If you are not represented by a publisher, you are your own business. Why? Because you are responsible for every aspect of your own success. Treating the situation as if you are just a creator is a big mistake and can cost you big money.
Let’s start off with a basic explanation.
Some call it wearing many hats. That’s exactly what it is, too. You are the content creator, the graphics department, the editor, the marketer, the advertiser, the sales team, accounting, web designer, and more. Unless you have the money to pay someone, you are the entire company and every single department of it.
So, you may ask, just what do I do?
Marketing, Advertising, Sales & Branding
Everything you say and do that is available for public viewing is going to represent you in one way or another. Like it or not,as an independent author, you are the company, the creator, and the brand. EVERYTHING, once out there, is now a reflection of who and what you are. What you represent, how you represent yourself – on Facebook, on Twitter, on your blog, on a forum – everywhere you put your words, pictures, etc. down where people can see – reflects on your brand, your company and will affect your sales. You have to decide when and what promotions to do, how you advertise and where, and put yourself out there for the world to see – in one form or another.
This means if you put a rant out on something stupid, act like a complete jackass, save a helpless animal, cook for the local soup kitchen, or whatever, you will have that affecting your image and your sales. If you put up crap graphics or really amazing graphics, it will alter how people view your ability. Everything needs to make you look appealing, and who is appealing and why can vary from fan to fan.
Oh, yes – the dreaded words. You are a business dependent on sales. The very foundation on what makes for happy customers is knowing if they have an issue, it will be addressed. They will look more favorably on someone who responds to issues than someone who doesn’t. Yes, my friends, this is where you have to be nice to total strangers for things that are not your fault. Now, I am not saying respond to all bad reviews, hateful emails, or stupid messages directed at you or in your private messages. But, here are some points I believe are most important:
You are not responsible for providing help when Amazon or whoever fucks up, nor are you responsible to the customers who complain. What it is is that it is a good policy to answer people who’s book came torn, run over, or otherwise damaged, is misshelved, etc. (things that are not your fault) with a polite message you can basically copy and paste for the few different occurrences. Think about how you would like to be treated in that situation, then do it better than that.
I’m sorry that happened to you. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do because I have no control over this. Please contact customer service at the company where you purchased it from. Good luck!An example response.
This, rather than silence, makes a huge impression. Considering it takes seconds to reply, paste it in and hit submit, you’ve not made a positive impression on this person. This person may decide to check out your other books just because you were nice to them. Considering how low we are in basic courtesy these days toward each other, when someone provides it, it stands out. I’ve given products and companies chances in spite of lower reviews because I could see they genuinely tried to correct any issues. It shows integrity and integrity is everything. Readers and fans react better to people they think are decent. Think of how many stars of any artistic industry have fallen when it was discovered they were horrible people. Even if they had exceptional talent, if others thought they were bad people, the sales can be seriously affected.
So, interact politely with reasonable complaints, directing them to deal with the appropriate party and leave it at that. Bad reviews because they didn’t like the book for the book itself isn’t necessary, but the other things really are. You are not just a creator. Once that book is up for sale, you are a business and customer service is incredibly important.
Also, giving good customer service can get a person to withdraw a negative review, even turn it into a positive. Other people will also see you are helpful, which can make them more confident in buying your product. You can even ask!
I hope everything went ok with getting a replacement, refund, or whatever it is you wished to happen. If you would please, correct your review. It can negatively affect me over something I have no control over and is not related to my book itself. It would be greatly appreciated!An example review change request.
Oh, I know. The other dreaded word. Depending on where you live, how you must or can file may be different for those who are self-published. The worst part? If your service doesn’t submit your taxes for you, you may have to pay in, sometimes quarterly. If you’re not making much, it’s less of a worry, but shouldn’t you be planning ahead? After all, it’s all on you.
Indie or not, your book has to look professional. Unless you’ve been trained in making graphics or are proficient with a graphics designing program, like GIMP, Photoshop, or Adobe – do not do your own covers. Those covermakers are crap and they should not be used on a published book. For something like Wattpad or Inkitt, sure. But not a book that you are trying to sell. Cover artists exist, are relatively easy to find, and are often quite inexpensive.
ALWAYS get opinions on covers from multiple sources. This is critical. What we may think looks cool, others may have trouble reading it or it doesn’t represent your genre/story well.
Editing is one of the biggest issues among Indie authors because they do it all themselves. Even if you are a professionally trained editor, you still always need to have someone look it over. You created it, making you see it in a different way than others will see it. You won’t always notice your own mistakes, because your brain knows what you are trying to say.
Sure, you can pay for someone to handle all those other services – assuming you have the money. Many of us don’t. If you are one that doesn’t, surprise! You are now running a start up company. Lots of hours, little pay, a lot of sweat and tears, a lot of frustration, a whole lot of sense of accomplishment in the end.