Why I Joined the Indie Book rebellion.
I first noticed it with films. Indie was a new way of making films, and struggled to find acceptance in the beginning. Some were good, even great. Some were forgettable at best, awful at worst. But for the actors and talent producing independent films it was an experience that freed them from the controls of major studios. Then I started to enjoy indie music. Bands and recording artists saw the advantage and began their break away from the control of major labels, often pushing talent to their view of conformity. The result was some good musical talent, even great recording. But, there was some not so good as well.
Starting with films and spreading to recording, and the indie movement has given us outstanding results, great films and wonderful music The list of famous, critically acclaimed indie films and music is impressive indeed.
Both have benefited from rapidly developing technology and have gained market acceptance under the Indie banner.
Indie films and music took time to gain a foothold and find acceptance, and they had to overcome resistance by funders and audiences. But films and music is now judged on their individual merit, not the reputation and name of a film studio or record label.
Why is there still reluctance to accept indie authors?
The reputation of Vanity Press has hurt the move to indie publishing. For starters it is still held that supported self-publishing is the same as vanity press. Anybody with a computer can churn out a manuscript. The technically challenged might choose a typewriter or write in long hand and have a friend type it out. But once a writer has a manuscript it’s easy to find a printer willing to create a book, although it might be necessary to buy a print run in quantity to keep the cost manageable. Many writers followed that path, paid good money, only to end with a garage full of books and no access to retail or online channels.
To be fair, there a lot of personal stories, family memories and community histories that has used the vanity press method to enrich our lives. But we also suffer when compared to books that look shoddy and are poorly written, an unfortunate outcome that may occur when books are printed using the vanity method. Often the books are poorly designed, lack an editor’s touch, and the author has little reach beyond family, friends and acquaintances. I cringe at the thought that someone is lumping one of my books in with some of them.
That is one of the reasons libraries are reluctant to consider indie published work, and newspapers equally unenthusiastic about reviewing them.
Supported self-publishing is different. This is the method that gives me, as author, a menu of services providing me with a toehold in the retail distribution chain. ISBN numbers mean my books are available for order through companies like Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. In fact Amazon took things a step further and developed Createspace, a service for indie authors, providing a full menu of resources up to and including the print-on-demand part.
The technology of on-demand printing means a newly emerging author, like me, isn’t committed to purchasing an unrealistic supply of books. My warehouse is a virtual warehouse, actually a computer in Charleston, SC. When there is a demand for one of my books the computer goes to work for me, it’s handed over for delivery, and I have a new reader enjoying one of my novels.
That said, I also make sure I have copies in my closet and car trunk, just in case.
The benefits of self-published are clear as day to me. I maintain control over my books. I wrote them and it’s my sweat and vision in each of them. I had the good sense to realize I needed the steady hand and eye of a good editor. I quickly realized that putting my words between the front and back of amateurish covers was a mistake. But I learned, and took control and made sure I now have cover designs I can be proud of. Now, all of my novels have the book-look.
It took indie films time to gain acceptance. There were some clunkers, and poor attempts at film making. But outstanding films taught audiences a valuable lesson. Judge films on their individual merit.
Any garage band with access to a recording device can turn out DVDs and publish their work online. Unfortunately, that means some bad music is turned out. But the discerning listener has learned to judge a recording on individual merit.
Read my book and you be the judge
Why not judge my books on their individual merit? I say, let the reader’s have a vote. I have limited money to invest, but I am committed to books that look good, are enjoyable to read, and get the stamp of approval from my readers. If I can publish such a book, keep my price low, and still make some money (or not lose a lot of money), it’s a no-brainer for me. It was clear that the odds are stacked against my stories being accepted by a traditional publisher, regardless of how convinced I am that I have written a good story. They aren’t going to be quick to take a chance on an unknown.
My choice was clear.
So I chose to become an indie author, and it was the right decision. I have three novels, each different in story and style. There are readers who will like all three, and other readers who will prefer one over another. What I have ended up with is taking pride in my accomplishments as a writer. I had no idea the journey would end up here, with more yet to come.
Best of all is the growing list of reviews that count, the comments from readers who tell me they kept turning the page.
MARKETING IS NOT A DIRTY WORD
What about marketing as an indie author? It ain’t easy folks.
I watch well-known authors advertising their latest work, urgently staring at me from the television screen and asking me to buy. The reality of today’s publishing environment means that there is a dwindling pool of dollars for marketing, especially for an unknown. Why would publishers take a chance and spend money marketing me?
I have to look to my own marketing needs. I came from a career in non-profit management. It actually provided good training for marketing as an indie author. Non-profit organizations are always cash-strapped with little or no money for marketing. That meant facing the challenge of marketing on a shoe-string.
My marketing and reach is severely limited. I don’t have a huge budget. I have to make sure that every penny spent for marketing counts. That may sound restrictive, but it means I am challenged to be creative in ways of spreading the word about my novels. It’s hard work. I have to screw up my courage in talking to bookstore managers. It’s not that I’m not proud of my work; it’s my fear of the unknown in making cold calls. I suffer the dread of rejection, like a lot of people.
But years into the process I have a portfolio of marketing ideas that work, and a long list of things that didn’t work.
Finally, I am convinced it is time for the indie author to step into the spotlight? To take that step we have to make sure we create quality written product. Then let our work be judged on merit. No more, no less.
There are ‘rookie’ mistakes, and I made mine. One glaring example was trying to economize, make that go cheap, led me to use a template cover for my first two novels. They looked just like they were template, nothing to make a potential reader consider reaching for them.
We’ve all heard the saying that you can’t judge a book by the cover. A well-designed cover can give a potential buyer a glimpse of the story within. In fact, a good design can act like a magnet, causing someone to pick up a book and look at it. That is, after all, the first step in selling.
Send me an email to email@example.com and I will be glad to send you before and after covers. You will know what I mean just by looking at them.
Once past the cover design, you need a book that has been professionally edited. I just love getting emails and comments from readers pointing out the missed commas, misspelled words, and other glitches we miss.
A good cover, a good interior, and you have a marketable product, one you can be proud of. All you need then is a buyer standing at your table, waiting for the author’s signature.
As an independent author and publisher, I have learned some valuable lessons through trial and error. If you are considering self-publishing I hope you find the encouragement you need to take control of your publishing destiny. Welcome to the Indie Book Rebellion.