Five Tips for Newbie Indie Authors

Dan went back in time and gave his thirty-year-old self some advice. Two years later, thirty-two-year-old Dan blogs about it. These are the resulting words and pictures.

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This week, I started writing the eighth book I’ll publish—the seventh book in my Jake Hancock series. It might be immature by about twenty or so books, but I’m beginning to think of myself as a bit of a veteran indie author. I’ve at least made it past the three book mark, which I read is the mean number of books published by indie authors.

And as a seasoned indie author who needs topics to blog about, I feel like I should pass on the wisdom I’ve gained over the two years I’ve been doing this shit. Here are five tips to maximize productivity and creativity:

  1. Broccoli is your friend

Burgers and pizzas are great and everything, but I find that if I eat broccoli the night before the next morning’s thousand words fly onto the page, and not only that, I find that the quality increases to the point where, upon finishing the writing session, I don’t feel inclined to walk out onto my balcony to find out what it feels like to hurtle face first onto the asphalt below at roughly twenty-five percent of my terminal velocity.

You probably think I’m busting your balls, but I’ve accumulated enough anecdotal evidence to think there’s definitely something to it. Now that I think about it, I don’t eat broccoli on Friday evenings—because, well, it’s Friday—which is probably the reason why the two opening paragraphs in this blog post don’t quite gel, unless I fixed them in post, in which case you can forget you read these words.

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Broccoli and a bicycle
  1. Alcohol isn’t your friend

Sure, when you find out the book you thought was the best in the series turns out to be consistently the one readers tell you is the weakest, or when you check your sales for the month to see you won’t be able to buy that weapon-sharpened katana sword you’ve been longing to mount on your bedroom wall, it’s easy to turn to the bottle. Don’t.

Writer’s of legendary status, such as Ernest Hemmingway, may have gotten away with it, but I’d bet there are at least twenty low-functioning alcoholics to every lucky bastard who’s high-functioning while and after being shitfaced. Where do I fit in on the spectrum of alcoholism functionality? When hungover once, I queued on the wrong side of a cash register at a book store, meaning I was queuing behind the cashier. Yep, that wasn’t my finest moment, and clearly hammering the bottle the night before leaves me in no fit state to write comedy.

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This.
  1. Have no fear

You never fail at writing unless you don’t write. It’s easy to sit there all morning before work, poking away at your iPad, thinking you’re doing “research,” but that’s just fear fucking with you. If after I’d eaten breakfast every morning I went right to my office, sloshing green tea on my work clothes as I did, instead of doing the aforementioned activity, I really would be a veteran indie author. But then again, there’d only be four tips written for this blog post, which is a shitty number. Swings and roundabouts, I guess.

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Fear fucking with him.
  1. Moderate, break up, and stagger the ultimate goal of writing books

Your ultimate goal should be to sell enough books each year so you can tell your boss to go fuck himself, preferably in a resignation letter written in crayon. But that won’t happen right away, and it may never happen. To stay motivated, moderate that goal into smaller goals, and make them achievable within a short time frame, such as getting x number of five-star reviews, and make them specific and measurable. Listen to me, I sound just like Tony Robbins or some shit. But it’s important if you’re to avoid spiraling into a deep depression from which you’ll never escape (see point two).

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This athlete hasn’t decided to stack all the hurdles on top of each other and jump over them all at once. That would be stupid and dangerous.
  1. Have fucking fun

If you write for yourself, making yourself laugh as you spend that hour and a half in front of your computer every morning, it’ll be something you look forward to, not something that’s a chore. And if you can make yourself laugh, chances are there are a shitload of readers who’ll laugh too. That is, unless you’re some kind of psychopath with a sick sense of humor, in which case this probably isn’t the gig for you.

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Bears frolicking. Fun.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this blog post, don’t forget to feel mildly obligated to share it with your friends on social media. Those of you who already do—I’m looking at you, Alison—thanks a lot. You can also get notified via email every time there’s a new blog post by filling in the form at the top-right corner of the web page.


My books, which I had a ball writing, even the times I was hungover, can be checked out here.

Head on over to my Facebook page and say hi and don’t forget to like it. I’m starting to do Facebook live videos soon, where I’ll attempt to keep fans of Jake Hancock updated on my work in progress and attempt to make them laugh with topical humor. I feel like I might crash and burn, at least for the second aim, but that might make them more entertaining.

Who Are You Writing for and Why Does it Matter?

I mentioned in an earlier blog post the importance of writing for a specific target demographic. In the absence of any other blog topic, and in order to keep up my once-a-week-schedule I promised to myself I’d keep in last week’s blog post, I’ll expand on what I meant and why it’s important. When browsing Twitter, I often see book plugs akin to “If you like historical romance, you’ll love Book A,” or, “Science fiction nut? Check out Book B.” That’s like McDonald’s assuming that anyone who likes food will automatically love their shitty burgers. The people who write book plugs like the examples above haven’t thought hard enough about whom they’re writing for. And it will probably mean, barring some stroke of luck, that they’ll never effectively market their books. They’ll never get their books in front of the thousands of readers they couldn’t be bothered specifically targeting who will buy everything they write and make them financially independent. In short, they’ll never be able to tell their boss go fuck himself, they’re done making McShittys for peanuts…Peanuts, McShitty? I feel a joke touching cloth.

