The Digital World of the Independent Author

My name is Helen and I am a writer. I have written a book. A young adult book, with people falling in love and falling off cliffs, with tension and action, with my entire heart and soul sewn throughout 68,000 words… And if not for the wonderful digital world, it would still be on my pc, gathering metaphorical dust whilst I wait for a literary agent to notice me and obsess over my punctuation.

Fun fact: The chance of your book being picked out of the slush pile, the mounds of manuscripts that publishers and agents trawl through, is 0.08%.

My maths is not great, but that means you have to send your manuscript out 1,250 times before you get anywhere.

I am not afraid of hard work but, I am averse to wasting my time so I decided to make things happen for myself. Whether this brings publishers and agents to me or not, my book is now out there for people to read.  I released my book as an ebook on Kindle Direct Publishing on 17th April and so far it’s doing alright! I’ve got some lovely reviews and managed to get into the Top 5 of my Amazon category.

After you’ve gone through the long process of writing, then drafting and redrafting, of getting friendly feedback and professional feedback, it’s very quick and very easy to make your book available. Kindle Direct Publishing is completely free but when you start selling books they take royalties, either 30% or 70% depending on what price you sell it at. Unfortunately you don’t have posters at train stations or your own stand at Waterstones. As an independent author you don’t just write your book, you then have to set out to find your audience.

The brand indie author is a double edged sword- whilst calling yourself a self-published author sounds slightly apologetic to my ears. Indie author suggests doc marten wearing, trailblazers going against the man (that’s literary agents and publishers in this instance). But it’s exactly the same as self publishing and ANYONE can do it. Yay! Anyone can do it! But aw! Anyone can do it- so there is no guarantee of quality. Penguin aren’t there with their flightless stamp of approval to assure readers this piece of literature is worth your time and your money. So you have to convince them yourself, you have to make yourself stand out.

Trailer.

The book trailer is an especially powerful tool. You can splash it all over your social media, display it on Amazon and feature it on youtube. You can check mine out on the homepage.

I’ll tell you a secret… it was shot entirely on an iphone! Sonia, a designer I’m lucky enough to know, used Adobe Premiere to make the trailer. The music is by an amazing musician called Izzy’s Daughter. If you need any haunting, atmospheric, filmic music drop her a line!

Designer.

Sonia, the designer from Pulp and Pith has basically been my very best friend through the process of setting myself up as an author and setting my ebook up for sale. Design is the one thing an Indie Author absolutely cannot skimp on. A bad cover makes you look like an amateur. Designers can be expensive but you might be able to do a skill swap or find someone prepared to work for a percentage of your profits. Sonia designed my branding for me, the logo which has also become the focal part of the cover and the banners for my social media pages. She also helped with my website ISN’T IT PRETTY???!!!!

Website.

I have grand plans for my website. I want it to be more than just a place where a link to my book lives. I want it to add value- create insights into characters that you can’t get anywhere else. The Afterlife Hub, is currently under construction and will be the place where readers can find games and secret titbits of Afterlife knowledge. So watch this space!

Blog.

The first thing every writer should do is set up a blog. EVERYONE from my mum to my marketing company told me this. And I didn’t really want to do it, because I didn’t think I’d have anything to say... How wrong I was! I now want to share all the things I’ve learnt and become a genuinely helpful resource for writers who want to go the indie route. As well as giving extra little peeks into the world of my novel. My most successful blog so far was on whether Trump, Brexit and Fortress Europe are making it easier for writers of dystopian fiction, the answer is yes by the way. It bought in my highest visitor figures after the launch day. A blog not only drives traffic to your site but can also help you join in current conversations and get attention that way. You can also do guest blogs on other relevant, but perhaps more popular sites and find a new audience that way. Basically my mum was right.

Social media.

If you can tap into something relevant on social media with your blogs all the better. Social media is the lifeblood of indie authors. Facebook is a good way to let your friends and family know what you’re up to. They will potentially share important posts for you and then you’re reaching new spheres of people. Twitter is trickier if you’re trying to build up a base of followers from nothing. Initial excitement over how many new followers you’re getting will quickly dissipate when you realise it’s predominantly people trying to sell you something.

But Twitter is a fantastic way to make friends with fellow writers, to swap tips and engage in a writing community which will support you as you support it. My current Twitter campaign is threefold. Make friends, figure out how to engage with my YA audience and obey the law of the tweets- don’t just spam your followers timelines with constant promos, be real, be entertaining, for every one tweet you do promoting yourself, like or retweet 6 or more other things.

My current campaign to engage with fellow artists- and also, maybe to make a few people’s days a little better is the #CreativeCommute Challenge. I actually wrote the first draft of my novel during my commute, on my phone, sending it to myself in emails. It was a wonderful way to spend travel time, I was always slightly disappointed when I had to get off my packed rush hour tube. The challenge is to write something during your commute- if you spend 5 minutes on a bus write a haiku, if you get the train from Brighton to London write a novella. You probably shouldn’t join in if you drive or cycle… although that’s great plotting time. The idea is that people host on their own blog and then tweet links under the tag or they can post it on the Facebook page.

Podiobook

This was my grand plan! Release my book as a podiobook in weekly instalments and build up some buzz in the lead up to my ebook release. Then I'd also have a ready-made audiobook ready to sell. This was a gigantic learning curve although I'd heartily recommend it if you've got a lot of time or a very short book...

I made mine using free audacity software which is very easy to use. I had to buy a condenser mic, to plug into my laptop, which cost about fifty quid. I made my own pop shield by bending a wire hanger into a circular shape and then stretching tights over it. I thought I was very clever, but next time I’m going to buy one so it doesn’t have to sit in a beer bottle or get held by the reader or get shoved into their top…

One thing I will say if you’re thinking of making a podiobook or audiobook yourself is that its very time consuming. A ten minute section can take about 40 minutes to record if you do a couple of takes, go back on sections where mistakes are made or a bus rolls past. When I had other people reading sections of mine so would also stop and give direction. Then editing it will take 20 minutes plus depending on how much you've got.

I’ve hosted my podcasts on Soundcloud and listed it on iTunes. iTunes is a weird one, you send your RSS feed through to it, so nothing is actually controlled on iTunes itself, but wherever you host your podcasts. They are also really slow- they can take up to two weeks to approve your RSS feed and your first podcast because they actually listen to everything submitted. And you need your listeners to subscribe, new podcasts can get lost in their cache and show up in the store for days at a time. I am now selling the complete podiobook through CD Baby as it seemed like a better, easier option than Audible which ties you in for seven years (seven years?!) and doesn’t let you set your own price.

If you want to know any more about the podiobook process here’s a blog I wrote about my experience creating a podiobook.

If you haven’t written your book yet don’t let me put you off. There’s so much advice online on writing, editing and even marketing. Launching yourself into the indie world can be daunting. But success can’t just be about who can shouts the loudest. If you can find a new way to present your book you can engage potential readers that way. One thing I’ve experimented with is VR (virtual reality) including creating images with Google Cardboard to share. I’d like to be able to offer virtual tours of some of the locations in my book- some would be impossible and I still want people to imagine places for themselves, but giving a snapshot of a few of the landscapes, the forest, the beach, the city would be a way to set myself apart… again watch this space…

If you’re an Indie author or looking to become one I hope that’s helped a little!