Hard to believe it’s finally April, yet here we are, having endured a March that lasted roughly four hundred and sixty-three days.
When I signed up for this A-Z Blogging Challenge, I never imagined I’d be trying to pull a series of posts together in such trying circumstances. Less than three weeks ago, I was on my way home from Glastonbury and my biggest worry was a plot twist in my WIP. Ha, poor fool! Things have certainly changed a lot since then. I got home with a slight cough, and by the Monday, I, along with my husband and youngest son, were self-isolating, frantically searching for an online supermarket delivery slot, and fighting over toilet roll. Who’d have thought it?
Over two weeks on and I haven’t been outside the house since the 13th of March, I’ve lost track of what day of the week it is, I’ve re-watched just about every episode of Doctor Who, completed the WIP, and my moustache is flourishing – so much so that I can now twirl it while thinking evil thoughts. So, all good here.
Anyway, I digress. I did consider pulling out of this A-Z Challenge, since I’ve had so much on my mind since signing up for it, and the world has altered so drastically that it hardly seemed worth doing any more. But, since I don’t have to be anywhere, and I’m now at that gentle plotting stage for Book 19 – I think it’s 19 – I figured I may as well have a bash at this. I warn you now, all my plans for a carefully-structured series of posts have gone out of the window. This is basically going to be me rambling about my own experiences of and thoughts on being an indie author. As I said at the theme reveal, if you want serious advice you need to look elsewhere. And funnily enough, I’ve got just the place for you to check out.
So, to begin with, A is for:
Otherwise known as the Alliance of Independent Authors. Founded by Orna Ross, this is a non-profit organisation that aims to provide information and guidance to indie authors around the world. Why join? Well, ALLi membership has loads of benefits. Members get regular emails with links to the blog (packed with useful information and interesting topics). It connects with publishing services, festivals, book fairs etc on behalf of its authors. There are loads of discounts available on a whole range of services. There’s a magazine, a forum and two Facebook groups. You can put your profile and your book details on the website … basically, I could ramble on about ALLi for hours, but the easiest thing to do is give you this link so you can click on it for yourself and see what you think.
I honestly think that every indie author who seriously wants to make a full-time career from writing should join ALLi. You can join at different levels, too, so don’t think you won’t be welcome if you’re just starting out and haven’t got a clue what you’re doing. Similarly, don’t assume that, because you’ve had ten bestsellers and are churning out the books on a regular basis, you won’t find anything to help you. There’s always something we don’t know (or loads, in my case) and the good thing is, you can always find someone to ask.
As if all that wasn’t enough, you get a nice shiny badge to stick on your website! If you click on the badge at the side of this page that says “I’m a member, find out why” you’ll be taken straight to the site, but I’ll be honest with you and tell you if you do that, and you decide to join, I’ll earn a teeny tiny amount of commission. So, if you don’t want to put any money in the coffers of this poor, desperate author, click the other link instead. I’ll never know. 🙂
If you’re asking yourself why I’m including anxiety in this post, all I can say is, “Hah! You haven’t started writing yet, then?” Be prepared. If you decide to write a book – and it doesn’t matter whether you want to publish it yourself or submit it to agents or traditional publishers, you are going to be anxious. Fact.
Anxiety comes in lots of different forms and for lots of reasons. What if I can’t finish the book? What if the book’s rubbish? Who should read it first? What if no publisher wants it? What if I can’t figure out how to self-publish? What if I get it published but no one reads it? What if loads of people read it and they all hate it? I’ve published a book and everyone loved it, but how am I going to do it all again? What if the next book isn’t as successful? And on and on and on …
Simple answer to all this is, you’re always going to have those worries and the anxiety never goes away. All you can do is take it one book, one chapter, one line at a time and plod on regardless. And make sure you have plenty of chocolate to hand. It’s not the healthiest snack in the world, but it does soothe the frazzled nerves, and it doesn’t interfere with the writing half as much as gin. Apart from when it melts all over the keyboard. Keep smiling!
So, you’ve written your book (congratulations!) and you’re now faced with writing your acknowledgement page. What’s that? The acknowledgements are where you basically thank your family, friends, editor, cover designer, next-door neighbour, window cleaner, and the cat from two doors down, whose name you don’t even know, but it stared through the window at you a few times while you were writing and you’re sure it was encouraging you.
Basically, it’s your Oscar speech. Except it shouldn’t be. The temptation, especially with your first book, is to gush endlessly, and pour gratitude onto the page until you’re actually sobbing as you write it, and in your head you’ve turned into Gwyneth Paltrow at the Academy Awards, and you think everyone’s just wonderful and isn’t life fabulous? Fast forward six months and you’ll be cringing inside and praying no one reads the acknowledgements.
