It’s tough when you’re first starting out as an indie author. There’s a sea of books out there, and it’s hard to get yours any eyeballs. You know you want this, and you’re willing to get there using a slow and steady method. Sometimes you feel like you’re getting nowhere, though—especially in the beginning, when all you can do is cross your fingers. A great month of sales will make you feel like you’re on the top of the world, but when it’s followed by a month of nothing, what do you do?
This might sound obvious, but it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. “What’s the point?” that little voice might ask. “Why don’t you just go watch TV?” Tell that voice to shove it, turn on your computer or grab a notebook, and write 1,000 words.
In the same vein, you can start a new project. There’s no such thing as one and done anymore, unless your only goal was to simply publish a novel. If that’s the case, give yourself a huge pat on the back, because you did it! If you want to be a novelist, though, you need to keep writing and producing new books.
It’s not easy to start something new. I deal with some anxiety from time to time. My debut novel, Sade on the Wall, didn’t bomb. It doesn’t sell hundreds of copies, but it’s gotten a lot of good feedback from perfect strangers—which equates success in my eyes. I know I need to get another novel out there, but I’m a little afraid I won’t be able to live up to my debut. I realize that sounds incredibly silly, but there it is. I feel a lot of pressure to write something better—and that pressure was strictly inflicted by me!
Ignore Sales Numbers
You’re probably laughing. You may even have fallen out of your chair.
It’s easier said than done.
I used to check my sales reports every single day. No lie. I would log in, count the zeros, and absorb them into my psyche. “See?” that little voice would tell me. “No one wants your book. You’re not doing enough. You need to do some advertising, and you can’t afford it.”
We all have that little voice.
I’m not sure exactly when I reached my breaking point, but I stopped checking daily. At first, I made myself wait a full month. I wouldn’t check until the 15th, when Amazon releases the previous month’s full sales report. Then I started checking a little more often. I’m not back to daily obsession, but I’m dangerously close. It’s time to go back to the 15th.
Why does it matter? Think of it this way: even if you don’t get any sales all month, you’re only exposing yourself to those low numbers once. It’s a little easier on the ol’ ego. Whether you want to admit it or not, being an author is a head game. I know more authors than I can count who deal with bouts of depression or at least a lack of motivation. We have to constantly find ways to keep ourselves out of that dark “I suck” place.
Writing more is a great way to do that.
Spend Time Interacting with Your Readers
Instead of lamenting about your lack of a fan base, spend time hanging out with the readers you do have. I’m willing to bet that you have at least one person who enjoys your stories. Nurture your relationship with that person. Give them behind the scenes glimpses. For example, I’ve been posting photos of the in-progress cover design for Ermengarde, (Cowardly) Zombie Slayer. My readers have been following it from start to finish via Twitter and Facebook, and have been giving it a lot of good feedback. (Name drop: My illustrator is Robbie Pelletier. Check him out!)
Even though it’s hard to make the time while you’re doing everything else, it’s imperative to show your readers some love. If you only get on and chat for five minutes a day, that’s still five minutes you spent with the people who are cheering you on.
Look Over Your Past Accomplishments
When you’re feeling especially down, it helps to list the awesome things you’ve done. Did you make a kickass pot of coffee today? Add that to the list. Throw in the things you’re good at, such as baking, gardening, and building houses in The Sims 3. (Hey. We all have special talents.) I have one of those long, college-ruled Post-its stuck inside the front cover of my writing ideas notebook. It lists all of the things I’m good at. I usually forget that it exists, but every so often it will catch my eye, usually just when I most need to remind myself of these things.
Still Feeling Down?
Send me an email. Tell me what’s going on. At the very least, we can commiserate.
How do you deal with discouragement? How do you keep yourself going when that little voice of doubt is booming in your head?