to your website.
I am a nobody to the outside world. Why would anyone want to visit my website? Yet, it is the hub of all of my information gathered in one place. I have redesigned my site several times and it will likely look different next month. In order to become known, I have to somehow get people I don't know and who don't know me interested in visiting my website. Once there, I need them to be interested enough to click around in it to find my books, schedule a speaking engagement and participate in my marketing plan. I have about 3 seconds of attention when they first arrive to accomplish this. It is very difficult to do and I still haven't figured it out. I have learned the term SEO, search engine optimization, and continue to tweak my online presence so that it comes up on search engines. I am proud to say that if you do a google search on "Alias In Town" the top 6 results are related to me. Now the task is to get someone to do a search on "Alias In Town"! If you search my name there is a gospel singer named Anita Wilson who has two entire pages that are returned in the results. So a pen name was absolutely essential for me.
10. Be mobile friendly in anything you do.
The number one way people are accessing anything regarding me online is through their mobile device. I still have not figured out how to get my blog to work like I want it to on a mobile device. My website had some serious bugs that had to be worked out. There you have it. My top ten things I've learned so far as a new indie author. It is a list which leaves me skeptical. At least I'm learning from my mistakes. Perhaps you can too.