Look, you're not going to get to wherever you're going without taking it one step at a time. In fact, if you look at the statistics, a typical "overnight success" story takes 10 YEARS in the making! So keep that in mind the next time you're feeling like things aren't happening fast enough. For your own sanity, remember to enjoy the journey and that you can't do everything at once. Overwhelm is not only an adjective or a noun...it's a self-induced state of mind that will suck all the joy out of your life. Learn how to say 'no' or 'now's not a good time.'
I've listed the following resources because they've either worked for me or I've heard great things from my author friends about their value and results. Most of them are FREE or inexpensive, because indie authors need to save money for things like beautiful covers and editing.
I've broken down the biggest issues that I encountered on my journey to writing full time below, but I also wanted to share a book that goes into more depth from my author colleague Patty Jansen. She has a wealth of knowledge & experience with slowly growing a sustainable career out of writing, and I highly recommend it. She puts her feisty and colorful Australian spin on the publishing experience, so I'm looking forward to this book.
First thing's first...you need to be able to finish a book.
Preferably multiple books. I'm not going to discuss fiction vs nonfiction, series vs standalone, or genre-hopping. That's a totally different topic. I'm saying that if you've spent 20 years on one novel or you have 20 unfinished manuscripts sitting in your desk drawers, THEY AREN'T BEING READ BY ANYONE. Know what the difference is between writers and authors? Writers write. Authors get published. That means you need to finish what you start. If you hate it, scrap it and start something you love. Yeah, I know...easier said than done. It's a lot easier if you're able to focus on your Work In Progress, so I encourage you to check out Brain.fm. After hearing multiple authors wax poetic about this website, I finally gave it a try. Turns out that it's awesome! Basically it's ambient background music that activates your brainwaves so that you can focus better while studying, working, or being creative. I can't listen to regular music when I'm writing because it's too distracting, but this is different. I've been tracking my word count and noticed MAJOR improvement since I started using it, so I thought I'd share it with ya. It's free to try it out for 10 sessions. After that they have plans starting at $4/month. But I found a coupon online for lifetime access for only $40. *Helpful hint: If you want to try it free, sign up it under an email address that you don't use all the time. Then if you decide to use the coupon, logout of Brain.fm, purchase and redeem the coupon using the email address that you prefer. No I'm not affiliated with them in any way...I just get really excited when I find an amazing service or tool for authors. ;)
Take your writing to the next level.
If you're like me when I first started out, you're probably writing in Word or in emails to yourself, on index cards and post-its and notebooks and napkins. Having all your ideas spread out like that is a HUGE cause of "overwhelm," which is the enemy of the creative mind. When you're ready to upgrade to the software that all the big kid writers are using, Scrivener is THE industry standard for writing software.
When I first tried it out I got SUPER frustrated with it. It's not intuitively designed at all. It felt like trying to play piano just by sitting in front of it...I knew it did amazing things, but I didn't know what buttons to push. I got frustrated and set it aside for a year. Luckily my author friends encouraged me not to give up, because Scrivener software is THAT amazing. I invested in an online course called Learn Scrivener Fast, which teaches you the software in mini-sessions that are 5 minutes or less. I set aside the better part of a week to learn it, and it completely changed my career. I became more organized with my writing, and also better at time management, setting daily goals, most importantly, reaching them! The top tier of this training is 50% less than the average college credit hour, so I encourage you to invest in this software and see if you don't become a devoted Scrivener fan just like me! Check out the training here at Learn Scrivener Fast.
Now set up a newsletter for your readers so they can hear about new releases!
Don't be shy about this, but don't hesitate, either. We all started with one book and zero subscribers. Once upon a time, my email list consisted of a couple friends and my mother-in-law. Today it's much larger. It grew because I have a link to it in the back of all my books. I also have a place on my website and a popup inviting people to sign up. Yes, popups might be annoying, but statistics prove that they DO work.
As far as where to set up your email list, Mailchimp is probably the most popular service and they allow up to 2000 subscribers before they start charging you. I started out using them, but once you break that 2K limit they get really expensive really fast. If you sign up for their free plan, be prepared for zero tech support (aside from articles you can read on their site). They also charge you to use automation emails, whereas MailerLite gives you that option for free. Automation is a HUGE time saver, so I'm a big fan of using it. MailerLite gives you the first 1000 subscribers for free, but it's super cheap to upgrade...like half of what Mailchimp charges. Plus, they have highly responsive tech support for your free and paid lists! This is the service that I use and overall I'm very happy with them. I think their interface is much more user-friendly compared to Mailchimp...I learned how to create newsletters in less than an hour while it took me the better part of a day to figure it out in Mailchimp. To sum things up, they both have pros and cons. If you're on a budget and not super tech-savvy, MailerLite is definitely worth looking into. Click here to get a free account with MailerLite, and a $20 credit for you to use when it's time to upgrade! * Helpful hint: put a link to your newsletter in the back of every single book you publish.
