Since it’s been about six months since I started becoming an author, I thought this was a good time to look back on what I’ve learned so far, and share some of my lessons with you. Although I’ve written this from the perspective of an independent author, I’m sure some aspects of each lesson can apply to both traditional and self-published authors as well. If you’re unsure if being an author is right for you, take these 5 lessons into consideration.
1. Always, always, ALWAYS get Whois guard.
I have to state this first because I wish someone had told me this before I registered my domain. If you only ever follow one recommendation of mine, make it this.
If you don’t know what it is, Whois is a database which collects the personal contact information of every person who registers a new domain name. That includes; your full name, physical address, email address, and phone number. It’s completely legal because all that is considered public information. The Whois database can be easily searched by anyone, that includes: you, your friends, your competition, a scam artist, and even an identity thief.
The good news is you can stop this from happening. When you are buying your new registration, your provider should offer or have an option to get Whois guard, domain privacy protection, something like that. Some providers charge for it but some give it for free. Either way, get it.
What this does is replace all your personal info with the contact info for the company giving you the protection. That simple.
If you don’t get this you will have an experience similar to what happened to me:
1. You register a domain name and don’t elect to get domain privacy protection. You figure you’re already spending too much money as it is. You don’t need that.
2. Behind the scenes, your full name, phone number, email address, and personal address get sent to the Whois database.
3. The day after you registered, your email inbox has 15 new emails from people you never heard of. They’re all trying to sell you something, “help” you with your business, or promising to make you immediately successful. And they keep coming. Two an hour, every hour. The phone calls start coming around 9 AM, a few every day or two. It’s driving you nuts.
4. You go back to your domain provider and buy the protection, hoping the emails and phone calls will stop.
5. They continue for weeks and you swear you will always get Whois protection from then on.
So, do yourself a favor, get Whois guard at the same time you register your domain, even if you have to pay for it.
2. You can’t publish a book for free
Well, you can. Technically. But I wouldn’t advise it. Why? Think of it this way: You’re browsing the Amazon lists, searching for your next great read. You come across two books with interesting titles, so you take a closer look.
Book 1: The cover is so bad that you could have drawn it, and probably done better. The synopsis has typos and incorrect punctuation. There are no reviews. The author is someone you’ve never heard of.
Book 2: The cover is amazing, definitely beyond your skills. The synopsis is interesting and has no mistakes that you can find. There are several reviews you can read over to get a better idea of what kind of book it is. You realize the author’s name is not only familiar, but you think you’ve replied to some of their tweets.
Which book would you spend your hard earned money on? I bet it’s the one where the author put some time, money, and effort into making sure it had every opportunity to succeed. That’s not to say you should wipe out your bank account. Just figure out what you can afford to invest, do your research, and invest what money you can.
3. Patience isn’t a virtue, it’s a necessity.
You’re always waiting on something or someone. You wait for your Betas, your editor, your cover designer. You wait for your social media following to grow. You wait for your book to be finished. That last one may seem a bit weird because it’s the one thing that’s completely in your control. However, I will find times when I think how I can’t wait until my book is published. I then have to remind myself, that I’m actually waiting on myself to finish my edits before anything else can get done. That’s about the time when I close out of Twitter and open my laptop.
The problem with waiting is it can really mess up your publishing date if you misjudge how long, whatever you’re waiting for, will take. The good news is that as an indie author you can push out your projected pub date. But I digress.
One of the most surprising things I had to wait for was my trade name. I decided to use my own publishing house for my books, but first I had to create it. To do that I needed a name. I could have used my own but I decided to go with Mariposa Bookworks instead. I applied through LegalZoom and while they were extremely helpful and kept on top of the process for me, It took months, instead of the few weeks they promised. No fault of theirs, I just happened to apply right as the state decided to change to an all digital system. Suffice it to say I was very impatient while that wait was going on.
My point is, expect to do a lot of waiting; some expected, some not. The way I’ve learned to deal with it is to focus elsewhere. Between editing, blogging, building my social media following, and researching marketing, I’ve got plenty to keep me busy while I wait.
4. Writing a book is haaaaarrrddd!
Let me rephrase that: Writing a good book is haaaarrrrddd!
Anyone can write a piece of crap. Creating a believable world, relate-able characters, plausible situations… that takes work. It takes sitting at your desk and doing the job. Sure, it’s a fun job, but there are days when I ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” Rest assured I always immediately answer with, “Because I love it!” I believe it has to be that way. If you hate writing, both good days and bad, then you should do another profession. You may get frustrated, angry, or frightened, but when it’s all said and done, you still have to be able to honestly say you love it.
As an indie author you also have the added work of editing, designing a cover, marketing, promoting, developing an author platform, creating and maintaining a website, actually selling your books, and the list goes on.
The good news is there are professionals you can hire to do a lot of that and a whole community from which to draw wisdom from to guide you through the rest.
Which leads me too…
5. The writing community is awesome!
I have never met a kinder, more helpful, more supportive group of people in my life. They prove that competition doesn’t have to be mean, you can support others while also benefiting at the same time.
This is a nerve wracking business. There’s a lot riding on your book because… It’s your book. You spend countless hours baring your soul to create this world. You research and learn things no sane person even considers. You step out of your comfort zone on a regular basis. All for the love of telling your story. The writing community understands because they’re doing all that too.
I’m the kind of person who is enthusiastically positive for other people, but stubbornly pessimistic for myself. Lately I’ve been working on being more positive toward myself because of the writers I’ve met. They have given me the most amazing support and encouragement. Through their own experiences they’ve made me realize that we are all worthy, including myself. We all go through hard times. We all doubt ourselves and our work. What makes it worth it is that we keep going, and we support others when they need it.
I came to this profession relatively late in life and I have a lot more to learn and do, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I hope you got something out of this. Let me know what you think in the comments below, or tweet me @mwinklerbooks. I’m on there too many times a day.