For Indie book writers, only two avenues lead to getting your work into the hands of readers: Road Warrior, or Cyber Warrior. You do not have to take your pick. They combine nicely. But you only have these two choices. It simplifies things.
Road Warriors enjoy eye-to-eye contact with their readers. Road Warriors meet their book buyers at malls, events, book signings, speech venues, dinner parties, celebrations, anywhere and everywhere. They always have a book with them. They drop a trail of business cards and book pamphlets wherever they go. They fill their cars with books, hit the road, and empty the books on a public that mostly appreciates their efforts. A lot of best-sellers are born in this fashion. John Grisham reportedly sold his first novel, A Time To Kill, out of the trunk of his car. Mark Twain spent a lot of time selling his own stuff. So did Edgar Allen Poe. Both were Indie writers.
Becoming a Road Warrior may not be the easiest way to sell books, and it is enormously time-consuming, but it clearly is the only surefire Starter Kit for most writers. Because the chance of becoming a “First Book Bestseller” makes winning the lottery look easy.
You can count the number of writers who make it big on their first book on one hand. The latest is Andy Weir, who wrote “The Martian” back in 2011. Others might include “Six Days of the Condor,” which was James Grady’s first novel in 1974. It made it on the screen as “Three Days of the Condor” with Robert Redford. And, of course, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a first novel published in 1960 by Harper Lee, won the Pulitzer Prize.
You can’t rely on having an international best-seller out of the gate. However, if you write a good book, you can make money as a Road Warrior. I recently met one writer who personifies the breed.
His name is Eddie Price, the award-winning author of Widder’s Landing.
“Widows’ Landing?” you ask. “Where did they land?”
“No, Widder’s Landing,” I respond.
“Never heard of it.”
No, you probably haven’t, unless you live in Kentucky. In which case, you probably have heard of it. Because the Golden Rule of all successful Road Warriors is: Find Your Community. And in the Bluegrass State, just about everybody, from the Governor on down, knows about Eddie Price and his wonderful book, Widder’s Landing.
The book has been endorsed by the Kentucky Humanities Council, the Kentucky Arts Council, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Daughters of 1812 (who honored it with the Spirit of 1812 Award), with commendations from Kentucky Governor Steven Beshear, and the Kentucky Senate and House, and the Kentucky Historical Society, the Kentucky Bicentennial Commission of the War of 1812, Civil War reenactors, Pioneer Villages, Museums, Libraries, Historical and Genealogical Societies, Elementary Schools, Middle Schools, High Schools, Colleges, Universities, the Kentucky Authors for Educators, and the Kentucky Storytelling Association.
You get the idea.
Road Warriors know how to identify their market, and they know how to work a crowd. They know how to take a book to the public. Not surprisingly, they keep discovering new “publics” to whom they sell their books.
I met Eddie Price in Miami at the Readers’ Favorite annual book awards. He’s a human cannonball, on fire, exploding and ricocheting everywhere. He has a sign on his car, selling his book. I parked my car next to it and was scared to death that it meant I had to buy a bunch of his books. If he gets anywhere near you, he’s going to sell you a book. And you willing buy it, laughing all the way to his bank.
Eddie Price is, well, priceless. And, yes, he wrote a terrific book. But here’s the lesson. In the hands of a Cyberwarrior (the second choice writers have), it would only sell a tiny fraction of the books that Eddie Price sells as a Road Warrior. Because it’s his Number One book, and it has to be presented to readers, eyeball-to-eyeball.
Most first books, whether they’re fiction or non-fiction, have no history. They are easily orphaned by readers who do not know, or care about the people who wrote them, “no matter how well or how brilliantly the book is written.” The only exceptions are if you’re famous, or infamous, or extraordinarily lucky.
The part of that last paragraph that’s italicized and in quotations came from the first Editor-in-Chief that I worked for as a journalist in New York City, 52 years ago. A great deal has changed in five decades, but not the truth of that quote. New writers have an almost impossible time swallowing it. It’s a crushing truth.
The reason people tell new writers to “write another book” is NOT to hone their craft. It’s to build their reputation with a growing backlist, becoming a recognized author followed by a tribe of readers.
“You can build a tribe overnight,” say the Cyberwarriors. Many How-To books have been written about it. They mostly focus on social media and list building, giveaways and blogs, websites, reviews, awards and obscure best-seller lists.
The good news is that, in unison, they all work. The bad news is that they try to replace eyeball-to-eyeball selling with mechanized word of mouth. So while they work, they do NOT do so quickly. They do so very slowly. The best news about this approach? Once the moving parts are in place, you have time to write another book. Road Warriors are often too busy selling.
According to Wikipedia’s recent statistics (which range from 2009 to 2014) about 3.5 million books get
published worldwide every year. According to Bowker, the official ISBN agency for the United States, eBooks bring the total for self-publishing up to 391,000 in America.
Amazon owns over 60% of the e-Book market. Statistics suggest that around 600 Kindle (Amazon) authors will earn over $25,000 this year in royalties.
The good news is that, despite the small size of the Successful Writers Club, far more Indie Authors than Big-5 Publishing House authors earn a living wage from their writing (defined as $25,000 a year in paid royalties). Of course, there’s a lot more independent writers.
As Indie Authors, we live in the Golden Age of Publishing. With Print-on-Demand, we can fix our books, change our cover, and edit a book’s contents overnight. Improvement is a keyboard click away.
Traditional Big-5 Published Authors enjoy no such freedom. The misspelling they commit on page 237 burns a hole in their brain until they go to a 2nd printing, if they go to a 2nd printing.
The more books an Indie Author writes, the closer he or she gets to the magical phrase: “I make my living as a writer.” You can make it happen as a Cyber Warrior, or as a Road Warrior, or both. But you will not be joining a crowd. It is a very exclusive club.