Thursday, 11 November 2010

Video Game Syndrome and Becoming an Indie Author (With Giveaway!) by Zoe Winters

If someone was to come up to me and ask me to name the most influential Indie writer, there's only one name I'd consider. She doesn't have as many books out as some, she isn't making as much money as some, but she is everywhere on the web, and she has bound up her name, her brand, with indieness as much as she has with snarky paranormal romance.

Her paranormal romance must be good: she recently told me she even knows what snog means. :)

She's Zoe Winters, and these days she barely needs an introduction. And better than that, she's just brought out a "how to be Zoe book," all about how YOU can get as snarky and fantastic as her. Or maybe it's about being an indie author. Yeah, that's probably it. 

Anyway, Zoe is being totally fantastic today by blogging here. 

 I recently released a guide for indie authors in ebook called: "Becoming an Indie Author". The book is part motivation, part how-to, and part my experiences as an indie over the past two years. Since I started this journey, I've sold over 28,000 ebooks. I'm still far from my goals, but self-publishing is becoming so hot that it seemed like the time was right to release a book about it.

I'd been giving out a lot of info on my blog as well as the Indie Reader blog and the comments section of other people's blogs, that it seemed time to start organizing and collating it. (Actually it might be a bit redundant to say both organizing and collating, but whatever.)

A lot of people have started mentioning me on their blogs and on forums. I get random Google Alerts frequently where someone mentions me as an "exception" somewhere online. People have started to take notice that dinky little Zoe Winters might actually do pretty okay with this indie thing.

The last chapter of the book is on troubleshooting and mistakes I've made, so you don't have to make them. One of the things I talk about in that section is "Video Game Syndrome," which is what my critique partner, Susan Bischoff, calls it.

If you've ever played a video game you know how stressful it gets when you start to get really far in the game or super high points. It's like... "Eeek, doing well, can't mess up now. Can't lose it now! I just need to get a little farther. Just a few more points."

The same thing happens in book publishing. I'd been tortoising along for 17 months before I started making more than $200 a month. Then suddenly I released my third novella and all my books zoomed to the 100's in overall sales rank on Kindle. I stayed there for 6 weeks, which was probably my most stressful 6 weeks of this whole indie author thing.

Because suddenly I felt like people were watching, and I was finally starting to make money. Where before I was on a "slow and steady wins the race" mentality, once I started selling well, I began to picture myself living under a bridge if it all ended. Attention Captain Emo, your girlfriend is wandering around on aisle five.

I've settled down a bit because I know that high sales rankings are awesome, but eventually they will go away. Only, note to universe... please please keep sales rankings high at B&N just until the end of the month, Zoe hasn't owned a car in 3 years, and it would be super awesome to buy one with author money.

So basically, my point is this: If you happen to have seen my name crop up around the Internet and you think I'm "lucky", it sort of took 2 years of hard work and non-stop marketing and making myself crazy without an outside job to distract me to "get lucky". It doesn't happen instantly. And when it "does" start to happen for you, you will become more stressed and pressured when you feel people are watching or have expectations. This is normal. It happens to everyone. 

If you're just starting on your indie journey or you'd like to sell more books than you currently are, you might want to go check out my book: "Becoming an Indie Author".

You can pick it up at Barnes and Noble, Amazon or Smashwords.

I'll also give away a free digital copy of "Becoming an Indie Author" to one commenter here. To enter, all you need to do is tell me your biggest challenge as an indie if you're currently self-publishing, or the biggest fear holding you back if you aren't.


  1. My biggest challenge as an indie is not being American. I pay extra tax (30% of all book sales) and I can't get electronic payments from Amazon or use Pubit.

    Hopefully this year's big challenge will be next year's big opportunity.

  2. No kindle? FAIL.

    There's so much info available. All of it sounds good, all of it is different and all of it is working for that writer. How do you know what's right for you? That's my challenge.

    Zoe, I already bought your book so you can take me out of the giveaway. My 2 cents here is free!

  3. That one truly sucks, Chris! Wish I could help you. I told you to move over here! :)

  4. Excellent post, Zoe! I'm in the slow and steady wins the race game right now, but my book has also only been out for 3 months. I think I have a long way to go. My biggest challenge as an indie is comparing myself to everyone else - indie and otherwise. It's kind of ridiculous how small I feel next to everyone else when I wish I could be 100% happy with my own success 100% of the time. That's impossible, I'm sure. :)

  5. You crack me up, Zoe. Girlfriend of Captain Emo?! I've read more than one indie author talk about how sales are minuscule at first, and then begin to pick up momentum. It's a totally different model than trad publishing, where the goal is to release with a bang and peter out, even to the point the books go out of print after a few years. I just put out my first ebook, and it's hard if a day goes by without even a single sale, even if another day has several. I get so depressed. So at this point, I'm still on the "slow and steady" strategy.

    But I am glad your hard work is paying off. I'm hoping you get that car. :) My own goal is to earn enough to pay for day care.

    @ Sctachach. It's silly to me that there should be such different rules depending on what country you're in, when the internet *should* allow everyone an even playing field. It's a real shame so many outmoded obstacles still remain in place.

    Tara Maya

  6. Uh, Zoe, did you just offer me your spare room. Thanks! Can't wait. :)

  7. LOL Thanks, Andrew!

    Hey Michelle, I've experienced some of that "comparing myself" stuff recently. When I started out I didn't do a lot of comparing because I was just starting out and knew it would take time, but when I started selling more... yeah, it gets hard not to compare. Even checking sales ranks is an act of comparison... "How well am I doing compared to everybody else in this store... or in this category..."

    Hey Tara, it is really hard starting out. But you'll get there. You just keep building your fan base one reader at a time. And eventually you start hitting critical mass. It is a new model to get used to. Because you think... 6 months have gone by... if I was going to do well, it would have happened already, but not necessarily. It can take awhile for the momentum to start building. And I hope I get that car too! Good luck on day care!

    @Chris, you are such a creative interpreter of comments! :P

  8. My biggest obstacle is myself, or specifically my lack of drive to be published. I am driven to tell stories. Once I have done that, I'm happy. The additional step of getting the story published just doesn't motivate me. It's happened a couple of times (two publication credits out of four serious submission efforts) but each time it's felt like an anti-climax, not the complete thrill that I feel it ought to be. So actually putting extra *work* in to publish myself...

    I may be unique among writers in that I have no actual ambition to get published.

  9. Looks like a good book. =)

    My biggest problem? Probably time, and a lingering self-confidence issue (is it really good enough to sell? how do I know?). That's gotten a bit better, after getting 8 out of 8 first reviewers of a Ch 1-2 rewrite telling me they wanted to read the rest (yay!), but it's still there in the back of my head.