My Self-Publishing Journey: On Becoming an Indie Author
A regular column from PW's Southern Correspondent
"I decided it was time to let go of the stigma on self-publishing and put my career first.""My Self-Publishing Journey" is a new monthly column from PW Select in which we track, step-by-step, one author's adventures in self-publishing.
It was never my intention to write eight books and publish none. I am a fan of traditional publishing, and my aspiration was always to go through the agent-to-editor channel and get published. Intention in publishing is not always synonymous with success. When I started writing my first book at the age of 26, I thought that -- in a year or two -- I’d see my story on the shelves of my favorite bookstore. It was my dream, after all. Seven years later, after having had an agent, going on submission, and receiving a bushel of nice rejections, I had to stop and ask myself what I was waiting for.
The purpose of writing, for me, has always been to have a career. To connect with readers, to share what I hope are books of escape and hope, and to grow into a more seasoned and skilled author, so I can better serve my readers. But when my books never reach the hands of those readers, it’s less of a career I’m making and more of a dusty library for no one.When I asked bestselling indie author Hugh Howey if there was anything he would have done differently on his self-publishing journey, his answer struck a chord. “I would have started younger. Barriers to entry kept me from pursuing writing. Had I known the world would open like this, I would have had 30 works sitting and ready to go. You can't get these years back. If you like telling stories, get started. Don't stop.”
For seven years, the barriers to sharing my stories have stopped me. This isn’t anyone’s fault but my own. I focused my gaze on the wrong horizon. Realizing this, I decided it was time to let go of the stigma on self-publishing -- and, if I’m being completely honest, my own ego -- and put my career and the readers I envision first. Which is to say, I decided to become a self-published author.
Being a journalist, I also wanted to write about my journey, to be transparent on what works, what doesn’t, and share if, at the end of the day, the path proves a financial gain. The first thing I needed to decipher: is there a formula for success in self-publishing. As is the case for most success stories in publishing, there is no absolute truth and everyone’s road is slightly different. There is, however, a pretty good rule of thumb. Perhaps Bella Andre summed it up best: “Write great books, pay attention to what's going on in both the indie and traditional publishing industry, and work really, really hard. Every single person I know who is having success with indie publishing -- and there are lots of them -- is following that formula.”
My first step was to research the formula. I devoured blogs by people like Kristine Kathryn Rusch, C.J. Lyons, Joel Friedlander, and a slew of others discovered by my dear pal Google and referred to me by author and writer friends. I am still determining what it means to be an indie businesswoman, and talking with authors who have accomplished what I’m setting out to do. My hope is that by sharing each step I take -- the mistakes, the victories, the tomfoolery, and shenanigans -- it will illuminate what works and doesn't. It will serve others seeking to travel this path and be a reminder that if I can do it, anyone can.I plan, over the next few months, to cover everything from preparing the book to cover design to marketing to uploading and distribution to how booksellers advise indie authors to get their books (and signings) in their stores. My goal is transparency and, at the end of the journey, to put out a stellar book for readers to escape into.
Writers write because they want to create stories and connect with readers. Readers read because books are an extension of who they are. Publishers publish books because they have passion for great stories. Librarians and booksellers are the (often) unsung heroes fighting to get these stories into the hands of readers. We are all cogs in the wheel, as my friend Shane the bookseller says. I hope to discover how, as an indie author, I can find my place in the machine, and, perhaps, help it -- and other aspiring indie authors -- to shine.
Paige Crutcher is PW's Southern Correspondent.