Text by Kate Evans & Photo by Mark Vesey 2014
First step to becoming an ‘indie’ publisher is to make a plan. Things won’t go to plan (they didn’t in my case) but sitting down and writing down the steps required, plus some idea of how long each stage will take, will help you keep you on track, even when the motivation drains away.
So what are the phases in ‘indie’ publishing? Very basically, I would split them into these:
(1) Building a support community.
(2) Writing the manuscript.
(3) Preparing the manuscript for publication.
(4) Decision making about how to ‘indie’ publish.
(5) Formatting the manuscript for publication.
(6) Design of cover.
It is possible, of course, to do all this completely on your own. I would advise against it. If you start by building a supportive community of other writers and ‘indies’ (eg through joining writing groups/classes, going to/volunteering at literature festivals and on-line) then you will be able to call on support and gain insight, information and feedback, via mutual give-and-take with your writing peers.
I would also suggest that there will be moments when you want to pay for professional assistance. This would be possible at any of the seven stages (yes, you could even pay a ghost-writer for stage two, if you wish). By making an honest assessment of where your skills and energies lie, you should be able to work out where best to put your money. It might be wise as well, to have in mind a budget of what you are prepared to spend, since, as with weddings, it’s possible to shell-out an awful lot without necessarily getting value for money.
Personally, my money went on creating a publishing identity, proof-reading and promotion. I will explain my decisions as I go through the ‘indie’ publishing steps in my blog posts to come. My next blog post on ‘indie’ publishing will be January 5th 2015. Meanwhile, do look at my novel, ‘The Art of the Imperfect, the first of a series of crime novels set in Scarborough, http://goo.gl/5r9WBv.
So you want to be an ‘indie’ publisher? What will it take? What does it entail? What are the pitfalls?
There are some people who have one book in them – perhaps a memoir – which they want to write and pass onto future generations in their family and share with friends. Some of what I say may apply to these people; however, I am more talking to those who consider themselves writers and who want to reach an audience beyond their immediate circle, beyond their town, beyond their country even.
Like me, you have a passion for all things wordy. Writing is a constant companion. You have had some success in publishing, maybe a few articles or poems or blogs are out there, have found and been well received by an audience. You have tried and tried again to find an agent for your novel, and you have come to a point where you feel time is running out; if you wait any longer, your book will never see the light of day. Now is the moment for you to consider whether ‘indie’ publishing is for you.
I think the main attributes for an ‘indie’ publisher are perseverance and commitment. It is you who has to maintain the belief in your project, right through the days when faith is hard to find. There will be those days when you will hear the oft repeated, ‘If the work is good enough, it will find a publisher’ and you will give that statement more credit than it deserves.
On the other hand, it is crucial as an ‘indie’ publisher to not go it alone. It is important to garner support for what you are doing, preferably from fellow writers and fellow ‘indies’. They will get you through the doubt, as well be a useful source of information and feedback.
It is easy as an ‘indie’ to get caught up in how successful others have been and compare yourself negatively as a result. And even when you try to focus on what you are doing, others will ‘helpfully’ make the comparison for you. I have found this difficult. I have come up with a mantra which I attempt to stick to: I can only do what I can do. I cannot turn myself into the queen of facebook or twitter, and, I think, if I tried, I would be inauthentic and eventually found out. I like to believe that it is authenticity which sells. And if it doesn’t, well then I will have to be content with a hundred readers rather than a thousand.
Finally, the third aspect to being an ‘indie’ publisher is to get good at celebrating the small stuff. Celebrate (hopefully with others) the steps you achieve, don’t wait until you have ‘finished’. In my experience, there is rarely a sense of completion. There is always the next thing to be done and I certainly haven’t reached the point where I feel I can sit back with all my ‘to do’ list neatly ticked off.
I’m not great at celebrating – or asking others to help me to celebrate – the small stuff. Indeed, I can be quite dismissive of those who say, ‘well done’, or ‘you’ve done really well, be proud’. So this is something I am still learning to do.
In my blog next week, I will look at the essential steps in ‘indie’ publishing a book. Meanwhile, do look at my novel, ‘The Art of the Imperfect, the first of a series of crime novels set in Scarborough, http://goo.gl/5r9WBv.
In the past, many of our well-known writers ‘indie’ published, such as Virginia Woolf, Shelley, Blake. The financing was often raised by subscriptions from would-be readers, a fore-runner for today’s crowd-funding. Then from the nineteenth century and through the twentieth century, we began to get the system of publishing which we consider as ‘traditional’ today. In other words, the author writes the words and is accepted by a publisher. The publisher helps craft the work with the skills of an editor and then package it with the in-put of copy-editor, proof-reader, designer, publicist, rights officer and (sometimes) lawyer.
In the beginning, this ‘traditional’ commercial publishing consisted of a number of small imprints run by people who loved books. More and more the small has been swallowed up by the big conglomerate and the love of books (which is still there) has been subsumed by the imperative to create a product which will sell, sell, sell. I spent some time at the beginning of the ‘noughties’ working within this commercial world. The changes there and the transformations in technology, mean that we writers are turning back to ‘indie’ publishing once again.
Self-publishing has got a bad name in recent times. The prevailing opinion became, if the work is good enough it will find a ‘traditional’ publisher. Self-publishing is vanity publishing, for people who have an inflated view of their talents as a writer. Despite having chosen the ‘indie’ path, I still find it difficult to shake off the stigma associated with it. The use of ‘indie’ rather than ‘self’ helps, but doesn’t completely silence the critical voices (which are mostly, but not all, in my head).
What does it take to be an ‘indie’ publisher? Who should embark upon this approach? What does it entail? What are the pitfalls? I have just ‘indie’ published my novel, ‘The Art of the Imperfect’, the first of a series of crime novels set in Scarborough (http://goo.gl/1m1ioq). So I thought it might be useful to others to impart (over the next few weeks in this blog) what I have learnt along the way.