I recently went to an indie signing event called Indie Author Day at my local library. The hope was that I could learn more about marketing my indie book and about how I should shape my writing efforts. Instead, I was greeted by an awkward sight. In this big room, all along the wall were tables. Each table had an author sitting at it, their books stacked dutifully like soldiers, a dish of candy waiting to lure people in. This would have been fine, but there were few non-authors at the event. That meant that there were no people moving between the tables. It also meant that the moment I stepped through the threshold, I felt the hungry eyes of 15+ authors, thinking I was their next fan. A large part of me wanted to turn my heel and “nope” right out of there, but the promise of educational videos swayed by decision. Besides, perhaps I could ask these authors their strategies and thoughts.
After getting heckled by several authors (“What kind of books do you like to read?” “You looking for a particular type of story?” etc) I decided to engage with one of the authors. They had about seven books out and just started their mailing list… which is mind blowing to me. Ignoring that fact, I continued onward. I figured that if I could quickly buy a book, I could sit down, start reading, and everyone would leave me alone. After they signed the book, kissed the book, and hugged it… I awkwardly accepted it and started reading. That would have been fine, but every time I passed by their table that day you would have thought I parted the oceans. They looked at me with a reverence that I doubt my $5 purchase justified.
So I hid in my new story for several chapters (which was pretty good) until the videos came on in the giant room. The seats around me filled up with people holding notebooks and pens. I watched on the screen as a Google conference started, which looked like a spammy YouTube video. They began to talk about the very basics of being an Indie writer. Giving away something for free to gather fans and the importance of a book cover. As I looked at the screen disgusted with the basic information, I saw people to my left and right scribbling notes furiously. I then realized that perhaps I am further along than my counterparts. I decided to leave early and recover the rest of my day.
Here are some lessons I learned:
- The book titles/covers sucked. Showing a single item, along with a title, is not enough to determine what is going on.
- For example: A leaf with the title ‘Green lit’ doesn’t really tell me anything.
- A bowl of candy will not make you stand out.
- A book you wrote for yourself (To deal with a job loss or to write down a donut recipe) may not appeal to anyone else.
- Marketing is standing out. If you look around, and your table looks like everyone else’s, you’ve failed.
- Fans are rarely instant occurrences. Start at the top of the funnel and just give samples.
- Being an indie is not easy