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Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Are Indie Writers the Happiest?

In last week's post I mentioned I had just passed my one year anniversary of self publishing. I also blogged about how I judge success, and stated that it's important to keep expectations low but ambitions high. But after typing that post I started to think about the other path I could have taken. What if I had decided I wanted to try the traditionally published path instead?

I know a lot of writers who take the traditional route first, and there is nothing wrong with that. After months or maybe years of trying without success they might try the self publishing option instead. But I decided to do things the other way around. I wanted to self publish first to see how it actually felt being the author of the book that was potentially going to be read internationally. I wanted to see what people actually thought of my book, and how many reviews I would receive. Then after the first twelve months were up, I figured I would know a lot more about the traditional path from the authors I would network with. I also wanted to socialise as much as I possibly could to try and get a feel for things, and to see if I actually wanted to go down the traditional route.

I know there are both good and bad points for each path, so this isn't a blog aimed at slating the traditional route just because I have decided the path isn't for me ... well not yet. The blog is more about wondering whether I would have any success if I had chosen to pursue an agent.

The top advantage of going indie is having the immediate power to do whatever you like with your book at the click of a button. Uploading your work to the Internet takes only a matter of hours, and then your book is available to buy anywhere in the world. And that's a hugely powerful concept for any writer to consider. If you decide to go the other way, you potentially have years and years to wait before an agent will take you on. Then they've got to sell it to a publishing house which will take time. If a publishing house does decide to buy it publishing the actual book could take a further eighteen months. So maybe the total time taken for that process to occur would be three years or more. And what might have happened if the writer had decided to self publish? They could have sold thousands of books as many people do within the first year, especially if they have a backlist.

The second major advantage of going indie is the royalty system. You, as the author, can decide how much you think your work should be priced. Then because there are no middlemen, apart from the stores which sell your book, you keep most of the cash.

So because indie authors have the most power, I think they're also the happiest. If I had to gone down the traditional route, would I still be waiting, and would I have received the reviews that I have done? Probably not.

But what do you think, are you a traditionally published author ready to argue this point?

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

One Year On, and How I Judge Success.

I passed my first year anniversary on Monday, and I have to say what a year it has been. Never before have I worked so hard in my life, and I am pleased to say it has worked out well.

My figures show I have sold on average just under one book per day. I know many writers who sell at least ten a day but they're the ones who usually have that many books out. I am happy with how my first year has gone but that's not to say I keep my ambitions low. I keep my expectations low as I think it is important to remember I am an unknown author with only one book out. But expectations and ambitions are not the same thing. A person with an unrealistic high ambition is more likely to give up sooner than someone who keeps their feet on the ground. Remember that saying: 'Slow and Steady Wins the Race.'

I also think it's important not to measure your success on the success of others. A new writer cannot possibly compare themselves to a writer who has been writing for twenty plus years in several different genres under several different pen names. Of course they'll have sold more books than someone who has only been in this industry for the past six months, it's almost impossible for them not to.

But quality and professionalism is the one thing I think we should all keep at the top of our agenda. This is a matter that no amount of time can compensate for. Producing poor quality books is bad form, and it doesn't matter whether you've been doing so for the past twenty or five years. A shoddy book is still a shoddy book.

During the past year I haven't done much active marketing - maybe I would have sold more books if I had. I have tried to focus on networking with people and sharing relevant, quality information, especially on Twitter. But my confidence in my writing skills has improved vastly as I have been honoured to receive some brilliant reviews. And some of these reviews have come from people who live overseas - another remarkable thing about being an indie author. If I had been signed up by a small UK based publishing house I doubt my audience would have reached this far.

So my first year has passed and I have to say the decision to upload my hard work on to Smashwords, Amazon Kindle, and all the other major online retail stores has probably been my best decision yet.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Why Persistence is so Important.

I have a friend, a good friend that I have known for a while. She wants a baby more than anything and has done for a couple of years, but unfortunately the universe is making her wait for her dream to become a mother.

I know she will make a great mum because she is everything the perfect mother ought to be. She is kind, caring and always puts others first. She is responsible, mature, has a steady job and a stable marriage.

But I think the hardest thing for her to accept is the issue of timing. To have a baby now it seems would make her life complete. She's not some silly teenager, knocked up, after a casual one night stand: she is every baby's dream parent. So why can't she have a baby now when the timing is so perfect?

Out of respect, I will not go into her personal life anymore than I already have done. But I will say I have told her this when she tells me she wishes she could just fast forward her life:

'In life you cannot control everything. If you want something badly enough then I truly believe your wish will be granted one day. It may not be tomorrow or next month, or even next year, but it WILL happen for you eventually. You just have to wait, but don't wish your life away. Instead focus on the present and find the good stuff that exists now. When your dream happens, it happens.'

Of course this is all very easy for me to say as I'm not the one in her current position. But even though I do not want the baby that she wants so badly, I also have a dream that hasn't happened yet.

Just as I tell my friend, I tell myself that I have to wait and be patient. As long as I am persistent then it will eventually happen, it just won't happen overnight. That's where my friend has the advantage because in her case in might just happen overnight! ;) But my dream is the kind where it will take years to happen (most probably).

But that's OK. I don't care how long I have to wait so long as my dream happens eventually. I am not saying this is how my friend should look at things because I clearly understand that time could be an issue for her. Fortunately she is still young, so hopefully by the time she's forty five she'll have twenty kids!

So long as I keep writing, I'll keep producing books, and as long as I continue to work hard at my writing and reading, then hopefully each book will be better than its predecessor. I hope that each book will help to sell the others, and hopefully by the time I have written around ten I shall be making some sort of living, as that's my dream. Maybe I won't be as rich as J.A. Konrath or Amanda Hocking but many writers are indie writers who make a living out of their dream.

So, what do you think? Should people follow their dreams, no matter what?

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Should you Write for Yourself or for an Audience?

I've been thinking a lot lately about my motivation to write, and I have come to the conclusion that I like to write for myself.

My first book is an example of this as I have allowed the words to flow, without a thought for the genre. It was only when I had the book ready to go that the problem of not having a specific category came to light. When I was in the middle of writing the manuscript, the last thing on my mind was where a potential bookseller would shelve the book. Would it fit in with the autobiography/memoir or travel section? Would it even end up with the erotica as there's no denying the steamy sex scenes found within.

As I began to market the book on popular social media sites, my concern grew. I had no idea who my target audience were because the themes in my book seemed to cross over in so many directions. Should I market the book to everyone in the hope that someone somewhere will like it, or should I just focus on one specific group of people and hope that they spread the word for me?

In the end I decided to target as many people as possible, letting them decide whether they wanted to take a chance with my book, and as a result I have some very mixed reviews. But here's the thing: Out of the people who have notified me that they have purchased my book, the people who have definitely not been in my target audience seemed to have loved it, and the people who I thought would love it have hated it.

After I finish my second book, a continuation from my first, I plan to write my third book in a specific genre. It will be interesting to see how I find this as I will have to make sure I follow certain themes of that specific genre. I will also have to write with that audience in mind.

So my next thought is: When I receive reviews for my third book, will I take them more to heart than I have done previously? After all, I have written my first two books just for me, and if people love them it's a huge bonus. But if I write purely for an audience, will bad reviews upset me? If I receive a bad review I will think I haven't satisfied that particular reader, and therefore have not done my job properly.

So, what do you think? Is it better to write for yourself or for an audience?