You’re one of those people with a vivid imagination and a way with words. Your friends all tell you you are smart or deep or articulate or funny or witty or creative. You spin stories and people love those stories. They have been telling you for years you should write a book, because they would definitely buy that book.
Maybe you have characters in your head whose stories are demanding to be told, who will not leave you alone until you sit down at a computer and let it flow. Maybe these characters in your head talk to you, and you talk back to them, and the medication doesn’t seem to be helping at all.
So, you’ve decided to become an indie author. Wise choice. Now you’re thinking about:
- Critical Acclaim
These are just three of the things that won’t be happening anytime soon. But don’t worry, all is not lost. I’m here with some helpful tips on how to survive on an indie author income of tens of dollars a year. You won’t have to do this for long, of course, because your big break is right around the corner. I can feel it. But, until then, this may be a big adjustment if you’re used to having things like spending money and electricity. Here are 7 suggestions that will help ease the transition:
1. Look for opportunities to supplement your income
Be aware that it may take a while for those royalty checks to start rolling in. Outfits like Amazon seem to have an aversion to pay-as-you-go. They like to hang on to your money for you – because you know us writer-types. Financially irresponsible. Better for them to manage it for us, right? So don’t expect a check after your first sale, and no matter how many times you e-mail them from the public library, they will not cut you a check for thirty-eight cents. So you have to keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to make a buck till those big fat royalties start rolling in.
For instance, I like to do speaking gigs at Universities. I hang out in the parking lot and when the students and faculty are passing by, I speak to them. “Hey man, could you spare some change?”
2. Be prepared to vary your diet
An author must have a rich and varied diet to keep up the strength needed for writing and also to maintain consciousness. Some of the foods to which you’ve become accustomed (like the kind one buys at grocery stores) may not really be in reach anymore. Don’t let that sort of thing concern you though. There is plenty of nutrition in non-traditional foods. Like my pappy always used to say, “Meat is meat.”
3. Dress the part of an indie author
The way you present yourself is critical to your image as an author. Let’s face it, the tweed jackets with the leather patches on the elbows are so last year. No need to go blowing a lot of money at Goodwill for a wardrobe, when you can simply keep an eye on the coat rack at your local Chili’s, and avail yourself of your choice of the fine garments “abandoned” there. You can shop wise and still look stylish on an indie author’s income. To be fair, women have a little more flexibility here, but for gentlemen, hat and coat are still a necessity. Remember, to the public, you are your book.
4. Protect your legal rights to your work
Remember, your books are your work product and the source of your future fabulous wealth. The two big issues that plague indie authors are plagiarism and piracy. Plagiarism is when somebody copies your work and passes it off as their own. The law in this area is complicated, but I can tell you this: it means nothing to a court that some other author used exactly the same consonants and vowels in his supposed original work as you happened to use in yours. They only see that the genres, stories, characters, plot lines and word counts are completely different and look at you like you’re the crazy one. Well, live and learn, I guess.
Sadly, very little can be done to address the other major issue of piracy. There is the off-chance that pirates may happen upon your book and start making illegal reproductions of it while you are not making one thin dime. Unfortunately, about the most you can do in this situation is to console yourself with the notion that maybe your book really sucks and the pirates won’t make any money from it either.
5. Think proactively about the costs of merchandising your books
One of the things that baffles me is the time and energy authors put into coming up with original titles for their books. Why? You can’t copyright a title. The other thing is that most titles stink on ice anyway. They don’t tell you anything about the book. Moby Dick. What’s that about? Sounds dirty.
Here is the problem: people love free stuff. You want them wearing and drinking out of and bathing in stuff that carries your book’s title, helping spread the word about your outstanding writing. You want the buzz, but who’s got the kind of money to have all that crap made? Why not consider riding on the coattails of an already established brand? Perhaps you’ve seen people wearing tee-shirts emblazoned with the title of my last book, “I’m With Stupid.” My next book, “Starbucks” will have pre-made bookmarks. I have a really good feeling about that one.
6. Keep writing – build your back-list
It is important to put out multiple titles. There are two reasons for this. First, consumers evidently don’t want to take a chance on an author with a single title. People think, “One title? What if I really like it, but the author doesn’t write any more? Then I’ll be screwed, like with J.D. Salinger. Forget that!”
Second, you’ll probably be netting around ten bucks per title when all is said and done, so you are gonna need to crank those babies out to make any money. For instance, I have published over 100 titles. Some of these are just old grocery lists, mattress tags I ripped off, K.S. Brooks’ diary, and the owner’s manual for my old Sega game system. Oddly, my shortest title was also my best seller—Laurie Boris’ home number scrawled down on a cocktail napkin. The point is to think quantity. You think Hemingway sat around crapping out pearls all day long? Think of some of his lesser-known titles, A Hello to Arms, The Sun Also Sets, For Whom the Cowbell Tolls, The Old Man and the C-Cup. Maybe not his finest efforts, but they paved the way for better efforts later on.
7. Keep honing your craft
You need to keep adding to your skill-set. Find someplace on the internet where you can go to get lots of valuable advice about writing, someplace that will help you build your social media footprint, provide helpful tutorials, maybe even a place that has flash fiction contests to help build those writing muscles. Someplace like Indies Unlimited. Except there is no place like Indies Unlimited, so you should just come here. You should also buy a mug or a mouse-pad or something.
Anyway, the point is that if you are willing to make the sacrifices, you will do fine as an indie author. Sure, it may seem like a hard bleak seemingly pointless frustrating and lonely existence, but with enough talent and effort and Indies Unlimited Gear, you’ll soon be rolling around on a big pile of cash like Scrooge McDuck. Maybe not real soon. No need to hurry to the mailbox. Just sayin’.
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