What upsets an indie author

Million of things really. Lack of sales, reviews, and support from friends and family. Also, bad reviews and low engagement on social media. The disbalance between the time and effort you put in and the results you get. And indie author’s journey is many things but a walk in the park it is not.

As an indie author, you can’t concentrate on writing and publishing alone. You spend a huge chunk of your time promoting your books. And if writing itself can’t be called a straightforward process with distractions that real life throws your way in abundance, then marketing is a ride on the rollercoaster with the craziest loops.

To be honest, after two years “in this business”, I’ve developed a kind of immunity against disappointments. A promotion method hasn’t brought results? It’s good that I didn’t have any expectations then. I’ve spent a certain amount of money and didn’t get a cent in return? I’ll view it as a lesson and move on.

One thing that still upsets me is that I haven’t found a single “automated” promotion method that would bring more or less substantial results. The thing that works best for me is being active on social media. I enjoy sharing my thoughts with other people and showing glimpses of my life. It doesn’t feel like a burden. I’d even say it’s become a necessity.

Long before the Internet and social media came on stage, I wrote letters by hand using good old paper. I had pen friends from all over the world. When yet another friend emigrated with their family – it was a common thing back in the 90s – we wrote letters to each other. It took ages for them to arrive, but what a thrill it was to find a square of paper in your physical mailbox. Every time, it felt like it was my birthday and I received a present.

So, it’s not surprising that when I moved to England for a couple of years, writing emails was an integral part of my daily routine. When I returned home, the era of social media hadn’t yet begun, but we had our local predecessor of social media giants and I used it to communicate with the world extensively. Later, I became active on one of the forums where women, who married a foreigner, gathered. I also was a destination expert of the leading travel forum with my thread dedicated to visiting Riga and Latvia turning into a lively buzzing space for almost a decade. When I became a mother, I started a blog, and it gained a certain level of recognition too, with my articles being reposted on the platform’s main page. As a result, in some months, my blog got 100K visits.

What I want to say is that for me, it wasn’t a dive into Mariana Trench when I realised I needed a social media presence as an indie author. It doesn’t mean it was easy. It was a huge challenge, mostly because this time, there was a new variable in the equation. This time, it wasn’t solely about sharing interesting content and interacting with people. For an author, sharing and interacting is a way to make people interested in what they have written.

Social media is great for making yourself feel seen. It is also the place to connect with like-minded people, and for many indie authors, it is as important as finding readers. Writing bears a stigma as other forms of art, and writers are vulnerable like all creative people. Thus, it is absolutely crucial to find “your tribe”, where you can unreservedly share your writing-related concerns, moments of success and failure.

Still, and that’s what inspired me to write this post, what social media cannot do is generate significant sales, the kind aspiring writers imagine they should get once they publish their book.

That’s where I stumbled in my marketing and promotion efforts. While nowadays “the heart rate lines” of my books rarely demonstrate that the patient is “dead”, with continuous KENP page reads and regular paperback and ebook sales, “the monitor” is far from bursting from activity.

It’s not in my nature to give up, and even after a certain number of failed attempts, I try to make some changes and try again. I have narrowed down the “automated” promotion methods to Amazon, Facebook, and Instagram ads. None of these have worked for my books in the past. The best result I got, having waved farewell to a ridiculously huge sum of money, was five thousand KENP pages read. And it was a reputable book promotion firm that orchestrated that Amazon ads campaign. I had zero results – book sales, KENP reads – with both Facebook and Instagram ads.

After yet another failure with Amazon advertising – this time, at least, they haven’t pushed me closer to the verge of bankruptcy and I’ve tried another product – I decided to give Facebook ads another go. I’ll let you know if it worked better than before.

Well, there is an easier way to make people interested in your books. I’ve recently heard on the radio the story about a Latvian company producing thin, rectangular chips and Sarah Jessica Parker dropping a picture of these chips in her Instagram with words of praise. She proclaimed eternal love to the unknown product from a faraway land. As you understand, Latvian chips got their portion of recognition and I guess a significant burst of sales.

So, if you are reluctant to spend your time and money on – often futile and always daunting – efforts to find marketing methods that would work for your books, find a celebrity and hypnotise them into loving your stories.

On this cheerful note, I’d better return to writing and promoting activities that do not require a magical intervention from fate.

8 thoughts on “What upsets an indie author

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  1. Having built an economy based upon our giving our attention to a book, movie or song it might be time for some remodeling. Many people I know have self-published and grind into the same specific set of obstacles— I’m glad I kept my promise to myself and have written four novels, but the price has been high and the uptake of my work has been low. Work on a manuscript for years then too few readers comment. Not finding an audience means you can’t grow. An audience teaches, the lack of one keeps us clueless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s easy to give up. Many indie authors forget that big publishers do invest huge amounts of money in promoting their best-selling authors. True, they don’t invest so much in new authors nowadays. Still, it’s more than an unknown indie author can do to promote themselves and their work. So, there is no other way than to invest in marketing. It is upsetting, especially when some methods turn our to be futile and bring no sales at all.


      1. Four novels each took 30 months to write start to finish, I sold my books after my shows. Sometimes none, sometimes 3-4, sometimes more than 10. But even a steady flow in this technique didn’t help crack the code— when a juggling show earns you $250 for one show I’d have to sell something like 50 hard copies to earn the same from books. Long fiction turns out in my case to be its own reward, and it has been a soulful treasure.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think for indie authors its absolutely crucial to feel that their books alone are a soulful treasure. Irrespectively of sales figures and earnings. And this is the reality that although we can now publish freely, it’s still the prerogative of big publishers to find the audience for the books.


  2. Too bad this attention economy is such the intractable business model. Taking considerable years to work on a book then self publish to earn perhaps a dozen comments. Without an engaged sizable audience an author has little opportunity to learn about how their work is impacting readers. Writing a profitable contemporary fiction book is rare. Many try—

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s true. Indie publishing options opened wide opportunities for anyone to publish their books. And still, big publishers remain the ones who are able to place books in front of an interested audience. Yes, there are successful indie authors. But they are few and only confirm the general trend. It takes a lot to be successful in indie publishing. Many of us concentrate on writing our novels. Promotion is another full-time job. It has to be done to reach at least some readers. But it can’t be fully efficient if you don’t invest considerable funds in it. And even then, not all techniques work for every authors.

      Liked by 1 person

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