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  • Writer's pictureJen Lyon

The Woes of an Indie Author, or: Well, wow, this isn't Easy!

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

As I'm slogging through the first month of being a newly minted "Indie Author," I figured I'd go ahead and start my blog on the struggles and small breakthrough wins that make this all worth while.

On the one hand, I look forward to the day when I can look back and think to myself "oh yeah, those days were rough. Look at all the mistakes I made while fighting tooth and nail for every sale." And also, I hope perhaps these posts will give someone else courage and motivation to follow their own dreams and forge ahead, publishing their work and getting their voice out into the world.

So—to begin. What's it like independently publishing your book when you have no experience publishing and even less in marketing? It's...a learning curve. It's scary. It's exhilarating. It's...liberating.

I wrote The Senator's Wife four years ago in 2019. I spent a year tweaking draft after draft, begging a few friends to read it, and sending it out to about twenty-five publishing houses and agents for consideration. Slowly, the rejection letters trickled in. I knew to expect them—isn't that what everyone tells you from the get-go; rejection letters are a badge of honor?—but after a while, I won't lie, it is disheartening. Looking back, I think my query letter sucked and my synopsis was even worse. It's no surprise I couldn't get any of the publishers or agents to take a look at my manuscript.

I ended up letting the manuscript rest for a couple years while I worked on four new novels. Coming back to it in the summer of 2022, I was able to view it through fresh eyes, hired an editor, tidied up the details, and finally came out with something I was truly proud of. I considered sending it out again—I felt like this time I'd have a decent shot of at least getting through stage one of the query to stage two of actually having the manuscript assessed, but honestly, at that point, I was impatient. I hired three different cover designers...none of which came up with anything I really felt suited the book, so I gave the design an attempt myself. And a month later, was satisfied enough to decide to run with it. (To be clear, I have now received wonderful recommendations from other authors, and have a list of designers I look forward to working with in the future...which is a relief, because I am entirely unsuited to cover design and without an artistic bone in my body).

Figuring out Scrivener for formatting was a beast. I love the program for writing, but I imagine I will be moving to Vellum or Atticus for my next projects. (Can I just say battling first paragraph indents was a nightmare when it came to trying to customize anything? Come on, Scrivener! Help a formatting-newbie out, will you?).

Fortunately, after figuring out formatting, KDP and Barnes and Noble Print were much easier to accomplish than I ever imagined possible. It's still a bit wild to me how much companies like Amazon have changed the world when it comes to offering the ability to get independent work into the hands of the public. And is certainly something I am grateful for!

With about fifteen clicks and two uploads, bam—you're a "published author." That was easy, wasn't it?

Well, yeah, *that* part was easy. It's everything that comes after that isn't. 🙃😏

In my next few posts I'll go over the fun stuff...what it feels like to getting your initial sales, getting that first rating/review from someone who isn't a friend or family member, how awkward it is to post your book on Facebook and have your zillion friends ask you "so what's it about?" only to agonize through the slow realization of your friends coming to understand you write lesbian fiction (😂).

There is the chore of trying to build your social media marketing, networking with other authors, learning the fine balance of promoting your book but not spamming your audience, getting hit with your first three-star rating (I know it gets worse, but man, three stars hurts!), and the truly rewarding experience of flipping open your laptop one morning to find a genuinely raving review from a kind stranger.

And all this just in the first week.

So...I don't know exactly where this journey is going to take me, but I'm looking forward to the ride. I know one thing for certain—writing is what I love to do. Storytelling is my passion. And this entire adventure feels like a warm embrace from a long lost friend.

Do I wish I'd been picked up by a traditional publishing house with far more reach and marketing abilities? Sure. But am I proud of taking a shot at it on my own? Damn right I am.

If life has taught me anything, it's that you get out of it what you put into it. Hard work does pay off. And, as Thomas Edison once said, "opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

Or, my personal favorite: "I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have." —Thomas Jefferson

So...the story begins...

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