It’s one week today until Halloween. The shops are full of costumes, accessories, and big bags of treats to hand out.
Australians are once again protesting about it being an American thing (it’s not) while they gladly binge-watch American TV series on Foxtel and Netflix, listen to predominantly American music on commercial radio, and argue about whether Coke or Pepsi is better. (It’s definitely Coke.)
Despite the protestations of those Aussie nay-sayers, it’s a week that I quite enjoy. It reminds me of my first Halloween season in Canada, where I learned more about the background of the holiday and started to appreciate it in a different way. I like seeing kids and families out together, dressed up in costumes and walking around my small town, spending time together and having fun that doesn’t involve a screen.
It’s also a time when, like many other horror authors, I’m hoping to put my books in front of people and maybe get a sale or three.
I write spooky short stories, among other things. I work hard to build the right atmosphere, to lure the reader in, and then shock them with a macabre turn of events. I try to appeal to different senses so that they hold their breath while their skin crawls. It’s not splatter for splatter’s sake, and the monsters generally don’t hide under the beds or in the wardrobes of little kids. The monsters I write about are, more often than not, people who seem ordinary in most ways— until they prove they are not.
So, why not try a creepy story? You might enjoy it more than you think!
It is easy for an Indie author to become discouraged by the challenges that come from various sources. It’s a tough gig sometimes, especially for someone who is new to the world of self-publishing.
So how do we develop and maintain a thriving and motivated Indie author community that we all want to be part of?
These are the key behaviours we need to adopt and make regular habits:
Encourage each otherRead each other’s work
Give honest, constructive feedbackHelp each other achieve excellence
Share each other’s work and social media posts
Be professional about every phase of the writing, editing, publishing and marketing process.
Be free and liberal with sharing insights, experience and knowledge that will help those who are new to our community.
How do I know these things work?
The more time you spend in the community, the clearer the divide between those who do them and those who don’t.
Those Indies who already do these things consistently demonstrate that they are are the most engaged, motivated and productive authors. They are positive and proactive.
Most significantly, they express joy in doing these things. You can’t fake or manufacture that.
Those who don’t support others are more likely to express jealousy and resentment in response to the success of others. They are more likely to be critical and competitive.
And those who adopt the “success at any cost” will be far more likely to turn to less ethical avenues of advancement. It is from this small, murky pool that those willing to cheat the system will emerge.
All in all, that doesn’t seem like much of a choice to me. I want my books to sell because they are good, not because I am pretending to be something I am not.
It should come as no surprise that when you’ve been listening to people say the same thing for a while, you get better at understanding what they really mean.
Person Z. Take, for example, a young woman who approaches her friends and family members and says something like, “Hey, so, I’m having a fancy brand-name plasticware/linenware/healthy and beauty product/accessory/clothing party at my house in a couple of weeks, and I really hope you’ll come.”
What she’s really saying: Option A: I got sucked into one of these parties by relative/friend X, and she looked so hopeful that someone would book a party so she’d get some reward, and my mouth was open before my brain could stop it.
What she’s really saying: Option B: There’s a thing this company makes, and I’d really like to have it, but it’s expensive so I’m having a party and anything you buy will help me get it cheaper.
I’ve been on both ends of the equation, and can totally sympathise. It’s fair to say I’ve smiled and nodded through a whole bunch of those evenings, and even bought a thing or three, to help friends and family members out. From time to time, I’ve also been the Option A person.
Person Y. In another example, a child approaches family members and friends and explains that the school is selling chocolates/holding a “fun run”/doing some kind of suffer-a-thon as fundraising for a new toilet block so the kids can “go” comfortably during breaks.
What the child is really saying: Option A: The school insists that I must do this thing and there’s no way out of it, so please give me some money toward it so it’s not for nothing.
What the child is really saying: Option B: There are prizes for doing this, and I really want the floppitywoppity that you can only get if you raise $5000, so please give me some money to give me a fair chance at winning one. Again, I’ve helped more than one kid out of the hole. I don’t know if any of them ever got the floppitywoppity, but I know I have helped to build more than one toilet block in my time.
Person X. Then, there’s the Indie author. Actually, it could be any Indie creative – an artist, musician, or crafter. I just decided to use an author as the example here, because that enables me to draw on my own experience again. Person X has a passion for writing, a message they want to get out to the world, and they finally get their book published. They tell their friends and family members that they have a book out, and they’re about to tell them what it’s about…
What the author is really saying: Option A: I finally fulfilled my dream. Aren’t you happy for me?
What the author is really saying: Option B: I did a thing! I may never become a millionaire, but I did a thing! Please proud of me!
What the author is really saying: Option C: Remember all those times I supported your party plan things? And your fun runs? And your kids’ school toilet blocks? And…
…But as Person X talks, there are virtual crickets chirping, and eyes looking nervously at the door, and people checking their phones, and remembering appointments they need to be at, and… What the others are really saying: Option A: Well, this is awkward… who ever thought he/she was brave enough to get out there and do the thing! What the others are really saying: Option B: Yeah, we know you’ve supported us and our kids, but we’d prefer not to mention that now, because I would rather put my cash toward fancy plastic ware/linen/clothes/beauty products/accessories or a gym membership than some book by someone nobody’s ever heard of.
What the others are really saying: Option C: What the heck are we supposed to do now? We hope he’s not going to ask us to actually read it… maybe if I don’t ask what it’s about, he’ll stop talking about it.
What the others are really saying: Option D: But… you’re my brother/sister/cousin/relative/friend… how could a book you wrote even be any good? A bit full of yourself, aren’t you?
Person W. The final example is the one person in the room who hugs you and says, “Awesome! That’s fantastic! I’ll buy your book! How much do you want for it? You’ll sign it for me, won’t you? I can’t wait to tell my friends what you’ve done!”
What they’re really saying: Option A: I’m proud of you, and I’m on your team.
What they’re really saying: Option B: I’ll probably never read it, but I’m proud of you, and I’m on your team.
What they’re really saying: Option C: “Awesome! That’s fantastic! I’ll buy your book! How much do you want for it? You’ll sign it for me, won’t you? I can’t wait to tell my friends what you’ve done!” then looking over their shoulder with a glare at the rest of the people in the room who were too selfish to do or say anything.
The moral of the story: Option A: I’m really thankful for every ‘Person W’ in my life. I had no idea when I embarked on my journey as an Indie author that it would hurt so much to know there were so many Zs and Ys in my circles, but I also had no idea how wonderful it would be to know who the Ws were, and that they were on my team.
The moral of the story: Option B: Always be a W. Even if you never read the book, be a W.
There are a lot of authors giving their books away – free – on Amazon and various other services.
I won’t be one of them.
To be quite frank, I believe my work is worth more than that. I believe that is true of most of the authors who discount their work. It’s certainly true of almost every book I’ve been willing to buy. For the record, the ones I haven’t liked were not on Amazon – one was a classic and one was a bestseller.
I fully understand not everyone will buy, read, or be interested in, my books. In the same way, some folks don’t like chocolate or pizza or coffee, and not everyone on the planet is going to like or understand me. I’m cool with that.
Even so, I believe that my work and what I have to say through it, are valuable.
If I discount my book, doesn’t that cheapen my work? Doesn’t that just make it less attractive? Doesn’t that make it seem like I don’t think it’s worth reading?
And really – who else works for free? I’d like to see people try to get a plumber, or doctor, or garbage collector to work for nothing because someone doesn’t feel like paying.
So, I have decided that $2.99 is a fair price for an electronic copy of my latest book, and probably the next one.
It’s less than a cup of coffee. It’s less than a slice of pizza or a sandwich.