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February 9, 2018
By Drucilla Shultz
Indie author Lucy Bellwood urges self-publishers to be scrappy and trust their readers.

Lucy Bellwood began drawing comics during college. After graduating, she self-published True Believer, the 36-page comic that had been a part of her senior thesis, turning to Kickstarter for help with the funding. Bellwood's Kickstarter campaign raised $11,700, nearly 1,000% of her funding goal. And perhaps more importantly, she built an audience of readers keen to follow work.

So, when it was time to self-publish Baggywrinkles—a book of seafaring comic strips—Bellwood again used Kickstarter. And after another successful campagin (Bellwood raised $43,625, nearly three times as much as her funding goal of $15,000), Baggywrinkles was self-published and received a star from Publishers Weekly, with our reviewer calling it “funny and enlightening” and praising Bellwood as “a gifted raconteur, skillfully blending historical anecdotes with irreverent contemporary humor.”

After the Kickstarter campaign, Bellwood continued to update fans about the book and share her writing and publishing experiences on social media. Bellwood stresses that one of the hardest things for independent creators is overcoming “the fear that we’re talking about ourselves too much. But the Internet is a really noisy place, and we have to put ourselves and our work out into the world constantly to start building awareness. It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens in tiny increments over many, many posts.”

We asked Bellwood to share some tips for aspiring indie authors:

Be Social

“Invest in your communities. Find local creators to connect with. Make friends with retailers. Join groups online. Share resources. Remember that self-publishing is about being alone together—possibly even more ‘together’ than working with a publisher.”

Communication Is Key

“Get comfortable with communicating your enthusiasm and passion on the web. Practice sharing your process—not just your product. Welcome your audience into the parts of your work that are vulnerable or difficult. Trust them.”

You Make the Rules

“Be willing to go off the beaten path. Try things. Be scrappy. Nobody’s going to do it for you, and there’s no one right way to do it, so you get to make the rules. This can feel frenetic, because you’ll be running in 15 directions at once with no map to guide you, but all those avenues can pay off in unexpected ways.”