Posted in books, creative writing, publishing, self publishing, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

Indie Author Basics: Business

Making the move from hobby to business requires treating your writing like a business.

Disclaimer: I am not an accountant or business advisor. I’m simply sharing a few things I’ve learned over the past decade. Always consult industry professionals before making business decisions.

How to make Writing a Business

Schedule/consistency

Set a doable schedule and plan as far in advance as possible.

Write and market on a consistent schedule to keep readers interested. This is important to your success as a writer, and to being able to claim your writing as a business for tax purposes. U.S. Fderal tax laws have specific rules for claiming a business vs. a hobby. Talk to an accountant for more details.

Planning

Set up a doable schedule and plan releases, marketing events, newsletter schedules, and blog schedules according to the time, energy, and ability you have at this point in your life. Plan as far ahead as possible so you’re not always scrambling last minute to find content or submit deals or newsletter spots.

Expert Advice/Help

Ask for expert or professional help when you need to learn more about a topic.

Ask other writers or writing professionals about things you are unfamiliar with or don’t understand in order to avoid mistakes that could hurt your career or slow you down. Most writers are very willing to help. The indie writing community is wonderfully supportive in most cases. Research as much as possible (The Write Life, ALLi, Jane Friedman, Udemy, etc.), but then ask question about things you aren’t sure about or need help with.

Laws/Taxes

Find a professional familiar with self-employed creative arts businesses or LLCs. Royalties have specific rules that not all accountants are familiar with. If you know local authors or artists, ask for recommendations.

Learn about options for business setup and associated laws/taxes/liability. If your town has a local Small Business Center, set up an appointment and start learning. They have a lot of knowledge and a wide variety of contacts to help you.

Profit

The IRS has specific definitions of a business (purpose is to make a profit, it is engaged with continuity and regularity, etc.). You need to meet these requirements in order to claim your writing as a business for tax purposes. Again, consult a professional for advice on this!

If your business is reclassified as a “hobby” you will lose deductions, among other repercussions. Don’t begin claiming writing as a business until you can show at least some profit. You will be required to show a profit on a regular, yearly basis to keep from having your writing being reclassified as a hobby.

The goal of a business is to make a profit, which should be kept in mind when it comes to tax classifications.
Posted in books, creative writing, marketing, publishing, self publishing, social media, writing, writing advice

Indie Author Basics: Author Platform

What is an author platform, and what is it used for?

Learn more about what an author platform is, why you need one, and how to make use of it.
Use your platform to build and engage your community and to boost your reach and visibility.

An author’s platform is their ability to market their work using their overall visibility to reach reader. This includes:

  • Reach of social media accounts
  • Connections with other authors, publishers, agents, literary people
  • Relationship with media
  • Measured by their ability to use their influence and reach to sell books and boost their career

What do you need to start building an author platform?

Setting up a website is an important step in building an author platform. It provides basic information about you and your books, and is an easy way for readers and industry professionals to make contact with you.

Email list are key in developing a platform that can be used to sell books. An email list is a direct route for sharing news, sales, and updates with readers who are already interested in what you’re doing. You’ll have much better return on your time an investment than cold advertising.

Social media is necessary in today’s publishing and marketing world. Social media allows you to share updates and expand your visibility easily. Regular posts and accounts are free to setup and use. Social media also helps you start cultivating a community and building trust with your readers. It also help readers to forms bonds with other readers as well as with you.

How do you make use of your author platform?

Make the best use of your website by listing all of your books (in order if you have series!), contact info, official bio, other platforms readers can find you on, and your blog if you decide to have one.

Start building your email list as early as possible. Don’t wait until you have a book published. Send regular updates about you, your writing, and what sales or releases you have coming up in the next month.

When getting started with social media, start with one account and expand in accordance with the amount of time you have to put toward social media. Don’t go overboard and overwhelm yourself! Share regularly, and keep in mind that pictures and videos often get most engagement.

