This is a friendly nod to Brian Klems of Writer’s Digest for his 7 Reasons Writing a Book Makes You a Badass article. No offense or competition between traditional writers and indie writers intended. It’s a joke, son!
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I’ve been a professional indie for ten years now (if you accept the commonly accepted definition of ‘professional’ as someone who has sold her work) and I’ve just released my 10th book, my 10th self-pubbed book, that is. I was indie long before indie was cool. I was calling myself an indie author before anyone knew what the heck that was or heard anyone else use the term. As far as I know, I created the darn term.
When I read Klems’ article title, I had to laugh. As someone who spends much of most days sitting behind my computer clicking away or reading back over previous work and making change after change after change, I’m well aware I come off as rather boring. Heck, I don’t talk much. I really don’t. Not vocally. Never mind the ridiculous amount of conversation going on in my head and the constant self correction when I don’t think something to myself quite right. Since others don’t see that, I come off as pretty boring and have been told as much. Shrug. I’m not bored with myself, so it’s all okay.
I have to agree with Klems. As a writer, I’m fairly badass. (Excuse the language, but he started it!) Go read his article first, then come back here, because it is a bit different for an indie.
1. Writing a book is hard
Amen. I’ve helped quite a few new writers along when they wanted to write a book but had no idea how to start. In the end, if they really want to write a book, and not just have a book with their name on it, they’ll figure it out as I did. Encouragement is nice, though, and I’m always willing to help with tips. When you’re writing your first book, there should be no difference between trad and indie; it should be for you, not for a market, for sales, for money, or for glory. For you. The rest comes later. Those of us who stick it out not only to The End but to beyond the end to a marketable product have guts. And tired fingers and hazy brains.
2. Editing is painful
Yes. It’s especially hard when you don’t have a trad pub editor helping you out, telling you where to cut and where to add, or a pro copywriter picking out your typos and grammar/ spelling errors. You better be able to do it yourself or get some good help. Beware self-made editors who ask for money in return for their help. Just like authors, editors are good, bad, and in-between. A lot of indies get stuck in this quagmire. Ask around. The best bet is to learn it yourself and then ask for extra help. They make grammar and writing books for that.
3. Knowing you can go back and re-publish is a blessing and a curse.
Yes, you can pull your own books and re-edit and re-publish, but be careful. It’s an easier process with ebooks, although if they sell, those copies are out there until deleted. Once you’re in print, that book is there. Once a retailer has it, they intend to hold it until their copies sell or they send them to a clearance distributor. (It’s only fair if they do.) It’s too easy to jump the gun and get your book out because you’re excited, and then cringe later down the road when you’re more experienced and see the errors of your ways. Any takers to ask how I know this?
4. Convincing readers your work is good when a bigwig somewhere hasn’t said so and isn’t backing you is scary.
Convincing yourself of that is even scarier. Unless you’re too arrogant for your own good, an indie never stops second-guessing her own work until she becomes the next Amanda Hocking. (Anyway I suppose she isn’t still second-guessing herself. Maybe she converted to a trad publisher so she could rest those doubts more easily.) It can be it tough to convince others your books are good enough to be worth their time and money when you only have yourself and your beloved family and friends saying it is.
5. Rejection. Yikes!
All writers get bad reviews. They happen. When you’re an indie and readers know it, you likely will also get “I found typos” comments in even good reviews. I read avidly. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a big pub book that did not have a couple of errors or more. Still, I’ve never seen that mentioned in reviews. I see it plenty in indie published reviews. Granted, far too many indies have far too many typos, [and *sigh* far too much bad writing, but then I’ve seen plenty of that in big pub books, as well] (see above about putting your books out too fast), but many have no more errors than the big pubs. Be aware you will more likely be slammed for it as an indie or even as a small press author. Being rejected by readers when you don’t have that “contract” saying you’re a good writer can be pretty darn hard to take. I’m sure it is when you’re under contract, also, but I wouldn’t know since I haven’t bothered to try to get one of those. (Except for my children’s book and that was more an experiment than anything. I do that. I like to experiment.)
6. Getting paid for your work… insert laugh machine here
Advance? To an indie, that’s what you pay to get your books out to the public. Of course ebooks can be done with no money expended. Print books are a horse of a different color. I have to sell, on average, 60 print books by hand (at signings or otherwise) to make up what I spend to get my prints out there and to have enough on hand at a price readers expect. When local retailers sell them for me, that number of books goes up since their commission comes out. It also goes up when you’re selling at arts fests that demand booth fees. Sixty books doesn’t sound like a lot, I suppose, but when you’re unknown, or virtually unknown, and when you write literary or mixed genres instead of commercial fiction, and when you tend to write long in a world of quick and easy, sixty is a lot of books. It is. Especially when it can take several months to a few years to write and edit that book until it’s ready to be out. Few of us fiction writers make even close to minimum wage.
Only the truly brave put out that kind of money in hopes that not only will they make it back, but actually make a profit. And then, of course, you have to be brave enough to DO signings and to ask retailers to carry them. Most of us authors are introverted and many of us are rather shy. Try fighting social anxiety that’s at disorder level and sitting out under a tent at an art show or in a bookstore and convince people your work is worth their time and money. Oh, and realize while you’re doing so that you may not make enough profit that day to even cover your space fee. Super ninjas, we are. Never mind the next few days are recovery time from the stress of it.
7. Accomplishing a dream is awesome.
YES! The lack of profit, stress, and doubt aside, when you, as an indie author, who wrote it yourself, paid for it yourself, edited twenty times and then sent it to reliable people to help and then edited again yourself, after you did your cover art or found the right person to do it with your input, formatted your files yourself, uploaded your materials yourself, and did all of your own promo with bits of help from whatever family and friends are willing to spread around your promo posts…
Yes. It is awesome when those reviews come in praising your work, your story, your characters … and begging for the next.
I’m not sure there’s anything quite like it in the world.
We indie authors who spend years learning and writing and learning more and listening and researching and writing and editing and writing and doubting and rewriting and pouting and praying and typing until our fingers are near to falling off and our eyes have trouble focusing and our brains are hazy … we are badass, indeed.