An indie (independent) author is someone who believed in their story enough to put it out into the world despite what the ‘gatekeepers’ (aka the big 5 publishers) had to say. Perhaps the author pitched to agents and publishers, and was rejected, or decided this route after considering all the options. This author was industrious, forward thinking, unstoppable, and passionate enough to publish their work in a tough industry. Publishing can happen in a variety of ways: from hybrid publishing, to starting their own publishing house, to self-publishing.
Expecting Sunshine 2nd Edition, by Alexis Marie Chute
Expecting Sunshine 1st Edition, by Alexis Marie Chute
I pitched agents and finally, on my 38th try, signed a contract with one. He pitched my manuscript to all the big publishing houses – and forwarded me their email responses. Across the board they said my book was well written, the story was moving, but – and I quote one response – the subject matter was “too risky” for them to publish.
The subject is pregnancy after the death of a child.
Publishing houses are businesses first. The bottom line is profit.
I believed in the importance of my story. I vividly remembered when my son Zachary died and I left the hospital with empty arms, feeling completely alone, like my body had failed me and my child, and that I was a failure as a woman. It seemed like no one could possibly understand and the solitude was strangling. I needed to know I was not alone – and that life after loss could be joyful and purposeful. That is what my book is about.
I decided I would self-publish, but then I remembered a small hybrid publisher who had included one of my essays in an anthology they released a few years prior… This is a good point to pause and define the different publishing routes.
A hybrid publisher is where the publisher and the author share the financial investment of producing and publishing the book, as well as sharing in the earnings.
A traditional publisher carries all the financial risk of producing and publishing the book, then pays the author a small royalty.
Self-Publishing is where the author pays for all aspects of producing and publishing the book, and receives all income from it.
Back to my story.
I published Expecting Sunshine through She Writes Press, a hybrid publisher, in 2017. Our first print run sold out and now Expecting Sunshine is on to the second edition, released in 2019. It continues to be a book that sells well – an evergreen title – that people recommend to other bereaved families, and what prompts many to email me and message me on social to say that it has made a difference in their lives and grief journeys.
That was my goal. To help people through my story. To show others that they are not alone. To give hope and an example of the winding road back to peace and joy.
I could not have done this if I had not made the brave decision to be an indie author. To take my fate into my own hands and produce a book that I believed in with my whole heart – that I still believe in.
It was a risk: financially, professionally, and of my precious time – but it was worth it.
Indie authors are brave and they gift us meaningful stories.
And… Indie authors need your help!
We are in a tough age. The health pandemic is spreading. The markets have crashed. Schools are canceled. All businesses suffer – and indie authors take a particularly hard hit. People are focusing on essential purchases and may forgo books at this time, and for sure are avoiding places like bookstores where everyone handles the merchandise.
Doctors will eventually find a way to combat the Coronavirus’ COVID-19, but the economic, educational, and personal ramifications of this season of human history will extend way beyond the cure.
Already indie authors face the uphill challenge of marketing and promoting their books in competition with the big traditional publishers. Now the challenge of sharing their books is more complex than ever – yet, their stories are ones that need to be read, perhaps now more than ever. Stories that in and of themselves – their very presence – speaks to resiliency.
I have combed through my mind and the internet to bring you a list of ways that friends, family, fans can help indie authors not only weather this difficult time, but also thrive and succeed.
31 Ideas of How to Support Indie Authors – TODAY
Ways to Support Your Favorite Authors – Quick & Easy Ideas you can implement right away
Buy the books from a bookstore – The benefit of buying from a bookstore rather than from the author directly is that these sales count toward the author’s overall ranking in traditional fields. If the indie author hopes to one day publish traditionally, these sales numbers will be a big help.
Buy directly from the author – This purchasing path puts the most dollars in authors’ pockets.
Don’t buy used books– None of the money from your purchase goes to the author when buying used, nor does it go into stimulating the book market.
Buy with strategy – If you’re buying on Amazon, purchase the indie author’s book along with other similar genre books. This will play a role in the algorithm to help the indie author’s book to appear in the “also bought” section when the other books are searched for.
Request the book at your library – When libraries purchase an author’s book, they do not return it. That’s a big difference. When individuals buy from bookstores, there is the chance that they will return the book; not ideal for authors. Libraries also see what other branches are requesting, which can result in more sales for the author.
Support the author’s initiatives – When you see the author making efforts to promote their book, do your best to get involved. Aka, share the author’s posts; if they’re hosting a Q&A, ask questions; if they host a signing event, attend; etc.
Attend events, including virtual ones – Show your support with the power of your presence, it is one of the greatest presents you can give.
Give the book as gifts – If you’re looking for a birthday or Christmas present, for example, give the author’s book. You could even get the book signed for an even more valuable gift.
Share on social – Share the author’s posts, create a post of your own, and share a picture of the cover of the book. Tag the author and they’ll be tickled pink!
Write a book review – Book reviews sell books! They are social proof of the book’s merit in the marketplace. Even a bad review bolsters the book in the algorithm rankings, and shows that people are reading.
Read the book in your book club – If you’re not in a club, start one!
Read the book in public – Have you ever sat on public transit and read the title of the book the person near you is reading? Me too.
