*To celebrate my one year blogging anniversary, I’ll be posting some of my favorite posts from 2013 through the month of December*
As writers we know about solitude. We know that it’s an essential ingredient to cranking out a first draft and we know it’s the birthplace of some of our best ideas. We’re comfortable there and maybe even relish in it. I know I did. But solitude can also be the birthplace of our greatest adversaries—self-doubt, guilt, comparison. When we’re alone with our thoughts we don’t just make masterpieces, we make monsters. And the truth of going it alone, of becoming an indie author, is that we’re often forced to fight these monsters alone.
There’s a lot of freedom that comes with choosing to self-publish. I control the look and feel of the final product from every paragraph and chapter heading to the cover art to the blurb. I have final say during revisions. I can genre hop or create new ones. I can explore any topic I want. I can write for me. Those are the things I love about being indie. But along with the freedom and absolute control, I also shoulder all of the responsibility. Because if I fail, I fail alone, and I’m forced to pick up the pieces alone.
If you make the choice to go indie there will be no cheerleaders glancing over your shoulder, no team of PR people behind you doing the grunt work or telling you it’ll all be worth it. You’ll spend months refreshing your sales page or Goodreads reviews with nothing new to show for it. You won’t make a dime and you’ll second-guess all of the money you spent on copy-editing and cover art and marketing that could have gone to something else like groceries or gas. You’ll feel discouraged and like you made a huge mistake. And you’ll want to give up.
But if you really want to be a writer you won’t quit. Because even though there’s no one in your corner, reassuring you or stroking your ego or cutting you a check, you should still believe in yourself. You have to. That’s what separates the successful career indie authors from the failures and one hit wonders. To make it, there is just one secret. One rule. You have to know your own voice and even more than that you have to trust it. Absolutely.
So when that voice says to you, I am a writer, believe it. Follow it. Do whatever you have to do to live out that purpose even if that means self-publishing because you couldn’t get a traditional deal. Even if that means going it alone with no support from friends or family. When you’re called to be a writer it’s not a dream, it’s a responsibility.
This means making a commitment to write every day or every weekday or while you’re sitting at your daughter’s gymnastics class or waiting at the doctor’s office or riding in the passenger’s seat on a road trip.
It also means making the commitment to hone your craft whether that’s through a degree program or free classes at the community center or by reading books on craft or joining a writer’s group in your area.
And even though some people might not agree, it should also mean investing in you and your work financially. Invest in your skills, invest in professional cover art, and, if you can, invest in an environment that’s conducive to creativity. Buying yourself a new laptop or a new desk—these are the kinds of things that let the universe know you’re serious. They remind you that you’re serious too.
Self-publishing is a slow and thankless pursuit. And even now, a year after self-publishing my first book, I’m still not seeing the kind of results I’d hoped for. Sure, there are writers out there hitting it big with their first book. But those people are lucky. Like winning the lottery lucky. That’s not real life.
If I could give one piece of advice to anyone considering self-publishing it would be this—be sure. Be sure that this is what you love to do. Be sure that this is what you were meant to do. Be sure that even if you never made a dime, you’d still write every day. Because that’s exactly what you’ll be doing. You’ll churn out book after book, fingers crossed until one of them finds an audience. That might take six months or that might take six years but sitting down in that chair and writing is the only way to make it happen.
There are no marketing tricks. In fact, I’d say forget marketing altogether until you have some kind of backlist. That should be your focus. I didn’t plan my first blog tour until the release of my third book. Why? Because if I do get lucky and finally find my audience, what’s going to keep them from forgetting about me in a couple of months? Prove that you’re in this for the long haul and readers won’t be afraid to invest in your books.
That’s really the only strategy you need. Be honest with your readers, provide them with a quality product, and thank them every chance you get. No gimmicks. No marketing tricks.
Write. Invest in yourself. Write some more. And be good to your readers.
The success you achieve from this strategy might not be monetary but if you choose to look at self-publishing as the ultimate form of self-expression, then you will be rich beyond your wildest dreams. Because these are the things that I’ve learned from self-publishing—your belief in yourself should be unwavering and if you treat success like an inevitability, it will be.
I haven’t sold thousands of copies of my books. But I do have the privilege of writing every day and I have reached more readers than I could ever have imagined. And to me, that’s a huge success. Because regardless of the scale, I’m still fulfilling my purpose. I’m still a writer.