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Require sustenance? Come in and try a McShitty. *Warning: some mornings it may contain peanuts*

If a writer wants to build up a devoted readership, it’s not enough to assume that anyone who reads the genre or even the super-specific subgenre they write will automatically become a fan. Because guess what, there are a shit-ton of other writers offering the same literature packaged the same way, and without having set they’re stall out differently from the rest of the authors of that genre, their books will try to impress all the readers of that genre and end up impressing none. They need to define a subset of a particular genre reader in their mind and tailor their writing to blow the socks of those people, and figuratively tell everyone who’s part of a different subset of readers who likes science fiction or military thrillers or whatever to go fuck themselves.

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In writing mysteries with edgy humor, I figuratively told this outdoorsy type who likes cozy mysteries about baking and dogs to go fuck herself.

So how do I go about defining my target demographic and writing specifically for them? I hear you ask. It’s simple, think about the experience you want to give them. You’re not going to be like a hooker who wants to be a Jill of all trades, master of none. You’ve got a niche customer base who you’ll specifically dress up for and cater to when between the sheets of some bed in some Motel 6. A target demographic shouldn’t be defined by age range or interests or if they color their hair at home or at the salon, or as mentioned above that they happen to read a specific genre, but what experience they’re looking for as a reader.

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M is for what suspiciously looks like a gorilla.

A couple years ago, I tried to write appeal-to-everyone literary fiction that I thought I could sell shit-tons of. I didn’t have a clue whom I was writing for, just that I liked writing. Writing those books was laborious, and editing them was like smashing myself in the forehead repeatedly with a sledgehammer. They were shit. And the reason they were shit, apart from the fact that back then I was an even shittier writer than I am now, was that my heart wasn’t in it. Around the same time, I decided I’d like to get well read. I picked up a Charles Dickens book that had been collecting dust on my bookshelf and started reading. I hated it. I hated all the description, I hated that it made me feel stupid, and I hated how slow it moved. With this experience in mind, I set out to find out what shit I actually like to read, and found an author who wrote exactly that.

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For the life of me I can’t get that asshole to like my books.

I won’t mention who it is, because I’m not into plugging other self-published authors on my blog, and because it’s irrelevant. Anyway, the point of the above longwinded story wasn’t to Dickens on Charles, but to lead onto whom I write for, my target demographic. Figuring I’d never sell enough books to satisfy my ambition, I started writing to entertain myself. My target demographic is me. And this is the type of reader I am and what experience I want:

The only times I read are during my commute to and from work. It’s either super early or I’ve just spent a day at work, so my concentration isn’t the best. This means I need books that aren’t super complex or are bogged down with rarely written words and that look light on the page. The place I live, Oslo, is quite scenic, and in order to stop me from gawping at the various views I go past on my journey to or from work, I need books that strive to be constantly entertaining. I don’t give a fuck if there’s any social realism or topical themes—if I want to be educated or enlightened about something, I’ll read a newspaper or pick up a non-fiction book—and I equally don’t give a fuck about how clever the writer is. I especially don’t want to read some flowery description of a room or a person. If I want something nice to look at, I don’t want to imagine it based on some author’s words. I’ll look at it on my television screen or at an art gallery. In the place of visual imagery and topical-theme-laden narratives, I want banter between characters, lots of dialogue and action, and a plot that moves faster than a hobo who’s just found a winning lottery ticket. I’m willing to suspend disbelief and read about characters that I don’t necessarily relate to or think realistic, as long as those characters are working their asses off to entertain me. When I finish a book, I don’t want to feel like I’ve just sat through a mildly interesting 5-hour lecture, but like I’ve just been to the circus while high on LSD. I want fiction books to do what they’re supposed to do: entertain me, regardless of whether they’re considered good literature or not.

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Unless it’s a bad trip…a really bad trip.

So that’s the type of reader I am. And that’s whom I write for. I write books to make myself laugh, and I’m not a unique like a snowflake, so other readers laugh too. Ones who share my sense of humor. And I market my books to appeal to other readers like me—while producing my blurbs, my book covers, and this blog. Next time you sit down to write, think about who it is you’re writing for and what type of experience they’re looking for. Don’t make a McShitty and think that everyone who likes food will lap it up, because they won’t.

As always, if you laughed out loud at least three times, press one of the share buttons below. It’s kind of a deal I have going on with the readers of this blog.


Does the above the description of what type of reader I am sound like you? If so, you might like my fiction books.

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