The good thing about indie publishing is, you can just delete or amend that page and pretend it never happened. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t thank people. You should! Writers are not islands, and the reason we use the term indie publishing, rather than self-publishing, is because we acknowledge that it takes a whole team of people to help us produce a book. Unless, of course, you’re exceptionally gifted and can do everything yourself, and happen to own your own printing press and book shop – in which case, hello and can we be friends? So, yes, say thank you, but keep it professional, and remember, if your family and friends are anything like mine, half the people you thank will never know about it anyway.
This stands for Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society. When you have something published, you need to register with ALCS because, believe it or not, they’ll give you money! I know! Basically, they collect all the money that’s owed to you for secondary rights and then pay it back to you twice a year in March and September. The money they collect is what you’ve earned when someone else copies or uses your work in some way. You don’t even know they’ve used it, but ALCS makes it their mission to find out on your behalf. How cool is that? It sounds too good to be true and I was sceptical, but it’s a real thing, I swear.
I’ll be honest and say it’s never earned me a fortune, but it’s all additional income and you don’t have to do a single thing to earn it except register with them. How easy is that? ALCS is a not-for-profit organisation and it’s simply there to work for authors. And, although it may seem as if they’re just giving you money for nothing, as if it’s Christmas or something, remember it’s your work and you’ve earned it. If you don’t believe such a thing is possible, check out the website here.
Apparently, audio is a fast-growing medium and more and more people are listening to books, rather than reading them. I’ll hold my hands up now and admit I’ve never listened to a book on audio, but that’s not to say I don’t accept that many do. I can understand the attraction. People have busy lives. It’s not always easy to fit reading into your daily schedule. How much easier to stick a pair of earphones in and lose yourself in a fictional world while getting on with the housework or feeding the ducks at the park (remember those days? *Sigh*). Sometimes, my eyes get really tired, which isn’t surprising given that I’m staring at a screen most of the day. It’s frustrating when I want to continue with my latest read, but my eyes refuse to focus. It would make sense to let my ears take the strain instead.
Audio books can be expensive, depending where you buy them, but there are various subscription services, such as Audible. Traditional publishers have been releasing books as audio alongside paperbacks and ebooks for a while now, but there are ways that indie authors can also produce audio versions of their books. You could, for example, submit to an established audio producer. I went down that route with two of my books, and There Must Be an Angel and Resisting Mr Rochester are both available on audio. And no, before you ask, I still haven’t been able to bring myself to listen to them, but they’re very good stories! 🙂
The good thing about doing it this way is that it’s all taken out of your hands and the publisher will sort out cover, narrator and production for you. The bad thing about it is that it’s all taken out of your hands … It totally depends how much input you want. There are ways to produce your own audio books. It’s not cheap, that’s for sure, but Amazon’s own ACX (Audio Creation Exchange) programme, for example, lets you do royalty shares with your narrator, rather than paying them up front. Of course, that means you’re exclusive to ACX for a number of years, so you might want to look elsewhere if that bothers you.
I can’t give you any advice on this because I’m just about to start delving into the world of audio production myself, so I’m very much a beginner in this department. What I can tell you is that Joanna Penn (more on her another day) has published a book that covers lots of vital information about audio for authors and is called, rather conveniently, Audio for Authors. You can buy it here. Or check out these pages for basic information: ACX and Findaway Voices.
So here I am, daring to say the word. Amazon. Some love it, some hate it. Whichever camp you fall in, no one can deny that Amazon is a huge player when it comes to books. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s probably impossible to have a successful indie author career without it. I’m now quaking in fear, anticipating an avalanche of angry indie authors who will bombard me with assertions that they never go near Amazon, and they’re doing just fine, thank you very much. Well, good for you and jolly well done! I still think, though, that if you want to reach as many readers as possible, you’re going to have to get over yourself and publish through Amazon. Sorry!
That’s not to say, of course, that there aren’t alternatives. There are plenty, and I’ll look at those another day. Plus, you can use Amazon alongside those other services. It doesn’t have to be either/or. Whether you choose to be exclusive with Amazon is entirely up to you, and opinion differs on this subject even among experts.
Amazon has its own publishing arm, KDP. Through KDP you can not only produce ebooks, but also paperbacks through print-on-demand. Publishing your paperbacks through POD means you don’t have to go to the worry and expense of getting a print run done of a minimum amount of paperbacks and then spend the next year of your life climbing over piles of unsold books. Amazon will just print off a single copy whenever someone orders one. Brilliant! Other print-on-demand services are available and I’ll be looking at that subject later in the month, as well as going into more detail about KDP.
For now, though, let me say that, as a writer, I wouldn’t have a career without Amazon. That makes me sad, and not a little nervous, but since the company has millions of customers around the world, it’s a fact. Unless some real and viable competition appears, I can’t see that changing for a long time. So, if you want to be an indie author and you hate Amazon, you may have to think again, or be prepared for a long, hard slog to get your books in front of the amount of potential customers it can reach. Who knows what the future brings? We never know what’s around the corner, do we? The last few weeks have proved that.
And on that cheery note, I’ll bring today’s post for the A-Z Challenge to an end and bid you a fond farewell until tomorrow.
Stay safe. Stay home. Save lives.