How many of you have encountered the opinion that independent, self-published authors are "taking the easy route"? I first became aware of it about twelve years ago, working in a local bookstore, when self-publishing was still a young concept. I still experience that overall attitude from some folks in the public eye, and I think it's time I broke down exactly what a self-published author has to do for themselves...
1. We do our own formatting. Every chapter starts on a fresh page, indented, maybe with a few fancy flourishes. There are separate pages for the dedication, title, and About The Author which are usually standard. All of that has to be coded in, and the manuscript document has to be carefully formatted so that its page margins are just right and the font size is reasonable. We take for granted some of the things which make a novel look "real", or up to professional publishing standards. True, self-publishing providers such as Lulu, Smashwords, and CreateSpace provide templates to work within, but it's the author who spends hours making it all look right.
2. We handle our cover design. Hiring others to design cover art is a luxury, and usually the one most independent authors are willing to spring for. Even with a helping hand, there's a great deal of collaboration involved. For those who won't or can't hire an artist, we're on our own for that, too: and covers do still get judged, no matter what the old axiom says. There are margins to contend with here, too, the same as with the inside - I had a SNAFU with the cover of In The Cards' first edition and had to work with Lulu's lovely support team to get it straightened out. Which brings me to #3 ...
3. We deal directly with our vendors. Printing, business cards, sellers, libraries, website tech support ... any issue that arises must be handled personally. Traditionally published authors have agents or other folks at their publishing house who take care of this, so the author can focus on their writing and their public appearances. The self-published author is on their own.
4. This includes marketing and social media. Some people are born marketers and networkers, but you'll find that by and large, authors aren't necessarily social butterflies. I myself am a right-brained person who has always considered the concept of "selling" to have a used-car salesman feel to it... and now, here I am, confronted with my own business plan and marketing strategy. I've recently taken an online course and begun to learn that marketing is much less ... er, icky ... than I once believed, and I'm excited to get started. It is, however, another case of hard work and more time spent away from the page.
5. It's not our main source of income. I know that this isn't necessarily true of traditionally published authors, either ... but their income system works differently than an indie author's, too. We get nothing up front, no promise of a fixed sum with each book we write. Our revenue comes in quarterly royalty checks from whichever publishing outlet we've chosen... and it depends on our sales, which depend upon all of the other factors I've covered here, in addition to how good the book itself is. Which means - yes - indie authors do all of this while balancing full-time jobs. I think of it as being a super-hero, with the day job as my alter ego.
When you break all of this down, it equates to about 50% time spent marketing and promoting, and 50% spent writing. This goes up to 100% marketing, promoting, design, and formatting when a book release is on the horizon. Consider how much time the average full-time working person has to themselves when the day is done, and you'll see just how much an independent author has to bust their butt in order to get their book out into the world. Lazy? Easy way?
If you've stumbled upon this post as a budding independent author, I don't want to discourage you by any means. Be proud of the choice you're making. Yes, independent authors do a LOT of work ... but we do it because we believe in what we're doing enough to devote ourselves to the work. We know where we're happiest: writing. We know that our creativity makes a difference in the world. We're not willing to jump through hoops or only "write what sells". We are making good art on our own terms, and for every person who says "hey, I'm reading your book", our spirits soar.
Every bird had to fall out of the nest and flap its wings like hell in order to learn to fly. Don't let a little hard work stop you from knowing how it feels to soar.
'Till next week,
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