When I started out writing my first novel at the age of nineteen, it was on a typewriter and ‘cut and paste’ meant exactly that, using scissors and glue. How things have changed. What has also changed is the technology available to the self or indie publisher/author.
There have always been indie publisher/authors. Virginia Woolf was one. However, her husband had to buy a printing press and put it in their basement to establish what would become Hogarth Press (named after their house in Richmond). These days all that is needed is a computer, a bit of techie knowledge and an internet connection.
I became an ‘indie’ out of necessity. Unable to find a publisher, with a significant birthday arriving, and some inheritance to financially cushion me, I realised the time is now. I now have three novels, of which I am inordinately proud, available to an international audience. I even got long-listed for an award, the CWA debut dagger, for my first one.
There are lots of hats to wear. I pay for a professional copyeditor and proofreader, however, once their work is done, I am totally responsible for making sure I do the corrections accurately. I format the text three times: for a local print-run; for createspace; for Kindle. I over-see the work of the professional designer who is doing my covers and also of the printer (discussing with him issues around type of paper and laminate for the cover). Then, swapping hats again, I organise the launch and market the books.
For me, the hardest part is the marketing. For everything else, it feels like if I put the effort in, I can see the results. Not so with marketing. It is a bottomless pit, always hungry for more and never delivering as much as it promises. Social media has been great for networking with other writers and finding supportive colleagues, but as far as marketing goes? Mmm, in my opinion, it’s only successful for those who are already well-known or who love, love, love being on there every minute of the day.
All this hat spinning can be difficult and sometimes it feels lonely, the responsibility of all the decisions basically being with me. It’s also not always easy to meet the prejudice which I think sill hovers around being an indie. There are those who thrive on being an indie, citing the freedom to be their own boss and to luxuriate in knowing everything is how they want it to be. But despite this and stories of indies who have made it big, such as Eva Lesko Natiello whose book The Memory Book made it onto the New York Times bestseller list (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eva-lesko-natiello/selfpublished-book-beats-_b_11909842.html), my attitude remains more ambivalent.
I have heard, anecdotally, that following the traditional route – lit agent and publisher – is not all peaches and cream. However, deep down, I still yearn to get on this path. And I have decided to put aside my indie hats for a while to once again see what’s possible, being more strategic than I’ve ever been before given what I’ve learnt in the last few years. I know hard work, talent and shed loads of luck aren’t enough, I need to plug into the literary world, network, assess the best approach for me.
What are your experiences of publishing, indie or otherwise? What are the pros and cons for you? Any tips?
This post is brought to you by Kate Evans.