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My Two Cents on How Being an Indie Author is Harder Than I Thought

Hello there my lovelies! It's Sunday, and you may have noticed I was absent last week…

Here’s where I would normally apologize, and potentially give an excuse. But to be honest, I'm not really sorry. So I’m not going to apologize. Because also to be completely transparent I’m struggling right now. I'm struggling a bit as a person, but especially struggling as a writer. So today's post is likely to come off a little like I'm complaining, so if you want to skip it, go ahead, but if you stick around you'll probably learn some stuff as I give you My Two Cents on How Being an Indie Author is WAY Harder Than I Thought.

Over the last year, for long chunks of time, I’ve felt super motivated. I have been chugging along, getting tons of reads on my Vella story (or at least enough to pay for its editing, and some of the editing on my novella). I wrote Irish Whiskey, and got it edited and published. I had been cranking out blog posts and newsletters, picking up new guest bloggers, and things were really motivating. Everything looked great, and I thought I was in a really good position to publish my books and have them be instant hits! 

Okay, not really.

I know my platform isn't big enough to make me a best selling author, but selling a couple two-three-four dozen books didn't seem that far out of the realm of possibility.

But when I published Irish Whiskey (IW), the numbers didn't reflect the hard work I'd put into hyping it. Sure, outwardly I said I was just “publishing it so I could learn” for when I was ready to post my romance series. And I even said on a number of occasions that I “expected not to sell many/any Irish Whiskey copies.” But does that mean that deep down I wasn't silently hoping it would fly off the virtual shelf? Nope. Because of course I was being humble and hoping that the platform I’d built would be enough to warrant at least quite a few sales. And, if I'm being perfectly honest, IW reviews and sales/downloads didn't even reflect the number of loyal followers/friends I thought I had. It's been live now a couple weeks and it has exactly 4 reviews, which is a fraction of the number of ARCS I sent out. It's even far less than the number of close friends/family who I figured were no-brainer reviews. (*hint hint* friends/family, if you read it, please go review it🙏). (Amazon/Goodreads)

But then I realized, I am not the best writing friend either. There were at least two of my indie author friends who published within a couple months of IW’s publishing date.  Close friends who I had spent enough time working with that we were included in each other’s acknowledgements!

Did I read their books? Yup (obviously)!

Did I share and hype their social media posts? Also affirmative. 

But did I leave reviews for them on Amazon/Goodreads? Sure didn't. 

Why, you might ask?

If I'm being honest, it's because I just forgot. Or maybe I figured me hyping their book on social media was enough to prove I liked their book. I could probably make the excuse that I was just busy and didn't get around to it. But honestly, there really isn't an excuse. (and by the way, to the two of you—who I have now left reviews for, I'm sorry it took me so long). While me sharing their posts on social media might help them find a few new people who haven't already seen their books, it's probably not enough to make a noticeable shift in their sales.

But how does my Amazon/Goodreads review help their sales, you might ask? Well, the answer is pretty simple. People are more likely to buy a product that other people have purchased.

Think about it. As a consumer, are you more likely to buy a product that has a lot or reviews or one that has almost none?

The answer has been tested, and the research shows “87% of consumers said that real-life customer reviews/ratings have a greater impact on purchasing decisions compared to influencer/celebrity reviews (50%).” And “More than half of the consumers surveyed (58%) place a high value on product pictures or videos posted by real-life customers when researching products online.” (thanks for those stats Emplifi “Emplifi Reveals Nearly 90% of Consumers Say Customer Ratings and Reviews Have the Biggest Impact on Purchasing Decisions”). 

The point is, people want to see feedback from other readers. And to be clear, it doesn't necessarily matter if the reviews are good or bad. Because that same study shows that most consumers say they still make their own decision on the product even after reading the reviews. I guess they just want to know that other people have purchased the product and cared enough to leave a review.

If all the reviews are negative, I'm sure that would impact their decision. But a mix of good and bad reviews is expected in any product because we all have different yardsticks we measure “good” on. What I think of as a “good” book very well may be terrible to the next person! That's very evident by the extremely disparate opinions on some really well-known authors that pop up daily on bookstagram or booktok (I'm looking at you CH 👀).

Anyway, the point is, reviews are REALLY important, and they're WAY harder to get than I could've imagined. Plus, I'm part of the problem. Those two indie author friends I previously mentioned never reached out and said, “hey b!tch go leave a review” (though to be clear, they probably could've and I would've 😂). But that sometimes feels like what you have to do. And it feels really deflating when you ask and ask for people to leave reviews and then you go back and check and you're still stuck at 4.

Ultimately, reviews aren't the only thing that matters, and I know that. I have received a few page reads almost every day since it was published, which is good. (My book is on Kindle Unlimited(KU)—page reads are how ‘sales’ are measured on KU). But there have only been a handful of “orders” (people who purchased the ebook/paperback).

Ultimately, I am learning from this experience and making notes on things I'll do differently when I eventually publish my romance series. 

The main thing I've learned is that timing is EVERYTHING. While I hyped IW before it went live, it wasn't available for pre-order, which is really important. And the main reason for that boiled down to the fact that I wasn't done writing the book when I set a publishing date. Which I don't think I will EVER do again. Also, there was a lot going on in my personal and professional life around my publishing date. Which you might say is a benefit of self-publishing. I could've (and should've) just pushed my date. I was beholden to nobody really. And that is a main fact I've had to accept. I didn't have to publish on the day I did. I set an arbitrary deadline in my mind, but I wasn't held to that date by a publisher. And likely, my launch would've probably gone better if I'd just accepted that it wasn't ready and pushed the date.

There are a ton of things you don't know when you decide to indie publish. And that makes it hard in and of itself. But one of the biggest struggles I've faced is that I am the one making all the decisions, which I kind of hate. Plus, if things don't go well, I have nobody to blame but myself, which is hard. I started out this blog by “not apologizing” for my absence on the blog last week. Because one of the hardest things I've come to accept over the past few years of being a writer is that you can't do it all, all the time. And giving yourself grace for not being able to do it all—or not getting it perfect the first time—is hard, but necessary. That's where I've been the past few weeks. If you've noticed me being less present on social media, and noticed I didn't post a blog post last week, that's why.

Ultimately, being an indie author (especially one who's main job isn't writing) is hard.

Extraordinarily hard.

And it's okay to give yourself the week off if that's what you need. It's okay to not have it all together because really the only person you answer to is yourself. And you should be kind to yourself. You're only human, and you can only do what you can do. So do your best, my friends, and convince yourself that your best is enough.

If you're an indie author, and I've read your book but haven't given you a review, I'm sorry 💔. If you're an indie author, struggling to find readers, or struggling to get reviews, I feel you. And ultimately, if you're an indie author and it sometimes feels really hard or out of your control, know you're not alone. I don't know how many of us feel this way, but it's probably most of us. Let me say it again for the kids in the back: You're not alone. Being an indie author is WAY harder than I could've imagined it was, and to be clear, I queried for a long time because I knew it was hard. I just didn't know how hard.

But we're resiliant. We've got this, and after we've taken the time we need to recover from the blow of it being hard, we’ll get back at it.

That's it, folks, that's all I have today! Have a great week!


-Rose Rayne Rivers

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