Being a professional writer means making decisions. It also means you’re in business for yourself, regardless of whether or not you choose to sell your work to publishers or choose to be an independent. Businesses have start-up costs. For independents, this means investing in artwork, editing, formatting, layout, and etc. Basically an indie SHOULD follow the same process as a “traditional” publishing company.
The biggest problem I’ve faced as an independent is the “marketing” side of the equation. I can’t figure it out. I have folks helping me work on this, but it’s still a nightmare. Trying to stand out in a sea of other independents and traditionally published authors is tricky. Traditional publishers have faced the same problem since bookstores first existed.
Back in the day, a reader would go into their favorite bookstore and the knowledgable staff would point them to new or old books in the genre the reader wanted to devour. Those days are almost completely gone, except with independent bookstores. The fact I have to use the phrase “independent” bookstores should tell you everything you need to know.
With the advent of the giant brick and mortars liked Barnes and Noble, Bookstop, and the like, the personal touch has all but disappeared. Independent bookstores still prize customer service–it’s what they live and die on. They have to know their product in order to bring readers back. When I went to a writing conference in the 80s, some of the authors admitted to hanging out at the local bookstores and talking to the owners and the book-buyers. They’d make friends with them, thus ensuring their books would show up on the shelves.
But the world is completely different now. At least with the average consumer. There are still some of us that will drive quite a few miles to visit the old-school stores, but most readers are purchasing their books online. The world of the internet has both hindered and helped the idea of personal contact. In the “old” days, you would send your favorite author a letter. Now you can send email and get lost in a sea of spam and other crap.
Authors, however, have new opportunities to connect with their readers. Websites like this one, podcasting their fiction, writing blog posts, social media, etc… There is no end to the avenues the internet offers. But just as with the tsunami of independently published books that have swamped the virtual shelves of Amazon and the like, authors have to find a way to stand out. Writing a good book is not a guarantee that you will be discovered, let alone find success.
So it all comes back to marketing. You can work on your craft, perfect it, and become a well-respected writer by the twenty or so people that discover you, but without finding a way to make yourself unique, you’ll just be lost in all the noise.
The conundrum writers like myself face is whether to keep striking out into the world alone, taking all the risk, and enjoying all the profits (should there be any), or find a publisher they can work with. There are, of course, other options such as becoming a “hybrid” author. Hybrids have traditional publishers as well as their own independent line. In some cases it’s about selling only certain rights–like giving the publisher a contract for the print books while the author keeps all the digital rights.
Partnering with a publisher in this manner can greatly improve one’s chance of find success. But, you have to be careful whom you partner with. The trend in publishing has been to focus all the marketing money on the big authors (who obviously don’t need it), while letting the “B-list” authors fend for themselves.
That doesn’t mean the cinderella story doesn’t still happen, but you only hear about the successful ones. No one talks about the ugly secret where “B-list” authors languish in a fair amount of obscurity regardless of quality writing.
So where am I in this mess? Languishing in relative obscurity. With the exception of my limited edition hardcovers, I have no books in print. I believe that’s been hurting my sales in a big way. It seems as though some readers won’t take you seriously unless you have both ebooks and print books out.
2014 is going to be a year of serious change. I am focusing on rebranding, marketing, and etc while writing my damned fool head off. For the past few years, I have written stories as quickly as possible in order to keep the podcast feed filled. It’s taken time for me to realize this was a fool’s game. Once I moved out of just being a podcaster and into independent publishing, the podcast having fresh episodes has become less important than spending time writing good stories and not releasing them until they’re done. It’s just that simple.
The conundrum I face is finding the right path. I get paid to write. You readers purchase my work and donate money to me and I can’t tell you how awesome that is. However, for me to write more stories and somehow make enough money to keep doing this, I have to find other avenues to turn this business into being a profitable enterprise. In many ways, this is the nightmare I’ve tried not to face. I love podcasting my fiction. I love interacting with my readers and other writers. And I love writing. Period.
Once upon a time, I said my goal was to make enough money to pay my mortgage bill every month. Now I have another goal–turning my business into a profitable one. The dayjob covers the mortgage and all the other bills. But shadowpublications.com needs to find a way to pay for itself.
This is the year of transformation. I hope to put out two novels and two short story collections this year. That’s a LOT of writing and it’s already February. Time is already slipping away from me, but I’ve been busting my ass to reach my goals.
I’ll continue podcasting my fiction. I’ll continue speaking my essays and rants into the mic–just don’t expect them to come out regularly. The writing is more important than ever, and finding a way for shadowpublications.com to pay for itself is just as necessary.
I thank you all for your patience and support while I get my proverbial shit together. A couple of more “Street” stories are slated for the coming months. I hope you enjoy them. And I hope they tide you over until the next book is ready to be read into the mic.
Welcome to 2014, folks. Let’s make it a good one.