How Do I Go Indie?

See full issue for 2017 07-31

Over the past few years, I’ve had a few authors contact me about how one might “go indie.” I’m always a little wary of answering this question, because there is no one answer for every writer. In fact, there’s no answer that really helps all of us, other than “Just do it.” But there are a few things you can do that will make the process easier, and might even ensure you see at least some success.

First, know that you have to do the work.

Learn how to write good fiction. I’m talking from the nuts and bolts of what makes a good story to nit-picky shit like grammar and structure. Learn the rules, even if you don’t follow them, so that you’re writing from a place of knowledge and (hopefully) skill. The more you know, the better the odds you’ll produce something worth reading.

Research your options.

There are a number of publishing platforms available to indie authors. Smashwords and Amazon are just a couple. Make sure the one you use is going to give you maximum exposure by asking questions of other authors. Reading and reading and reading about each one is also wise. Check out terms of service, royalties, and all that other fun stuff.

And then research marketing options, promotional tips and tricks, and all that other fun stuff that actually helps to sell your book once you're done. This is important, because it's much easier to sell books when you know what you need to do to get it to readers.

Research formatting guidelines for the publishing platform you decide to use, as well, or find someone who offers that service for a fee. (If you're useless at this stuff or extremely impatient like I am, it's money well spent.) I'd recommend that you also look into cover designers before you dive in and make your own cover. It’s not impossible to create a kickass cover ourselves, but it’s more likely we'll slap together a really shitty one.

Basically, before you even think of publishing yourself, make sure you’re aware of all the things that affect a book’s success. Even when you know, it’s really tough to market the best of the best out there, so be prepared to work harder marketing than you did writing.

The next indie tip I'd give is don’t expect handouts.

I’ve said this before. You’re not entitled to anything. Not readers, not reviews: NOTHING. Don’t expect people to just buy your book because it’s there. Don’t expect anyone to fork over cash so you can afford a good cover or editor. Don’t expect writer friends to give you a blurb or share your book links on social media.

You worked hard. I get it. But you don’t deserve special treatment or favors just because you did something you’re proud of. Be prepared to do all of this on your own, because you’ll probably have to.

It’s hard. Accept this going into it. Believe it. Don't expect it to get easier. (It will, but only a little and not all at once.)

Indie publishing isn’t as easy as it looks. Sure, you can get your book out there reasonably fast. It’s little more than a few clicks and you’re done. But writing something worth reading and getting people to read it are extremely difficult. You’ll see others become successful. It’ll sting. It’ll downright gut you when someone who seems to have done nothing at all does well. That’s the way this game works. Publishing is as much luck as it is talent and/or skill. It’s a tough and demoralizing road sometimes. Be ready for it.

Finally, be prepared to remain as poor as you are now… possibly poorer.

For most of us self-publishing doesn’t pay enough to keep the roof over our heads, and probably never will. Know this before diving in or spending a ton of cash in the publishing process. It’s extremely unlikely your first or even your fifth book will earn more than a couple hundred bucks in a year. Hell, it’s unlikely to earn that in two years.

Depressed yet? Don’t be discouraged. Knowing all of this going into it is a good thing. Keep your expectations reasonable and take the time to make a plan, and publishing yourself won’t be a total disaster. The bits and pieces that go into the physical process of publishing yourself are easy to learn about online. What a lot of these guys don’t mention is that it rarely amounts to anything in terms of money and it’s hard on the old ego. You need to be determined, focused and realistic, or you reduce your already shitty odds of success.

But, it’s also pretty awesome.

Now that I’ve explained all of the negative bits, let’s look at the most important part. Publishing your own books, once you’ve prepared and studied and busted your ass to produce a product worth reading, is empowering. Liberating, even. So yeah, it’s worth a shot.

Are you ready?


Renee Miller

Visit Renee Miller‘s website.

Contact Us    Visit the original Underground
Quality reviews of independent literature from 2011 - 2018