Today I have the privilege of bringing you a guest post by author of science fiction and fantasy, including the book A Charming Nightmare. Marie Krammerer Franke tells us about how she became and indie author.
We’ve all been there; lovingly turning our stories into print, cringing at the words we just wrote and holding down the backspace key for hours. You love it, it has a name, it’s a member of your family and now you are staring at the send button wondering what form of rejection your child is going to receive this time around.
Or, at least, that’s how I felt. Hell, if I’m completely honest with you I couldn’t hit send. Not the first time. It took a very dear friend to look over my shoulder and say “whatcha doin’?” and in the time it took me to turn around to mouth a syllable she had reached over my shoulder and hit that damn button for me.
And then we waited…
And then it came; “Thank you for your recent submission, we feel that your work is not the right fit for us, but we wish you well blah blah blah yadda yada yadda…”
That wasn’t so bad, they were polite in their mass-generated rejection. Let’s try that again!
The more I hit send the more brazen agencies became:
“We feel that your novel is not suited for us, we feel that it is too ‘girly’ to be classified as true science fiction…”
“Thank you for your submission, if you could change A,B,C to this, that, and the other thing we would be happy to reconsider your work.”
“We would love to take on your story, it will be a challenge for us to market as is, please change blah blah blah and resubmit.”
This went on for a year.
It wears on you. No matter how much you adore your baby, you start questioning it, I started considering their suggestions. So, I took about 4 months away from my child.
When I went back to it, I fell in love all over again. With it just the way it was.
And that is all it took for me to become an indie writer.
An Indie write is someone who is in control of every single thing having to do with the piece you created. You are your books sole advocate, the only person who has any right to change, decide, suggest, ‘yay or nay’ anything having to do with your novel. No agent asking for more innuendos, no editors highlighted re-writes, no lawyers, publicists, designers, advertisers, accountants, or loan officers. Those are all hats you wear now as a single parent to your epic story.
This is how I did it, a sliver into one indie writer’s mind..
#1 Introduce yourself to the neighborhood
I tell people to become a drug dealer using free samples; give them a little bit and before the release they’ll be at your door twitchy, itchy, licking their lips, wanting more. In that same breath I remind them that not everyone is their target audience. I write science fiction/fantasy with a side of chick flick lit. I’m not going to ask someone who solely reads Christian fiction if they want a hit off what I’m dealing. Not at first at least.
Remember that friend who hit ‘send’ for me? She’s not only the only person in the world who can get away with such an action, but she’s also an amazing artist who owns a shop (mortalthreads.com) that is dedicated to everything fandom. Months after my whole ‘I’m going to be a strong independent woman, you will not change my book!’ declaration she asked me if I wanted a spot on her website. Never in a million years would I have imagined as a writer would come in the form of a clothing store! But think about it…science fiction-fandom…chick flick lit-nerd girls! Okie dokie, I’m right at home, let’s do this! Each week Mortal Threads brought you an excerpt from A Charming Nightmare via Mortal Reads. All in prelude of the book’s grand release.
Not everyone has a Mortal Threads at their fingertips (I licked it, it’s MINE), but you have everything you need to build a name on your phone. Social Media is full of a plethora of people waiting to get their hands on stuff. Writer’s Digest is another avenue to tap into; several times a year they hold writing competitions, if you place in their contests your writing gets displayed on their site, their magazine, and numerous other sites. Google it, go ahead, here I’ll give you something to cut and paste…I promise you will not be disappointed.
How to promote your book before it’s published
#2 Don’t be afraid of the words Self-Publishing
Don’t be afraid when I use the term self-publishing, I know we all have visions of Xeroxed papers stapled together to be sold as our life’s work dancing around in our heads when someone suggests self-publishing. I know, that’s exactly what I thought; the folded sheets of copier paper, unprofessional 3 ring approach for binding, missing cover art.
Self-publishing has grown out of its baby babble into something overwhelming in choices. I used Create Space (owned by Amazon). Even before I uploaded my work into its system the choices took days for me to go through. They cover you, literally, cover to cover. You can choose page colors, fonts, page sizes, numbers, cover art, gloss, matt. Once choices are made Create Space tells you to order a copy, a proof. This is hands down a must, order it, and read every individual word. Why? I looked it over on the website. I’ve read it a hundred times already. Once you click the done icon you’ll get approved within 24 hours. You can make changes from there, but once you choose to go live Amazon can take 6-8 weeks to make changes and then those changes are considered a new edition of the book. One that you’ll have to add into Goodreads and any other book groups you belong to including your copyrights. This is how I ended up having a sentence that will forever read ‘I looked over to the person closet to me’ instead of ‘I looked over to the person closest to me.’
