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The drama of being seen as an indie author

Updated: 14 hours ago

April is a special month for me because I am celebrating my book-iversary. A year ago, my first novel Mothers of the Missing Mermaid was available for people to purchase and read. 

The thing about seeing something you wrote publish is it feels like the end of something, but it’s actually the beginning of something else. The manuscript was finally a book. I felt happy that I no longer had to worry about it. Except, I wasn’t completely off the hook. I still had to make sure people knew about it and wanted to buy it.

I had written the book, but it wasn’t about making the book anymore, it was about getting it in the hands of people who would want to read it.

I was now in the business of being seen as an author. 

I didn’t think I was naive when I started, but I really was. I told my friends and family I had published a novel. I posted about it on social media. I posted about it on my website. Friends and family told people about it. And there was this surge of attention, which eventually dissipated. 

And everything I had read warned me about this. They said there would be a surge and then it would die down. But I would not listen. I think that deep down I really believed that I would tell someone about my book, and they’d tell two friends, and they’d tell two friends, and so on and so on. 

A stack of copies of Mothers of the Missing Mermaid

Slone warned me that I would probably struggle with this part. She pulled together all her skills from her marketing degree and all of her bravery to have a very difficult phone call with me where she laid out a simple truth that I was not prepared to accept – in order to sell books, I was going to have to allow people to see me. I was going to have to be visible in online spaces. I was going to have to attend events and shake hands. I was going to have to tell people who I was and not only share my book but also my story about who I was. She also said I needed a real professional photographer to take my photo, which has been my last holdout. 

Despite my confident stance when I teach or when I meet people, being seen – allowing people to see me – is incredibly difficult for me. I much prefer being invisible, being the observer, and being behind the scenes. Especially when I feel vulnerable. I once went to a writers meetup group at a restaurant, had an anxiety attack because I could not easily identify which table was full of writers. I ran out of there, and cried all the way home. Not because anyone did anything, but because I couldn’t bear to relive the high school experience of wandering the tables and asking people if I could sit with them. I felt like I had invited myself to the cool kids party and everyone was going to be mad at me because I was encroaching on their space.

I struggle with an “I can handle it” syndrome. I don’t like asking for help. I don’t like letting people see me vulnerable, and if they ever do, I push them away or run as far as I can. My response when I feel uncomfortable is flight, then hiding. 

But to be a writer, especially in the way that I am choosing to be a writer, I can’t run and hide. As an indie author, I represent myself, and while I like that about my business model, it means that I am in charge of making sure people are paying attention. I must allow myself to be seen as an indie author.

What's funny is there are definite virtues for being in command of your own career, but I still get hung up on this concept of being chosen. I am a creative entrepreneur. I am accountable for my own earnings. I started my own business. I manage multiple revenue streams. I don't owe anyone 10%. However, the fact that no one swooped in with a big cigar and said, "Hold on kid, we're going to make you a star," somehow makes it less? That's a rescue fantasy, not a reality.

I honestly feel like it would be easier if I wasn’t representing myself, but represented another writer instead. I will go to bat for my people. I would feel comfortable sending out media kits, chatting them up on social media, moderating their Reddit fan site, or attending their live events. Because to support the talent almost feels noble and definitely fits into my codependent tendencies.

I grew up in an environment where people were either born talented and therefore deemed for greatness, or they were born talentless and are deemed to carry that person’s luggage for them. There was no in between. There was no working on your craft. You either had it or you didn’t. And if you were someone who was seen striving, you were quickly reminded that you aren’t naturally good at it, so you should give up. And as much as I would like to lay all of that on the house where I was raised, I don’t think it was. Either it was a community thing, a cultural thing, or Southern thing. Because I saw it at school, at church choir practice, at play rehearsals, and at Girl Scouts. This concept was everywhere– the predestination of it all. And God forbid two females showed a mutual natural talent for anything. They would immediately be pitted against each other instead of building each other up.

And while naturally, it would seem like the scariest part is allowing people to see me potentially fail, I think what really freaks me out is having people see me strive. I am far more concerned about being seen trying. Like when you are a kid and trying to shoot hoops and someone stands on the side of the court saying how you’re not talented enough to ever play on a team, or criticizing your stance, or reminding you how much you are no Michael Jordan. It’s not helpful. It’s just commentary, but it triggers that “who does that bitch think she is” nerve. Luckily now I feel stronger and can say, “I’m the queen, that’s who!”

And I think that’s what I learned the most this year is to be seen, you have to put yourself out there. You have to believe that you are worthy of being seen. That there is power in letting people see you try. Because then they too might also try. Trying is how we all improve. Trying is how we accept ourselves for the effort. Yoda was wrong. Trying is an act of self worth.

Please celebrate my Book-iversary with me. Check out Mothers of the Missing Mermaid, available at the store. If you have already read it, please leave a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Goodreads!

Read Books. Wear Boots.



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