by Steven K. Smith
Writing has always been in my blood I think, often streaming just below the surface, waiting to be spilled out. Sometimes masquerading as term papers, romantic poems, annual Christmas letters, or short adventure stories, writing helped me make sense of things. A way to leave my mark and express the thoughts that I couldn’t always find the words to say out loud.
When my first son was born, I took videos. On the arrival of our second little boy, I took pictures. When my third son came along, I started writing again. In fact (much to my wife’s initial consternation), I started a blog, MyBoys3.com, which became my outlet to share our adventures of raising three young boys with the world. Blog posts turned into bedtime stories, which turned into books. Two years later, I’ve published three middle grade children’s adventures and a short story.
Along the way, I discovered indie publishing. While sometimes called self-publishing, when done right, life as an indie author more closely resembles that of a general contractor than a DIY endeavor. It’s a fast-growing alternative to traditional publishing that brings writers its own unique benefits and challenges. I love the autonomy, speed to market, higher royalties, the ability to hire a team, create marketing efforts and track sales. With these benefits comes the reality that there’s a lot more to do yourself. In addition, it’s often harder to gain exposure and get in bookstores without a big publisher behind you, and there are up front out of pocket expenses before any sales come in. Some authors prefer to focus just on the writing and let an agent or publisher take care of the rest, even if it means ceding control. Others, like me, enjoy the entrepreneurial spirit of starting your own imprint and running a small business.
Advances in technology and the Internet have changed the way books can be published, marketed and sold in ways that couldn’t have been imagined ten years ago, maybe even less. Print on demand services through CreateSpace and other outlets allow paperbacks to be ordered, printed, and delivered to your door in a just days for a reasonable price. Gone are the times when an independent author needed to store thousands of books in their garage, most of which they’d never sell. Services like Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) allows authors to upload their works as Ebooks to be distributed on Amazon without printing or shipping costs and up to 70% royalties. Paired with social media and promotions on sites like Bookbub, authors can reach high numbers of targeted readers around the world.
While indie publishing has removed the gatekeepers (traditional agents and publishers), what hasn’t changed is the need to create a quality book. If you want readers to buy your work, it needs to be top notch. It needs a quality cover, professional editing, and a compelling blurb to draw readers in. And you probably need more than one book. All of which takes effort, likely from a team of freelancers that specialize in cover design and editing.
In future editions of “Indie Corner,” I’ll cover more specific strategies and tactics that I’ve found to be valuable as a starting indie writer. I welcome your comments and questions and hope this is a useful resource for anyone considering this exciting space!