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Do You Have The Resilience To Be An Indie Author?

Written by: Dawn Bates, Senior Level Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Dawn Bates

It's important that authors realise that one style doesn't work for everyone in gaining success and it's not a bad thing to be different. Following the crowd can sometimes feel easier but it isn't always the right way to go.


Person in black long sleeve using type writer

Apply for awards.


Get your books into bookstores.


Email marketing.


Author talks.


Open mic evenings.


Show up on social media.


Pay for social ads.


Do all these things and you’ll have the success of being the author you’ve always dreamed of becoming.


Except you won’t.


Because if you are doing all the things everyone else tells you to do, instead of what you feel called to do, and what is appropriate for you and your book, then you are already dishonouring yourself and the readers you are meant to be reaching with your book.

 

Take for example The Bookseller Award "The Nibbies". How wonderful would it be to be able to win this award as a British author. One of the most prestigious book awards in the publishing industry, in the world in fact, but as an indie author, the likelihood of winning it is near to impossible.


Why?


Due to the number of sales needed to be recorded by Neilsen. These numbers are the holy grail and are measured by sales on platforms such as Amazon, and stores such as Waterstones, Europe’s largest high street bookstore, and if you do not meet the high criteria, designed around traditional publishing houses, you won’t actually qualify for the Nibbies.


As independent authors, getting sales within the first year in the region of 200,000 copies sold, requires the clout of the big boys or a big budget which is not something many indie authors have.


So we have to get smart, and we have to step into the mentality of an entrepreneur; again, something that not many indie authors have (hence why I created my 7 Week Author Course which clearly outlines the business building skills, mindset and attitudes we need to grow a thriving author business).


Buying author copies of our books and then selling them at retail price at events we are speaking at, workshops we are delivering or from the back of our car on the school run, is one of the best ways to make profit on individual books sales.


But these don’t deliver the big numbers, and we have to asked if the profit made is going to cover the hours and dedication we pour into our book to make it a success, especially when at every turn the book awards industry is designed to keep the big four publishers on the roll call of the prestigious awards.


There are many unheard-of awards out there, and many of them do come with a small fee for entering them. The challenge then for indie authors is finding the time to discover said un-heard of award, write a winning pitch, submit on time in the correct format, and then leave everything up to the Universe to ensure our success of lifting that trophy above our heads, to then go on to reinvent the cover art to ensure the words “Award Winning Author” is now put on all our books, past, present, and future.


Paying for a service such as the one offered by the lovely team at Book Award Pro requires a monthly investment of a few hundred US dollars.


With so many authors not wanting to invest in a cover designer, or a professional editor in many cases, and even more not wanting to consider the business side of things, claiming they ‘just want to be creative’, is there any wonder so many other indie authors are tarnished with the brush of not being professional or taking the art of writing and being an author seriously?


This is where applying for awards such as ‘The Ippy’ an award which has been in motion for around 28 years and is designed exclusively for independent authors, independent publishers, and university presses comes into its own.


Now, we all know how much clout universities have when it comes to influencing how the world works. They also have a captive audience for their book sales, the tens of thousands of students passing through their doors every year, and if you just happen to be a university published author, then happy days! You have just secured 1000s of book sales before your book has even gone on sale!


So where does that leave the indie authors and boutique publishers when it comes to this particular award?


Well, again, it is time to get our creative juices flowing and figuring out how we can sell our books in large quantities.


Being an old school salesperson who used to cold call using the yellow pages and databases, number crunching all day and getting more ‘no’s’ than ‘yeses,’ I am used to the hustle it takes to get sales in, and in massive quantities.


In my first business, I used to sell millions of CDs and DVDs, both blanks and mastered with content and all the paper parts to compliment the interactive content. These items cost the customer pence, with the mark ups on each disc being 40% of the overall price.


Playing the numbers game is no different with books except, the prices are higher as is the mark-up. The only difference is people buy 100s and 1000s of discs at once, and most readers will only buy one or two copies. If we want to get the sales, we have to play to our strengths.


I am not someone who likes video so TikTok is not my platform. YouTube is also not my platform, but for so many these platforms work. I have some videos up on YouTube and Vimeo. But my focus is on my writing, and appearing on podcasts.


Why?


Well, because I want a private life. I want to be able to travel the world and not be recognised. My study and research over the past seven years has required me to go undercover sometimes, and I could not arrive in a country to investigate human rights abuses if my name and face are plastered everywhere for the authorities to see me.


Entering some countries, I have had to change my profession to a ‘business consultant’ which is true, I am. I help business professionals organise their business strategy to get them ready to author the book(s) they want to write and then help them expand their brand to include a book of social value and humanity.


Entering Nicaragua as a writer of any kind would not have been a great idea, especially not an author of books which cover human rights abuses, social justice, and cultural cohesion.


Podcasts and articles offer me the lifestyle I want, and collaborating with others on joint marketing is a win-win-win. They have audiences I would never be able to reach, and vice versa.


Another thing that is so important when it comes to marketing our books and a lesson I recently learnt on a much deeper level is how people perceive our content.


The Sacral Series may be about the traumas experienced by the nine people whom I am writing about, but the books do not go into the trauma, they focus on the journey of healing with alternative healing modalities, such as art therapy for Leila, freediving for Pandora and advocacy for Alpha.


Faith, the 5th book in the series, which I am writing as I travel by train across Canada, highlights how Faith chose community engagement to step away from the religious abuse he suffered and saw others suffering.


