Shark Week…does the biggest fish always win?

As many of you know (and some of you may not care)  this is Shark Week on National Geographic.  As a mother of a son who has an unusual obsession with predators, this is a big week in our household.  While watching the episode on Submarine, it really got me to thinking.

Do the biggest fish in the sea always have to win or can the little guys stick around long enough to make a difference?

I love to sit back and look at how far the publishing world has come over the past few years.  Traditional authors work hard for their success and I applaud them for it.  They have struggled through countless rejection letters, earned their dues over years of rewrites and failed attempts, and came out the other side wiser and more seasoned.  They have fought hard and won.

On the other side of that coin you have your indie authors who bust their butts each and every day to promote their books with little to no help, fight to keep up with the growing demand from readers who have grown used to “insta-books” from authors who can publish fast, and dive head first into a market that is flooded with great authors.  They learn as they go and hope that something sticks, many times learning everything not from industry professionals but through their best friend Google.

Neither route is easy.

As an indie author, I know how hard it is to become established.  It takes a TON of work, and no small amount of luck on your side, to be seen today.  There are LOADS of amazing new authors out there waiting to be discovered.  There has never been a better time to publish, but I think it’s also the hardest time to “make it.”

So what does it take to become a household name in today’s publishing world?  Can indie authors build a large enough following to be able to compete with a traditional publishing house?

Honestly…I think indie’s have the perfect opportunity to make a difference and here’s why:

1. We can set ebook prices at a level that encourages readers to take a chance on us. The Free or $0.99 price point is a perfect way to introduce your work to new readers.  Discounting a first book in a series is a great way to gain long time readers at no risk to them other than their time.

forbidden_crop (1)FORBIDDEN, book 1 of my Arotas Series and DEFIANCE RISING, book 1 of my Rising Trilogy are both permanently free books for this very reason.  If people decide the books aren’t for them that’s fine, it didn’t cost them anything, but if they fall in love with it then I’ve opened the door for them to enjoy the rest of my books at a lower personal cost to them.

2. We have the luxury of altering our book content at any time: poor editing, cover design, back cover blurb, etc.  We dont have to wait to go through a publisher to make changes.  We can try something and if it doesn’t work we can tweak, changing through several options until we find something that works.  With my first book, FORBIDDEN, I had a cover with a beautiful orange rose that fit one aspect of my book.  I loved it and to this day I still treasure that book because it was my first, but without having read the book, it held no meaning to new readers, so I changed the cover to something eye catching.

3. Indie authors can give their readers what they want.  There is no one dictating subject matter, sales or genre.  An author who interacts with their fans knows exactly what their readers are looking for and we have the opportunity to offer it.

4.  Word of mouth is crucial for all authors, no matter which route you go for publishing.  Giving your readers a product they get excited about is key.  Interacting with them on a daily basis is too.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest, and all the rest of the social media sites used today are fantastic ways to build relationships with your readers.  Going to book signings, visiting libraries, book clubs or schools (if that fits your genre) is another great way.  Respond to email or blog comments.  Let people know you are a real person and they will love you for it.  Just be careful how “real” you get.  Personal opinion has its place but not in the public eye.

5. Remember that being an author is a business.  Readers look to you to behave professionally.  To treat them with respect and gratitude.  The way you present yourself on social media or in person goes a long way in helping them to decide if they will remain a fan.

6. The more books you release the more established you become.  Size does matter when you look at taking a financial risk on an author.  As do reviews.  Are you publishing good quality books?  Are your readers satisfied with their purchase?  The relationship between a reader and author is based on trust.  They trust that you will be true to your characters, that you will invest every ounce of your effort into writing a good, entertaining book.  They their hard earned money will not be wasted on rushed work.  Having a larger number of books does make an impression on readers…but so do low review ratings.  Establish yourself based on quality not quantity.

7. Write what you love.  That is my biggest pet peeve in the writing world. I think there is a lot to say for writing what is popular.  Its a great way to make money and increase your fan base, but I counter that it is better to be that one fish swimming against the stream and writing what you love than to force a book.  Readers know when your heart and soul is in your work.  It grips them and makes them feel for your characters.  For me to write a smexy romance novel would be uncomfortable and my readers would know it.  It’s not who I am. I’m a fantasy girl.  I love some bite with my romance.  Take that away and I would be bored…and so would my readers.

8. Step out of your comfort zone.  I’m an introvert.  Anyone who knows me in person knows that I would rather be behind a laptop when I am chatting.  I dont like to make a ton of eye contact.  I dont like to speak in front of crowds.  I dont like to meet new people….but I do.  Why?  Because I love being an author.  I love meeting established and potential readers.  I thrive off of getting the chance to tell someone about my books at signings (especially the ones who are venturing out into their own first book).  Two years ago I was terrified of doing my first signing.  I was nauseous, hands clammy and sweat running down my back.  I still get nervous from time to time but after 16 book signings I’m a whole lot more comfortable now.

Can an indie author run with the big dogs?  They sure can.  Traditional authors don’t become best sellers with their first book.  It takes time, hard work and a lot of effort…just like with indies. We are all in the same industry. We are all talented.  Our path may be a little different but the end goal is the same…to entertain.

Success doesn’t come over night.  You have to be in it for the long haul.

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