For the indie author, this is a frequent and persistent question, especially at first. There isn’t a publisher to tell us, “you fit here and this is where we’re marketing you.” So we have to figure it out on or own, and it isn’t always easy. We end up going through this existential crisis of a sort; what did I just write, and where does it belong? Where do I belong as an author? Sometimes we get too caught up in worrying about where readers think we belong, and we get dragged down all sorts of dead end paths trying to market to every potential reader, in every dark corner of the universe. It can be exhausting, deplete our limited resources, and still get us nowhere.
And it’s no wonder we’re confused—some genres, like fantasy, are so huge it’s easy to get lost. When you search for fantasy books on Amazon, you get 739,684 returns! Who could possibly search through all of that for a new book to read? It’s completely overwhelming. Renee’s March 4th article talked about how the fantasy genre has now been split up into many different sub-genres, presenting both benefits and challenges for everyone. For the writer, it can make that existential question where do I belong even harder to answer, particularly if our work fits equally well into more than a couple of categories. But it can also help us finally settle in someplace—find a cozy corner to call home, where we can quietly build up a loyal fan base and gradually expand from there. It sure beats drifting around the book marketing universe like a hobo, holding out our collection cups to anyone who passes by, hoping for some reader to take pity on the poor indie author.
And that’s pretty much what we do as new, inexperienced authors. We chase after every new marketing gimmick, trying to imitate the top sellers without having any understanding of the huge amount of plodding groundwork it took to get them there. We try to copy the mechanics of their journey in the hopes it will take us along the exact same road, instead of going through that painful existential process of figuring out who we are, and forging our own path. We read all the author self-help books written by people who claim if you just follow steps A-Z you’ll become just as successful as they are. But no two authors are alike, and no two journeys are either. They might offer good advice, but we need to take it with the understanding that it will most likely work differently for us, and that’s OK. Eventually we all grow tired of chasing the wind and come to realize our biggest successes have come about when we’ve just been our truest selves.
It took me a few years, but I think I’m finally settling into my small corner of the indie book world. It’s actually pretty comfortable—not particularly flashy or high profile, but it suits me. Readers are finding me, and my book sales are slowly but steadily growing. When I first published in 2011, I couldn’t imagine the place I’m at right now. Humble as it is, it seemed so far out of reach. Since then I’ve had plenty of dreams to keep me working hard, and those dreams grow every day. I hope that in another 5 years, I’ll be able to look back and say, “I couldn’t imagine this place I’m in right now—and I’m so glad I’m here. What’s next?”
Also included in this issue:
- Medieval Menagerie: Criminals
- Book Spotlight: Give Up the Ghost
- Self-Editing Tip: Good Writing isn’t All About Grammar
- Fantasy Art
- And more…