Yes, It’s time for my soapbox. You may be going through the classic struggle trying to decide whether to self-publish or wait for traditional publishing possibilities.
There are many pros and cons to each and I’ve gone through many of those in previous posts. For me, the obvious choice was self-publishing. When I triangulated my age with my available time and my tolerance for rejection, it was the smart option for me.
It’s up to you do decide which path you want to take, but I want to let you know that there has never been a better time to be an independently published author. There are so many tools and favorable platforms that, when you choose the indie author path, it is a fairly straightforward route to navigate.
Is it easy? Not at all. You will expend the same amount of energy (if not more) than you would have creating and sending query letters and manuscripts when you begin promoting your work and building your author platform.
Fortunately, there are tools and tricks to help you every step of the way. I’ll briefly describe some of the ways that I navigated self publishing using short cuts along the way.
Validation – If you’re seeking the kind of validation that you get from a literary agent or a publishing company, that’s fine. Remember, it’s usually one person’s opinion of your work. You may receive a rejection that says, “It’s just not what we’re looking for.” What exactly does that mean? We don’t think we can sell it. We don’t like your work. You’re a terrible writer. The rejections can be brutal and cold.
If you take the indie route, you can find online peer review groups. I used Scribophile quite a bit when I started writing my first novel. The cool thing about this site is that you can post your work in progress and get it critiqued by other authors. It is a quid pro quo situation in that you have to critique the work of others to get enough ‘points’ to post your own work. I found it to be good practice and there were some really great stories on the site and lots of constructive criticism to be had.
Editing – Editing is somehow a four-letter-word for some in indie publishing. I’ve had authors proudly tell me that they edit their own work. Even if you are a scholar with an advanced English degree, I would argue that you’re still going to miss things. I started my career as a computer programmer and I know how easy it is to make simple mistakes in an environment where a missed punctuation mark can cause an entire program to crash. Make an investment in an editor.
You may think this is cost prohibitive, but there are options. I was very lucky. I have a dear friend that is an excellent editor. She took my work on as a favor and I was able to pay her later as sales increased.
If you’re not lucky enough to know an editor that will work under these conditions, you can find freelance editors on sites such as upwork.com or fiverr.com and find editors that will work with you based on the number of words you put in front of them. I’ve done this kind of work myself and it can be a good way to work. The money you pay is put in escrow and is not released until you’re happy with the work.
Book Covers – Again, this is another area where you can spend a lot or a little. Amazon has a tool for creating covers that is free. You can also use the freelance sites that I mentioned earlier. I have had great luck with them and was able to continually go back to the same graphic design artist for my covers. The most I’ve spent on a cover was $50.
Trailers – Once again, the freelance sites can help you here. I’ve had a trailer done for each book. There are many schools of thought on the necessity of trailers. I’ve found that they work well in ads that allow them. I also have set up a Youtube channel with my trailers. Again, the cost was relatively low depending on how much you rely on the freelancer for images, copy, and music. My most expensive trailer was about $75.
Promotion – For an independent author, this is the most painful part of the process in my opinion. I am introverted in person. I’m much more confident and outspoken online. When I have to attend an event and actually interact with other people, it is daunting. I also hate saying good things about myself. The idea of telling others what a great author I am makes me physically ill. There are ways to outsource this process. You can find a P.R. person. I did this at the beginning and found I was not getting a return on my investment. What I did, however, was to learn what this person was doing leading up to a book release and to secure interviews and issue press releases. They were things I could do on my own using my connections.
Building an Author Platform – I had no idea what an author platform was when I started down the indie publishing path. I quickly learned, however, that it is a presence. This presence includes the need for a web site, a Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. It also meant that I needed to establish a blog and a blog identity. This last piece is one that I was hit-or-miss with in the first year. Since January of this year, however, I have taken it very seriously and I believe that having a blog is the foundation of an Author platform. It’s a place to tell people who you are, what you know, and, most importantly for authors, what you write.
I’ve tried to do a number of things with my blog. I like to educate, entertain, interact, share my writing and pay it forward. The last item is extremely important among authors. I try to share news that other authors view as important around their new releases and successes. I also like to share important items from other authors. I also use my blogging platform as a way to tell people about the many talented authors that are part of this community.
Since I’ve been putting effort into my blog, I have seen the number of followers grow significantly and the number of views per visitor. That means that people who visit my blog are looking around at different things. That’s a cool feeling.
One thing that I’ve tried to do is make sure that my blog is identified with me, the author. An author’s name is his or her brand. You can give your blog a catchy name like Author McAuthorface, but people may remember that and not your actual name when looking for your books.
Independent vs. Self-Published Author
This post has devolved into a rant about independent publishing in some regard. I make the differentiation between independent and self-publishing for a reason. I don’t do everything myself. I don’t print the books or run the website that sells my books. I simply take all of the tools that traditional publisher would bundle and I use them in a cafeteria style configuration.
Does this make me any less of an author than someone that goes the traditional route? I don’t think so. As long as their are authors like Hugh Howey, Andy Weir and Mark Dawson out there as role models, I’m going to stay on this path. I am validated by my readers, not by a gatekeeper.
Please chime in with your thoughts.