The Horrors of Indie Publishing

So you are an indie author and your book is now on Amazon. Maybe even Barnes and Noble’s back alley. Awesome. You’re getting some likes, and, Lord willin’, a review. You have built, they will come. Well, maybe, but not straight away.

Nervous tingles creep into your mind as you read the Mainstream Media’s assessment of your (yes, your) place in the annals of literature. It’s grim, yes? Sue Grafton hates your guts. You’re illiterate. You couldn’t write your name in crayon on a sack lunch. Even other indie authors are Quislings with their own volleys of shan’ts and mustn’ts. The best book you could hope to write is entitled Fifty Shades of Lame.

Won’t lie, they do bring up some good points. A recent article churned out by some Bought-and-Paid For broke down why you are forever worthless. They claim the big reasons you suck are:
1. Editing: Typos, bad typesetting, punctuation and grammar – all foul because you haven’t joined the Illuminati.
2. Your cover blows because you aren’t an artist and if you are, it’s because you aren’t a Freemason.
3. Too much too soon: Indie authors churn out seventy-page-long brain farts once every two weeks.
4. You just don’t have the marketing skills.

All right, there are ways around each and every one of these problems. Solutions (which the article failed to provide).

Editing: This is a tough and time-consuming factor, but there are solutions. First off, there is a difference between editing and proofing. Editing irons out subjective foibles like embarrassing dialogue, weak plots and subplots, too many subplots, continuity errors and plot holes – even stupid character names. Proofing involves the technical aspects like grammar, punctuation, typos and typesetting (for readability). If you were ever blessed to be pressed by the Big Six-Six-Six, they normally will only provide editing. You still will need to take care of the proofing on your own. A professional proofing service can charge you about thirty bucks an hour (USD). That’s a lot of cheddar if you have a long book and if you employ an unscrupulous proofer, they may add a few hours to the final bill. Check ripoff report to see if they have a history of doing this. Actually, check ripoff report before you buy anything.

Cheap ways around this are to rely on your personal network. Do you have any friends or family that are secretaries or work in some fact-checking capacity? They can give you a big discount if they say yes. Check local colleges for English majors who are hungry for that all-holy line on the resume. They may even do it for free depending on their appetite for more ink. Always proof your own work and check your proofer’s work once again. They could be insane and have peppered your YA novel with copious four-letter-words. Heh, that would be kind of funny.

The Cover: I hold degrees in design and painting, and although I’m not Peter Saville or Vaughn Oliver, I can construct a passable image to promote my book. This article claimed that ninety percent of blocks to your sales can lie here. Big bottleneck.

I have to disagree on that one. I’ve seen major indie-sellers where the covers are downright eyesores. I’m surprised they don’t have perforation holes trailing down the left-hand side of the image. Nevertheless, they sell like hotcakes. Art-snob that I am, I would go seek a design service if you have no talent for layout or illustration, but if you thought proofing services were expensive – whoa! Design houses can set you back five thousand for just the cover. Best bet is to – can you guess? – cull talent from the local colleges! As I’ve said before, a lot of these guys are starving for resume builders and here, they have a portfolio builder as well. This too can be a marketing boon for you because not only are you pushing your book post-publish, your designer is pushing her cover as well. Free advertising. Win-win.

High Volume, Low Quality: Take your time. Give your readers their money’s worth. I’m not suggesting every book must be a magnum opus, but unless you really want to publish flash fiction and only flash fiction, give your work some respect. A book-a-month only promises thin plots, weak characters, and a waste of time for the reader in the end. They probably won’t buy your next concoction. You’ve lost a retuning customer and that is Bad Business 101. If you are itching to publish, publish, publish, throw up installments on your blog like David Wong did with John Dies at the End.

You’re Not a Salesperson: Personally, I couldn’t sell shaved ice in the Sahara. I’ve just found online marketing services seven months after my release date. Mentally, this is a chokepoint for me because I had just never had an interest in sales. I’ve never had the persuasive spirit. Remember that episode of South Park where the boys had a news program televised at school? It was of high production value and contained integrity; nothing wrong here. It tanked once Clyde began broadcasting inane videos of puppies licking camera lenses. Makes no sense, right? Some people just have IT and others don’t. Chutzpah.

If you are charismatically impaired, try some marketing services. Many of them are online and I found mine once I had begun with Twitter. That really broke the ice for me. I’ll see how this works, but youtube different videos for vlogs pertaining to marketing your work online and even on foot (yes, there is IRL marketing, you know).

Don’t give up. If you give up, you’ve lost me and everyone else. The more you write, the more you hone your craft. I am my own canary in the coal mine, but I love doing this and I won’t be stopped. The 21st Century is the Discouragement Century, but you will only fail yourself if you embrace fear.

Who knows? One of these days, indie publishing might hold the same, elitist attitude that punk rock and indie pop once enjoyed. I remember back in the day when the record store owner would slam me for bringing anything by Big Media to the checkout. You never know. The same might happen for books.

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