This Indie Author’s Experience

Two interesting questions raised by Laura Janis Thompson:

Seeing them, I thought: How to address them? I can’t really offer up replies to them quite as the questions are asked. But I suppose I can offer some general personal takeaways based on nearly six years of doing this now. I think I have learned lots I did not know in 2013.

Let’s start with the positive. As an indie author, what do I think I have done that has worked well? In no particular order:

1) I produce the novels I want, not what someone else compelled “encourages” me to write. (“I’m not sure relationships, travel, and history stories are the thing. Why don’t you try writing about trolls from outer space…”) The books will always have my name on them, so they say what ***I*** want to say. They are 100 percent me.

[Screen capture of Instagram of ANOTHER author posting ANOTHER ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review.]

2) I avoid reading reviews. I feel they are meant for other readers, not for me as the writer. (Some two decades ago my (now late) uncle told me that’s what he believed, and I get now what he had meant.) I think understanding that distinction actually HELPS my writing.

Relatedly I find I become irritated by authors posting on Instagram and elsewhere the likes of screenshots of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Amazon reviews, or other praise, of their book(s). Interestingly they NEVER point to ⭐️⭐️⭐️ or fewer reviews – or they never get any. Hmm. Indeed if I see a book with “10” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ reviews on Amazon out of “10” reviews in total, and with some of those offering maybe just two lines of boosterism: – “I loved it! I couldn’t put it down!” – I get suspicious: I don’t think I’m getting a real sense of the book and may even be seeing “gaming” the system by personal friends of the writer. We see too many inflated “A+ grades” out there: just because a book is a “good” book, or even a “very good” book, that doesn’t (to me) make it worth ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – and definitely not from EVERY reader. Remember as well, many “excellent” and WELL-KNOWN authors occasionally get ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and ⭐️⭐️⭐️ reviews (or even fewer). Have a scroll through Amazon reviews of, say, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.

In short, as a writer don’t “live or die” by the number of multi-“star” reviews as if they are “likes” on Instagram. (Interestingly, Instagram is apparently going to do away with visible “likes.”) I find it creatively liberating ***not*** reading reviews and not aiming for “stars.” I just write my books; I know they can’t and won’t be perfect (NOTHING in life is perfect); and I know that not “everyone” out there will “like” them because reading is an intensely personal activity and everyone’s tastes are a bit different.

3) Lacking the ability to advertise on television or in the New York Times, using social media such as a blog and Instagram consistently does attract readers so is worth doing. You are free to write and not use social media too, of course. However, if you do chances are no matter how worthwhile your book is, no one besides your mom and your best friend will know about it; and that would be a shame. Don’t be afraid to publicise your writing on the net so potential readers can actually FIND it.

[Thomas Jefferson, 1815: “I cannot live without books.” Photo by me. Windham, New York, 2019.]

What might I have done differently? Answering that is tougher. The main issue that comes to mind is this one:

1) Aside from my blog here (my bookshop front is how I think of it), I don’t do a lot of “self-promotion.” What I hope for is I guess good word of mouth between readers as a main driver – and much prefer to let readers do the sharing and the talking among themselves. It is important as an author I feel to identify the line between reasonable self-promotion and crossing over into becoming a “crashing bore” (see again #2 above), yet maybe I’m also mistaken in not being “self-promoting” enough away from on my blog here?

Anyway, those are a few indie author thoughts for this morning.

Have a good weekend, wherever you are. 🙂

One thought on “This Indie Author’s Experience

  1. Awww . . . Robert, thank you so much for taking the time to write this! I am one of those people who always ask advice of those who have “been there.” I don’t even go to a new doctor without a recommendation. I like your uncle’s approach to reviews. I don’t know if I have that kind of strength, but I will try when the time comes. Right now, the whole process is overwhelming as I’m still in the editing stage and have much to do. It’s so nice to know I have author friends who know the ropes to turn to. I thank you for that and for this lovely post.:)


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