Making sure that potential readers felt safe reading these books, giving them the peace of mind that they would not be traumatised (and in some cases retraumatised) is something I had overlooked.


Sometimes we are all far too close to our books, and our understanding of our book and its content is often quite different to what others see, and this is why it is so vital that we work with others on the marketing of the books we write.


Had a friend not told me she would never read any of the books in The Sacral Series, I would not have had this new perspective. Now I have it, the book descriptions are being changed, the SEO on my website is being updated, and the focus of the direct marketing and sales has changed and the result is that more sales are coming in.


Being an author isn’t just about drafting the book, it is nurturing and growing the book into a success, just like we do with our children.


Changing the cover design for Pandora and Faith also became necessary. They just were not appealing to potential readers and I used a professional designer! Far too many indie authors design the covers themselves, and we can tell, and yes, this is when we judge a book by the cover.


If the author has not put the effort into making the cover design professional, then the likelihood is, they also have not spent money on the editing, proofreading and the typesetting.


One chap I know sold 1000s of copies of his book because he’d built a large following through his previous career as a CMO (Chief Marketing Officer). He also has two others co-creating the content and marketing efforts. They all have large budgets and have been in marketing and technology for the best part of thirty years, so they have many advantages many indie authors do not.


The number of errors I have found in this book, the lack of typesetting, not to mention the arrogance written within the pages, has meant that a book that would normally take me a week or two to read and review has taken me over a year to finish. My review will not be favourable, and I gave up recording the number of typos in the book.


It is rare to find a book without a typo of some kind within the published pages, but the poor formatting and lack of care each of the authors has shown to read over the manuscript is just lazy, and disrespectful to their readers. I had considered collaborating with them, but if this is how they put out a book, then what does it say about the rest of their products and services?


Our books are our business cards. They are a lead generator for either future books, bookings as an author to speak on the topics we write about, or for additional products and services we offer. To not give them the care and attention needed will result in lost revenue and bad reviews, which is something so many indie authors rely on, and very rarely get.


Buying reviews is an avenue many authors choose, but where is the integrity in buying reviews? And how many of us actually read the reviews of a book before we buy the book? I know I very rarely, if ever, read a review before buying or reading a review. Word of mouth is how I choose a book, or I simply come across the book and choose to read it there and then. So, do reviews really matter? How many of you choose to read reviews before buying? Some would say reviews are more to do with vanity and playing the algorithm games, others swear by the need for reviews. They help, but are they the be all and end all of book marketing?


When it comes to social media, depending on what subject our books cover, will depend on how photo worthy the associated content is. Images of human rights violations, trauma and social injustices are not as attractive as a great plate of food or a cute puppy, and so for me to use social media platforms such as Instagram is not a great idea. Creating social media ads for the subjects I write about is also a challenge as the platforms do not like my content and therefore selecting the key ad words is near impossible.


Had I written about the topics in my book as fiction, such as Elif Shafak has done, then I know I would have made my life easier and more profitable (and palatable) for the mainstream, but I have never been mainstream in my life, so I have had to learn to honour my mission, vision and legacy with care and attention instead of following the crowd and getting lost within it.


Mainstream methods of marketing do work if you have a mainstream book, but you have to be willing to do something boldly different. To stand out you have to get creative. Which is great news for all those authors who ‘do not want to look at the business side of things and only want to be creative.’


Getting creative with our marketing activities is essential, so is doing something which has never been done before.


As indie authors and publishers we have to do things differently, because we have chosen to give ourselves permission to publish, rather than waiting for approval from agents and the Big Four. We are the renegades, the outliers, and the ones who follow our passion, so let’s use our personal power to design our marketing in a way that suits us and our visions.


We owe it to ourselves to do at least that; and if you would like some ideas, support and inspiration, make sure you purchase my 7 Week Author Course either as an entire course, or just by selecting the module you need to get you to the next step on your journey to building a successful and bespoke author life you choose for YOU!


If you would like the more personal touch, and ready to put some skin in the game, then please book a Discovery and Strategy Coaching Call with me and I will do my absolute best to take you to the next levels of success you are seeking!


Until then, it is time for me to travel across Canada by train writing Faith: Leaving Religion to Save Your Soul the 5th book in The Sacral Series due for release in April 2024.


Remember, have fun, believe in yourself, and know that you have everything within you to make your career as an author a successful one you may just need a love nudge and a unique perspective from those who have created the success you are looking for.


Follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter and visit my website for more info!


Dawn Bates Brainz Magazine
 

Dawn Bates, Senior Level Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dawn Bates is a true international bestselling author multiple times over on five continents. She specialises in developing global leaders into real authorities who wish to give a voice to the voiceless whilst working with them to create brand expansion strategies through activism and authorship.


Profound truths, social justice and human rights underpin everything she does, and at the core of her soul is a passion for being of service to humanity, giving hope, courage and confidence for others to stand in their truth and live a life of conviction.


She writes for various magazines, sails around the world on yachts as a digital nomad and is currently working towards her PhD in Human Rights and Social Justice with the University of Oxford, whilst also hosting her own podcasts The Sacral Series and The Truth Serum.


Her books are powerful and comprise of solo compilations and multiple collaborations of the highest caliber. Dawn brings together the multi-faceted aspects of the world we live in and takes you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, whilst delivering mic dropping inspiration, motivation and awakening. Her work captures life around the world in all its rawness.


Dawn’s expertise and insights will make you rethink your life, whilst harnessing the deepest freedom of all: your own truth. She’s an authority on leading others to create exceptional results by igniting the passions and fires deep within to speak and live powerfully.

 

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