The Real Challenges facing Indie Authors


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There’s a massive debate (sometimes screaming match) going on regarding the emergence of Indie publishing. I think over time the rhetoric on this will fade away as the argument is realized for what it is – pointless. I think this post sums up the positions and the attitude I have to this argument very well. The challenges facing an Indie author are enormous enough without indulging in fruitless arguments. I confess that I have been guilty of climbing in when someone has made the comment that something self-published is automatically inferior to something that is published. Well no more – because it doesn’t gain anything for me.

Operating without the advice of agents, editors, and the marketers that Publishers offer, is tough, and unfortunately many Indie authors fail to realize how tough. Taking the easy route, and forking over, in some cases thousands of dollars to those who prey on the uninformed, to see nothing happen, is not the solution. What are the challenges and, what are the solutions then?

The real challenges facing Indie authors are:

Writing a good story

It’s a well-established fact that agents today are doing a lot of editing on behalf of their clients. Acquisitions Editors have pushed this one as their own time and resources have dwindled. An Indie author choices here are limited to reaching out to friends and colleagues. Alpha readers are great, but if they don’t write then they are unlikely to spot errors in flow, arc, punctuation etc. An agent or an editor will get most of them.

Solutions: get your work out there. Many will disagree with this but I think it is OK to put something out (on a limited basis) that requests feedback on the work. Of course it should be a complete working MS, and you should have been through it a few times to edit and improve it as much as possible before putting it out. This is not yet published (I would recommend marking it as a draft or ARC edition). This will get you good feedback about what works and what doesn’t.

Editing a good story

Typically an editor is going to cost in the region of US$2,000 (for about 80,000 words). That’s for copy-editing.  Developmental editing will cost more. (up to US$6 per page). The trouble for Indie’s is that when you’ve read your own work tens of times, then it is very easy to miss a mistake. No easy solution for this; if you’re serious about publishing your novel you need an editor. Be careful to check before you do hire an editor that they know what they’re doing. There’s a lot of sharks out there.

Technical knowledge

This really isn’t a challenge, it’s just a learning curve. It can, especially if you are relatively new to the disciplines, be a steep learning curve.

Marketing

This is especially tough for foreign writers such as myself. It is impossible for me, given my day job, to skip over to the States for publicity drives. The internet goes a long way to solving this problem but not all the way. Advertising on things like Kindle Nation are an option. The thing to understand is that this is not a sprint – it’s a marathon. As with a marathon you need to pace yourself for the long haul. Success is unlikely (although not impossible), to come over night. You have to work at it constantly.

The principle of marketing that applies here is exposure. The more exposure you get the more likelihood that someone will come to read what you have written. Still no guarantee that they will buy; that decision can be affected by many factors. Good Cover Art is essential, as is sampling and, yes, reviews.

The big challenge in marketing is how it affects writing. You need to use your logical brain to market, and plug away. That is not to say you shouldn’t be creative, you must be, what it means is that you need to work out where your readers are, who they are and why they should consider buying your book. That takes a lot of straightforward logical thinking, something that may interrupt your creative writing.

Presumably you are writing another book. Blogging, reading and commenting on other blogs, social networking (twitter is a great tool, but can be incredibly disruptive) all take time; that time takes away from writing. Sure the traditional publisher may require that you do your own marketing, but you will at least get advice from both the publisher and your agent.

If you’re reading this as you’ve just started writing a novel, and you’ve decided to publish it yourself. I suggest that you begin on the above immediately. Spare out some time to the topics above; it will be hard because it does interfere with writing, but the rewards will be that when you have finished your novel you’ll be in a great position.

The irony of Independent or Self publishing is that to overcome the challenges you need to find friends and associates who can help; it is not something that you can do entirely by yourself.

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About Simon Royle

Thinking about the future, and how to affect positive change for that future.
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