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With the new and exciting world of Kindles and Print-on-Demand (POD), Independent Publishing is becoming an enticing choice and a viable alternative to traditional publishing.
With the new and exciting world of Kindles and Print-on-Demand (POD), Independent Publishing is becoming an enticing choice and a viable alternative to traditional publishing. The old days of "self-publishing and vanity presses" are over. Indie Authors are giving readers a wide variety of quality reads in all genres. Are you unsure of how to go about it? Do you crave to know the best options? What are the pitfalls? From discussions of picking up the traditional process and bringing it home, to setting up files for Amazon’s Kindle and POD, "Are You Still Submitting Your Work to a Traditional Publisher?" provides tips and ideas, set-by-steps and coaching on quality control. Edward C. Patterson has successfully published eight Indie works with nine in the pipeline. In addition to the title article, this work includes three other craft discussions: "Writing Good Stories","The Novelization Process", and "Revision vs. Re-Vision", an extensive guide to revising a novel. Whether you are new to publishing or an established author, the opinions expressed and experiences shared in this book should stimulate your curiosity and provide answers to questions you might not have asked.
Are you self-published, an Indie Author or Just waitin’ around?
This article is something different for me, the King of the long ball opinion and promotion. It will consist of a short tips on how to become an Independent Author, and join the thousands of us who have awakened to the fact that the publishing world has changed and that most authors are just waiting around for something to happen with their work — something that never happens.
First blast over the bow is this. The difference between a self-published and an Indie Author. Self-published authors have employed some means to get themselves into print and have a few big boxes of books in their garage, which they peddle about on weekends, or not. They have paid a fortune for these copies and rightly wear the label “vanity-published.” An Indie Author has managed to engineer their work into print and e-Book on a no-inventories POD distribution point and has mastered the art of promotion so that they can make a few bucks, and more importantly, establish a beachhead of bon fide readers. The big difference is that the Indie Author has not lain out any cash for this experience — either FREE, or a few bucks for a proof copy. Indie Authors DO spend money, but usually under a hundred dollars a year to make their mark. Of course, there are those who still shop around in a ever waning traditional publishing industry trying to be one of those 1% of authors who are accepted, and then must trudge along for a year of pre-production, OR wait for the rejection and move on to the next house.
The First Step is Validation
Becoming an Indie Author means, you must take all the responsibility for yourself in print (or e-book). That means, all the things that a traditional publisher would give you if they weren’t in such a precarious position to take only one in 80,000. The first of these responsibilities is a hard one. The HARDEST one. Is your work publishable? (Not marketable — that’s a different question and has nothing to do with writing). Is your work good enough? Too many writers think that every word they write is a blessing from Mt. Olympus. In fact, most writers think they are perfection — first draft is magic, immaculate — eat your heart out Stephen King. However, the fact is, if you want your work published, you need to validate your talent. Not with your friends and family either, because they will tell you’re the next J.K. Rowling — and they will never buy your books. (Rule of the Jungle — Friends and Family do not buy your books). What you need is the opinions of 1) perfect strangers —- beta-readers, and 2) a professional editor, agent, or an annotated rejection from one of the Dead-Tree houses (a fond, but catty name that Indie Authors have coined for traditional publishers).
Stephen King says that authors are “always outrunning their doubts.” However, you must do it. You must reconcile yourself to the fact that every novel your write (and even non-fiction), must go through many passes. You must develop your style so it is consistent and recognizable. (You will find that when you are marketing a book to readers, you are marketing yourself, not your titles). You need to validate your talents and face facts. It takes time and nerves (and tears, sometimes). Treat a reader of your unpublished manuscript as gold, and you will learn to treat every reader as gold. Treat their feedback as platinum, and you’ll learn to treat every review of your published book as platinum. Listen to an editor (and you need to get one — free is best, as there are many that will work for free, if they like or love your work). Editors can be hellish — cruel, and tell you that your work is crap. Listen and change. Don’t fight them. Submit your book and see if you get a rejection beyond the “good luck.” A rejection tells you nothing about your talents. It took me a long time to get an annotated rejection that told me about problems in my style, and then a rejection that came after an interim letter that told me my work was publishable and passed two of the three tests to get into print (from Mundania Press). Only the last editor (the one for Marketing) passed on the manuscript. I was delighted. It validated my talent.
If your work is poor, mediocre or even just good — don’t publish. It’s the kiss of death, because the first readers will publicly proclaim your stuff “crap.” It also hurts all Indie Authors when a writer thinks they are ready for prime time and they’re not. It’s a hard first step in the process, but be sure you’re ready and get those beta-readers and mean editors rolling over your darling manuscripts. You will find there’s a point when the question goes away (usually after you’re published and the reviews come rolling in). Then, and only then, have you “outrun your doubts,” and your dancing with Uncle Stevie. Sometimes it’s a leap of faith.
We know why you write — so, why do you want to be published?
The second hallmark of becoming an Indie Author is as core as having the talent chops validated. It has to do with your motives, ulterior or otherwise. You must ask yourself the question: Why do I want to be published? Wouldn’t I rather just write a few articles and blog away in quiet obscurity? Doesn’t that get this writing-bug out of my system?
1 - If you want to be published just to see your writing in print, get a grip, get some money and a vanity publisher. You don’t need any other quantum of reason (which is like a Quantum of Solace, only it has an abrupt ending — sort of like that vacation to Disney on the last day). We all want to see our novels in print, and although that is technically “published,” it DOES serve a purpose. It keeps printers in business and it breaks the ice at parties.
2 - If you want to be published to become rich and famous, you shall be sorely deprived of your sanity. The rich and famous are published and get richer and famouser (SIC). Unknown titles zoom to the top by pure luck (ask King and Rowling). Too many times, I run into an Indie Author who is frantically watching the till and panicking because their book is selling one or two copies a quarter. Their motivation has usually caused them to spend money that don’t have and to overprice their book, because they are focused on sales and marketing and not . . . #3.
3 - If you want to be published so you can be read, and if you are focused on the reader, guiding your style and pricing (marketing) accordingly, you will succeed on the first sale (that ever-loving first sale that makes you AN AUTHOR, Indie or otherwise).
It is my humble (not so humble, really) opinion that if you’re about to independently publish, you should get your mind in order. You will no longer have “rejection” notices, but with the improper mindset, you’ll still get rejection — public rejection. If you put the reader and engaging the reader FIRST, you will accept the small royalty as a nice to have. Readers are gold, and good reviews are platinum (and good reviews are read by happy readers). If you set yourself up to be “rich and famous” from Indie Authoring, you are destined to be “poor and (perhaps) notorious.” There are Indie Authors I will not read because they have out-priced themselves and in their descent into madness have become obnoxious promoters. (Please buy my book . . I’m begging you, sort of thing).
When I started Indie publishing, it was tough to get my first books sailing (not selling — sailing). However, since I put the reader first, those that bought came back for more, and told others, and reviewed me well. When I released my latest tome (a big 600-page sucker), I had a reader (who widely reviews) state on Amazon: “Patterson has become an author I look for. Whenever I see he has a new book out, I’m in line to buy it. I’m not gay, but I like people, and his characters are likeable, full of spirit, going places and when they decide to go do something . . . I won’t be left behind!” Readers first — and reviews will come; and you can concentrate on the writing and less on the marketing.
So you have validated your talent with a leap of faith and you have the proper mind set to launch your work. The next step is more technical, but crucial.