When you first start self-publishing, expectations may be high and you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. Like anything, experience and growth comes from trying and experimenting to see what works. I’ve seen some newer indie authors getting discouraged so early in their journey and some have even walked away from writing. I wanted to write a post that will hopefully be encouraging to indie authors at any stage. I hope you all find this helpful. 🙂
Your audience and readership will come. But it takes time. I know that we all want quick success. Some of us are even patient enough to wait for a couple of years before complaining about how slow our writing career is taking off. As someone who’s been publishing indie books for around ten years, I want to be honest and say that it could take a decade or more before you start seeing regular sales. Some authors will gain traction early on in their careers and that could certainly be you! I remember thinking I would be a quicker success. Over the last few years I’ve learned this isn’t going to be how my journey goes – and that’s okay.
Writing is something you build on. As long as you keep writing and try different ways to promote your book, you will eventually reach your readers. If you have multiple titles it can entice a reader to invest in a few of your books, so keep writing! Your audience is out there.
Remember to celebrate the small successes. Try not to focus on how low your sales are or obsessing over how many pages are being read per day (You can track this through KDP). Be happy you got two sales that day or five sales the previous week. While they’re not going to buy you a car or pay your bills, it’s a step in the right direction. I remember how it took me a few years to start seeing monthly sales. By 2019, I could count on at least 3 sales per month – and some months were a lot more. The fact that my book sales went from almost 0 per month to being able to pay my monthly bank fee was pretty cool to me. Some authors make more than this so don’t assume your journey will look exactly like mine, but I think sometimes it helps hearing the truth about what some authors make. It keeps you from setting expectations too high just to be disappointed. Having a more realistic, long term plan is what will keep you in the writing game.
Try your best not to complain. I get. I really do. You spent hours writing your book and several more carefully editing your work of art to make it something you’re proud of. You’ve chosen a cover and then formatted the manuscript to KDP’s specifications. You’ve released your story out into the world and you’re excited to hear what people think of it then BOOM you get 3 sales on release day and no reviews. Try not to look at the negatives and be happy with those 3 sales. They’re probably from the 3 people who will consistently buy your books. I know that I’ve come to count on a few people who will always buy my new books when they’re released and it’s nice to have that. Be sure to thank people for their support and don’t get into the habit of complaining, because what it’s doing is underselling yourself and driving people away.
I had one guy on Twitter pitch his book to me and he said “It’s free today, but no one cares.” It was such a downer and you’re basically telling potential readers that no one is interested in him or his books. I felt bad and I actually found the title interesting, so I downloaded it and told him I did. Hopefully my review will encourage him, but I wouldn’t be surprised if his attitude is what’s been scaring people away. Trust me, it’s hard for pretty much every indie author to make sales and no one really wants to hear about another’s woes. I know it sucks when you look at the dashboard and see 0 sales for the month or when you promote your work and no one seems interested. All you can do is keep trying and if you feel like you’re going in a negative spiral, it might be a good idea to step away from social media and book promotion for a bit. Come back when you’re fresh and inspired again. People can sense that positivity and they’ll be more inclined to check our your books.
Most purchases are emotional. People (usually) buy things that make them happy. Most sales are gained by tapping into the buyer’s emotions. This may sound like a weird way to word it, but I say this, because we need to remember that we are the face of our books. If you’re an indie author, you don’t have your books marketed and distributed by a team. A lot of the times your book sales are going to be based on how you promote yourself. Particularly on Twitter, most book sales are a result of a connection to the author’s personality. If you are interesting to people and your journey inspires them, they will care about your writing and some of them will buy your books. Not all of them, but many of them will. There’s a reason why people call it an “author brand”. You’re essentially selling yourself and as a result, people will buy your books because they like you. That said, you will also get sales from readers who are looking for exactly what you’ve written and you may get random sales from an Amazon search, but in general, most of your sales will be a result from connecting with others. So, try to make the best of your social media presence and imagine some clever ways to promote yourself. You’ll start having people ask you for your book links rather than the other way around.
Your path is unique. Try not to compare yourself to others. Be happy for their successes, because your time will come and then they can be happy for you. Some authors follow a very defined marketing plan while others decide to stop caring about sales and numbers, opting to view their writing as art. Many authors fall somewhere in between. You’ll find what works best for you and I think it’s important that you respect the path you’re currently on. You can always switch paths and try something new, too. Comparison is the thief of joy. Sometimes people will overinflate their success as well, so they might not be any better off in the sales department than you. Maybe the person who’s celebrating some writing milestone had a particularly bad day and your encouragement could help boost their mood. Who knows? That successful author might buy your book one day and help you promote it. We’re all in this together. There’s room in the market for everyone, so don’t stress out if your journey doesn’t seem to be a mirror of others. It’s not supposed to be.
Don’t respond to customer reviews. I’m sure most people know this already, but I think it’s an important one to point out. If someone leaves you a 1 star review on Goodreads or Amazon, please don’t respond to it. Not everyone will enjoy your book and there are trolls out there who either dislike the author they’re rating or they simply enjoy being a rotten apple on the Internet. There’s a group on Goodreads who will lash out at authors who report them for trolling and it can get quite dramatic (I’ll spare you the details, but once they were harassing a bunch of authors on Twitter). Just don’t get involved with the reviews. Let people have their say and move on.
Ignore trolls. There will be negative commenters on social media and people will DM you just to get information so they can turn the conversation into a circus. Not all of them are actual trolls, but many of them are negative jealous people who enjoy bringing others down. They do this because they feel terrible about themselves. Knowing this makes it easier to ignore them. Their behaviour isn’t about you, really. They probably act like that with other authors or anyone who dares to take pride in what they do. If you can, don’t respond at all. If you reply to nasty or rude comments, it can lead you down a path of wasted time and a sour mood. Don’t give those people the satisfaction. Ignore them and block them if you need to.
You’re doing your thing and you have the right to be left alone to do it. There’s one account that’s fairly popular who refers to writers as the “lesser narcissists” and he’s supposedly a true dark triad personality. He messaged me at one point and it got weird so I had to disengage. I think as writers we might be curious about someone’s intentions ourselves, but most times, it’s best not to go there. (These types of conversations are where I got the idea for a villain in my story. Barak was inspired in part by these types of people. I had a hard time figuring out how one could think someone writing and promoting their books is evil, so I got into their heads a bit to see how they might be able to come up with such ideas).
Some people see Twitter as a personal space and they dislike people who build their brand or promote their work there. My opinion is you can just unfollow people who don’t jive with your world view. It really is that easy. Be wary of DMS, too. The real people will generally interact with you in the public (Via comments, upvotes, Retweets, tags, etc.) and if they do message you, it will be brief and respectful.
Have fun. Above all, remember to have fun! Any form of art should be enjoyable. Too much marketing and promotion can make us lose steam. Remember to focus on what really matters – your writing. The process should feel fun and rewarding. As long as you’re enjoying it, that’s what truly matters! I think people connect with writing that the author genuinely enjoys, too, so it pays off all around.
Well, I hope you all found this helpful! I feel more encouraged after writing this post and I hope you can appreciate the place you’re at right now. Our journey can change at any instant and I think we should do our best to have fun with it and enjoy the process. Happy writing! Xx