Encouraging Indie Authors

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We see it in the news from time to time. A fellow indie author strikes it big, with sales entering the six figure realm. We read the numbers and find ourselves renewed with vigor, certain that we, too, can achieve these same heights of publishing glory.

Then, six months later, reality sets in and we’re still mired in the no-sales or low-sales blues!

What can we learn from those who have achieved the success that we all crave so much for ourselves? More to the point: What aren’t we doing that these others have discovered?

I recently read one such article in my local newspaper. The story highlighted indie author Mara Jacobs, who, after ten years of treading the path toward traditional publishing, with little success, opted to for the self-publisher route. Mara’s case is all too familiar to many of us in the indie world. But that’s where all similarities to the majority of indie authors end.

Mara Jacobs is a bona fide New York Times bestseller. I don’t mean she found her name or book attached to some obscure list; Jacobs’s first three e-books sold enough copies to allow her to quit her very lucrative job at a local company in order to write full time. She also purchased a second home in Las Vegas. One of her e-books has nearly a million downloads.

Another indie author, named Rick Murcer, is enjoying similar success, seeing his novel Carribbean Moon and others in his mystery series top 800,000 in sales.

In all fairness to the rest of us self-published authors, these two cases are far from typical. A survey by Digital Book World discovered that less than 1 percent of indie authors earned more than $200,000. The typical income tended toward $5000. Nineteen percent of self-pubbers reported no income at all.

The fact is, most of us struggle where sales are concerned. As indie authors, we are afforded greater control of our work. We have the last word on pretty much every aspect of our work, from start to finish. But this also means we’re usually the sole marketing arm for the project. If we lack social media skills, our ship may sink in lonely waters.

So again I ask: What aren’t we doing that these successful authors have done? I couldn’t tell you. Neither author shared any marketing info in the article. Yet, we can still take comfort in knowing that the indie way is gaining ground and respect among the traditional publishers. We’re no longer the silly little step-child with delusions of grandeur. These few and abnormal peaks of indie success should offer the rest of us hope for our own work.

I write for fun and out of need. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love the opportunity to do this for a living. A comfortable living! That day may come. Though I might find myself in fits of frustration from time to time, I am not discouraged. Any one of us could easily become the next a sales anomaly. To settle for any lesser ideas about what is truly possible is to short-change ourselves and our industry.

Let’s continue to push forward in our endeavors as published authors. Where we’ve stumbled upon that certain trail of bread crumbs leading to a few extra sales, let’s share this information with our fellow indie writers. One person can’t carry the torch; this is a group effort.

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