If you’re an indie author who has self-published a book, odds are that you feel a little overwhelmed. That’s okay. It’s perfectly natural to feel that way. It’s like falling off of a boat and finding yourself in the middle of the ocean. Except there are hundreds of thousands of other people around you floating on their own inflatable lifesavers, all in the same situation. Some of them are enjoying the trip. Others are dying of thirst and screaming at the heavens, cursing their decision to ever embark on such a treacherous journey. But that’s the beauty of being a writer. Writers jump into the deep unknown and learn how to swim. They do this every time they sit down to put in the work.
Now look again. Look past the ones who are content by themselves and relish in the fact that they’re creating art. Peer beyond those shouting at the top of their lungs, troubling their neighbors and begging for water. They think their need is more precious than that of everyone else. Breathe. Feel the waves beneath you. Now, shield your eyes from the sun and look harder. There, floating about a mile out, is a group of survivors making it together. And they’re not just surviving; they’re thriving. They understand that the best way to survive at sea is to share their water and resources with one another. Watch as another drifter joins them and adds their resources to the group. And another. And another. Soon, they’re building a boat and raising sails. All of them work together and, before long, you see them sail away into the shimmering horizon. All around you, everyone is still doing the same thing and didn’t even notice the amazing achievement that the group accomplished. But you saw it.
You turn around and see Wilson floating beside you. Don’t talk to Wilson. He’s a volleyball.
1. The Jump. Tell the World.
Congratulations! You just took the first step and joined the prestigious rank of ‘Author.’ You have earned the right to indulge in as much coffee as you’d like, walk a little taller in bookstores, and treat yourself with a picture of your go-to drink sitting beside your laptop with the words ‘The End’ after you finish your first novel. Seriously, though, finishing a novel is awesome and you should feel proud of completing such a great thing. You’re amazing! Now you need to tell the world.
First, tell your family and friends. They know you the best and deserve to be the first to congratulate you. But don’t expect much more than that. Most of them won’t be your fans. Many of them may not even read your book. That’s just the way it is. The faster you get this, the better off you’ll be. But among all of those, there are some who will be your fans. Maybe even future beta readers that you can trust. Cherish those people and cultivate that connection. They’re gold.
2. The Surrounding Water. Look at Who’s Around You.
Look at the city in which you live. Odds are good that there are plenty of other authors who live close by. Stop by the local bookshop, pick up a paper and look for writing communities. Search Craigslist. I live in Asheville, NC, so it’s not very hard to find others who are in the writing and artistic community. Do a Google search for writing groups in your area, and attend one of their meetings. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet my editor and cover artist here in AVL, but that didn’t come without doing some searching. I’ve also met some local authors through social media who are amazing people that I now call friends. Which brings me to my next point…
3. The Ocean. Riding the Big Wave Known as Social Media.
This is the part where most people capsize. And there’s no avoiding the wave. Everyone gets a ride. Like, share, hashtag, tweet, retweet, retweet the retweet, check notifications, follow, follow back… the list goes on. And it’s all supposed to work, right? Within a matter of months, you should have a massive following, tons of fans, and people desperately waiting to buy your next book after raving about the first one. That’s not how it works. I don’t care what Wilson told you. Social media is hard. You must put the time in to find out what works and what doesn’t. But above all else, you must be yourself. Anything less will show through and everyone will see it. Show some kindness and respect; rude and arrogant behavior will cause you to sink faster than anything else. Congratulate others on their success and don’t be too vocal about your own. That’s not to say a little self-promotion every now and again is a bad thing. Toot your horn from time to time. Pat yourself on the back. I kind of like the adage, “Set some goals. Stay quiet about them. Smash the hell out of them. Clap for your damn self.”
4. Join A Community. Got Room for One More?
Everyone has their favorite go-to when it comes to social media platforms. If you really want to hustle, and have the time and sanity to do so, build a presence in as many as possible. I’m no social media expert, and would avoid it almost entirely if it wasn’t for this writing thing, but I know it’s necessary to engage with the digital world. Behind that thumbnail image, icon, or avatar is a real person. Treat them as such. Reddit, or should I say r/fantasy, is one of the best places to engage in. You don’t write fantasy, you say? What’s the matter with you? Okay, fine, I’m sure there are other subreddits that cater to your genres. Go check them out. I found the SPFBO, or Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off, on r/fantasy and entered my debut novel in the competition’s third year. Hosted by Mark Lawrence, the SPFBO is a competition that puts indie authors in the limelight, and makes them sweat it out for an entire year while top respected book bloggers judge their work and then crown one the victor among hundreds of entrants. Sounds awesome, right? It is. But don’t go in with high expectations. Odds are high that you’ll get cut the first round. But if you’re smart and gauge the surrounding waters, you’ll find others banding together and forging friendships. They’re sharing resources with one another. Jump in there and introduce yourself!
5. Cultivate Friendships. I’ve Got Supplies to Share!
So, you’ve joined a community. That’s great. Don’t screw it up by cramming your book down everyone’s throat. Support other members in that community without expecting anything in return. Try a little give instead of receive. Engage in communication. Be yourself. Encourage others. Before you know it, you might be going to a writer’s retreat at a famous author’s house to meet up with a bunch of your friends that you met online. You’ll share stories, talk writing, play games, hone your archery skills, and drink whiskey. Or beer or whatever you like. You’ll shake hands upon meeting, and hug goodbye. That’s the community I want to be a part of. Not many make it alone. It takes other people to truly thrive. It’s a mentality that goes beyond writing, and can be applied in all areas of life. Not only will it allow you to succeed, it’ll make you a better person.
And that’s pretty much it. Five easy ways to make friends and build a community as an indie author. I won’t talk about setting up your own website with a landing page that makes it easy for people to join your email list. Or about other platforms to build community like Patreon or YouTube. Or about why you need to put links in your books that help guide readers to your platforms and mailing list. Or why blurbs and book bloggers can be very important in your writing career. Or why Goodreads is one of the most underrated platforms that you should be engaging in.
I’ll let you go and join a community to find that stuff out for yourself. I had to. And I still am.
Matt Moss works full time as a maintenance technician and is the author of The Soul Stone Trilogy, to which he is currently preparing the third and final book for publication. He lives in the beautiful mountains of Asheville, North Carolina with his wife and three children.
You can buy Matt’s books at the following links:
Oh… one last thing. Buy my books.
P.S. Read my books.
P.S.S. Leave a review.