To follow up on yesterday's rant, this article from the Alliance of Independent Authors shows the positive side of the self-publishing question from the point of view of those of us who are busy doing it. And as an aside, don't you like the sound of "independent author" better than "self-published author?" I'm going to try to be more aware of how I refer to myself and what I do.
Should I Self-Publish? This
is a question we’re regularly asked at ALLi by writers of all kinds,
beginners and experienced. The answer, as with so many writerly
questions is: it depends.
Self-publishing is not for every writer. Here are ten qualities that
you will need to have, or develop, if you are to succeed as an indie
So many writers wait for permission, from an agent or publisher or PR
campaign. The flip side of this is chronic complaint syndrome. You
won’t be in a roomful of writers too long before somebody starts to
moan about the vagaries of their agent or publisher. Not indies. Maybe
indies don’t have time to whine, maybe we’re different by nature, but
it’s probably something to do with being willing to take responsibility
for the risks, as well as the rewards, of publishing ourselves.
Risk is our core activity. We risk time on ideas, or promotions, or
concepts that may come to naught. We risk money to pay for editorial and
design upfront. We also risk confidence and reputation. ALLi’s UK
Advisor, Joanna Penn, has written of how her self-esteem plummeted
she left her high-paying job to become a self-publishing writer.
Similarly, though I know I am a more authentic, more connected, and a
better writer now, I also know that many think it’s a second-best
option. “Wouldn’t you rather go back to being ‘properly’ published?” a
family member asked me recently. Short answer: No.
This is an absolute essential. Indies are full of energy and
commitment, not only to their writing but to educating themselves about
all aspects of craft, editing, design and promotion. They work hard and
they work smart, so they can recognize opportunities and figure out how
to make the most of them, without derailing their writing, the engine of
Indies love their work but most confess to having to having a
constant stream of tasks awaiting attention and to needing to
consciously block out times of rest, meditation, exercise and downtime
into their schedules.
Some authors become self-publishers because they are recognized
experts, or to enhance their standing in their field, or to justify an
increase in their fees. Some because they are committed to a cause, or
have a story that just has to be told. Regardless of their primary
motive for writing, successful self-publishers all share a marketer‘s
sensibility. They may not use marketing terms but they will not survive,
never mind thrive, if they are not attuned to the needs of their
readership and able to communicate with them.
Niche markets addressing special interests are often seen as too
unprofitable to be of interest to trade publishing. In these overlooked
niches is where many indie authors prosper. Sometimes in the course of
their endeavors, they create new genres and go mainstream (like S&M
erotica for middle-class females -- who knew?).
The indies who do best have an entrepreneurial mindset -- always on
the lookout for new ways to reach readers, new communities who might be
interested in their books, new opportunities to get their message out.
They are savvy users of social media and know how to engage resources
like email lists, newsletters, promotions, competitions and book
giveaways to extend their readership. They are open to failure and
willing to learn from mistakes and excited by the prospect of new
projects and creative collaborations.
Successful self-publishers, by definition, are those who have kept on
keeping on, adapting where necessary, and following their hearts. As
ALLi’s Creative Advisor, Mark McGuinness says in his new book, Resilience: Facing Down Rejection and Criticism on the Road to Success,
going indie writers need to ensure they haven’t exchanged traditional
forms of rejection and criticism for others that can be just as painful
and costly. “Anyone who says 'don't take it so personally' doesn't
understand what it's like when you are hit by a major rejection or
biting criticism,” says Mark. “Successful indies have found ways to
acknowledge the pain - and bounce back from the impact.”
Indies follow gut feelings and intuitions but successful indies
generally back horse sense with research to stay smart, sharp and up to
date, to search out their readers, stay in touch with influencers in
their field and give their books an advantage. Whether it’s keyword
research, marketing studies, direct mail tests or just dear old
Professor Google, indies enjoy learning and growing and getting it
Successful self-publishers don’t tend to be the kind of writers who
say, "I don't care about money", unless they have a benefactor or
obliging day job. Controlling costs is important for all businesses,
and successful self-publishers take care of their resources and make
sure they spend money where it will produce the biggest effect.
Collaborative and Supportive
That literary communities can be a tad bitchy
well known but the camaraderie within the indie author community is
outstanding. Maybe we need each other more than other authors, but
successful indies tend to operate out of what ALLi’s social media
manager, Karen Lotter, calls Ubuntu
, an African philosophy of inter-connectedness that says “I am because you are”.
Even if they are not that esoteric about it, indies are likely to
work from the co-opetition model, where competitors co-operate for
mutual benefit. Again and again, ALLi members attest to the benefits of
sharing and learning from each other in this way and when asked, this
interaction, support and encouragement is their number one benefit of membership
What do you think? Are these qualities essential? Did we miss one out?