Friday, September 21, 2018

Indie Publishing: The Unvarnished Truth from the Trenches

by Marta Tandori (writer), suburbs of Toronto, Canada, May 29, 2014

So what’s my take on the indie publishing “racket” to date?

I indie published my first book TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE, a Kate Stanton Mystery, through Amazon in October, 2012 and let me tell you, it’s been a roller coaster ride of ups and downs. Truth be told, though, I wouldn’t change a damn thing.

By the time I tried my hand at indie publishing, the business was past its infancy and had exploded out of the starting block, spawning a slew of indie publishing superstars like Amanda Hocking and Hugh Howey, with practically each new day heralding yet another superstar within the indie ranks. But with any phenomenon came the naysayers; those disgruntled indie authors who proclaimed that indie publishing was nothing but hockum, where the only individuals making any money were the ones who designed the ebook covers, did the editing and ebook formatting and those who had popular and well-known websites who were shamelessly exploiting indie authors by charging them fees to advertise their books (in most cases, their free books). Then the midlist authors quickly jumped into the fray, pointing out that indie publishing wasn’t a sprint to the finish; that the indie author had to write well and its product had to be error-free with an attractive and professional cover; that it had to have reviews in order to be noticed – all certainly sound advice, to be sure.

So what’s my take on the indie publishing “racket” to date? It would have to be that indie publishing is the legit deal but if you’re going to treat it like a passing hobby, putting in a few token hours each week, then you might as well fuggedaboutit. I should also like to point out that indie publishing isn’t about how well you write (although that’s certainly up there in the top three), or the number of reviews your books garner (although the greater the number of good reviews, the better for your books) or how great you are at marketing and social media, or even the number of titles in your backlist. All these things are important but if you’re uninitiated or disorganized, you’re pretty much dead in the water as an indie author – unless, of course, you can afford to pay someone to handle the day-to-day business of your author life because that’s exactly what you, as an indie author does – run a business.

A business, especially a successful one – or one on the road to becoming successful – requires consistent and sound management. In most cases, indie authors are fledgling sole proprietorships where the majority of authors are required to wear many hats. Yes, writing the book and having excellent product is certainly important but even while writing it, the author must be “stoking the readership fires” by letting his/her readership audience know about the upcoming book, thereby driving the anticipation until actual publication. That author should already have a list of readers who will be receiving copies of the book in exchange for reviews so when the book is actually published, it will already have solid reviews. In the meantime, book cover reveals and other social media interactions are also important as they go a long way towards building potential readership interest. For some authors like myself, who are social media-challenged, it’s hugely important to employ the services of a good social media rep who will take charge of your website, your Facebook page, etc. It’s also important to find the right virtual book tour company since a good one will offer a variety of services like book cover reveal tours, book blast tours, book excerpt only tours, etc. It’s especially important to pick the one who offers all these things and is reasonably priced so you don’t have to offer up your future first born as collateral.

As if all this weren’t enough, an indie author’s success is H-U-G-E-L-Y helped by (i) having a backlist and (ii) by effectively exploiting that backlist through constant advertising on various promo sites. This will not only continue to put the indie author’s name before the reading public but it will also introduce new readers to an author’s books. If there’s one really important thing I’ve learned so far, it’s that there are probably as many readers looking for new authors as there are authors looking for readers.

One other important thing I’ve learned is that nothing comes for free. In addition to the personal blood, sweat and tears, there’s also the monetary aspect to all of this. While it doesn’t cost anything to independently publish a book, turning out a professional product doesn’t come cheap. Publishing, be it indie or traditional, is a competitive field filled with lots of authors with good product. An indie author has to ensure they have a professional cover and that the work is professionally edited and formatted.That costs money, no two ways about it.Advertising also costs money and isn’t for the faint of heart or the light of wallet.Of course, the rationale is that you will reap what you put in.While this is certainly true, don’t count on reaping the financial rewards from the get-go.It may take some time to see a return on your investment (ROI) unless, of course, you’re indie publishing’s next superstar – which the vast majority of us are not.

Work hard and be organized, learn from the mistakes of others as well as your own, make sure you keep your many hats on straight and have some extra moulah padding the old wallet – and that, dear friends, is the plain, unvarnished truth from the trenches…

About the Writer

If you need someone to count to ten in seven languages or are lost and all you've got is a map, then I'm definitely your gal but if you need something assembled and all you've got is an Allen wrench and a set of instructions, then we're both in trouble!
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