July 7, 2019 by Sarra Cannon
Over the past nine years, I have learned a lot about success in self-publishing. I’ve learned a lot about making mistakes, too, but every mistake has been a valuable lesson for me that I am grateful for. In today’s video, I’m discussing some of my Top 6 tips for finding success as an indie author.
The only way you can truly find success in your own life is to first know what success means to you. It’s a very personal word, and everyone reading this right now will likely have a different idea of what success truly means.
When it comes to this personal definition, I challenge you to think beyond the way other people might define a successful author. Maybe for you, success simply means making enough money to quit your full-time job and write books you love. For someone else, success means finally finishing that book and having people read it.
What is your definition of success? How does it feel to you? What does it look like? Once you can identify that for yourself, you’ll be that much closer to actually achieving it in your life.
Focusing on craft and working to become a better writer, no matter how many books you’ve already written, is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your fans.
Even veteran Bestseller Stephen King claims to still be a newbie when it comes to writing, because he still says he has so much to learn. Don’t we all, right?
It’s important to keep learning and continuing growing as an author. Now, that doesn’t mean that you should wait until your books are perfect to put them out in the world, because let’s be honest. They will never be perfect.
But it does mean that you should be striving to be a better writer with each book you write. Do the best you can with your current ability, get your books into the world, and move onto the next learning experience. As your talent and experience grows, so will your career.
A solid strategy for your self-publishing career should always have two main goals:
If you can achieve those two things, you will have a long and happy career.
As an Indie author, there are a lot of decisions to be made along the way. Everything from what books to write to what cover art to use, how to write the blurb, whether to use a pen name, and more is all up to you. The control is amazing, but sometimes the responsibility of it can feel a bit overwhelming (to say the least).
Trust me when I say that you’ll be doing yourself (and your fans) a favor if you always come back to those two goals I stated above. When you come to a new decision, think to yourself, “Will this help me bring in new readers? Will this help me turn those readers into loyal fans?”
As long as you use those two questions as your guide, you will be able to create a solid strategy that can grow your career for a lifetime.
I wish I had time to go into this in more detail here, but if you’re interested in this concept and what types of actions and decisions would help you achieve those goals, there’s still time to enroll in my Publish And Thrive self-publishing course.
Registration closes on tomorrow, July 8th, but if you’re reading this before then, you still have time to join us. Read more here.
Otherwise, my Publish And Thrive course will most likely reopen in 2020. Join my mailing list below to receive news on when it will open again.
If your idea of success as an Indie Author includes making money and selling lots of books, which I imagine most of us want in some way, then you need to gain a deep understanding of reader expectations and genre.
Genre is simply a category of books that share similar tone, storylines, and themes. Think Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction.
But it goes deeper than that. Genres are broken down into sub-genres or niches, and this is extremely important to understand as a self-published author.
Where do your books fit in when it comes to genre niches? What types of books are similar to yours in plot, tone, and theme? What do readers of this particular niche expect to feel or experience when they pick up a book in this sub-genre?
These are all crucial questions to ask and know the answers to if you want to sell a lot of books as an Indie Author.
I always want to encourage authors to write books they love. Write what turns you on and gets your imagination going. Write books that light you up.
However, it’s a hard truth that if you want to also sell those books, you do have to take readers and the current marketplace into consideration. Just because you get excited about an Amish romance set on board a spaceship bound for a new planet that turns into a thriller mid-way through the book doesn’t mean that there are readers lining up around the corner to buy it.
Often, the greatest success comes for those authors who are able to find the most marketable ideas that they are passionate about writing.
While there are always those outliers (lottery winners) who wrote something whacky and off-genre and still found incredible success, it can be risky to write outside of clear, well-established genres and expectations.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be true to your authentic voice and infuse your fiction with your unique ideas. What it does mean is that you should do your best to present and package your work in a way that fits into the current marketplace and makes it easier to connect with the readers that will love your books.
Sadly, this is one step that gets overlooked or completely ignored by a lot of authors and entrepreneurs. In our society, we are told we should “hustle harder” and we glorify long hours and “dedication”.
In truth, though, most people can only hustle their hearts out for so long before they completely burn out.
I’ve seen it happen dozens of times in my nine years as a full-time Indie author. Writers push themselves to write ten-thousand words a day, publishing ten or more books a year. They suffer through body aches and injuries, lack of sleep, all while stuffing unhealthy food (and sometimes even drugs) into their bodies just to keep going at an unreasonable pace.
For a while, from the outside, it looks like massive success. USA Today Bestseller List! Half a million dollars in income! Forty-thousand people on their mailing list!
But on the inside, that author is burning out faster than a candle in a hurricane. All-too-often, a year or so into this “success”, the author ends up in the hospital, in rehab, divorced, and announcing that they are no longer writing books and are closing down their business.
This has happened to dear friends of mine, and it breaks my heart to see it every time. I see friends of mine going down that path now, but they justify it by saying they have no choice if they want to be a success.
But, in my opinion, a year or two of being outwardly successful and inwardly miserable isn’t really success at all. Again, this is why I asked you to start by thinking about your own personal version of success. Maybe it’s completely different from mine.
My idea of success is a long-term, stable career where I can continue to write the books I love until the day I die (at hopefully the ripe old age of 95 or something). Success means being home with my children and having the opportunity to stay home with the sweet new baby I’ll be welcoming into the world in a few short weeks. Success means building a community a loyal fans that support my work, even when I switch genre or series.
For me, success is about joy as much as it is about money. I could probably spend time and money on more aggressive advertising (right now, I do very little), and I could definitely push myself to write faster or force myself to write in trendier genres that i don’t particular enjoy but that would make more money for me.
But I don’t want that life. That isn’t success for me, and somewhere along the way during this self-publishing journey, I realized that it was my job to define success for me. That I was allowed to have success the way I want it and not the way society told me it had to be.
I make a healthy six-figures a year (and have for many years now), writing books I am passionate about. I write at a pace that is healthy for me both physically and mentally. I care about my fans and cultivate true relationships with them, because they are important to me.
I spend a lot of time with my family, and I’m excited to welcome a new baby into the world in August. Life is good, and I am happier than I’ve ever been. I am truly thriving.
And I want the same for you. Not that you would find my version of success, but rather that you would find your own version. You can have it, no matter what other people say about indie success.
The six steps above are just the beginning, but if you can start there, you are going to be well on your way toward a life of joy and success – on your own terms.
My 5-week self-publishing course launches tomorrow. If this post resonated with you and you want to hear more about how to self-publish and develop a strategy that supports you and your dreams, I’d love for you to join us in the class.
*If you’re reading this after July 8th, 2019, registration for this course is now closed. With the baby coming, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to reopen it this year, but it will definitely open again in early 2020.
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I have been self-publishing my books since 2010, and in that time, I've sold well over half a million copies of my books. I'm not a superstar or a huge bestseller, but I have built an amazing career that brings me great joy. Here at Heart Breathings, I hope to help you find that same level of success. Let's do this.