I have been watching the Indie phenomenon for a while now and what blows me away is the number of talented, creative people who are finally finding their outlet. People who, like me, have been writers forever, (or it feels that way anyway,) but never thought that they’d get out there because the mainstream big boys were Gatekeeping. So they wrote for themselves and hid their manuscripts in the bottom draw, gathering dust.
Then along comes this amazing new way to communicate that costs almost nothing and allows a writer to find their audience, anywhere in the world. I can’t tell you how in awe I am by this development, not just because it has given me my lifelong dream, but because it has allowed for an outpouring of creativity the world has never seen before.
History has always been important to me. It gives me a perspective on the world I see around me. From an historical perspective this shift is as big as the invention of the printing press. Before that time, clerics spent their lives bent over desks laboriously copying a few manuscripts that were considered of value by the Powers That Be. And only the most educated, (and most of them men,) had the ability to read those precious works.
Then the printing press exploded onto the western scene and the creative outpouring began. But it was always limited by financial constraints. It costs a lot to print a book. And even today when it is so much cheaper, it is still a gambling. So publishers stay safe and go with a sure thing. So you see the same old authors churning out the same old stuff, year after year, because publishers know it sells. If those authors try to write something different, the publisher squashes the idea. Stick to what sells they say.
Occasionally someone new breaks through and there’s a thunderous reader response. Remember when ‘The De Vinci Code’ came out? That was so different to what was on offer at the time that the public lapped it up, and all Brown’s other unpublished works got published in quick succession. And then the copy cats started getting picked up because they fitted the new mould.
The same thing happened with Harry Potter and the Twilight Saga. Some brave publisher took a risk and the reading public responded. Then the copy cats start to get published, trying to fit in to these new moulds. ‘This framework works, let’s do more of it’.
Then along comes ebooks and costs of publishing become minuscule. The cost of reading, once you have a Reader becomes nothing, if you play your cards right. And that hasn’t been possible since Libraries became common. Now anyone can read books about anything that takes their fancy. And the financial risk is none, if they use the free days or lending libraries like Amazon Prime makes available.
So the diversity of creative outpourings is now infinite, limited only by one’s ability to get the word out. And that becomes the new Gatekeeper. It’s not talent that will stop you, its media manipulation and promotion. Even though it doesn’t have to cost a lot, costs do begin to mount up when you try these paths. Unfortunately, it’s likely to cost more and more in the future, as the ever-increasing numbers of writers vie for a finite number of readers’ attention. But we aren’t there yet, thank goodness.
To compete, authors, whether mainstream or indie published, have to find their own way to their audiences. This has been a steep learning curve for me, and I think I had a lot of luck at the start. When I discovered Fiverr and a lady called DesertGirl I risked $5 and got her to put my new book ‘Barbarian’s Mistress’ up on free sites for my KDP Select free days. I got 16,500 downloads over 5 days, shot to #1 Amazon UK and the top #5 on Amazon.com, for Historical Fiction.
I was shell shocked and delighted when the reviews started pouring in and sales followed. I replicated the process with my other books but, though Desert Girl was doing a great job, I wasn’t getting the coverage. Too much competition and my other books were very niche – let’s face it, time travel romance isn’t for everyone, especially books targeting the older female reader (my heroine in the first in the New Atlantis series was 45. Not too many of the kids want to read about a middle-aged woman with all her insecurities around aging.) But I knew my reader- the 30 something and upward woman who likes her romance a little hot but still loving, and wants to go places that are different, thought-provoking and quirky.
So I followed DesertGirl to FreeDiscountedBooks and joined a Book Tour with Orangeberry Tours. They said they’d get me 25 reviews, but there was no guarantee that the reviews would be good. They put my book out to Book Clubs across the UK, Europe and the States. I also took Carla’s advice and had some work done on my cover of ‘The Titan Drowns’ (she’s brilliant a graphic artist) and got the book professionally proofed. Articles I wrote and interview questions I did went up on blogs all over the place in the next month. But nothing happened. I think I got lost in the rush. Carla at FreeDiscountBooks even created some social media attention by using something called Empire Avenue and Twitter, but it didn’t seem to work for my books. And though I’ll get my reviews, and that will encourage new readers, I’m not sure it was a successful exercise. Not for the money I paid. But maybe it’s a slow burn and in the months to come I’ll see results. All I know is that although I think Book Tour companies are meeting a need and are professional and doing their best for their clients, it didn’t meet my needs, so far.
So I joined Author Marketing Premium Club to see what tricks I could pick up there, and I’ve vamped up my blurbs with pretty headings and added review quotes and selling points. But though they have good ideas, most I already knew and joining mastermind courses in the US doesn’t work for me here in the UK because of the time difference. I also joined a Kindle Club that showed potential, but after the initial flurry of interest, people faded away and so nothing useful transpired over the long term.
But instead of being disheartened, I am spurred on to explore further. I continue to get my free days promoted by DesertGirl and it’s the most effective process I’ve come across so far. I try to keep the big picture in sight – I’m a published author, my lifelong dream fulfilled, and in the five months that I’ve been doing this marketing lark nearly 40,000 books of mine have been downloaded and a good proportion of those have been actual sales. I’m not making enough to live on yet, but I think there’s a cumulative process at work here. The more readers find me, the more of my books they will want to read and will tell their friends about. So the more I look for ways to get my name out there, the better my chances of finding my possible readers are.
I feel like an adventurer exploring undiscovered territory. It’s exciting, and the potential is awesome, but it is also challenging and disheartening, and some days I just want to go back to writing just for me. It was more fun that way. But then I get a wonderful review and find out I’ve touched someone’s life, and it all feels worth the effort.