Recently I posted an article/video called “The #1 Thing Indie Authors are Doing Wrong” – I didn’t expect much traffic but actually people have been sharing it quite a lot.
So I watched my own video and I heard a lot of negativity.
It’s frustrating, for me, and anybody who works in the publishing industry, to face an ever-increasing torrent of new authors who have no idea about absolutely everything and constantly be giving out the same advice.
But that’s no excuse to focus on the negative. This blog tends to focus on the practicality of making money online and not just the positive thinking and “You can DO it!” hyperbole.
But I’m not all gray clouds.
I also recently wrote an article In Defense of NanoWrimo and #amwriting and said:
“#amwriting” is a celebration of pursuing a dream even if the odds are stacked against you; even if it’s frustrating, challenging and difficult. “#amwriting” is thumbing your nose at the people who tell you to quit, to give up on your dream and do something more practical.
“#amwriting” isn’t a bold declaration of successful authorship; it’s an acceptance that the journey is rough, the sea is choppy, the future uncertain. It’s recognizing and admitting that gee, writing a book is really, really hard. But we’re all writing books together, and it’s really hard for everybody. That means it’s OK if I suck at first, if I can’t figure out my plot transitions, if my characters are flat and lifeless. “#amwriting” is a reminder of the path I’ve chosen to take. It’s emotional support. It’s a red flag whenever I’m doing something else, something that isn’t creative, that I need to get back to work.
So I thought I better make a more uplifting post, about how great indie authors are, and how exciting this industry is, and why I’m grateful to be part of it.
1. Indie Authors Try
We try, we get frustrated, we learn, we try again. We’re afraid of the reception, but we publish anyway. That’s a huge emotional risk that most people aren’t willing to take. We believe in ourselves, our writing, enough to invest our time and money.
Sure out faith may be misplaced, at the beginning – maybe we’ll never earn our money back, maybe we’ll never get famous… but we’ll keep trying anyway. We are dogs with bones, all of us. Somebody says to give up? To do something more practical? To Hell with them.
2. Indie Authors Support Each Other
More than I think, any other industry, anywhere, in any business, indie authors really love to work together, to be happy for each other’s successes, to offer help when it is needed, to give advice (and ask for it). Even though there are some freeloaders who would rather email for answers (or these days, post questions on Facebook) than do a simple Google search – their attitude of entitlement is because they are used to everybody giving away all of their secrets, sharing case studies and advice.
Indie authors expect to be able to do everything for free, or at least very cheaply – and it’s true that they can, though paying someone often results in better quality work.
3. Indie Authors are Willing To Learn
From mistakes, from other people. It’s difficult – when you start publishing – there is SO MUCH you need to come to terms with. There’s a lot of conflicting advice and attitude and opinions. It’s hard to know who to trust or what voices to listen to.
But successful indie authors won’t have opinions or beliefs – they’ll try things out and see what works, for them. Then they’re try something new (without, however, giving up on a strategy too early or blowing something off because they tried it once and didn’t see results).
Blogging, for example – it often takes 2 years before Google trusts your site enough to start sending you traffic! And when most authors say “blogging isn’t working for me” it’s because they rarely post, and when they do, they don’t post content that attracts readers.
4. Indie Authors are Grateful
We’re grateful for the opportunity to publish our own books, reach readers, and build a platform all by ourselves, without giving away most of our profit.
We’re grateful for anybody who reviews our books (even if they leave a negative review – because those help us understand what readers don’t like about our books so we can improve our craft). We’re grateful when anybody shares our writing or article, or likes us on Facebook or follows us. We’re grateful when somebody downloads our book for free – because they didn’t have to.
We’re grateful that the future is wide open to us, and authors with a little bit of skill and a lot of perseverance can keep working until they start to see the results they’re after.
5. Indie Authors are Patient
Publishing is a long term game. It often takes a few books (and a year or so) to put our feet firmly in the water, find a strategy that works for us, get used to our blog or website, and commit to actually producing the content. The first year will be a year of mistakes and failure and learning. The first book probably won’t do very well despite your best efforts – because the best book marketing involves building a platform of fans you can email and offer incentives to buy your book. There are ways around it – giveaways, contests, boosted Facebook posts targeting readers of specific genres – but I would caution you against putting all your eggs in one basket.
6. Indie Authors are Smart
Yes, you are.
You know the economy is failing and careers aren’t guaranteed. You know that a college degree doesn’t equal a salary. You know the civilization could come crashing down around us at any moment.
So you’ve chosen a skill – writing – and determined to use it to build entertaining worlds or share your knowledge with other people. And you intend to make money by publishing books.
I could have said “Indie Authors are Creative” – and that’s true too; but you have to decide.
Would you rather be smart, or creative?
You can be both, of course, but one has to be a priority.
In other words, would you rather listen to your gut and your muse and write whatever you want without thinking of things like readership or market variables or whether anybody is going to read and like your book? If so – you’re creative, but maybe not that smart. You might get lucky anyway, but you are letting creativity steer the course of your life, and that’s a risk.
I prefer to be smart: I put my creativity firmly in the hands of my future goals and plans. I choose where I want to go, what I want to become, and use my creativity to help me get there. My creativity doesn’t mind: it’s still having fun doing what it loves. But it’s building content that people want, that I can sell, that will make me rich. It’s much less of a risk to write YA paranormal romance than to write an obscure historical-biographical literary novel with experimental elements.
The greatest writers in history, most of them anyway, wrote for money. They wrote to support themselves. They may have also had a side project doing what they wanted, and some of those side projects became classics of literature. You don’t have to choose; you can do both. What you can’t do is refuse to write anything that might make money and spend all your time on your passion project .
That’s the road of the starving artists. I spent years on that road, it’s an exciting and liberating place. But my goals were limited by my income, so I got on another road, providing services people were willing to pay for.
7. I’ll leave this one for you. What other positive qualities do indie authors have?
Let me know in the comments
I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.