This upcoming year (actually, it won't be until October of 2015) will mark my 4th year as an indie author. To say it's been exciting is an understatement! I'm thrilled to have made it through all these years, which I have to say are the best years since I began writing professionally. Besides having been a great ride, it's also been an awesome learning experience.
So here's my list, in no particular order, detailing what I've learned since becoming an indie author:
1. I don't need validation from publishers or editors anymore. HALLELUJAH! Back in my newbie writer days, my opinion of my work and of myself as an writer highly depended on responses from publishing houses or editors. You sent me a rejection? I must be the. Worst. Writer. Ever! Oh, so, the book IS "right for your list?" Yes! My work has to be worth something, right?!?!
Not anymore. Full disclosure: I DO still work with a few publishers (mostly smaller ebook publishers) that I will continue to work with, but that's because I enjoy writing for them and we have a great professional relationship. But I don't need validation anymore, and that's freed me mentally to be able to concentrate on honing my craft as an author. Being an indie--taking the reins in all areas, from writing to editing to promo--has also increased my confidence in my abilities. That's a very liberating feeling. That means you spend less energy rebuilding your faith in your own work and more in areas where your energy is put to better use, i.e. working on your WIP.
2. My journey isn't someone else's journey. Neither should I allow anyone to dictate how I should measure my own success. Some of my books do better than others; I write each book as if it is my all-time favorite project. I doubt I'll ever make it rich. Doesn't matter. I'm already a success because I am still here, still productive, and still getting paid for my work. Best of all, I can honestly say that I am writing the books that I have always wanted to write, under each of my pen names. If my work brings joy or encouragement or just entertainment to someone else, that's more than I could have ever asked for, and I give the Lord the glory for that.
3. Publisher lines have come and gone. Heck, publishers have come and gone. But we writers are still here.
4. Knowing a book is definitely going to be published (as opposed to hoping and wishing some editor finds it "right for our list") is great motivation to finish a book.
5. Knowing a book is definitely going be published (as opposed to hoping and wishing some editor finds it "right for our list") is motivation to start planning promotion and causing some kind of stir before it's even out there.
6. There's been a lot of talk in the past couple of years about how giving books for free is not the great promotional tool it once was. I have to agree with that, though I will continue to offer the occasional perma-free book, as well as special promotions. I still have readers who have read GREETINGS FROM MY SANDY DREAMS or UNCONDITIONAL for free, then decide they want to buy one or more of my other books. Simply put, that rocks. Ultimately, it's not about individual sales anyway, but about building a readership that enjoys your work and looks forward to the new titles coming out.
7. Even as an un-techy, 50ish grandmother, I CAN learn how to create an ebook, a book cover, a paperback version, and seek out promotional opportunities. If I can at this age, so can any writer with the passion to get his/her work out there.
8. I've learned I'm having more fun as an indie author, and I also have more opportunities open to me, than I ever did when I wrote for traditional publishers. The world has changed since the mid- 1990s, when I first began writing professionally. I was never a "favorite" of the traditional publishers, so I wasn't trusted with the types of projects that I now entrust myself to work on. Neither were certain promotional opportunities open to me; now, in the age of ebooks and technology in general, there are marketing opportunities that have leveled the playing field for authors. As a bonus, those opportunities have provided me with the chance to meet and befriend other authors.
9. It takes an adventurous spirit to become an indie author.
10. Indie publishing is NOT for the fainthearted, the lazy, or the impatient. I guarantee you: There WILL be disappointing days.You WILL be taking on more responsibility and work (including editing, unless you hire an indie editor). If you put out ONE book, only one, with the expectation of seeing it on the bestseller list, you may become discouraged. I'm a person who happens to believe that nothing is impossible, but this doesn't happen to everyone.
I've learned it's better to have the attitude that you are basically starting your own small business. How would it be to open up your own restaurant? Besides working on developing an enticing menu, hiring the best chefs and wait staff you can afford, and decorating the place so it's welcoming to the public, you'd be concerned with building up the restaurant's clientele. That takes time and patience unless you're already a big name chef.
That's not very different from becoming an indie author. These are YOUR babies you're writing and sending out into the world. Treat them with respect, be gentle with them, pour your whole heart into them. Remember that there's a reader--a human being--on the other end of it. Make it worth the hard-earned money they put out for it. Expect the occasional disappointment and the bad review, and soldier on with as much passion, curiosity and enthusiasm as the day you jumped into the indie pool headfirst.
11. What doesn't kill you really DOES make you stronger. It's not just a song by Kelly Clarkson!