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The Recipe for Indie Success: Advice from 4 Successful Authors

My third grade teacher had a favorite adage:

“Excuses are like noses, everybody has one.”

Except by the time we get to be adults, excuses are like fingers and toes — most of us have at least 20 and we make use of them every day.

I need to go the gym…but my favorite water bottle is dirty.

I should make a healthy dinner…but McDonalds is on my way home.

I ought to work on my book marketing plan…but I can’t find the time to do it.

Here’s the hard lesson we have to learn about excuses: If we give in to them, we’re stealing from ourselves.

Don’t you want to feel the pride and joy of not only creating a book, but sharing that book with fans who really love it?

The recipe for indie success

I know what you’re thinking — this recipe HAS to include chocolate and Twitter, right?

Not exactly.

To find indie success, you have to carefully blend each of these four ingredients:

1. Passion

You have to absolutely love writing books. Love it. Love putting together the stories, love your characters, love the work you created. That love, that passion, is what will drive you (even on the bad days) to put forth the effort to market your book.

2. Discipline

The path to the computer is always riddled with distractions (I’m like 99% sure Abraham Lincoln coined that phrase). You have to be self-disciplined enough to overcome those distractions when it’s time to work (whether you’re plotting, writing, or marketing).

3. Consistency

Oscillating between a full-on blitz one week and total radio silence the next will drive you (and your fans) crazy. The same goes for spending one week catering to a specific target market, then the next week switching gears and targeting a totally different demographic. You have to present a consistent front so your fans know exactly who you are and what they can expect from you.

4. Perseverance

You will get knocked on your tush more than once along the path to indie author stardom. It happens to everyone. But every low you hit will make you appreciate the highs even more. None of us are entitled to success, we have to earn it by picking ourselves up every time we hit a brick wall and finding a way to climb over it or knock that beast to the ground.

We’ve got the recipe – but how do we execute it?

Unless you have a bank-busting budget to invest in your author career (ha, that would be amazing, right?) you’ll have to substitute cash for another valuable currency — time.

How much time, exactly?

I reached out to a few indie authors who have found success and asked (very nicely) if they would share their secrets and insights. They generously agreed (but this message will self-destruct when you reach the end of the page).

Here’s what your author peers have to say about finding success.

lauren clark booksLauren Clark

Last year, Lauren sold over 7,000 eBooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks (from her two published titles) while raising two boys, volunteering for a number of community organizations close to her heart, and writing two more books due out this year.

How does she do it all?

I typically spend a minimum of an hour a day on book-related marketing activities. That includes Facebook, Twitter, posting on other blogs, answering email, checking out contests, planning blog posts, running contests, and planning/executing marketing or sales events.

What’s her #1 tip?

Instead of reading a magazine in doctor’s offices, I answer messages on my iPad, post on Facebook, or read articles about the publishing industry on my iPhone. At home, when I’m cooking dinner, I often have my laptop open and powered up so that I can check email, tweet, and read blog posts between stirring the spaghetti sauce. (Yes, my laptop is a safe distance away from the stove). If I stop by the local coffee shop, I usually pull out my laptop and try to write part of a guest post or answer a few interview questions.

Lee Stephen Epic UniverseLee Stephen

Lee’s four-book Epic series has sold thousands of eBook and paperback copies, plus he’s got over 4,000 Facebook likes and a passionate fanbase. In between caring for his newborn son, spending time with his wife, and working a full-time job (in grueling 12 hour shifts) Lee has found the time to write his four books, update his blog and podcast, and work on producing his own Epic audiobook (featuring a cast of more than a dozen voice actors).

How does he do it all?

You have to decide if you really want this. The truth of the matter is, people make time for the things that they love. Life can get hectic–I know, believe me. Sometimes, you have to take advantage of minutes.

What’s his #1 tip?

That time watching television, playing video games, surfing Facebook and Twitter…that’s all “could be writing” time. Sometimes you have to tell your friends “no.” Take the profession of writing seriously. Writing’s always on my mind, even when I’m stuck doing other things. By the time those free minutes roll around, I’m ready to sit down and get to work. Ten  minutes dedicated to progress are better than ten minutes wasted.

yesenia vargas booksYesenia Vargas

A student-teacher, blogger, editor, mother, and fiancee, Yesenia has little room left on her plate for writing and marketing. But she’s still made time to build a loyal fanbase for her short story while also working on her first two full-length novels due out this year.

How does she do it all?

Overall, I see marketing as enjoyable. I’m connecting with other writers so we can help each other out, and I’m connecting with potential readers. It’s fun to talk and share and, at the same time, I”m getting my name out there and getting people interested in my work.

What’s her #1 tip?

I will spend anywhere from 15-30 minutes a day marketing and building my platform. I buffer interesting links, get on Twitter and converse, same on Facebook. I usually do this in small chunks of 5-10 minutes, especially if I’m waiting in line or am taking a small break. Which is why I love my smartphone. I can market in five minute chunks on the go!

ryan casey booksRyan Casey

In two days, Ryan’s free Kindle Select promotion for his novel What We Saw resulted in over 11,000 downloads. In addition to researching and mastering KDP Select, Ryan is a full-time student, excellent blogger (especially for authors seeking experience-based advice) and he’s hard at work on his next writing project.

How does he do it all?

In the early days, I blogged three times per week, and that helped me get my name out there rather fast. In September, I dropped it to around two per week. At the moment, I’d say I average at one per week, but generally just blog when I feel like it. The same goes for marketing — I tend to send out emails when I have a new book out, or tweet about my novel when I’ve got a promotion running, but all this is because I’ve spent time building a self-sustainable platform.

What’s his #1 tip?

Marketing shouldn’t have to be a chore, and writing should always take priority. After all, the best form of marketing is a new release. But a few minutes every day to simply be aware of your book’s status as a product is certainly beneficial.

Are you inspired yet?

There’s one other thing I know all four of these authors would agree on: If they can do it, you can do it.

It’s not easy, but if you follow the recipe for success and heed the advice of those who’ve gone before you, you will absolutely overcome the excuses to make time for marketing and writing your books.

Do you have any advice to add?

What has your experience taught you about making time to market your books? What works and what doesn’t?

What do you find that you struggle with the most?

Share your thoughts with us — this is a great discussion for our whole Duolit author community, so jump right in!

Special thanks again to Lauren, Lee, Yesenia, and Ryan for sharing your time and advice! You guys ROCK!

  • SJ Hailey

    I have found that if you focus all your attention on the many forums, blogs and fb sites. When do you have time to do anything else.

    When you browse, know what you are looking for on a forum, blog or social network. focus on that target, hit is and move on. If you look at every post, many of which are off topic, you will not make the connections that matter.

    Set yourself time limits and stick to them. Personally I check these thinks while watching my evening tv programmes. The commercial breaks are so long, amazing what you can get achieved while you mute the TV.

    • GREAT tip Simon! Time limits are really important so you don’t get totally carried away and lose big chunks of time. Thanks for sharing!!

  • Thanks so much for including me in the post! I loved hearing Lee, Ryan, and Yesenia’s ideas….there’s always room to learn from other authors! xxx, Lauren

    • Thank you for participating Lauren! I think your advice is really invaluable — a great insight into what it takes to be an awesome indie (which you most certainly are!) :-)

  • You have to stay focused. Decide what you want to do in a given time and do it. Your friends and family won’t always understand why you don’t spend your time with them. Even when they complain, stay focused. Otherwise you won’t get anywhere.

    • That’s excellent advice Martina! Focus is definitely an important key to indie success. Thanks so much for sharing! :-)

  • Great stuff. Thanks.