“If you want something done, do it yourself!”
If you’re reading this, you’re likely self-publishing, considering it, or researching it as you build your author platform. The quote above is my mantra – not just for writing, but in all facets of life. I’m HIGHLY independent, and I consider it to be my greatest strength and weakness. Self-publishing is a very daunting, yet rewarding career/hobby path to choose. I feel a few people oversell it, and too few people talk about the reality of it.
Not all authors will find success. Not all authors will sell more than a few dozen copies. My goal is to document my journey as I go along beginning with this blog post to look back on (nostalgia damn it!) and help out a few of you just beginning. This advice is from a “green” indie author who will eventually publish her manuscript in 2018. I’ve spent the better part of over 400 hours researching this industry. This research will be summarized in this blog series.
I wanted to begin more abstractly before I go into the more targeted topics that will be the most beneficial to read. I chose to do this for several reasons, so if you have a specific question or topic you’d like me to discuss, comment below, on my YouTube videos, or shoot me an email!
Considering the industry I’m talking about – self-publishing – we need to set a few things straight before we continue.
Self-publishing is HARD.
Without a great arsenal of tools, you’re doomed from the start. Indie authors have to be organized, disciplined, independent, decisive, flexible, adaptable, and critical. Without one of these attributes, you’ll likely have a hard time managing your self-publishing journey. We wear all sorts of hats, and we’re expected to be good at wearing them all – in every season, too!
Fortunately, we live in the age of the Internet. Answers are only one Google search away. Resources are just a few minutes’ worth of research away. The bad news is that there are more than a few successful indie authors out there. The competition will never fade away. The pioneers of self-publishing have laid the groundwork for all us noobs to sift through.
Plenty of authors provide quick tips about our industry. Most of them offer wise insights that will impact you in some way. The problem I have consistently run into is that the majority of them mostly offer advice only applicable to well-established (at least established) authors. A few websites try to offer the perspective of what they did in the beginning of their own writing journey. The issue is that the majority of them have not been “green” for a long while.
You’ll eat up precious writing time.
We’re writers, so we expect to keep an organic writing schedule in order to finish our manuscripts. The bad news is that in the beginning, I’d recommend NOT having a new project like I have right now. It’s still in its shiny new form dripping with exciting promise. My issue is the lack of time to write – my fingertips itch, damn it!
Research eats away most of my time right now. I want to be well-rounded, and I am constantly looking up strategies to market, edit, design, and publish the manuscript that’s only about 5,000 words (at this current time). You may roll your eyes at me. You may scoff at that. Why do all this research if it’s not even drafted? That’s fine.
Remember that we’re not the same. What works for me will certainly not work for you. That’s okay. I just want to mention that the more research you consistently do now the better familiar you are with the industry you’re going into. Consistent research (in my mind) translates to consistent market knowledge. I already have my cover designer picked out (not paid for, yet), and I already know my editor. I have a few interested beta readers lined up.
My point is that I’ve already laid out the foundation for networking with other authors, readers, and relationships for future books in my series. I’m excited because I’ve already immersed within the industry I’m heading into. I feel prepared. This is crucial to someone like me who sits in bed awake at night dreading the “what ifs” and “hows” of things. Knowing a little eases my over analytical mind tenfold! In turn, this gives me peace of mind while I write.
The competition is rampant, and the market changes all the time.
Remember I brought up being flexible and adaptable? Sorry. Indie authors aren’t just writers. We’re like business folk – even if you resist such a reality or not. It’s true and inevitable. Unless you really don’t want to sell your book – although I’m unsure why you’d fork out hundreds to edit and design your book – you need to think more like a small business owner. I’ll be blogging a lot about how to begin your own publishing company for the foreseeable future. These two topics are directly related.
This industry can be warm and welcoming, but also harsh – like the wastelands in my upcoming book, Gravity Rising. Trends pick up a few new books here and there, but for the most part, you want a solid book that can transcend all that. Riding the waves of trends (for most people) is a BIG disservice to you and your manuscript. I’m unpublished, but I see value in writing a story that can slip into a few genres and categories. It may be harder to envision your marketing strategy in the beginning, but honestly, I’m enabling a ton more readers the chance to find enjoyment in my story.
I see a lot of demand for dystopia, post-apocalyptic, and paranormal romance involving aliens or other creatures branching away from vampires – thank the LORD! Opening your manuscript to some of these trends to satisfy a smaller trend is fine. I’m guilty of this, too. I just would never write an entire book solely to sell a book in a popular genre. That’s just not for me. If it works for you, go for it! I’m interested in writing original content that’s relatable to a few genres and topics. This way, I stay relevant to multiple markets and consistently sell my books.
You need to be self-aware.
As an indie author, we should conceptualize a few ideas about who we are. You need to know your weaknesses and your strengths. Primarily, you should focus on what you can achieve yourself. If you know the ins and outs of Photoshop, make your own book cover! Save a few hundred dollars. If you are a really great editor, edit your book (not recommended) and hire only a proofreader as a final cold eyes review sort of thing.
On the other hand, if you suck at finding misspelled words or graphic designing, you’ll need to have a strategy or a direction to move forward with. Equipped with this knowledge allows you to self-assess about how many upfront costs you’ll need and also enables you to create and stick to a budget. This is especially true for all you “pantsers” – not just in writing, but also in life! You can accommodate nearly any weaknesses you have by placing a small plan together NOW.
If you’re unorganized, try to set up a planner or use your phone to organize your tasks. I’m trying to start this myself, so I’ll keep you posted on my progress at some point. I’m quite organized, though, so I really don’t need one. I really just love the idea of having one – I can be frivolous sometimes!
I highly recommend you also conceive a writing plan similar to a business plan. How much can you spend in total? How much investment do you feel comfortable allocating to marketing? What resources do you have to use to negate said costs? These are all important questions you should have a generalized response to.
Closing thoughts for you to take away.
I wanted to circle back to the original quote. This quote is generally the reason I am self-publishing my novels. Traditional publishing (also an upcoming blog post) for me is just too structured without the benefit of freedom – almost in every regard. I’m a control freak. I want to choose my editor, to choose my cover, to market my book. I want the credit for my failure or success, and I take pride in either outcome because at least I would have done this.
Publishing my story on my own means the most from this whole journey I’ve embarked on. I’m doing this for me. My characters have things to say. I’m doing this because I’ve always wanted to. Regardless of your own motivations, you should always do what you’re doing for you to some degree. This industry is hard, yes. However, it’s also very rewarding (even in the unpublished stages). I’ve learned so many things about myself in my time researching various things. This is the most pivotal aspect of my journey so far!
This post’s featured image displays a broken, tumultuous, and sinking path into the water. Progressively, this path becomes more stable and intact. This is what my self-publishing journey has been like – not to whip out the cheese or anything.