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An Indie Writer's Odyssey

Francis Porretto’s enjoyable and enlightening look at the indie writing experience.

I decided to look into self-publishing on January 7, 2012 (thereby fulfilling a New Year’s resolution) and began in the obvious way by reading a whole slew of how-to books. These are often short – little more than articles really – and do not require a lot of time. Since their authors use them to promote other works, many of them are free for the downloading on Smashwords. Most of the rest are inexpensive. What you learn from them is essential if you are to have any chance of success. Do not skimp on this step. My advice is to soak yourself in self-publishing ebooks until the juices have made you a dyed in the flesh indie. I spent about a month with them.

When you search for these works on Smashwords set the price parameter to “free.” I found no difference in quality between the freebies and the others. Things change rapidly in the ebook world so look for works published in the last twelve months or so.

Depending on your personal writing preferences, you may have to look past other types of writing in order to read enough books to get you started. In other words, do not ignore a how-to book because its author writes romance novels and you are into fantasy. The principles of indie publishing are the same no matter what you write. If you get too selective, you will cut yourself off from invaluable insights.

Pay close attention to the financial aspects of indie writing. If you are not realistic in your expectations, you will take a big tumble. I know you do not want to hear this, but very few indie authors make serious money from their work. However, there are other benefits. Being part of the indie writing community can be fun. Being a published author – even if you published yourself – can enhance your image and prestige. Just don’t expect any of the fun or prestige to fatten your wallet.

To be clear, I am talking about publishing in digital format. Personally, I plan to skip the print world altogether. Print-on-demand paperbacks are expensive and remarkably unpopular. The whole indie phenomenon seems to be ebook based. Concentrating your efforts on the digital side will get you the most bang for your buck. If you desperately want some print-copies to impress your friends or your family (being actual colourful objects they are more impressive than an ebook) steer clear of the old-fashioned vanity presses. Unlike print-on-demand firms that print books one at a time as needed, the vanity presses print books for you in batches of a few hundred – which you then have to buy. It is up to you to sell them and you probably will not be able to do that. Below this post, I have provided a link so you can read about indie author Lindsay Brambles’s misadventures with a well-known vanity press.

Here are a few of my favourite indie publishing books.

An Indie Writer’s Odyssey / Francis Porretto

Drawn from his blog, the book chronicles Porretto’s experiences as an indie and includes some useful writing tips. Such tips can be had in a more well organized – and far more complete – form in various how-to-write books (I will recommend some in a future post), but the indie author experience laid out here is invaluable. Porretto is an excellent writer and his book is both readable and enjoyable.

Be the Monkey, eBooks and Self-Publishing / J. A. Konrath & Barry Eisler

Konrath makes big money from his ebooks, but he had a head start with being a print author before he got into the indie scene. The book is lively and interesting, but overly optimistic. The rosy picture it paints is probably unattainable for most of us. However, the book does show how great it can be if you do manage to get lucky. This one is a motivator.

Compulsively Writing Fiction / Kate Policani

Policani’s explanation of why she wanted to be an indie author is touching. I liked the sincere honesty of her writing. This book will help keep your earning expectations realistic while displaying some of the other benefits of being an indie.

The Making of an Indie Writer / Kim Antieau

I really enjoyed this one. Antieau is an example of someone living “the writer’s life.” She broke into print when quite young, but for a variety of reasons, things never really took off for her. Life can be like that. She has persevered over the years and now publishes her own books. Antieau will inspire you to stay in for the long haul. Her pleasing writing style is simple and direct.

Where’s the Money / Ruth Ann Nordin

Nordin actually does make money from her writing, but she had to write a ton of books to do it. Her list was more than twenty titles long the last time I counted. Not everyone can be this prolific, but if you think you have it in you here is your role model. Nordin’s advice is exceptionally sound.

The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese / Carolyn Schriber

Schriber is a retired academic. As you might expect from a respectable scholar, her book is thorough and professional. She is an excellent writer. Unfortunately, she makes the whole process of becoming an indie author seem complicated and intimidating. She leaves nothing out so you cannot afford to ignore her book. Save this one for when you have read some of the others. Her focus is on writing historical fiction and her own first novel is doing quite well.

These how-to books will get you started. Add more titles of your own choosing – Smashwords has plenty. Be aware that many ebooks about going indie are so skimpy they amount to little more than fronts for selling the authors’ other books, or for promoting services such as editing and ebook cover design.

You will find Lindsay Brambles’s vanity press disaster under the title Writer Beware.

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