I’m smiling one of those smiles. The kind you smile when a kid says “I want to be a doctor!” or “I want to win the olympics!” Adults smile when kids say that because we all remember what it’s like to not be aware of the work that comes with those dreams. We smile too because we know that one day, they’ll grow up and understand that with BIG dreams come BIG works.
There is nothing at all wrong with being inspired to great things. We should all have aspirations and we should all be encouraged to reach for them. Inspiration is great. But neglecting to tell children about the work they will face when reaching for those dreams, neglecting to prepare them for some labor intensive training… well, you may as well get a hammer and crush their dreams now. Because dreams and inspiration without the understanding of what will be required to reach them is like neglecting to tell some kids that the Tooth-Fairy isn’t real, but actually mom, or dad.
Or… it’s like a new writer entering the self-publishing pandemonium and thinking they can become a bestselling author without doing the enormous amount of work involved in achieving that.
Which brings me to the point of this post–so you want to be a bestselling indie-author.
If you’re a writer, then of course you do. I didn’t title the post “So You Want To Be A Published Author” because most people who write with the intention of publishing, do so with the hopes–expectations even– of making it big, becoming a bestseller. If this is not you, then don’t mind my odorous post. But if you are a new writer and you have bestselling author aspirations burning up the font on your page, then stick around.
So… did anybody perchance clue you in on…
what it takes to become a bestselling indie-author in the self-publishing industry? *slides the blade of truth along the stone… for a nice clean cut*
Did you maybe think:
“All I have to do is write a great story and publish it. People will read it and it will spread across the world like wildfire and become a bestseller. No, you laugh but you don’t realize the amazing story I have up my sleeve, there is NOTHING else like it. I’m pretty confident there is going to be a WOOOOOOWWWWW factor, Hollywood will get wind of it, I’ll get picked up, they’ll make a movie out of my book, and I’ll be set.
If you’re not thinking that, you know you’re at least hoping for it. You’re even writing for it maybe, if you’re determined.
I am not going to sit here and type that you can’t do it, and it’s not possible. I’m not even going to say you can’t start out clueless about everything and still make it. Because you can. But I will sit here and say that you had better be prepared to work your ass off for it. Because you, Joe, Betty, Tom, David, Sally, and Leroy have discovered self-publishing, and the market is gutted with wannabes that don’t really wanna be working that hard.
A few things that will be required of you to succeed in self-publishing:
1. You will need to take a course in online marketing of some kind. Whether you Google it, Youtube it, get a book on it, attend online seminars, whatever. Do it. I hate to break it to you, but selling your work can/might/should? involve approximately 85% of your beloved writing time. *slices off finger*
2. You will need HELP marketing. (Which many first time indie-authors do not have)
a. Many people get a PA, or a personal assistant. Some fans will do this for free, but just remember, you get what you don’t pay for and even sometimes when you do pay for it, you don’t get it.
*A note about getting fans to be a PA. Being a PA is no simple task and it takes a lot of time. Be very considerate that you will be working around THEIR schedule as well as yours. Fun juggling that one!
*Another note: In this entertainment business, you will also run into helpful fans that may try to assist you right out of your mind. It can get very ugly quickly and have you Google things like “How to market books ALONE or with just your PA.” And yet MANY new indie-authors don’t even HAVE PA’s. But the hassle–and the time-suck it creates–with “free help” sometimes isn’t worth it in the long run. With paid help, you have more leverage, but still no guarantee of success since that is heavily dependant on the quality of the product you put forth and the time you spend marketing it. But paying does require money, a commodity the new self-publishing author may not possesses a whole lot, or none of. There are other incentives that can be given, but they take something maybe more precious than the money you don’t have–your time and brain power. Poor beggars can’t be choosy, so, anticipate these cuts into your beloved “writing” time.
b. Selling books is a business, regardless if you own the books or not. Being an indie-publisher includes every aspect of owning and running any other business, with a few exceptions that are not in your favor. You get the same problems, expenses, unhappy/crazy fans/customers, deadlines, unknowns and unforeseens, all without help since you’re the sole employee with no pay coming in for at least three months (time it takes Amazon to hand you that first check) and THAT is only a month’s worth, not 3. You will always collect one check a month that covers the third prior month. In addition to that, you alone (unless you have a PA) have to handle creating the product, and then getting it ready for distribution.
3. This is coming here but really, it should be number 1. It’s one of those things that you think should go without saying, but sadly, in the indie-publishing industry, it isn’t said enough, maybe at all. But I’m going to say it. I’m going to say it to the indie-authors that are published, or thinking of getting published: Please please please… you NEED to LEARN how to FUCKING WRITE preferably BEFORE. YOU WRITE!
Am I really having to say this? Yes, look, I am. Because Amazon is the new Burger King for authors, “they get to have it their way”. It’s the “writing craft” versus the “writing shaft of shit”. And I get that this negligence of quality raping the book industry might have you assuming that craft is not needed to write. WRONG. Nowadays, readers buy a book and wonder if the author suffered a seizure while writing it. Some books are so bad, it’s laughable. I mean do you really want to be the ass end of side-splitting laughter because of how hysterically bad your awesome book is? God forbid, no.
