The dark side of Indie Publishing
Being brave enough to venture out into the world of independent publishing is something to be proud of, but like all things, it has its dark side. There are certain triumphs to becoming a published author through the makings of your own hard work, but those who are thinkings of taking this path should be aware of a few things. I am here to talk about my own journey, so by no means do I speak for everyone's Indie quest. I only speak for myself as a female of a very low-end middle-class household, with no actual college degree in English (or anything related to the subject).
Everything costs money. Editing, proofreading, cover design, marketing, networking. There is always a cost to something. If you want to publish just remember 'it doesn't have to be this second'. You have time. Give yourself time to save money and build up some cash so that you can give your book the publication it deserves. From the time I decided to publish I took two years to build up a platform so that I could have some sort of followers and image so that people recognized me before my book came out. I did that so that could properly pay for things that I felt I could not sway on, that needed to be done well. Like Editing, a website, or marketing. You can try to do things without spending money, but you might not get the same attention or quality as you would have with it. I know as well as the next person that sometimes we don't have enough money to pay for all the things we want, so you need to really look at what you feel needs to be done well and pay someone to do it.
The first thing I did when I decided to publish was try and figure out the steps I needed to take to do so. Well let me tell you, there is no setlist. There are hundreds and hundreds of different people trying to tell you how to self-publish, so you have to do your research. Majority of the articles I stumbled upon only talked about what NOT to do when publishing and others told me I had to spend a bunch of money I didn't have. After much reading you might start to notice patterns in some of the articles, saying similar things- those are the hidden steps you need to take. The best way to figure out how to publish and what's best for you is to build your path (what's right for you) and publish your book by picking and choosing through other people's journeys.
There are many people, brands, and companies who will offer you the world, only to take advantage of you, your money, and your work. Be wary of people who offer to help, or companies who offer to publish if you 'assist with some payment'. Make sure to really check into the backgrounds of anyone who will be helping you on your journey, whether it be editing, proofreading, publishing, marketing, etc. Also, make sure you keep documentation of the transactions, and if you can, try to write up a contract and have each party sign. If they have a contract make sure you have someone who is good at legal paperwork look through it with you. I have had a few times where someone or some company pretended to be nice and ended up playing me for a fool and I lost money and time because of it.
You're on your own
There are supporters out there, friends you can make who are also on the same journey as you. You might have family who is there to assist and listen when you need it, but unless you can afford an assistant, you are more or less on your own. Making choices for your book is solely up to you. Deciding cover design, how to market, where to spend your money- it's all you. You are now the Author, Editor, designer, publisher, and marketing manager. Sure someone can make something for you or book but it's up to you to use it and pay for it. Just know this so that you don't take on more than you can handle. It might feel like you have to do everything at once, or right now, but take your time. It's your book, you decide the timeline and give your story the love it deserves.
You might never get back what you put in
You might work hard to put everything together and in the end- the book might flop. Might get bad reviews. Might be disliked by many people. Remember that this book means more to you than anyone else, so you will always put in more time than anyone else. Hours, money, and effort- it's worth it if the book makes you happy.
Success is linked to the hours you put in
If you aren't willing to spend hours or days setting up different social platforms, creating content, connecting with people, and building up the excitement around your book, then it's just not going to sell. A book like any sort of entertainment needs to be built up, and a name to pin it to. People need to see your profiles, see your work, and that you mean business. I appreciate indie authors who put the time to make a website or create marketing content that isn't just their book cover. People can tell how much work you have put into marketing your book, so make sure you show them how good you are. Like I said in earlier paragraphs, you have time.
You have to be creative
There is more to content and market than just posting a picture of your book and saying 'please buy'. Make your own ads through Canva.com, or post pictures of what the setting of the book might look like. Think of how a traditional publisher might market your book, or make ads and try to do something similar. You can go onto places like unsplash which is free photos to create beautiful content that looks professional. Look at other indie authors' work and find something that you like. If you don't try to make your work stand out it will be buried in the mounds of books coming out around the same time yours is. You have to ask the question, what makes me different than others? Why should people buy my book?
You can't compare yourself to the traditionally published
If you make a lot of connections and have a lot of luck you could sell almost as much as a book that is traditionally published, but for most of us, that's not the case. For most of us, we fit pretty well within the Indie Author community, but to compare ourselves with Trad publishing is just looking for a reason to be upset. It's obvious those companies have more money, networking, and partners than we do, which is OKAY! Focus more on the fact that YOU DID THIS. Not some company, not a team of strangers, you did. You took your book and published it on your own. That is a great achievement.
You will make mistakes, lots of them
Don't expect to get everything right the first time. You will trust the wrong people, you will choose the wrong companies to help you, and end up getting nipped in the bud. You might choose a color concept and hate it halfway through. This is natural and it is going to feel twice as overwhelming because you are handling it on your own, but you are strong. Step away if you have to, take a breath, and try again. You can do this. Make those mistakes and learn from them.
Spreading yourself thin
Don't spread yourself too thin. only do the social media accounts you can handle, or that you like. If you feel like you are doing too much, take a break, because your mental health comes first. People who aren't independently publishing don't realize how much goes into this and difficult it can really be. There are so many little things that can pile up and make you feel like you are drowning so stay organized and make sure you drink lots of water. haha
There are many dark things and hard things when it comes to being an Indie author- It is not for the faint-hearted. It's a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that go into creating a platform and a foundation in which your book can thrive. But it is very fulfilling to look back and know that all that hard work was because of you. No one changed your book, no one took credit, you did everything. You should be proud of that. You got to decide exactly how it looks, sounds, and how people are going to feel when they purchase. Take pride in that!
If you have any questions on self-publishing feel free to message me! I'd be happy to help!