I can pinpoint exactly when I decided to go the indie route: it was before I finished the first draft of my first novel.
While attending a creative writing course, amongst writers who walked in awe of agents and publishers, I briefly considered trying the traditional route.
I researched agents and publishers, read widely, and studied publishing trends.
Why I Decided to Indie Publish
In the end I didn’t even try to contact any agents or publishers.
It’s right for some writers, but for me, it felt old-fashioned, too removed from how and why readers are selecting books to read today.
I was the only one in my class who even considered the indie route. Yes, it made me a little nervous! It felt very uncomfortable to take the path less chosen.
I’ve indie published Path Unchosen and Truth Unveiled, the first two books in my paranormal suspense series. And I intend to indie publish a novella in the same series, and a historical suspense I’ve already plotted.
At the beginning I didn’t understand the ins and outs of publishing and marketing in the new digital age. I taught myself and studied every resource I could find to learn how to self publish my books as professionally as possible.
Now, after publishing two novels of my own and helping numerous others publish their own books, I still have a lot to learn!
Self Publishing is Even Harder Than I Imagined…
The workload is overwhelming at times. An indie author needs to write books, set up and manage a team of professionals, understand self-branding and marketing in the publishing industry, and be able to wear many hats at once. We also have to be able to take criticism without rancor, be able to identify what feedback is important to pay attention to, and manage multiple timelines to complete writing and other business tasks.
I read a number of writing blogs to help keep up to date.
I’ve had my fair share of challenges including chronic fatigue. I don’t have the stamina or focus I used to, and the multitude of indie publishing tasks and obligations sometimes leaves me paralyzed with indecision.
But I’m persevering, and the question is … why?
A short answer: self-determination.
I want to self-manage my career as a writer, and I love having complete control over all aspects of creation and the business, not just the writing.
I work with a group of friendly and capable professionals: cover designer Andrew Brown of Design for Writers, book designer Jane Smith, editor Marcy Kennedy, and more recently Website designer Laird Sapir of Memphis Mckay.
I always planned on publishing with professional support, and do not recommend any other way.
Path Unchosen won a book award last year, and Truth Unveiled has received five star reviews as well as reaching the finals in a number of competitions this year. Feedback from readers has been mostly positive, but the external validation has added a zing to my step!
Everyone I talk to about my books, even those who never read fantasy, absolutely love the covers. They stand out and the cover art sets the climate for the story inside perfectly. It was money well spent, and, as a bonus, it makes me happy.
Professional Editing is Crucial for Indie Authors
Professional editing is the one thing anyone considering the indie route has to find the money for. My editor completes a structural edit for me initially, and then after I’ve made the necessary changes, she completes a line edit.
She identifies plot holes, rabbit warrens and numerous little things I’ve missed. I can talk at length about staying sane while editing a full-length novel – the answer isn’t chocolate, though chocolate always helps!
Not everyone needs a full structural edit, but most writers do as it’s often hard to objectively pull apart your own work. If the feedback from beta readers is that your story is perfect and ready to go, at least get a proofread to ensure the work looks professional.
The one thing I struggle with – rather embarrassingly, as I was a career marketer before sickness forced me to leave full-time employment – is self-branding and book marketing!
Life as an Authorpreneur
I love the term Authorpreneur. It encapsulates exactly what being a professional self-published author is all about, an awesome combination of creative writer and smart entrepreneur.
Writing a good book is just the beginning. To achieve commercial success, we also have to form a professional team to achieve good design, good formatting, build visibility and turn readers into fans.
Build Your Author Support Network
I’ll touch on marketing in a moment, but first I want to mention support networks.
Traditionally published writers can have the support of an agent, an in-house editor, maybe even access to a sales and marketing team. Indie authors have to build their own networks. Family and friends maybe supportive, the professionals we work with maybe wonderful people, but nothing beats a supportive network of writers who get you.
I wrote my first novel alone. My family and friends encouraged me, but I was cautious not to bore them all silly with my publishing journey and concerns. My professional team helped once the first draft was done. I wrote my second novel with a broader network, I’m not sure that it was any easier, but it was good to have a crew to bounce ideas around with.
Last year I joined a local writer’s group. Affiliated with the national Romance Writers Association, their focus is naturally romance–while I read dark urban fantasy, science fiction and anything in the speculative genre generally.
It might sound like a misalignment, but the support and friendship from this wonderful group of writers has given me a tribe that understands. If new writers do nothing else, I recommend the benefits of belonging to a group of like-minded people.
Every Author Needs Branding and Marketing Help
One of the hardest things to get our heads around can be that, as authors, we are the brand.
The books we write are important, but readers want to know who we are and what we stand for. No one walks into a bookstore asking for the next Harper Collins novel. Readers want to connect with authors!
It can take several iterations to get your branding right and find your unique message and voice. It’s worth spending some time thinking about who you are and what you are offering. When you find what resonates with you and your audience, then you need to consistently share your message and stay true to your values.
Having a brand helps you to identify images and tag-lines to use in publicity messaging, and identifies you as a different and unique entity to your competitors. Branding is important for big companies, but I think it’s even more important for new authors if you want to stand out from the crowd and get readers to pay attention to you.
I decided at the start to limit my time spent on marketing until I had more than one book to sell, preferably three or four. I did one book blog tour with Path Unchosen, just to test it out, and was very pleased with the visibility and reviews it achieved. The second book blog tour was less successful.
Today, I’m now concentrating on branding me, blogging more seriously, understanding all the Amazon algorithms, targeted advertising, and working with other writers cooperatively to attract more loyal readers and fans.
It’s time to get serious about marketing my books and myself. Even though I have many years of experience in corporate marketing, I still study book marketing, author branding and visibility, to ensure I have a solid marketing plan that delivers awareness and drives sales.
How to Get Started with Indie Publishing
Here’s my advice for new indie authors who want to turn their passion for writing into a career:
- Keep learning, not just writing craft, but about the business of writing as well.
- Surround yourself with a supportive writing community.
- Hire the best professionals you can afford to edit, design, format and market your work.
- Keep writing! A body of work builds over time as does a reputation and a following.
- Decide what your brand will stand for, and what activities you will do to grow your visibility.
- Create a plan and stick to it! If you commit to a daily writing goal, stick with it. It will pay off if you put in the effort.
Indie publishing is not for everyone.
It feels right for me, and at this stage I’m planning on sticking with it.
If you are a writer I’d love to hear about your experiences in publishing.
And I’m happy to answer any questions anyone has about the process, or anything else about my experience with Indie publishing.
Kim is the award-winning author of Path Unchosen and Truth Unveiled. Path Unchosen earned a bronze IPPY award in 2015. She is still immersed in Meagan’s world and currently fueling a novella in the Daughter of Ravenswood series with (too much) coffee and chocolate. She studied medieval history and psychology at Adelaide University and has worked all over Australia and in London. Forced to leave a successful career in marketing after multiple sclerosis damaged her hands and prevented her from typing, Cleary learned how to write using voice software. A self-described chocoholic, Cleary loves writing, gardening, cooking, playing with her dogs, and spending time with friends. She lives with her husband and two dogs, an adorable cocker spaniel and a mischievous moodle, in Melbourne, Australia. You can contact her through Blog or on Facebook and Twitter