The First Year as an Indie (Lessons Learned)

Part I

Can you believe I have a solid year behind me in this adventure as an independent author/publisher? My how time flies when you’re having fun.

So what have I learned other than how to type while holding fried chicken in one hand and a biscuit in the other? A lot!

Do I have any advice for beginners? Oh yes indeed I do and my first pearl of wisdom is this: cut the biscuit in half, strip the chicken and make a sandwich. It will be much easier to handle. I would also suggest turning the keyboard over and gently shaking the crumbs loose verses picking between the keys. That tip will save you time and keep your proofreader from returning your manuscript un-proofed with a note that says Get back to me when you’re sober!

I don’t have any real pearls but if you’re interested I’ll be happy to share a handful of pebbles and opinions.

#1 Support: Get some! No man is an island. Editing, proofreading and polishing don’t necessarily mean stripping away your authenticity. Surround yourself with people you can trust, people who are willing to encourage you, offer constructive criticism and be brutally honest when necessary. If your book is your baby prepare it to face the world and get that baby some child support. Lesson: Keep it real even in fiction. Find people you can trust (paid or voluntary) and listen to them.

#2 Reviews: Good reviews are fabulous but they don’t guarantee massive sales. On the other hand bad reviews definitely hurt sales. Responding to bad reviews and personal insults is a no-no. Lighten up, insults can be funny. Learn from the constructive ones and laugh at the assholish ones. Yes, I just made assholish a real word. Not everyone likes spaghetti so what makes you think everyone will like what you dish out? Lesson: There will be haters. Get used to it.

#3 Social Media: I firmly believe in building an online presence and interacting. I said in- ter-act-ing. That means relating to people,not only networking and connecting but talking and occasionally having a conversation. I tend to avoid a couple of the most popular media sites for that very reason. How do you respond to “Buy my book! My book’s on sale!” You say something like “I see you’re from Manhattan. How is the weather there?” And they respond with “Here’s a link to Amazon. Be sure to leave a review.” Lesson: In-ter-act.

I like blogging. I’m not sure how many book sales it has garnered (if any) but I enjoy it. It’s like bloggers are… wow, I don’t know… like they are real human beings or something. Lesson: Blog away. Blogging has zero calories and you meet great people from all over the world. It’s an inexpensive means of travel and sometimes you find the inspiration needed for your next story.

While we are on the topic of blogging allow me to weave in an experience related to marketing. I recently consulted with a couple of PR firms who shall remain nameless. One suggested I buy their book (argh). Um, no. I am looking for someone to create “the buzz” for me — just do it okay?! The only buzz I am motivated to create comes in the aftermath of consuming liquor.

The second person (much more helpful) looked at my social media sites and informed me I was not promoting myself enough. The conversation went like this:

“You’re just there” she explained while politely pointing out I was not utilizing said media properly.

“I’m sorry but one more ‘buy my book-my book’s on sale’ and I may rip the arm off of this chair. I can’t do it that’s why I contacted you special magic guru lady.”

“It’s not that easy anymore. What about your blogger account?” She was scanning search results as we spoke, “Do you have one?”

“Well sure. I posted something about 2013 releases but I’m more comfortable at WordPress.”

“Let me see what you are doing on WordPress…  It seems your focus is on photography and just hanging out?”

“Yeah, it’s like a bar/library/art gallery, cool huh? Except they don’t serve drinks. It’s  BYOB.”

“That’s fine but you need to squeeze in a pitch directing readers to buy your books.”

“I have a website listing most published works. Just google Janna Hill and you’ll find me.”

“That’s not enough. You’re going to have to get more involved in promoting yourself. You have to get out of your comfort zone.”

“Oops my macaroni is burning. I’ll have to get back to you.”

Lesson: Even for a fee no one will do it all for you. I need to “get out of my comfort zone.”  Hell no Maybe I will but if I ever respond to a greeting with “Buy my book. Leave me a review” somebody shoot me please.

*BYOB: bring your own bottle could now mean bring your own book.

42 thoughts on “The First Year as an Indie (Lessons Learned)

  1. In between snickering about keyboard crumbs and snarky proofreaders and burning macaroni, I picked up some great pointers. Hey, I know you’ve sold at least one book because I bought it and it was damn good! DAMN good, I say! (Buy Janna’s book! Her book’s damn good!)


  2. I think there’s something to be said for an author who engages without foisting her wares on you. And to do it with chicken in one hand, a biscuit in the other and burning macaroni on the stove… well. Color me impressed.


  3. I may have to start using the word assholish. I’m surprised more don’t. Some people just fall into that category. Thanks for the tips. I’m about to enter the self pub world. I wish you continued success. Oh and the keyboard tip is priceless.


  4. Hi Janna, loved this post! I think quite a few how-to self-publishing guides counsel against the “Buy my Book! Here’s my Link” kind of marketing activity and agree with you about interacting instead. Still, I’m sure we all who read your blog wouldn’t mind a post telling us when you have published a new book. We know that marketing isn’t the only reason why you blog so we trust you not to let it get out of hand (I hope this is what my readers think when I do it, although haven’t done it yet). It is about the trust, isn’t it?

    And, have you heard about things like ? I think publishers use this to get the word around…..


  5. Not sure if you want recommendations for “how-to publish” or “how-to market”. If it is the latter, I find the Smashwords guide a good place to start. However, I think the advice is pretty basic. I have not seen any site or guide that talks about electronic Advance Reader Copies (ARC) and how best to distribute these. That’s what NetGalley is all about,, whereas a site like GoodReads provides free review copies for those registered on the site. But GoodReads is also a good place to start. The name of the game is reviews; I have seen sites that say reviews are what sell books.


    • Thank you Someone. Yes I have looked at Mark Coker’s guides (Smashwords) both are very basic but very beneficial. Enough so I recently listed a handful of title’s with Smashwords. Thanks for explaining NetGalley. I glanced at the site but…
      Again, thanks.


  6. Thank you for this Janna. Had another LMBO session there which is why I love your blog. I got as far as reading only the sample of one of your books but didn’t get to finish it as it was too late that night (bad me). Now that I’m sort of on break I can finally read at least one of your books. I didn’t know that about reviews selling books. I know I don’t just buy and read a book because of the reviews, but I guess that’s just me, and I’m just one in a gabillion people…

    And of course, CONGRATULATIONS!!! So proud to know you Janna 🙂


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