Indie Authors: Are You Making This One Major Mistake?

indie authors - woman writing

It feels like a gamble, doesn’t it?

You’ve been in your writing cave for months, maybe even years, hammering out the words of your novel because you had no choice but to write them. It was a calling.

But now, now your book is being published and where once your only concern was what your characters were going to do or say next, today you have much bigger worries.

What if no one buys your book? Or worse, they buy it but hate it?

If writing feels like a vulnerable process, this is much, much worse.

But here’s the reality check. No one can guarantee that your book will be a success, but there is one thing that separates successful indie authors from those that struggle.

Book marketing is not the problem

Do you have a plan for promoting your book, or are you just hoping that once it’s on Amazon it will sell itself?

Sadly, authors that are , for success to just happen, are on a fast-track to obscurity.

This is true whether you’re an indie or have a traditional publishing deal. Publishers have very small marketing budgets for new authors, so you will still need to do much of your own promotion.

It’s tough for authors with no knowledge of book marketing to know where to begin when it comes to spreading the word about their book. Surely your job was to write the book, you never signed up for anything else!

As a book marketing coach I know all too well that authors are overwhelmed, exhausted and downright fed up with book marketing. They either don’t know where to start, are disoriented by the never ending list of tools and tactics to try, or feel a bit icky about trying to ‘sell’ their work.

But book marketing isn’t even the real problem. This isn’t what separates successful authors from the unsuccessful ones.

You need a business mindset

What it truly comes down to is mindset and how authors view themselves.

As a writer, you are like any other artist. The writing process is emotional and challenging. You struggle with transferring what’s in your heart to the page. You worry about what others will think and there are times when you doubt yourself.

But the successful author steps out of the artist role as soon as the manuscript is finished and ready for publication. Instead, they become a business person.

When writing you may allow yourself to fantasize about success, and sometimes you may be paralyzed by the fear of terrible reviews, but once your book is finished both fears and fantasies must be banished.

If you want to be taken seriously as an author you need to believe that you deserve success and you cannot see your writing as nothing more than a hobby. It’s time to stop seeing your book as your baby and see it instead as a product for sale.

This may seem cold, but the difference between authors that succeed and those that don’t is the understanding that being an author is a business.

The greatest barrier to success is failing to recognize that writing and selling books is a small business, a commercial venture. This is a problem with mindset. The second biggest problem is a lack of practical business knowledge.

Decide what you really want

To solve these problems the first step is to identify what you truly want and get into the right frame of mind for achieving those goals. The second step is to make a plan for how to reach your targets, which may involve investing in some education so that you know both what you need to do and how you’re going to do it.

So, what do you want to achieve?

  • Do you want fame and fortune?
  • Do you want to win literary awards?
  • Do you want to earn enough to be able to write full time?
  • Do you want a modest but steady number of sales?

Whichever of these is your answer, or if it’s something different, try searching even deeper. Are you wanting financial freedom, so you can spend more time with your family? Do you have an important message you want to share as widely as possible? Do you want to be able to talk about your book and your writing with pride?

Knowing where you want to get to is the first stage of any marketing plan for your author business. It gives you an end point that you can work towards and you’ll know whether you’re making progress towards it or not.

It’s important to be honest about whether you published your book as a commercial or creative project. In a podcast about how to make a living as an author Joanna Penn says, ‘What’s so funny is so many people say, “Oh, I’m not worried about business, I don’t care about the money,” and then they get all angsty when they don’t sell any books!’.

Just like the freelance designer or the Etsy crafter, if you have a book for sale you are running a small business. For some reason it’s harder for writers and musicians to see their art as a business, but if there is any desire to sell your work, you have to see it as a commercial enterprise.

It’s true that some authors aren’t concerned with making money from their books, but they do want their books to sell well as validation that their writing is any good.

The truth is your book doesn’t have to be any good to sell, it has to be visible to sell and that largely comes down to good marketing and an effective launch plan. Your book does need to be good to receive positive reviews, of course, which will help to sustain sales, but a good book is not enough on its own to become a bestseller. Writing a great book and hoping for the best is never going to be a recipe for success.

Start making plans

So now you’ve accepted that to be successful you need to set goals and operate in a businesslike manner in order to reach them, you need to make a plan.

You will need both a plan for your author business and a marketing plan for each book you publish.

These plans are beyond the scope of this article, but it’s important to note that book marketing requires clear objectives and consistent effort.

These posts will give you a good headstart:

Business and marketing may not be anything you ever needed to think about before, meaning you are facing a steep learning curve. As part of your new businesslike mindset, recognize that you will need to spend some time reading and learning. Even if you eventually decide to outsource some tasks, it’s worth learning the basics yourself. You may find that the more you learn the more you enjoy it!

5 steps to a business mindset for Indie Authors

Hopefully by this point you understand that what separates successful authors from less successful ones is a business mindset and recognizing that you need to approach book marketing with a planned, businesslike attitude and see your author career as a small business.

So what should you do next to ensure you get into a similar frame of mind?

  1. Believe in what you do. This is absolutely crucial; don’t allow self-doubt, or anyone else’s doubts, prevent you from moving forwards towards your goals. Remember success is the result of small efforts made every day. Success requires your time and energy, allow yourself to invest them.
  2. Set goals. If you don’t set targets you won’t know where you’re headed or when you get there. Ask yourself what you really want and answer honestly. Waiting for for success to ‘happen’ or to be ‘discovered’ is a waste of your time and talent.
  3. Create a marketing plan. Once you have set goals, create a plan for how to get there. Marketing your books and yourself as an author will be a big part of this plan. Commit to taking consistent action.
  4. Step out of your comfort zone. Trying something new and reaching for ambitious goals can be scary, but no one ever achieved anything by hiding away or playing safe. Keep pushing beyond what you know you can do into what you think you can do, and ask for help if you need it.
  5. Embrace failure and don’t allow yourself to be derailed by setbacks. The only real failure is giving up. If things don’t go to plan, however, see it as a learning opportunity and a chance to try something else. Not everything works, but experimentation is necessary to find out what does work. Commit to getting up and trying again.

Just like writing, running any small business can be challenging, but also immensely creative and rewarding. All you need to do now is commit to the process and enjoy the ride!

About the author

Belinda Griffin

Belinda Griffin is a book marketing coach helping indie authors achieve greater book exposure and sales without experiencing overwhelm or burn out. Belinda runs SmartAuthorsLab where writers can learn about book marketing and building an author platform - grab your FREE guide: How to get your book noticed with fantastic results! Follow Belinda on Twitter @SmartAuthors.

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