Saturday, January 12, 2013

Indie Author: You Need a Helping Hand to Succeed.

No matter what anyone tells says, you need help to succeed in book publishing today, especially if you’re an Indie author. There is just too much to do to even have modest success.

The good old days. You know, the days when the book industry was controlled by a small group of publishers and an even smaller group of successful authors. To get into the group, you had to write what the publishers wanted you to write in the correct genre; a book that the publisher could forecast a profit and stay within budget.

At least at the start, they took care of everything. That included marketing, creation and distribution, returns, pricing, editing, cover design, reviews and advances. You know: an all of the above approach.

You did have to write good material, make appearances and sign some books but the good reviews were always going to be there. They were the author’s support group along with the agents. When you got to the second tier of authors, the marketing shifted more and more to the author but the rest of the support was still there.

Then along came the ebook and the online world. Self-publishing became easier and the royalties increased. You were selling books where you never had exposure before.

Along with this came a problem. The publisher’s support was gone so the online community started scurrying for a solution. Authors needed help and support of all kinds to bring their book to market.

You see, the Indie Author is now responsible for everything. Enter the online support groups, stage right.

Support groups are not new. There are many traditional author organizations. For example,

Novelists, Inc. is a national group who helps authors.

Patricia McLinn @PatriciaMcLinn, NINC Past-President, said in a recent post:

Now, NINC is my primary support group. One of NINC’s many strengths is the collegial attitude among the members. From this one group several others have grown where we share information on writing, marketing and the publishing process.”

All of the Traditional organizations have established local and area chapters to get closer to their members to support them.

Online Support Groups

Online support groups are Internet based. They are support groups with no borders. They have the ability to support authors wherever in the world they lived. Some of them have become as large in membership, as the older, traditional organizations.

There are many groups online now. Some are here for the long run. Others will come and go because Indie authors are requiring more and more from them.

Why should you join a group of strangers?

That question leads into this one. What kinds of support are you going to need and how can an online support group help out?

All online support groups are friendship bound. They rely on the Internet communications between members. Authors can get all the hand holding they need. The groups supply lots of education and training opportunities and they give authors a direction in adapting to the online environment. If you are looking for connections, sympathy, criticism or a helping hand, you are in the right place.

Most groups have, as one of their goals, helping authors market their books. Self-promotion of your book can be quite difficult if you have no help. You can get a host of marketing aide from these online sources. From just displaying your book for sale to book tours and giveaways to expensive sales plans to reviews, you will be able to find help. Some charge a fee, some don’t.

Online groups do offer writing courses, critiques with feedback, almost all online. If you seek it out, you will be able to get help somewhere.

One of the major obstacles for Indie authors is creating the book itself. The proper formatting, cover design, compiling of the document, has a direct relationship to sales.

If you need a hand, the online support community will be there, a mouse click away.

So what can you gain from belonging to a support group?

Let’s check out what experienced authors are saying about support groups? As always, I go to my support group: the HBS Author’s Spotlight crew. They always bring their experience and knowledge to the party.

The following is a list of a few support groups and Spotlight Author comments about their experiences with the groups. (This list is not in any order and not anywhere near all the helpful groups.)

World Literary Café (WLC) + FOSTERING SUCCESS (FS)

This group was formed by Melissa Foster @Melissa_Foster. The World Literary Cafe is an online community that bridges the gap between readers and authors, with the mission of paying-it-forward in the literary field, promoting great literature, and bringing together the literary community. The WLC offers helpful promotions to authors, reviewers, bloggers, and editors by creating avenues to bring them together under one umbrella in an easily navigable venue.  

Also, they provide AUTHOR SERVICES including editing, cover design, formatting, publishing and marketing.

Here is a comment from the founder, Melissa Foster @Melissa_Foster.

“All of my endeavors are pay-it-forward driven. Readers, writers, bloggers, reviewers, and anyone interested in the literary field can join the World Literary Cafe (WLC).

