Monday, 24 September 2012

Advice for Indie Authors: Hints and tips for indie authors!

Advice for Indie Authors: Hints and tips for indie authors!
It is exactly one year ago that The Drought was published in paperback!

I'm certainly no expert by any stretch of the imagination when it comes to writing and publishing a novel. I am still learning with each step I take, but here are some tips that helped me along the way and things that I have learned as an indie author that you might find useful.

Think before you write
Have an idea before you start hammering away at the laptop! Sit down and write down on a piece of paper what your story looks like - the start, the middle, and the end. Who are the characters and how do they all link together? Where does the story happen? It doesn't matter if this changes or takes a different shape when you actually start writing, but it will give you some sort of direction.

Be committed
Unless you are lucky enough to write for a living then you are going to have to give up a lot of your free time to write a novel. For three months solid I wrote every day after work and as much as I could at weekends. It was not easy at the start (and my girlfriend must have thought have dumping me several times!) but slowly you create a routine. Constantly working on your novel not only improves your writing skills, but it will help you develop characters and create new stories.

Don't burn yourself out
Okay, this will sound slightly contradictory after my last point, but allow yourself a break from time to time. Take an evening off, or allow yourself a weekend when you don't switch the laptop on. As long as you are ready to get back into the saddle after a day or two then this will help recharge the batteries, especially if you are working a full-time job and trying to write a novel at the same time.

Always carry a notepad
Every time you think of an idea, write it down. I find the best ideas always come to me when I'm not sitting in front of the laptop. Every idea I think of, I write everything down. After I completed my first draft I still had 10,000 words worth of ideas that I hadn't even used. Referring back to your notes is a great help when you hit a wall or have writers block. In The Drought there is a whole chapter about how much the main character hates going clothes shopping with girls. The majority of this chapter was written on the notepad on my iPhone while my girlfriend was dragging me around Top Shop in Oxford Street!

Try to pick a soundtrack to your book. Like a film, choose songs that represent the tone of your book and create a playlist and listen to it. Let your imagination wander. Some of my best ideas came when I was listening to my iPod on the way home, or when I was out jogging. Music can also jog your memory of real-life events that have happened in your past and can help you come up with ideas for your novel.

Write what you know
I can only advise from a personal experience, and writing about something you have not researched or have little knowledge of is clearly going to be bloody difficult! Even if you manage to write a complete manuscript, chances are your reader won't believe in the story because it won't seem real. It is no surprise that John Grisham practiced criminal law for a decade - his writing clearly demonstrates an author who knows his way around a courtroom. Writing skills aside, that is a major reason why he has been so successful. If you are blessed with a fantastic imagination like J.K. Rowling or J.R.R. Tolkien, then all the power to you!

Don't be too critical
If you have decided to write a novel, you are starting out on a process which can easily take over a year before you will be fully satisfied with your work. Mike Gayle, best-selling author of My Legendary Girlfriend, offers some great advice on his website. He says the first draft doesn't have to be perfect, and that the proudest moment of his career was completing that first draft. Your first draft will always be the one that needs the most work, but as Mike Gayle says, by finishing that first draft you have done something that most people only ever talk about. I finished my first draft in September 2009, and I was still making changes right up until it got published as an eBook in August 2011!

Give your novel to friends... and their friends, and their friends...
Choose people who you trust will give you an honest opinion. Take their comments on board and then go back and start the second draft of the novel. Ask your friends to give it to their friends, and to their friends, and so on and so forth. The more feedback you can get the better. You will be surprised how similar the feedback is, and this can be invaluable in terms of telling you what works and what doesn't.

Get your book proof-read and copy-edited
I checked, re-read, and re-wrote my manuscript dozens of times, and I still could believe how many mistakes I had missed when I had my manuscript proofed. It can be a costly exercise but it is well worth it in the long run. You can find proof-reading and copy-editing services in the Writers & Artists Yearbook with NUJ rates starting at £24 per 2,000 words.