Share updates, personal info you’re comfortable sharing, news releases, sales, funny posts, informational posts, whatever else you think your readers will find interesting. Limit advertising posts to 25% of total posts. Use social media to build a community more than to push sales. Engage the community with questions, polls, giveaways, and ask for input when you need it or when you think your readers will enjoy participating in the process.

Posted in creative writing, publishing, self publishing, writing, writing advice, writing tips

Indie Author Basics: Collaborating with other Authors

Collaborating with other authors helps to increase your marketing opportunities and exposure to new a wider reader audience.

There are several popular options for authors collaborations.

Box Sets

Example of a multi-author box set I participated in a few years ago

Collaborative box sets are often themed, with each author contributing a novella or full novel that fits the theme. The books are then published together as one product.

Holiday themes are popular around holidays, but trope themes (bad boy, billionaire, sweet romance, paranormal, etc.) are also popular year-round.

Box sets can be list-making runs (selling a high number of books at a low price in an effort to make the USA Today Bestseller list), reader magnets that are usually low cost or free, or profit-centered sets focused on collaborative marketing with the box set at full price.

Joining a box set may be free or require a buy-in. Free-to-join sets usually require authors to invest their own time and money into marketing. Box sets with a buy-in usually have one person assigned to handle the finances and schedule promos, with individual authors promoting through their social media and newsletters.

“Worlds”

Collaborative “worlds” feature multiple books in same world, each one written by a different author. The world rules are set by the organizer or agreed upon by the authors involved. Instead of publishing the books together as a set, each book is published separately by the individual authors with the “world” or series name tying them all together.

The same general rules for free-to-join and buy-ins apply to “worlds” sets.

Group promos

Themed group promo for free books with a gift card giveaway

Teaming up with other authors to promote multiple books at once is a great way to expand your reach and attract new readers.

Many group promos are themed or holiday related. Authors often volunteer for certain tasks such as submitting to promotion sights, contacting bloggers, creating graphics, etc. Each authors then also promotes on their websites, social media, newsletters, and anywhere else they can reach authors.

Promoting the books in a group introduces readers to new authors, and because the recommendation is coming from an author they trust, they are more likely to branch out and try a new book. This works best when their are several authors with big followings involved in the group.

My Book Cave is a great place to get involved with newsletter-building group promos using their reader magnet system. Make sure to sign up for their author newsletter to get updates on what magnet groups and accepting members.

Newsletter swaps

Participating in newsletter swaps help you share fans and find new readers. These are most beneficial when authors have a large amount of subscribers, but any extra eyes on your books is always helpful.

Newsletter swaps tend to work best when the books involved are similar genres and styles. Good times to participate in swaps include sales, new releases, holidays, etc.

The writing community is generally very supportive and helpful. Don’t take everything on yourself if you don’t have to!

Posted in publishing, writing

Indie Author Basics: Networking with Authors

Networking with Authors

Networking with other authors is important for several reasons. It opens up opportunities for collaborations, group promotions, learning, and support.

There are several great Facebook groups that have helped me with all of these: Alessandra Torre Inkers, ChickLitChatHQ, and Create If Writing.

These are just some of the few I’ve found helpful, but there are many more out there! Many are genre or topic based, and you can pretty much find a group for anything you’re interested in.

Networking with authors is also a great way to learn more about agents, publishers, and services in the publishing industry. Getting someone’s honest experience with one of these can save you a lot of headaches or steer you in the right direction to find that perfect fit.

Network though Writer Groups

Joining a writing group (online or in-person) is a great way to find support along the often-lonely journey of writing and publishing. If you can attend an in-person group, I highly encourage that route, because we all need to get away from our computers and out of our own heads once in a while. Online writing groups can be beneficial as well, especially for getting feedback and asking questions.

The biggest plus of networking with other authors is learning from them and getting help when you need it. Many authors who’ve been in the indie publishing world for a lot of years had to learn it all on their own, because there weren’t many resources ten or fifteen years ago.

Most of these authors know how hard it is to start at square one and are very willing to help newer authors and aspiring writers. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice!