Our goal is to unite the literary community, bring new-to-you authors to readers, and help author promote their work, while teaching them how to take control of their own success. 

The educational arm of WLC is Fostering Success.. At Fostering Success, we offer affordable, effective, easy to understand, courses for writers to learn everything from self-publishing and social media to branding, platform building, and book marketing.”

One of the prominent members, Author Stacy Eaton @StacySEaton had this to say:

“They are a great group! I love the WLC and Melissa is amazing. Those of us that work with the WLC do it because we love it. … we want to help others to succeed.

The biggest benefit that I get from the WLC is the network I have built and the friendships I have formed with so many authors and readers who visit and use the site on a daily basis. 

Other members including authors Rachelle Ayala @AyalaRachelle and Mohana Rajakumar @moha_doha echoed the same praise in their HBS Author’s Spotlight interviews.

I would say Synergy is the hallmark of this group.

The Independent Author Network (IAN)

Founded by William Potter, The Independent Author Network is a group of like-minded authors who are self-published or published by a small indie press. The group is open to authors who are active social networkers at sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. The group works together to support and promote each other online. 

One of our Spotlight Authors, Dani Amore @authordaniamore, talked about the IAN.

“Before I published my first book, I reached out to quite a few authors. I'm sure some of them don't even remember me. I like talking to other authors and I think as a community we're very supportive of each other.”

M. R. Mathias @DahgMahn, another Spotlight author, had this to say:

“When I was spending tons of time on twitter I interacted with these great folks day in and day out. I stay offline most of the time now, as I am writing Dragoneers Book Four - The Emerald Rider but the members of IAN have a great social networking advantage over other Indies.

IAN (#ian1 on twitter ) members retweet each other, "like," read, and review each other's books. They have a forum where readers can interact, and a few hundred blogs between them. If you are just starting then you should look into the IAN.”

Faydra D. Fields is the creator of the Independent Author Index. The IAI is designed to offer independent authors another avenue of exposure. It is also designed to be engaging and interactive.

Faydra said “Independent authors can definitely use all the exposure they can get since they’re usually responsible for their own marketing.”

Author Devin C. Hughes @DevinCHughes said recently in a Spotlight post about the IAI:

“Faydra Deon's group is awesome and I do occasionally look there for support or clarity around issues or challenges that I encounter since other writers can relate to my situation.

Long Island Romance Writers

Pamela Burford @PamelaBurford is the founder of Long Island Romance Writers, a chapter of Romance Writers of America. When she was asked what the main benefit she got from the group she said:

“Founding LIRW is one of the shining points of my writing career. That was 17 years ago, and that group has blossomed into a thriving writers’ community that offers mutual support, education, and networking opportunities. LIRW is my writing family, and I wouldn’t be the novelist I am without them.”

Indie Writers Unite
Cheryl Bradshaw @cherylbradshaw is the founder of Indie Writers Unite group on Facebook.

When I was writing my first book, I had so many questions, and I was frustrated about the lack of groups I found over the internet. I knew some traditionally pubbed authors, but they didn’t know much about the self-publishing industry, so I thought maybe I could create a group where writers could come together and get the answers they need when they’re getting started. I cannot express how important the group is in my life. I’ve made lasting friendships, and I credit much of my success to the helping hands I received from my fellow authors when I was just starting out.”

Julia Crane @juliacrane2 answered the following question in a recent post?

What other kinds of support groups do you belong too?
“I’m in many author groups on Facebook (too many to mention). Indie Writers Unite was the first group I joined and I’ve made some wonderful friends there. I think it helps to get ideas from others, and see what is working and what’s not. I’m always looking for new marketing ideas.”

Speaking of synergy, this is a small group of outstanding women writers who are together for the long haul. They support each other in many ways: keeping a constant flow of twitter chatter, supporting each other’s books and marketing activities and doing group writing projects. They keep up a constant swirl of activity on the social network.

Cheryl Shireman @cherylshireman started the Indie Chicks.

