Monday, October 28, 2013

The Five Things I Would Like to Tell Someone Else About Becoming an Indie Writer

I didn't know how many people would stumble on the previous post, and blogger's indecipherable jibber-jabber stats have yet to yield anything useful on what search terms have made it my most read blog entry.  But I figure, given how many potential indie writers might have stumbled on it, I should write a less navel-gazing post.

1.  You know that thing people say about this being a marathon, not a sprint?  Kind of true.  But not as true as saying its a hike. 

Think of the most beautiful place you ever went, wandering familiar trails while scanning for new ones, seeing fellow travelers and waving, wishing you'd brought more water, feeling exhausted and sweaty at the end and knowing, deep in your heart, you'll never be done exploring that space... It's too beautiful, too much.  There is no end to the quest, and in that moment, you don't care.  The adventure is the accomplishment.  That's what being an indie writer is like.

It's hard.  And awesome.  It differs completely from the competitive structures of marathons and superbowls and swim meets or anything else because you are the only one who determines the course.

2.  You're not going to get rich.

Strictly speaking, the word "rich" doesn't mean anything--or, more exactly, it means too many things to too many different people.  It only gathers significance as a point of reference.  If you didn't make any money at all before, you're going to feel rich as hell with every personal mile-marker.  If you thought you could quit your day-job, there's a good chance you might not make as much.

I mean, depending on your day-job.

Also: you might not care.  If you got the opportunity to do what you loved every day for the rest of your life making half as much money as you did working at a job you had no passion for, you would probably feel very, very rich indeed.

3.  There are practical tips covered by brilliant people all over the web (with JA Konrath being the most prominent) that are solid advice for new indies.  Here are a few:

  1. Shelf space sells books.  Try to be creative about having your best work available and pack the digital shelves.  People will remember your name.
  2. Get good covers.  Pay.  It's worth it--you'll be helping out another indie, and it is the number one decision making factor for drive-by readers.
  3. 2.99 is the most reasonable price-point for a lot of readers.  Depending on the length of the book and the genre, that is, which leads me to
  4. You probably want to stick with novel-length pieces, if you're trying to sell.  Novellas and short stories don't sell nearly as well.  Not in any genre.
  5. Don't read your reviews.  Nothing good comes of it, and I am far from the only author to say so, though we all usually start out thinking our skin is thick enough.
  6. Edit, edit again, and then again, and then again again again.  And then send your absolutely best copy to your editors--paid if you can, recruited from vetted pools of generous geniuses if you can't--because you don't want to waste their time with copy-editing you could've done yourself.  You want them to tell you what works and what sucks, which is a lot harder than tracking typos.
  7. Decide for yourself what the point of your writing is.  People will see it and read in to it for themselves; they might hate it.  If your description is accurate, your cover is appropriately tied in to the themes, and they were disappointed because they simply didn't like it, that sucks for both of you.  It doesn't necessarily mean the book sucks, if you genuinely did what you intended with the writing (and did everything you could to polish it).
  8. Never, ever respond to reviews.  If you feel tempted, go back to number three.
  9. When you get sick of writing--when it's not fun any more--write something that you won't show to anyone.  A song, a journal entry, a fanfic.  Something that will only matter to you, and will bring you back to that sense of adventure.  Because that's the point.
4. This is not a competition.  

Not to belabor the point, but because of international marketplaces and the completely new universe of digital publishing, you will never run out of potential readers as long as you keep writing.  Your voice is unique, your ideas your own.  Only look around at what other writers are doing if you're going to high-five them and feel A Part Of.  

5.  Start now.

I put off sharing my writing for a long time.  I had really good excuses, primary among them that only God's Chosen Few ever became real writers.  I would probably get to be one as soon as I got a ride on a unicorn.  But that time is over.  You can do this.  You have no excuses good enough to put this off.  And (speaking of unicorns) you do not want to live with the pain of finally living too late.  Just sayin.