Great. How do I publish a book?
https://www.smashwords.com/books/byseries/1 Smashwords founder Mark Coker has had his finger on the pulse of the eBook industry since it began. His teaching style is straightforward and includes lots of graphs, charts, and statistics, which I happen to love. His writing & marketing guides are FREE for you to download either from Smashwords or Amazon, and I've included links for your convenience. Just tap on the book you want to read. They're a must-read whether you're just starting out or need a refresher course about the industry.
http://www.thecreativepenn.com/marketing/ "Authorpreneur" Joanna Penn once had a day job that she hated, but she refused to give up. She's been in the eBook business for a LONG time and has a pay-it-forward mindset that I absolutely adore. I think you will too, which is why I'm passing along the link to her free tools, as well as a couple of her most popular guides.
http://www.yourfirst10kreaders.com/ This system developed by Nick Stephenson is free to a point, but is geared towards writers who have at least a couple books completed. Even if you're just writing your first draft, I still recommend that you watch his free videos on keywords and developing your mailing list. Oh, and he's got a free book too!
OK, so where can I find readers and maybe get some reviews for my book?
Instafreebie is a great place for you to upload your book(s) to get some visibility. If you're in Kindle Select/Unlimited, you need to do your homework and find out if having your book on Instafreebie violates their TOS.
Great! So Amazon and iBooks are going to advertise for me, right?
Um...no. When you upload a book and it goes live on each retailer, you'll see a spike in sales and then a graceful sinking to the ground. Choosing solid keywords will help, but your book is one of hundreds of thousands for readers to choose from. You're going to need some eyeballs on your work. That means advertising.
Ok, so where do I advertise as cheap as possible?
There are a lot of different ways to do this. My ultimate favorite method is doing newsletter swaps. Get on KBoards or join Facebook groups and network with other authors in your genre. Stay in your genre. I can't stress this enough! If you write post-apocalyptic horror, DO NOT join a romance group because it has 1000+ members and your book will be 'The One' to make them try new things. IT WON'T. Join appropriate groups tailored to what you write, and connect with authors who write stuff similar to you. Then feature each other's books in a newsletter swap once or twice a month and your audience will grow. * Helpful hint: Stay organized. I constantly see authors online who forget which newsletter they're doing. Write it down or use a Google doc, spreadsheet, or Google calendar to keep track of this stuff. It's FREE, so you have no excuse not to act like a professional. We all had that lab partner in middle school who never pulled their weight. They made us do all the work and they still got a decent grade. We hated that kid in school, and we hate that kid even more as an adult. Don't be that kid.
Generally these newsletter swaps cost nothing, aside from the time you spend writing an email to your list. Some of these newsletter swaps charge $10 - $30, depending on if and where they're advertising, so be sure of exactly what you're signing up for. The indie community is overwhelmingly positive and for the most part wants to help those who are starting out. An attitude of gratitude will go a LONG way. *Helpful hint: If your list is TINY, make yourself more appealing to authors with bigger lists by offering to create graphics, organize a Thunderclap campaign, etc. And don't take it personally if authors with huge lists don't accept you. Some might, but some won't. It's understandable that they might not want to feature your book with your list of 20 readers to their list of 10K readers. They worked really hard for that audience. You can work your way up to that level by networking with authors like yourself. And writing more books. And growing your audience.
Geez, that sounds like a lot of work. Can I pay to advertise instead?
YES. While BookBub is the Holy Grail of promo sites, they are expensive and competition is fierce. If you have the money for a featured deal, keep applying. It costs you zero dollars to apply. Even if you get turned down repeatedly (most of us do) or you can't afford them (most of us can't), I highly recommend you create an author profile on their site for your readers to find you and follow you. Like Amazon, BookBub will notify your followers of new releases for FREE. Also, I'd suggest signing up for their marketing tips for authors, because we need all the help we can get.
http://www.freebooksy.com/for-the-authors/ <--- This one has performed very well for me.
http://booksends.com/advertise.php <--- This one I'm not as familiar with, and have heard they offer less bang for your buck. It pays to do your own research with all of these sites. No matter what tactics you employ, your mileage may vary.
What about Facebook Ads? I hear those are all the rage.
They ARE all the rage, which is why they're getting more competitive and more expensive to do. If you have lots of free time and extra money, you can invest hundreds of dollars to take a course from someone like Mark Dawson (who's an author himself and an expert on FB ads). After you pay for the course, you'll invest even more time and money learning how to implement it and then experiment with ads on your own. They might take a while to figure out, which is money you won't be getting back...but you'll be gaining experience! Mark's had a number of successful students 'graduate' with great results, so it's entirely possible that it will work well for you.
Or you can do what I do - pay someone else to do your Facebook ads so you have more time to write. I use this company, which specializes in genre fiction...particularly romance:
Before you sign up, drop them a line and see if they have anything set up for your genre. And tell them that Emigh Cannaday sent you. ;)