In my Webster Writer’s group the other day, one of our newer members commented on all that was involved in becoming an independent author – especially a successful independent author. This led me to observe there are four mountains every aspiring indie author must climb, and I thought I might share this thought with you.
Mountain #1 – Write a Good Story
This is the first mountain, and it is definitely a hard climb. For someone who may have never written a novel before, it is one of the hardest. There are two aspects to writing a good story. One is writing, and the other is story. A good story can be poorly written, and sometimes amazing writing is wasted on a poor story. I think both can be taught, though story seems to be a far more intuitive process than writing. Anyone, I maintain, can learn the mechanics of writing. It’s a craft. But story is art, and you can either do it or you can’t. Maybe you only have one story in you. If that’s the case, you might do okay with that one novel (Harper Lee, anyone?), but you’ve a far better chance of making it as an independent author if you have a knack for coming up with stories, and then choosing the ones readers are most likely to enjoy.
Mountain #2 – Publishing
Since indie authors are also independent publishers, this is another whole mountain. It involves learning how to edit, how to format a book for print and digital, and may well include book cover design as well. True, many authors choose to farm out their book covers to graphic artists. Those of us who are poorer have to learn to do it ourselves. Some choose to do it themselves any way. Either way, learning to format the book covers is nearly another mountain in and of itself, but I suppose it belongs on the same general peak as publishing.
Mountain #3 – Marketing
This is the mountain I’m currently climbing. Not only does it include identifying the various stores where books are likely to sell (and Amazon is the 800lb gorilla in that regard), it also includes learning how to create various electronic versions (epub, mobi, pdf, rtf, etc.), how to price competitively, how to set up affiliate marketing links, how to create reader magnets, setting up an effective mailing list, learning where and when to promote, and learning to do both paid and free ads – as well as tracking each to discern which sales channels, advertisers, and ad sets are most effective. I wish I knew back in 2010 what was involved in all this, or even that I’d had the foresight to ask better questions to gain answers I’ve had to get the hard way. But there’s no sense bemoaning time lost. All we have is the day before us, to start and grow from wherever we’re at.
Mountain #4 – Creating and Running Writing as a Small Business
This is a mountain I can see in the distance. I know, largely for tax reasons, that I will have to do this once my writing begins generating a little more revenue than a mere hobby, but I have yet to really start climbing it. I do know that it likely means setting up an LLC, tracking business expenses, and a lot more accounting than I currently have time for. I also know that I’ll be asking for help when it comes to this side of things.
At any rate, those are my random thoughts on the matter. My goal is, once I learn and implement the necessary changes as far as marketing goes, that it’ll free me up to do more actual writing. And maybe even a little more living, too. 🙂