I didn’t touch on what I am sure is a vast wealth in cover art only because I didn’t use it. Mortal Threads designed my cover using the Create Space specifications (again MT is mine…back off!)
The finished product was something that looked ‘store bought’, not handmade!
#3 It’s all about the Benjamins
Truth, it is all about the Benjamins. While Create Space is free and they’ll help in getting the product out there once you hit ‘go live’ (they’ll make it appear on Kindle, Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Audio Books, make it accessible to library databases, and even give schools the opportunity to get it) you still have to decide on a price, and most of all YOU have to purchase your own books from them. Don’t go beyond your means expecting to get rich instantly. Not even J.K. Rowling was J.K. Rowling overnight. Under no circumstance should a loan payment come out of your need to publish, nor should the opening of a new Master Card. Instead I talked to my own Benjamin about Benjamins and together we set up an accounting system that would completely separate ACN from our personal finances, including a money max that we both could easily afford. Remember, every penny invested has to be accounted for; you now have another thing to write down on your taxes.
#4 Your eyes ARE bigger than your stomach
I say this because you will want to purchase 10,000 copies of your own book…don’t (instead purchase 10,000 copies of mine, someone should benefit from your gluttony) Don’t say you won’t want to over order, I know you will, and I’ll prove it.
“I’ll buy a copy, can I get it directly from you? Will you sign it if I do?”
You’ll hear this from mom & dad, grandma, friends, cousins, your next door neighbor, the mailman, the checkout person at the grocery store. In your head you’ll start a list ‘I bet Sally will want one, then there’s Uncle Don, my 10th grade English teacher, my co-workers, so and so, whoosy-whats-it. Before your first page is printed mentally have sold a thousand copies. So you’ll buy a thousand copies at around $7.00 each and with a shipping rate of $25.00 per 50, anyone want to do that math? It’s not common core so we should be able to see its $7,500 before tax. But that’s ok, its easy money, Beth from accounting wants two, the barista at Starbucks wanted one-
But do they?
Do they really?
I ordered a book proof, and walked around with that proof proudly within reach for a month before the final product came out. I showed and bragged and sold about 3000 copies in that time. Do you know how many followed through when the shipment arrived? 13 Yup, you heard me right, 13 out of 3000 excited promises. Luckily, I had bought 50, and 10 of those 50 I had other plans for.
#5 In a writer’s world free works both ways
So after your guaranteed sales from grandma, mom and dad, and your BFF, have a plan. My plan was to do a giveaway or two. Everyone loves free stuff right??? I did an Amazon giveaway. On an Amazon Giveaway you can set up requirements, I was new to twitter so I made it a requirement to follow me on twitter. After 3 weeks I had 321 new followers, which may seem like nothing to you, but I created my twitter account the same day the Amazon Giveaway started so I would call it my free for their free. An Amazon Giveaway is also your bank accounts cheat, you buy what you want to giveaway-5 Kindle copies of A Charming Nightmare-and in return Amazon gives you the royalties on 5 Kindle copies of A Charming Nightmare sold.
My Amazon Giveaway cost me $24.98-$17.24=$7.74
I also became a Goodreads author and did a Goodreads Giveaway. 5 signed 1st editions of A Charming Nightmare. 3 weeks. 900 people wanted a free book, surprise surprise, and what was my free? Well, if you win a Goodreads Giveaway you HAVE TO review the book you won! And here’s a bonus free, you as the author write up their ‘Congratulations you won’ message. I simply added; ‘if you enjoy A Charming Nightmare feel free to write a review on Amazon as well!’ Amazon is a ratings run website, the more reviews and stars you get from verified Amazon customers the lower in ranking you get, the lower in rankings the closer to the top of their search engine you go! On the day of its release ACN was ranked as 469,003 out of over 1 million, now, 2 months into its release, some sales, even more Kindle sales, and two reviews ACN has jumped to 21,157th in the science-fiction category. Again, not even Stephen King was Stephen King when he started.
My next adventure in giving things away is going to be a Free on Kindle week. A couple of other indie authors I’ve talked to said it is hands down the way to go (just don’t think about the lost sales when you see your download numbers). One of them did 7 days free on Kindle, his books went from 50 downloads in 8 months to 152,265 in 7 days. That was 2 months ago, as of today he had 3,200 in verified Kindle book sales, and a 30% increase in physical books sales. A far cry from where he was a year ago! Andy will tell you though, it is initially a kick in an author’s self-esteem to see how many people only want your book when you’re giving it away.
That is a very small list of commandments. I know, it doesn’t even cover all the hats an indie author wears, but in essence you’re my competition! Why would I tell you all my secrets?