I wish that being an author was as easy as writing a book. That is not to say that writing a book is easy at all, because truthfully it isn’t. How many people have you heard say “I have a great idea for a book” or “I’m going to write a book one day”? How many of those people actually write the book? Not many.
That’s not the point. If you want to write a book then you sit down and you write it. It might take you years, or even a lifetime, but in the 21st Century that is the easy part.
These days you need to be a marketing expert to be an author, and it doesn’t matter if you are traditionally published or indie, you still need some marketing chops.
You need to understand branding, author platforms, SEO, blogging, Tumbler, Twitter and Facebook to name but a few things. You need to be able to set up a website and a mailing list and perhaps even a Street Team. And algorithms – they’re going to come up a lot in conversations. (If you’re anything like me you didn’t become an author because you’re into algebra so yeah, what is an algorithm again?) It’s a lot to take in.
You may not use all this information but you need to absorb it at the outset so that you can then decide which bits are for you and which bits you are going to run away from screaming. You don’t have to do it all but you do probably need to choose what you do wisely.
And here’s the really super annoying thing. Just when you think you have it sorted, the rules will change.
Here’s an example. When I published my first novel Mr Right and Other Mongrels back in May 2012 it was quite a thing to get people to tag your book on Amazon and to like those tags. I’d tag it as chicklit or fantasy or horror and then others liked/agree that the book was indeed in that category. That helped people find your book (visibility) in the Amazon shop. Yeah, that system doesn’t exist anymore. Hours wasted.
Want another one? I have around 850 people who have liked my Facebook Author Page. That did not happen overnight and it did not happen by accident. That took a whole strategy. That took hours of time. I’m going to presume that at least half those people might have wanted to see what I posted from time to time. In 2014 Facebook has moved the goalposts. Now a mere handful of those people who signed up and said they were interested in my books and ramblings about coffee see my posts. You probably don’t see them most of the time. Now Facebook wants me to pay to send this information to people. And even then it doesn’t reach most of them.
How did I know I needed to tag books? How did I know I needed a Facebook Author page? The internet. And how did I learn I needed to relearn this stuff, the same way.
When I published my first book as an indie author I knew exactly NO ONE in real life, who had gone the indie route. I was alone in a big, book-filled universe flailing about for answers. I did pretty well considering.
I found Facebook Groups to join who have given me advice and helped promote my books. I got myself on Twitter and learned the dos and don’ts of negotiating that space. I have a blog and I know about Price Pulsing as well. (It sounds quite sexy but it’s not.) I have finally got my butt in gear and I have a newsletter mailing list – man I wish I’d gotten onto that before Facebook changed things up.
It’s tiring for authors these days. Lots of us are sweet, introverted people who like to read and drink beverages of the hot and cold varieties while chatting about said books. We can’t so mostly, they’re just like me and they keep pushing forward and adapting to the changes.
I’m glad the internet is there to help me. Being a writer isn’t the lonely and isolated pursuit of sitting in a garret it used to be. Though, I will say, despite the success stories you read about (again more than likely on the internet) most authors, both indie and traditional, still struggle to make money.
Some days I would prefer a return to the old days and but most days I take off my luddite hat and embrace the new opportunities out there.