And it’s not JUST that a lot of new indie-authors patch sentences together like a drunk grandmother on a blind horse, but flow, pace, plot, continuity–ask them to define those. If you’re an indie-author reading this and you don’t have a clean, solid grasp on that–*points my knife at the door*– get your ass back to class or TO class if you’ve not been yet. That 250 dollars you were going to use to pay that desperate editor to try and fix your shit? Pay for some classes. No, I’m not joking.
When the reader comes to you and says they got lost in your story and couldn’t put it down, then you’ve learned the craft. The craft is about learning how to write so that the words disappear and draw the reader into an experience that feels real. That takes learning, that takes PRACTICE, that takes TIME. That takes you being open to somebody saying (hopefully as nicely as they can) that your writing stinks. And it takes you considering they’re right.
I do remember going through that process. I thought at first,”Wow, I’m pretty damn good at this fiction writing!” *Big grin, nods, and strutting*. Then I began to learn the “craft”. I began seeing what I was blind to. Began to see what readers are blind to. The “CRAFT”. *shudders with awe* That invisible weaving orchestrated by the writer, that seduction and dance with words, punctuation, paper–all to twirl the reader across that universe you created. THAT doesn’t just happen. THAT is learned. But you, grasshopper, must first learn just how much your shit stinks before you can begin to learn that craft and create work people won’t end up wiping their rhetorical asses with.
4. You’ll need graphics galore. You need to build buzz for that book. In the cyber realm, that comes with great images with your work on it. You need them for teases, book tour packets, daily pimps/buzz building, oh and you’ll also need a kick ass cover.
Once again you’re faced with two options. Pay for it with the money you don’t have or pay for it with your time. “Well, how will my time pay for it?” you ask. Because you’re going to use it LEARNING how to do graphics. Or you’ll be using free or trade labor with fans and you may not like what you get. (see shitty cover below and on right for examples of what you could end up with. We love the fans, but most are not the graphic artists you need them to be. Not their fault. And telling fans you don’t really like what they produced may cause more shit than the work itself. You can try to quietly slip it under your desk, but don’t think they’re not watching and waiting for you to “use” their hard work. Have fun working out those details) So, either invest in the time to learn it, or commit more of the half-assedry that oozes from the seams of the Indie Industry. The choice is up to you, but know that it’s THIS choice here, that will make you or break you.
5. You’ll need a website. A home where all your marketing gives birth and goes forth into all the veins of its cyber social media siblings. Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Google Plus, You Tube, Tumblr, Instagram, Goodreads, Tsue, and whatever else I may have missed. (by the way you will need ACTIVE accounts at all these locations. Active being the key word. Which translates to you taking”time” to show up at these places and build your audience, daily.
Are you following me on this work load yet?
6. Oh shit, right, you will also need to write books! Cinderella, Cinderella! Hurry up you slow ho and bring my BOOK to consume in six hours, a book that took you FOUR months to write. And when will you give me the NEXT one?
And what about that book, how’s that story coming along under all this PRESSURE? Oh but I work for myself, I don’t have deadlines. BIG ha ha. This is a business. Businesses operate on PLANS and DATES. Release dates. Blog tour dates. Buzz building dates! Yeah, *looks at watch* I better hurry and finish writing this, I’ve got 3k words to write for a BOOK I’m releasing in a few days. Hmmm, that reminds me, I need to read some best-sellers and study how and why they’re so good. *adds that to the schedule*
You feeling me yet?
7. I wouldn’t laugh at you if you prayed at this point for more hours in the day. Or if you’re like me, a better way to do this or that. And now that we sort of covered the work of the Indie-author, let’s talk about the family obligations you have outside of writing.
Don’t think it can’t be done, but don’t think you can do it without DOING IT. You want the gold, you better get ready to work your ass off for it or you’ll get a cheap ass tin cup, you’ll get exactly what you put into it. Because heads up, there are a LOT of talented writers out there and readers can only read so many books at one time. That means YOU are in competition with me and every other person out there that “writes well” It begins to come down to the finer details, the TIME you take to DO IT RIGHT. Or you can half-ass it all and quit two years from now and make room in the market for those who don’t plan on failing, because they PLANNED and then did what it took to make it work.
So, which are you? The wanna-be or the gonna-be?
I am so very sure I glazed over the major laborious points of what indie publishing involves, but this gives you an inkling of an idea. Did I write all this to scare the shit out of you? I think I did, yes. But only because going into this business with the intention of making money and retiring, and not knowing what is before you, is like letting your 18 year old kid find out from his hot girlfriend that there is NO SANTA CLAUS! Not only would that be heartbreaking, it would be crushing. And sad. And pathetic. And humiliating as fuck.
Okay so P.S.
If you write because you love to write, then by all means, keep on writing. You, dear sir or madam, get a craft-pass requirement for that.
This post isn’t intended to prophesy the future failings of all indie-publishers who don’t take heed (because there will always be those exceptions that defy the standard odds) but rather a fair warning of the amount of work the average indie-published Sue or Joe will face in this business.
You’re most welcome,