Do your research on self-publishing
So you have sent your manuscript out and tried to secure a literary agent without much luck. If you are like me, you have decided to go down the indie author route. Do your research because the hard work has only just begun. All of the responsibilities a literary agent would take on board are now your responsibilities! This means getting costs to self-publish, choosing and designing a front cover, speaking to book shops to try and get them to stock your novel, sending out press releases and dealing with the local media. The list is endless. The more work you put in, the greater chance your book will stand of gaining exposure, and hopefully increasing sales.

Get by with a little help from your friends
You are going to need all the help you can get to help you along the way. I was lucky enough that I happened to work on the sales team for a magazine serving the print industry, and that the online editor agreed to let me write a blog. That opened doors for me. It helped me make contact with Lynn Ashman, the MD at Pen Press. I was also lucky enough through friends to be put in contact with national newspaper journalists, a television producer, and television presenters. Each one has helped me in some way or another, whether it is by agreeing to read my novel and supply me with reviews, to helping me create a promo video. Think about where you work, the people you work with, your friends and family. Don't ever be afraid to ask for help - the worst someone can say is no.

Keep it local to begin with
Naturally every author wants to see their book reviewed in national newspapers and magazines, and stocked on the shelves of all the major bookstores. But as a self-published author you need to take baby steps. Start by sending your press releases out to local media, and approach local bookstores to see if they are willing to stock your book. Local newspapers love to hear about the achievements of local people, and if you are lucky, gaining enough positive local press reviews might, just might, one day see your novel end up reviewed in the Sunday Times.

Posters, flyers, business cards
Invest in marketing material to help promote the book. If you have asked a local library or bookstore to stock your book, it would be great to have a poster hanging on the wall, or flyers sitting at the counter. Carry business cards and anyone who seems interested in your novel, hand them a business card with your details and details of where they can find your book online. I used a company called Authors Essentials, who specialise in marketing and promotional services for authors.

Create a website or a blog
If you have gone to all the trouble of self-publishing your work, marketing your novel, and sending out press releases to promote your book, then it is crucial to have an area where you point people back to. Think about how you buy things as a consumer. In this day and age, most people will refer to the internet now for more information before they buy. Your website should include details about the book (such as a sample chapter), contact information for the media, and most importantly, where people can buy your book.

Social media
Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, to name just a few of the social networking tools you have at your disposal completely free of charge. Set-up a Facebook fan page, Tweet details about your novel, and blog as often as you can to raise your profile online. The more you can get people talking about your novel, the better. Check out my previous blog post The social media opportunity for more information. Another fantastic tool is, which allows you to schedule and manage all of your social media posts.

Immerse yourself into the book reading community
Go beyond the social media giants like Facebook and find those niche book communities online. I have found lots of great sites that bring book lovers together, and allow indie authors to promote themselves. Goodreads is a fantastic social media site that allows book readers to share and discuss their favourite books. And make sure you are talking to readers in book forums like Kindle Boards or the Book Club Forum, as nothing beats speaking to readers directly.

Invest into an eBook version of your novel
Ebooks have revolutionised publishing across the world. Amazon now sell more eBooks than physical books for its top 1,000 titles, and there are 115 eBooks sold for every paperback. The figures don't lie, so creating an eBook version of your novel makes sense.

Ask readers to write reviews
People will buy from sites such as Amazon based on positive reviews. So if you have had friends read your book and tell you they like it, then ask them to post a review up on Amazon. It won't cost them anything, but it could be priceless for you. And then when you start to engage with readers on social media or in the forums, ask them to write reviews if they are kind enough to give your book a chance!

Enjoy it!
If you don't enjoy the whole process, then maybe writing and self-publishing a novel is not for you. You have to have a real passion for writing, and you more than anyone must believe in yourself. Writing and self-publishing a novel should fill you with a huge sense of achievement. That is what makes all the hard work worthwhile.

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