Ask questions and learn form others
Posted in creative writing, marketing, publishing, self publishing, social media, writing

Indie Author Basics: Book Marketing

Marketing is one of the biggest chores for indie authors. There are so many avenues it can be overwhelming. Breaking it down to the basics can help you get started developing a plan and getting your book in front of readers!

Websites

Websites as part of a marketing strategy

Websites are important, even though readers often tell me the biggest reason to go to an author’s website is to find the order of books in a series.

Readers aren’t always your main target with a website, though. So who is? Media, agents, publishers, and other industry professionals. They go to websites to find a bunch of information all in one place.

Many website services are free or low-cost for a basic setup. Popular sites include WordPress, Wix, and Square Space. Yearly hosting fees for paid websites are usually in the $60-$500 range, depending on how intricate the website is and what special features you want.

Domain name registration is $10-$20 per year and well worth the cost! A .com site looks WAY more professional than a .wix.com or .wordpress.com site.

Custom designed sites are the most expensive options, for the design work and for hosting costs.

Blogs

Blogs can be a great way to drive traffic to your website on a regular basis, but only if you’re willing to put in the time to blog consistently. If you don’t have time for that, don’t start a blog.

Social Media

Social media book marketing

Social media account are vital in today’s marketing world. Not only are they great places to grow your fan base and develop relationships with your readers, an account is required on most platforms to be able to run ads.

This doesn’t mean you have to run out and join every social media site known to man. ONLY sign up for the ones you’re actually going to use consistently. The most popular and effective right now are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Amazon ads.

Most social media platforms are free to set up and running ads can be done even on a very small budget.

Book-Related Profiles

Sign up for author profiles and popular book related sites. Unlike social media, you don’t have to actively do anything on these sites. Having a profile allows you to add your books, run ads, and gain followers, though.

Popular book-related sites right now include BookBub, Goodreads (don’t read reviews!), and My Book Cave. Most of these types of sites are free to sign up, but may be a bit pricier to run ads or features on and you have to be approved for features.

Newsletter Features

There are a million book-related newsletters out there that accept free and paid feature spots. The biggest the list, the higher the price. However, many smaller ads (free or $5) can be very effective. Most writers have a hard time getting features on bigger lists without a lot of reviews.

Making a Plan

Marketing Basics for Indie Authors

There’s a lot of trial and error involved with book marketing. Everyone’s book is different and will speak to readers in different ways.

Start small. Test out multiple avenues and keep track of what does and doesn’t work. As you evaluate the effectiveness of different tactics, you’ll be able to start making a solid plan.

Posted in books, creative writing, publishing, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts

Indie Author Basics: What is an indie author and is it right for you?

What is an indie author?

An indie author is a writer who self-publishes to sell their work, who approaches publishing as a business, who retains all or most rights to their work, and who retains creative control over their work.

Authors today have many more publishing options than they have in the past. The three most common are traditional, indie, and hybrid. What are the differences between being a traditional, hybrid, and independent author?

Traditional: Contract with a publisher to have a book published. Sign over some or all rights to the work for a specific period of time. Most production decisions are made by the publisher. Publishers bear the cost of production and some marketing. Royalties are shared between the publisher, agent (if there is one), and the author.

Indie: Self-publishes all their books. Retains all rights to their work. Earns higher royalties. Author bears productions costs and marketing costs. Retains full creative control. Approaches writing as a business/career.

Hybrid: Publishes through a publisher and self-publishing. At least one book is self-published. Has a non-exclusive contract with a publisher, or self-publishes books that have been passed on/release by the publisher using a right of first refusal clause. Indie titles may be backlist books released from contracts.

When considering which option is right for you, consider some of the following questions:

What aspects of publishing can you learn to do yourself?

What aspects will you need help with?

How much of your royalties are you willing to give up in exchange for help?

How much time to do you have to commit to publishing?

How much creative/production control do you want?

What rights are you willing to give up and for how long?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to publishing and deciding on a publishing route should be well thought out.

Next week, we’ll talk about some of the responsibilities indie author take on to build their career.