Friday, February 28, 2014

Indie Publishing: What you Didn't Know You Were In For

"Letters of business. How odious I should think them." 
-Caroline Bingley
What most people think of when they think (at all) about an indie author is probably some entirely erroneous picture of a weird kid in a washed out denim jumper who never bothered to get braces for her bucked teeth, wears her hair parted straight down the center of her head (and tucked behind both ears) and doesn't really have all her social graces pegged down. That, or they think of some really awesome person who spends their week literally choreographing sword-fights and practicing fencing with frequent interruptions to run to the desk and type out what just happened.

Indie Author = Rachel Heffington

What people don't realize, is that the moment he hits "approve proof" on Createspace, that indie author has suddenly become a businessman. I didn't realize it, going in. Yeah, I knew marketing was a bit part of getting your name out there and getting your books read. I realized that I would be required to juggle social media and pay attention to other blogs, authors, and book releases. I didn't think that I'd suddenly find myself with enough PR work to effectively employ someone like Callie Harper herself to help me keep afloat of it all. Thanking people/replying to tweets, replying to Facebook messages, replying to emails, writing blog posts, tweeting, writing Facebook posts, sharing links, arranging and answering interviews, reading blogs, puffing other books I enjoyed to begin to integrate into this wild world of self-pubbing, keeping up with Goodreads, reviewing books I've read to help other authors....the list is enormous and I have to write myself a daily to-do list to keep track of any of it. And still things slip behind the desk and I dig them up a week later, feeling terrible I forgot to reply to that pretty much imperative email from that author. There are reviews to read, respond to, and share and you must keep your book in the public eye, too, which means sharing the purchase link tactfully and sweetly and trying to self-promote (good business) while not being annoying and pushy (good friend).

Indie Author + Publicist = Rachel Heffington

That's not all. See, now that I've learned to add publicist to my growing list of talents, there's yet another side of the Indie business I didn't see. That is, quite literally, the side of business. There are books to be autographed, packaged, and shipped. Shipping means going to the store and buying bubble packages, carting them home, addressing them, taking them all to the post office the next day and explaining to the astonished Post-Master than not every one in the towering stack is going overseas and needs a customs form. (Thanks, Mama) Hosting giveaways means that the giveaway winners must be contacted and their addresses procured, their prizes purchased, and their packages shipped. Then, as if that wasn't enough to remember, Paypal withholds payments until you've entered shipping information. I could have done that on Monday if I'd known. Now my payments are all a week behind because I failed to enter the information till this morning. Createspace pays you once a month (provided your royalties add up to at least $15.00) but did you know that your Kindle royalties don't begin for sixty days after the first day of the month in which you made your first sale? Now you have cash flow issues, because you didn't factor the wait in while thinking about your expenses. So you borrow money for shipping/handling and new blog design and other things off your (rich) younger brother and promise to pay him when your royalties finally come around. Then you find out that you forgot that Barnes & Noble actually does carry your book online, so you go around tooting your horn about that and wondering how you managed to overlook that pertinent piece of information. And, yeah, in the middle of all this, you somehow remember you're an indie author still and ought to be working on your next book instead of retweeting articles about how to market effectively.

Indie Author + Publicist + Business Manager = Rachel Heffington

The life of an indie author is far more complicated than I anticipated, but I find the business exhausting exhilarating. All decisions are in your hands, yes, but that means you get to decide. All the PR is up to you, but that means you get to interact one-on-one with your readers, which is precious. All the money has to be juggled and transferred and waited on, but it will be yours in all its littleness someday. And all the writing is up to you...but isn't that why we became writers in the beginning? Don't be discouraged when you publish your novel and realize that it was more work than you anticipated. Every indie author deserves a reward for wearing three hats (or more) at once. There's a community of authors who have done the exact same thing as you, many for several novels. Ask questions, work hard, and you'll get it. I was discussing the subject of this post with a friend recently, and she verbally recoiled, saying, "This is why I plan to publish traditionally." I get that feeling. Sometimes I have looked at my to-do list, the crumpled receipts littering my desk, the blank chapter of Anon, Sir, Anon waiting for words to be poured into its memory, and I think: "Dear God, why didn't I stick it out?" But if I had stayed with the idea of traditional publishing, I wouldn't have learned everything I have so far. I wouldn't trade all the PR, business experience, and hard work for the (comparative) ease of having a major publishing house do it for me. Maybe someday, when the market has changed, I will stick my neck back out into the traditional pubbing world. Maybe not. I do know one thing, though: this experience of indie publishing has taught me so much already, and I'd like to shake hands with the first brave man who cast off from the main wreck and paddled to sea in his own little row-boat. To the stubborn over-achievers: we few, we crazy few, we band of indie-pubbers.

(also, digital Fly Away Home is $2.99 through the weekend, so get your copy if you haven't already.) 


Livia Rachelle said...

I like all your formulas. My mom often borrows cash off my younger siblings . . . I might've once :P Rich Younger Siblings Bank, RYSB or SWBB Siblings Without Bills Bank.

Rachel Rossano said...

Welcome! Holler if you need a hand up. We need to stick together on this crazy course. :)

Anonymous said...

=D Loved this, Rach! You're amazing--& I say that genuinely. I envy your confident bravery & purpose in striking out on your own so beautifully. And yes, I am still talking to *you*. ;) Things will settle into a rhythm soon & you'll look around one day & find that all you wrote about here is old-hat. Of that, I have no doubt. <3

The Raven's Landing said...

Enjoyed your post! If it's any comfort, you'd be doing almost all your own marketing with traditional publishing, too. But at least you wouldn't be worrying about packing orders.

Rissi said...

Wonderful, informative post, Rachel. So happy you shared this for those of us yet to tackle the publishing world - either indie or traditional. Despite the hard work, in some ways, an author going Indie can be a good thing because any successes will mean all the more to us and no one cares more about their characters, their book than the author because they mean or represent something special to the writer. Ergo, we will be the ones working the hardest to be sure that book is properly looked after. Thanks again! Glad to get a behind-the-scenes peek at what comes with self-publishing.

Wishing you the best.

Rachel Heffington said...

Livia: most generous bank ever--and at least mine doesn't charge interest on the loan.
Rachel: you have been chief among my salvations.
Meghan: hey, sweetie, I'm enjoying it. I am sure I'll soon get used to it like you say. :)
Abigail: Very true, and something I've been surprised at. (though it makes sense that an author should do her own stuff.) And I do get a small thrill when I scrawl an address in Derbyshire and send it packing. ^.^
Rissi: I am glad I could be of help and inspiration and all that. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you SO much for this post. I've been stalking your blog for a while (heehee), and am about to dive into the crazy world of self-publishing myself. (YIKES.) This is exactly what I needed to know - thank you SO much! (And maybe you can "puff" my novel when it gets published, too? Lol...)