Add the book on Goodreads to your “want to read,” “currently reading,” and “read” shelves – Not only does this show your friends that you think this is a valuable book to check-out, it also affects the algorithms in your indie author’s favor.
Add the book to lists on Goodreads – There are lists for all kinds of books and adding the indie author’s work to these lists will help them be discovered by others.
Email the author with marketing ideas – If you read their book and come up with a cool marketing idea, current event angle, or exposure strategy, PLEASE contact the indie author. You might help give them the creative advantage.
Comment on their blog posts – Being a writer can feel lonely some days. Knowing people are reading what writers put out can be a wonderful boost and begin an engaged relationship and community.
Click the “follow” button on their author page on Amazon – Amazon is all about the clicks, meta data, algorithms, and behind the scenes science of our decisions. Not only is following the author a wonderful way to ‘stay in the know’ of what the indie author has on the go, but it also shows Amazon that there is interest in this writer.
Join the author’s street team – Offer to help! Gifting your time and energy is an amazing way to help spread the word. Come up with ideas and take the suggestions of the author and run with them.
Buy a copy for the free library boxes – The cool thing about this is that it expands the reach beyond the people we know. It’s also a fun way to plant a seed that may grow in a way we never expect.
Pin their content to your boards in Pinterest – Cover recognition is super important. If visitors to your boards see the book cover, they are more likely to remember it and search it out when shopping for a new read.
Hit the “Like” button on 5 star reviews on Goodreads and click ‘was this review helpful’ on Amazon – It all comes back to the algorithm and the interest recorded by the back end computers. Social proof works on many levels.
Like their Facebook page and join their Facebook group – Indie authors endeavor to create communities of like-minded people around the topic of their book. Liking and joining builds the moral on all fronts.
Send an encouragement letter – Hearing positive feedback and encouraging words is one of the free gifts we can give each other. It may take a little hunting for an email address and a couple minutes to write, but the impact on the author is significantly magnified. I save all encouragement emails and just knowing they’re there is a lovely reminder that my work touched even just one person.
Make fan art or fan fiction, then share it – If you love the book, create art or a story based on the characters or fictitious world. (This is the secret to flattering authors.)
Tag a friend on their social media posts – If you think one of your friends would love the indie author’s story, tag them in the post or tag them with their name in the comments. That will draw your friend to the post and they’ll be curious why you made the connection.
Fill their Instagram feeds with likes – True, we should never “live for the likes,” however liking someone’s post is a way of saying “Hi” and “I like what you’re sharing.” That’s a powerful gesture.
Subscribe to their email newsletter – Sometimes social media feels less social and more popularity-contest or like a one-way-conversation. The email newsletter is a direct link between you and the indie author. You can reply and have a private conversation. You can hear directly from the author in more direct medium – delivered right to your inbox to read when you’re ready.
Forward their e-news to others – Email can be way more personal than social media. Many social accounts are public (think Instagram, unless set to private), whereas you only give your email address out to certain people. When a friend or family member emails me anything, I am 100% more likely to read it. Email is still the most powerful online communication tool. You might post about the indie author on your social networks, but an email share is more meaningful.
Nominate their book for an award – Indie authors are constantly hustling and working, trying to get their book out into the world. Awards can be time consuming and if you take this on, or share the work of the application with the author, that allows them to use that time for other important efforts.
Feature their book in your newsletter, on your YouTube channel, on your blog, on your podcast, etc. – If you are a content creator, share the love of your audience with the indie author. Perhaps it can be a reciprocal scenario. Win-win.
Buy a copy to leave in your dentist’s and doctor’s waiting rooms – This is another opportunity for the unexpected connection to be made. Who knows who will pick up the book and get intrigued.
Above are 31 ideas – perhaps one for every day of the month!
Independent bookstores, like indie authors, are people who have believed enough in themselves and their vision to embark out on their own. They have started something – their shops – from the ground up, working tirelessly and often because they are huge readers and book fans themselves.
With everyone encouraged to stay home, independent bookstores are taking a huge hit.
How you can help:
Shop online from your local indie bookstore – they might even deliver!
Tell your friends and family about the bookstore and encourage them to shop there over the local box chain.
Share the social love: share a picture of you reading a book that you bought from your indie and tag them.
Email or phone to ask your neighborhood bookseller how you can support them. They will never forget it.
The ultimate: Buy indie from an indie!
Buy from an indie author at an independent bookstore!
From the Book Publishers Association of Alberta E-Newsletter:
Alberta bookstores are also responding to the public health emergency by enhancing online and delivery options, and, in some cases, closing their physical stores completely for the time being. See below for a summary of the biggest announcements. All information is current, as of today, March 18, but may change rapidly. Stores listed are all independent and contribute to the Alberta Bestseller List.
Drawn to Books, a non-profit organization based in Edmonton, is providing daily tips for parents and children trying to get through the COVID-19 pandemic through Facebook and Instagram. They do not have a physical location, but hold regular comic fairs at schools in the Edmonton area, as well as Youth Comic Creator Camps (upcoming school events have been cancelled due to the school closures, but registration for summer 2020 Creator Camps are currently open)