10 Things I've Learned Through Indie Publishing

2013-Mar-7 -> from the theres-far-more-than-ten-trust-me department Tags: writing publishing 

After a little over two years, writing two and a half books, and publishing two of them, I've decided to share some observations I've made on my journey. These little bits of knowledge took me a long time to accumulate, so I hope they are useful to somebody out there.

1. Writing is Hard Work

This was something that I didn't expect. I mean, of course it's hard work, but you would never imagine the degree to which it is hard until you try it. It took hundreds of hours of work to finish each of my books, and no matter how close to finished they got, I was always able to find something else to tweak or fix. If you're not prepared to spend a substantial portion of your life with your face glued to a computer screen, writing may not be for you. I'm not trying to discourage people from the craft, it's just the honest truth. Know what you're getting into when you tap out those first few words.

2. Make it Right the First Time

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. I know, it's a horrid cliché made worse by deodorant commercials and parental words of wisdom, but it's true. Releasing a work that is full of mistakes, only to pull it, re-edit it, and re-release it, looks amateurish at best. At worst, you've lost credibility with your potential fans.

3. Nobody EVER Gets it Right the First Time

We all make mistakes. That's an invariable part of being human. The greatest authors on earth have had books that were total flops. Don't get discouraged if you make mistakes. Learn from them, and move on. You may have to endure some bad reviews, but what does that mean, really? In the long run, nothing. Always strive to improve your craft, and forgive yourself when you get things wrong.

4. It's a Jungle Out There

The publishing world is a big scary place full of vipers that are just waiting to sink their teeth into you. Since I started writing, I've learned about so many bad contracts, bad publishers, and scam artists, that it almost makes me want to curl back up in my cave. I even almost fell prey to a bad publisher (Fantasy Island Book Publishing) but managed to get out before any real damage was done. My best advice is this: read and understand everything before you sign anything. Make sure you understand what you are getting yourself into because some of the contracts I've seen are so horrible, they could plague you for the rest of your life. It's very easy to get wrapped up in a dream only to discover that you've dropped yourself into the middle of your worst nightmare. Writers are a passionate folk. If we weren't, books wouldn't be so fun to read, but getting published in a big way is a big dream that some would do anything - and sign anything - to fulfill. Be careful.

5. Relationships Are Everything

The most successful indie authors out there built their career on a foundation of good relationships. This is such an important concept for every indie author out there to learn that I may make a blog post devoted to just this. Your success as an indie author will not hinge on how many Twitter followers or Facebook friends you have. It won't matter how many likes you have on your author page, or how many people have circled you on G+. None of the numbers matter, at all. What matters is building strong relationships with other people, because it's those people who are going to buy your books, and share your posts, and support you on this journey. If you don't build strong relationships in this business, you will fail. Yes. You. Will. Fail.

6. There's No Such Thing as an Overnight Success

We hear it all the time: somebody gets picked up in Amazon's recommendation engine and it sends their book rocketing to the #1 spot. Think... Mill River Recluse style. Despite the fact that these books often rocket to the #1 spot very quickly, what you seldom ever hear about is the years of effort the author put into writing and editing and rewriting the book to make it great. You never hear about what a load of work it was to build up a following, and get the word-of-mouth marketing working in your favor. You certainly don't hear about all the nights the author thought about giving up the whole thing because they thought they had failed. With very few exceptions, the only place an overnight success exists is on the news when they report about the latest #1 sensation. We all worked hard to write and publish our books. Very few can truly say they achieved success "overnight".

7. With Great Effort Comes Great Reward

I believe in Karma. What you put out into the world, will invariably come back to you. It's all about interpretation. I can't describe what it feels like each time a person marks my book with 5 stars. It's an amazing feeling to know that something I poured my heart and soul into over the course of hundreds of hours and months of work is being appreciated by other people. Not because I asked them to, but because they wanted to. I keep writing because I'm now addicted to the rush I get when I read a good review of my work. If you're not there yet, keep working at it; trust me, it's a great feeling.

8. Check Your Ego at the Door

Not one of us is perfect. At some point in your writing career, somebody is going to tell you that they don't like what you've written. It's almost certainly going to be sooner than later. In most cases, unless you've hoarded your work until the very last second and published it without ever letting anyone else read a word of it, it's going to be somebody you care about. A friend, relative, or fellow writer is going to weigh in on your work, and they are going to be honest. Rather than blow up at them, or get angry, or give up, take their words under advisement and try to find your flaws. It's the hardest thing in the world to accept your flaws, and even harder to fix them. Admitting you have a problem is the first step. (Hat tip: my unedited drafts are RIFE with missing or misplaced apostrophes, repeated words, and mixed up sentences.) [Editor's note: don't forget about the excess commas!]

9. They're Called Rules for a Reason

There are rules to be followed in order to write a story that is well crafted and interesting. Rules. Not guidelines. I can't count the number of times I've talked to somebody who waxed poetic about using their "creative license" when writing their books, only to actually read their writing and find out that it's so abysmally bad that it's almost unreadable. When you are an A-list author, you can break the rules. Until then, focus on writing a great story, and stay within the safe zone. You have a far better chance of being taken seriously that way.

10. Don't Ever Give Up

It may take two, or three or four, or six books in order for you to start seeing some real recognition in the market for your writing. Write the best book you can, focus on building relationships rather than followers, get plenty of feedback, learn to be humble, work hard, take every opportunity you can to expand your mind, and eventually, all that hard work will pay off. I've only just released my second book, and already I'm seeing the rewards from all the wonderful people who support me.

Thanks for stopping by. If you like what you see, check out my award-winning debut novel, The Time Weaver.

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By Aubrey Hansen on Tue 12 Mar 2013 12:16:17 pm [ Reply ] As a fellow indie author, I can say these are wonderful and very true points. :)

By Thomas A. Knight on Tue 12 Mar 2013 01:50:37 pm [ Reply ] Thanks Aubrey. We indies gotta stick together. :)

By Charlena Miller on Thu 14 Mar 2013 06:37:54 am [ Reply ] I really appreciate this article, the emphasis on getting the fundamentals right and the reminder to focus on relationships rather than followers. I'm in the editing phase of my first novel so am beginning to consider the publishing aspect and which way to go. I'm leaning indie.

By Thomas A. Knight on Thu 14 Mar 2013 07:23:03 am [ Reply ] Thanks Charlena. Whether you go indie or traditional, it's important to start building those relationships before you publish. Even traditional publishers will require you to promote your own work to readers, and without those relationships in place, you'll lack the foundation to make a big splash.

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