The Author I Am (Advice and Evidence for Indie Writers) / by Josh Guess

For a good while now I've been trying to steer clear of writing too much about writing. It's a little self-centered and frankly I don't know that many people are interested in hearing about my job. I don't expect you to come home from the factory or the nursing home (I work at one of those for my day job) and write a long series of posts about it. I don't think I should either.

Occasionally, though, I get the itch to update anyone who is interested on what's happening with me and my career and to share my experiences. The things that work and don't might be useful to you if you're an indie writer or are thinking of becoming one. Maybe not, but this is my disclaimer: nothing I say is presented as gospel. Also, nothing I say is intended to be bragging on my part. I'm just as surprised as anyone that I've sold book one.

But first, a little about who I am.

I am not a structured image. I don't do PR and have gimmicks and stuff like that. This is the only joshuaguess.com you'll find; infrequently updated and just a sort of informal blog. Not that I don't intend to build a "real" website at some point, but that's just not a priority for me. I like interacting with my fans who so often become my friends via social media. A professional website might be pretty and all that jazz, but I much prefer joking around with readers on Facebook and Twitter. It's more personal, faster, and much easier.

There are a lot of paths for authors to take. I suggest trying out whatever methods suit you. I don't have the resources to quit my job and take up writing full-time, so there's no media blitz from me. I don't have a lot of time to write as it is. I'm not spending any of it trying to write regular stuff on my blog solely to appear cute or to gain attention.

You might be able to do that. The Bloggess is a great example of that kind of writer. She's as honest and straightforward as it's possible for a human to be. She's a brilliant writer that used her platform and considerable talent to make a name for herself. Then she wrote a book that sold like hotcakes. Which is a lot, because hotcakes are fucking delicious. Jenny (that's her real name) does one or two regular features on her blog and they work well. I think that's because she developed them organically over time.

She does her own PR, and it's as darkly funny and brutally filthy as the rest of her work. I love it. She comes across as genuine in every way, and that's a huge part of why people love her.

That's not easy to do. Some authors tend toward self-aggrandizement, talking about their work incessantly. Those are the ones who have photo shoots with lots of, uh, cleverly posed pictures. They're the ones who have silly gimmicks on their web pages that are written in a way or from a perspective specifically designed to create an impression about what kind of person they are. Maybe it's a "rant" section to create the idea the writer is a tough customer that tells it like it is. It might be the author writing a blog post or review from the perspective of a fictional character once a week. There are a lot of them. And for those people that may work.

As a reader, that turns me off. So I don't use them as a writer. But, hey, whatever tickles your pickle.

To me, being genuine is the most important thing. I may tone down what I say and not get into details of my points of view, but by and large what you see is what you get. I think authenticity is vital to the reader. You might read something I've written and think I'm a huge dick afterward, but you'll know for sure that you come to that opinion honestly. I don't put on a show to try and lure you in.

What does all this mean? Nothing, except that your image is a part of how your reader perceives you. It isn't just your writing. I only want you to think about that going forward.

That's the advice part. Now for the evidence.

Totally separate from all of the above is the pure numbers of how I'm doing at this point in my writing career. Some people are appalled at anyone divulging the amount of money they make. I told you all months ago that in 2011 I made just over $6000 in royalties, all from my eBooks. A lot of my fans, friends, and family were stunned by that number. Put it in one lump sum like that and it seems like a lot of money to make for someone typing on his couch while watching Hoarders.

And you know what? That's exactly the right reaction. I still don't quite believe it myself. I chalk it up to a ludicrously supportive fan base, some dedication on my part, and metric tons of sheer luck.

Which makes the next bit a little strange: At the end of November, I will get a check from Amazon that will bring my total income for 2012 to just shy of $11,000. I have no idea what October will bring in sales, and as I'll be getting paid the October royalties at the end of December I'm not even going to guess.

For a bit of clarity I beat last year's royalties by the end of June. Halfway through the year and I'd made as much as the entire previous year. I attribute this, again, to my (growing) fan base, my dedication, GIGATONS of luck, and the addition of Kindle Select into the mix.

There's a lot of back and forth about Select and I'm not rehashing it here. Google arguments about the program if you're interested. As for me, my audience has grown tremendously over the last ten and a half months of being in the program. I've given away somewhere near twenty thousand books in that time. I've had higher sales each month in comparison to 2011. I've grown my fanbase organically--that is, by word of mouth and through getting books out there to eReaders--instead of through ads or blog posts or reviews or guest spots on so-and-so's website. I'm not nay-saying those things, by all means do them if you feel the need. But they take up time I just don't have.

I am absolutely floored by the growth in my income this year. Most of it has been eaten by medical bills from when I had my appendix removed as well as a dozen other nibbling costs over that time. But the point is, I had the money to cover them. Select had a lot to do with the jump in my income. Every bit of analysis I can do on my numbers supports that. Might not work for you, but it's worth keeping tabs on.

In short, the things that work for me: engaging my fans directly, which I can fortunately still do as I'm not some big name with millions of fans. I tend to just be myself, which does turn some people off but creates surprisingly fierce loyalty among the remainder. I've made some good friends that way, and people see me as more than a carefully-crafted image or just some faceless neutral voice saying, "I wrote this book. Reading it would not be unpleasant for you, fellow human."

I'm a person to them, which is good given I actually am a person. I'm certainly not a complex computer program sent from the future to slowly gain your love and trust as a public figure only to make the inevitable slide into a cyborg apocalypse that much easier. Perish the thought. I don't know what you're talking about. Who said cyborgs? Not this infiltration unit, that's for sure.

And I think I'll end here. Like my grandma always says, "Leave them asking for more...information on whether or not you're an agent of Skynet."