I love the Indie Chicks. This is such an extraordinary group of writers. When I first came up with the idea of the Indie Chicks, I discarded the idea immediately. It seemed like such a huge idea - fraught with so many logistical problems. But the idea kept returning.

And, eventually, I could no longer ignore the idea. I came up with a list of my “dream team” of women writers and started contacting them. I asked them if they’d like to be part of a group of women writers who worked together to support and encourage one another, not only in writing but sometimes in life. Almost all of the women I contacted replied with a heart.

One of the authors from the Indie Chicks, Donna Fasano @DonnaFaz, had nothing but praise for the Indie Chicks.

“I am so lucky to a part this group of talented women. They offer support and a wealth of knowledge, and they're always willing to help in any way they can. I believe the book (Indie Chicks: 25 Independent Women 25 Personal Stories) is successful because we wrote our stories from the heart. When emotion is poured into a story, readers can't help but notice.”
Julia Crane @juliacrane2 commented on a recent writing project with Indie Chicks members.

“I’ve co-written with two separate authors Heather Adkins and Talia Jager. I was friends with both women before we decided to write together. I think we feed off each other when writing, and the process is a lot faster. It’s fun to brainstorm with someone that is also mentally in the head of the characters.”

Historial Fiction Groups

Sarah Woodbury @SarahWoodbury commented on her involvement with support groups in her main genre, Historical Fiction.

“I belong to several groups including, 
Pasttimes Books and Historical Fiction ebooks. In some ways, those groups are more a way for me to connect with other writers than a way to reach an audience. Word of mouth is still the best way to find people who like my books…

Kentucky Romance Writers

Katherine Logan @KathyLLogan, in a recent interview, talked about a writer’s group she belonged too.

“I’m a member of RWA, Kentucky Romance Writers, and Kentucky Independent Writers. To be a member of KYRW, you have to be a member of RWA. KIW is by invitation only, and you have to be a Kentucky author.”

Kentucky Indie Writers (KIW)
Diane Strong @DianeIStrong comment about support groups:

“I am a member of KIW (Kentucky Indie Writers), a small group of (mostly) independently published authors in Lexington, Kentucky and the surrounding area. They have been a huge support. I'm not sure what I would do without them. I feel very fortunate to have a group of friends I can go to with promotion, publishing, formatting, editing and life questions. They have taught me so much.”

Dawn Ireland @dawnireland said:

“My critique group is just about 20 years old now, and only one person in the group is from the original team. It is very gratifying to help new writers get on the right track. 

One of the hardest things to get across is that they should not be offended by criticism. It only makes your work better, and let's face it, if two or more people have the same comment, that's proof there's something wrong. Some people are shell-shocked when they receive their marked-up pages back and they're covered in red ink.”

Social Media and Retailers

Of course, you can use the common support group like Twitter, Facebook, Google + and Goodreads but it just not the same. Even Amazon provides some help. But when you go to list your book through one of their free book promotions and find out your book is on a list of 75,000 free books, you need more help than that.

So what is next? Do you belong to a support group that will help you get through the rough patches? I think you need help from followers and groups with common interests to yours. What groups do you belong to? Let’s build a list of support groups that have given you a helping hand.

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  1. I guess I'm doomed. I don't belong to a support group and never have. I don't feel the need for a support group. I'm quite capable of learning how to do what needs to be done, as an indie author. And I'm sure there are plenty just like me. It's one thing to suggest that support groups may be helpful for some people, quite another to insist that it's impossible to go it alone or to ignore that there's another path -- occasional, informal input from others.

  2. thanks CS for your comment.

    this is a perplexing question for a lot of new authors. some find value. some don't. there are many authors that only 'belong to' a publisher or a small press organization and are quite successful. others need that helping hand.

    some authors that I interview for my other blog, HBS Author's Spotlight, find that its their entry into the social media arena.

    i guess it gets down to how much you can handle yourself. Dawn Ireland had a good comment above: "My critique group is just about 20 years old now, and only one person in the group is from the original team." some authors get that initial boost from a support group and they go off on their own.