The question often comes at unexpected moments: in the pub with friends, during a lunch with colleagues, at family gatherings where everyone is trying to prove their worth. It’s a question which I always struggle to answer coherently. How do I capture the complexities of indie publishing in under two minutes?
“Why indie?” they ask, and my mind freezes. It doesn’t help that the majority of those asking are traditional publishers or traditional publishing hopefuls, who bring a certain hostility to the table, a sense that I have made the easy choice, taken the ‘shortcut’.
Maybe they’re right. I have no agent, no editor, no proof reader. I have no one to reject my book or tell me it won’t sell. No one will tell me my characters are flat, my plot is boring, my writing atrocious. I have no gatekeepers. I am free.
On the other hand, I am my own agent, my own editor, my own proof reader. I am my own marketing team and financial advisor. I have no one to blame but myself if my books sink and fail. I am my own gatekeeper. I am responsible.
Independent publishing is not for everyone. It is a career choice, like becoming an entrepreneur rather than joining an established company, and just like with any other entrepreneurship, every success and failure is in your hands.
It’s not easy being a start-up author. Heck, it’s not easy to do anything worthwhile. And of course I’d love to have my books in a window display in a brick-and-mortar store, if only out of sheer vanity. So why, then, did I choose the indie route?
The answer is simple: I love what I do.
I love having full creative control. I love picking titles and knowing they won’t be changed. I love deciding when the book will be published, fitting releases to my schedule and writing speed. I love deciding which retailers at what prices, and trying different business models, and planning marketing stunts. I love picking cover images and writing jacket blurbs, knowing exactly what my readers will receive when they purchase a copy.
Being an independent author means being more than an author; I am a business, and I love having the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them.
Yes, there are a plethora of self-publishers who are not learning from their mistakes, who do not have the business head or dedication necessary to be entrepreneurs. But there are just as many success stories, innovative approaches and inspiring authors.
I look at people like Cory Doctorow or Amanda Hocking, and I think to myself, one day that will be me. One day I will touch the minds of many readers, and the books I have written, edited, produced, marketed and cried over will be in their hands. One day my fledgling writing business will leap upwards into the sky and never return.
Years ago, when I was an angry teenager, my brother wrote me a note. It said: “Your life is a fight, a quest to make the life you dream be the life you lead.”
And that is why I am an indie author.
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p.s. For anyone who's read this essay before, I apologise. I wanted to talk about being indie, but I couldn't find the words... and then I came across a year-old guest post I wrote which perfectly summed up my thoughts. So I've cheated, and used the same words. Oops?