The Indie Author Experience

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

-Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

 

The famous quote can be applied to many things; it’s perfectly suited for the age of digital publishing and being an Indie author.

 Who are Indie authors?

They’re self-publishers, independent authors free from the configurations of traditional houses. Many Indies are new writers sidestepping the difficult task of acquiring literary agents while some have been published through major houses and are now going rogue, often desiring more control over projects as well as greater profit from royalties.

 

Why is it both the best and worst of times?

Technology has created a new paradigm for the publishing industry. Any writer can now easily create and sell ebooks, like on Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes & Noble’s Nook. Writers can also make paperbacks with companies like CreateSpace, Lulu and Lightning Source: print-on-demand copies that only get made as orders come in. Surprisingly, just five years ago this paradigm didn’t exist; the changes are happening faster than many people (and publishers) realize. It’s the best of times because everyone can do this and at no cost. It’s also the worst of times because new books are flooding the market in droves, many of them poorly written, which gives Indie authors a stigma of association with bad books. Do a little investigating to find some readers who love Indie authors and now refuse to spend more than a few dollars on any book while finding others who’ve been “burned” in the past and simply won’t read another Indie unless they’ve made the best-seller list.

 

What are the major pros and cons?

It’s like yin and yang where each aspect has plusses and minuses. The Indie author has total control over a project, which also means responsibility for doing everything. On sales, Indies make the huge bulk of the profits, typically around 70% of every sale, yet they must also make a deep investment of time and energy. If an Indie is successful, the possibilities are boundless with opportunity, yet to be successful they will need to do many things well other than just writing. Indies often handle their own cover design, formatting, marketing and more unless they have deep pockets for hiring out.

 

What does it take to be a successful Indie?

This is the million dollar question as many recently unknown authors are quickly realizing their dreams of becoming household names. Best-selling Indies like Amanda Hocking, John Locke, J. A. Konrath and Darcie Chan are prime examples, with their books topping the Amazon charts and the money flowing in. These thriving authors show us it can be done without agents or publishers, and the rewards are enormous. Simultaneously, for each story of triumph there are thousands of writers who simply won’t make it, destined to sell less than a hundred copies to mostly friends and family. Being successful as an Indie is perhaps equally as difficult as making it with traditional publishing.

 

I’m an Indie author and proud of being one. The stigma many readers have doesn’t bother me because I firmly believe my books are both fascinating and helpful. They sell as ebooks and as paperbacks to people all over the world, and the future is bright indeed. As the months go by I meet the most interesting people, make valuable online connections, establish myself as a “known” Indie author, and the sales continue to grow. Receiving monthly deposits from Amazon and other companies is wonderful, but the greatest reward is hearing from happy readers who wanted to let me know how much my book meant to them. I have literally been brought to tears from a kind email by a thoughtful reader, which is a priceless experience.

 

However, I’ve also managed many hurdles of frustration while being a stubborn do-it-yourself type, forcing myself to learn a myriad of things like complex software for designing book covers. Learning as you go is essential to Indie success. One quickly discovers the need to do so many things to keep up with the masses of new writers, which can often feel overwhelming. Formatting, cover design, blogging, social media, forums, articles, YouTube, making websites… these are just some of the things a fledgling author will need to learn and do well in order to rise to the top. It’s not easy by any means, and yet it can also be done by anyone.

Teaching these skills is now a big part of my life. Fortunately, my specialty is doing everything for free so this is a great way to make friends and network with other authors who are eager to save money. Everyone likes saving money, right? Another benefit is being a part of the Indie community, which is the most altruistic group I’ve ever been associated with. Have you heard the saying, “a rising tide lifts all boats?” It’s like that with Indie authors. The desire to assist each other and get help in the process makes being with this group a rewarding experience for all, regardless of the number of books sold.

 

If you have a book in you, whether it’s partially written or ready to print, and you want to be an Indie author—come join our community and make your mark. There’s plenty of room for anyone who has a great story and is willing to work persistently to share it with the world. Plus you’ll have an instant support network of authors ready to help you, people like me.