When I jumped into the indie author scene, it was a calculated risk. Like I do with a lot of decisions, I looked at the pros and cons.
- There are a number of platforms that are easy to publish your work on for little or no cost (Amazon, Nook, Smashwords, etc.).
- The royalties for sales are pretty decent. If you price a book on Amazon over $2.99, for instance, you will get 70% of what you sell.
- You can write at your own pace in whatever style you want.
- You can directly interact with your readers through many vehicles (blogs, mailing, lists, social media, author signing events).
- There is a fairly organized community of independent authors and you can learn from others and help others that are just getting started.
- My writing would be judged directly by the readers and not some low-on-the-totem-pole publishing house employee looking for the flavor of the month.
- Trend-setters like Hugh Howey and Mark Dawson are putting independent authors on the map ranking higher than some traditional best-selling authors.
- You have creative control over everything! You can select your own cover, hire an editor (or not), title your book, and write in whatever genre you want to.
- Just like with the indie music world, there is a lot of variety out there. There is also good and bad. The key component that differentiates here is quality. Poor spelling, grammar, and formatting occurs at a much higher frequency in the work of indie authors.
- Getting recognized is hard work. There is no publishing house promoting your book, issuing press releases, and setting up interviews. You are your own social media and blogger.
- You have creative control over everything! There is no one to point out if the emperor is not wearing clothes. There are no focus groups to select your cover for you or advise you on a title or a genre to write in. You are it.
Obviously, the pros outweighed the cons for me. The main factor was my age. Becoming a novelist after age 50 is daunting enough without the rejection letters and constant queries to publishing houses that don’t want unproven ‘seasoned’ authors. I wanted to get my writing out there and let the readers tell me if it stunk or not. Of course, my first reader was my wife of 30 years. I knew that she would not ‘blow smoke’ if she didn’t like my writing. She liked the first book and that gave me the confidence to move to the next step.
I hired a very intelligent, long-time friend of mine to be my editor. When I say ‘hired’, that’s a bit of a stretch. She edited the book for free with the promise of whatever I could pay her as the book made profits. I knew that, as a friend, this wouldn’t just be a job for her, she would also tell me if the book had weak points, which it did, and be honest about it’s viability, which she was.
One thing I realized quickly was how valuable professional editing and formatting can be to the success of your book. That’s why I started DSM Publications. I want to help other indie authors reach a high level of quality without breaking the bank.
In the end, it all worked out. I am now eight novels in, along with two non-fiction books, and I still have the same passion I did in the beginning. Not yet. Although, my earnings from writing have doubled each year since I started. Each book I release seems to outperform the previous one. I must be doing some things right.
The one piece that still is elusive is getting that recognition. I’m doing what I can, but it’s still a challenge. This year, I created a street team. I honestly didn’t think that anyone would be interested in promoting my books. I solicited interest from my mailing list and immediately got responses. Instead of the two or three I expected, I got 30 volunteers in the first several hours and cut off the street team membership at that number. They have been a loyal group trudging out to bookstores and libraries loyally with the promise of signed copies of my latest book. I owe them tremendously.
So, I may write more about this in the future. This has been somewhat cathartic. I would love to have this post start a discussion. What journey did you go through as an independent author? What has worked and what hasn’t? Let’s help each other.