My Struggles as an Indie Author

Anyone who’s done a smidgen of research on the differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing would know that self-publishing takes a lot more effort. That’s not to say the traditional way doesn’t take effort, but once you get a publisher, it’s pretty much smooth sailing from there. There’s a whole team working for you, and you don’t really have to worry about marketing.

Self-publishing on the other hand, everything is up to you. Editing, cover design, marketing, you name it. Sure, you can hire people to do those things, but it’s still up to you in the sense that you have to pay for it all. Despite it all being tougher through this route, I still don’t regret it. The pros outweigh the cons, in my opinion.

I feel like I have had more struggles through this path than many others, and this is why. . .

I realized a few days ago that all of my efforts have backfired. The first? I published my first book at the wee age of 16 in 2012. I was young, inexperienced, and excited, which led me to rushing. The final, published product was full of grammar errors, the font was huge, and the formatting was off.

I retired that book within two months after realizing how bad it was and worked on doing a major edit. Six years later in 2018, I republished it, and it was significantly better. This is the second backfire, which I will explain. . .

Despite the huge improvement, I was still never truly happy with it (I thought I was when I republished it, but after that, nope). Sometime in 2019 I got a surge of sales and pages read for that book. That was the first time I had so many sales, and I thought, maybe it’s not actually bad? However, then it completely tapered off and it became like a ghost town. My doubts came back and the way I figured it, was if it was good, there would’ve been sales of its sequel. But there wasn’t.

So, late 2019 I decided to redo it again (also largely in part because of wanting to use my own ISBN, explained more in-depth here). Although the second edition was certainly better, it was still working off the ideas of 16 year old me, so there was a lot of cringe in it. I’m still reworking the book, and I’ve already removed about 3k words, all of it being cringe. I’ve also reworded a bunch to sound less stupid and childish. To a point, I’m still working off the ideas of my teenage self, but with the second edition, I kept the dialogue mostly intact. This time around, I’m deleting and rewording a bunch (I even deleted a whole page worth in one section).

I’ve surprisingly gotten a decent amount of good feedback for the second edition of my first book, but that situation with the surge of sales completely dropping off the map hit me hard. Besides that, I know it could be better, and I owe it to myself to make it into something I can finally be proud of.

Now, onto the third backfire. . .  I recently published my third book, Emergent. I absolutely LOVE that book. I’m so proud of it and it’s my favourite one to date. But, I feel like the cover puts people off. Like it or not, people do judge a book by its cover. Although the cover is a perfect reflection of the plot, I worry its bland nature is off-putting. I figured it would be fine because as an example, the Twilight series has super bland covers and yet the series is hugely popular (whether you like the books or not, there’s no denying how popular they got).

Then, I had a great idea. An eBook giveaway for Emergent to generate interest and hopefully get some reviews. It went better than expected, which was really exciting!

That’s where the fourth backfire comes in. I started reading it one day soon after the giveaway ended… And I noticed an error. Then another. Then another. There was a large handful. This happened because after I got the proofs back from my beta readers, I went through the manuscript making the necessary changes, and ended up accidentally adding new errors in the process. With this book being my first time having beta readers, I didn’t really think to order new proofs after that and have everyone go through it one more time to prevent any new errors from making it into publication.

I did end up fixing the errors, but first impressions count, and who knows if those who grabbed a free copy will even give my other books so much as a glance now.

A huge struggle for me has been marketing. With no friends and pretty much no family willing to help me get a foot in the door by getting the word out, I feel like I’m screaming into the void.

As mentioned earlier, my first book was published in 2012. That’s eight-ish years. Although I can’t get into the specifics of sales, the amount is low. Very low, considering the number of years. Sure, I’ve really only been actively published since the second edition of my first book, but the point still stands. I have also gotten no unsolicited reviews. I usually ask people to leave one, but they don’t. I’ve gotten wonderful feedback, but no actual reviews. Reviews are like gold to indie authors, so it’s been hard.

I would be lying if I said the struggle didn’t get to me. It gets to me a lot, nearly every day. And there are many days I wonder what the point is, when no one cares.

But, I know that I could never give up writing. When the words are channeled from the keyboard to the screen, I’m transported to another world. That feeling is something so extraordinary, I don’t want to ever give it up. When I write, I laugh, I cry, and I develop a bond to my characters. It tears me up every time I end a book and move onto the next, because I don’t want to leave those characters behind.

This journey of becoming a self-sustaining author is a long and tedious one with lots of tiring mountains to climb, and it’s a learning experience. With all the backfires in my journey, I have learned a lot.

I’ve learned to not rush, to have beta readers, and that formatting is important.

After my latest book’s publication, I’ve learned even more. With my next book, I know I need to go through it again after the beta stage to make sure I didn’t add any new errors, and from now moving forward, I will be getting professionally-done covers. This will come with its own struggle, as my sales don’t even come close to covering such a huge cost (and therefore I will probably only be able to publish one book per year), but I know my stories are worth telling; getting enticing covers will help my chances in getting them into the hands of readers.

I’m not writing this for a pity party.

It’s to show aspiring authors how tough being an indie can be, but to persevere, because writing a story is beautiful and an amazing experience.

And it’s to show readers how much effort and struggle goes into the books they read. Something that can take you days to finish reading was crafted over the span of months, likely years, and with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.

I just hope this moment of being candid won’t be another notch on the backfire list! 😉

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Ciao for now!

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