7 Steps to Polish Yourself as an Indie Author

As the title suggests, this post is simple and clear, and mostly describes in a general way the steps I took to follow my intention of becoming and independent author. It is a summary of steps targeted to those thinking about the topic, and wanting to know a few simple but necessary steps to take. This is what I have done and continue to do to grow as part of my journey.

  1. The first thing to do is just Write. It doesn’t matter how much you learn in theory if you do not apply it in practice. You must write and write a lot. It will help you develop a style and a sense of comfort in your own skin – because you will be your worst critic.
  2. Learn from the masters. Read best-selling authors who have been in the craft/business for long, whether they are traditionally published or not. If they have made it so far, they must offer valuable insight. Study their style and enjoy their work. Keep it simple.
  3. Read in your genre. If you have a feel for the type of stories that you want to share with readers, then read other authors who have done it. If anything, it will help you become clear on your goals as a writer, as well as discover other areas of interest.
  4. Read books to improve your writing, grammar, spelling … Educate yourself as much as you can. I would rather spend time polishing my writing than attending critique groups or book clubs. Be wise with your learning time; you know your needs.
  5. If you want to publish independently you must learn about it as much as your time allows, but keep it simple. Learn the basics and keep learning. This is a movement that is gaining momentum now and developing further due to advances and changes in technology. There has always been independent authors, however, it is a new game now and the doors are open thanks to technological advances. It is also viable and less expensive for the same reason.
  6. Learn about technology. It dictates the future of book publishing and book reading. It is wise to be somehow knowledgeable about trends, even if you have no intention to embrace it right away. At least you will have an idea on where things are headed.
  7. You might not like this last one – learn about marketing and promoting your work. Most writers think about the story and not about this part; it feels alien to their nature. It is necessary, and learning as much as you can about this topic will benefit you even if you decide to go the traditional route or if you hire someone to help you with it. Knowledge gives you a sense of control, and eases your mind.

Overall, keep it simple and don’t agonize over it. Let your writing become better, and follow your own pace. It is an ongoing effort.

Indie Resources

Since I took the path of becoming an indie author, a priority has been to learn more of the evolving and growing movement. From time to time, I come across material that in my opinion, every independent author should read, as it may be very beneficial. I came across two important books that I am reading now, and a third that I am planning to read next. I could not pass on the opportunity to mention them here, hoping that any indie authors out there that need this information will benefit. These have been written by people who have walk the path and done the job, as well as independent authors, entrepreneurs. Here they are,

  • Business for Authors – How to be an author entrepreneur – Joanna Penn

Joanna Penn is a very successful independent author and entrepreneur, and one of the leading figures of the movement.

A book about the subject of intellectual property,

  • How to Use Eye-catching Images Without Paying a Fortune or a Lawyer – Helen Sedwick

Helen Sedwick is a California attorney and independent author who represents small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Another book by Helen Sedwick on my “to own” list is Self-publishers Legal Handbook. 

If you have embraced becoming an indie author for the long run, I advice you to start your own learning library, as I am doing. The more you know the better, and knowledge will enhance your journey, and hopefully, will make it fruitful.

 

Making Sense of the Indie Movement

We are living in exciting times for independent writers, musicians, artists … and it is so thanks to the technological developments and new venues of communication. Therefore, the independent (indie) movement was bound to gain new heights. I say new heights because indies have been around for long. It is because these changes and ease of publishing (almost at no upfront cost) that the indie movement flourished the way it has, and will continue. The publishing industry has been jolted, and this is just the early stages. It is not clear what will happen next, but for now, the doors are open and independent writers may share their work openly and become as creative as they dare. Daring times!

However, every time there is a revolution, people tend to make sense of the process, share experiences, groups are born, and in the hopes of giving cohesiveness to the experience, sets of rules appear, “ways of doing things the new way,” and leaders, preachers, and experts emerge. It is all a normal process and it is meant to grow and move along the revolution. However, as indies we should beware of a tendency – that the revolution does not morph into tradition, rendering the movement powerless. This is where our responsibility as independent writers stands. Each one of us must learn, consume, and study the movement, the fruits of it, to decide our role in it. Just because trends show up does not mean that it is a “one size fits all” kind of deal. On the contrary, it is the opposite to the indie movement.

To an aspiring writer who wants to publish independently, it is like a huge treasure box full of many tools, advice, do’s and don’ts, experiences … but it is also very confusing, and if the person does not continue to educate herself/himself and becomes a follower, it all may backfire and become overwhelming none the least, and even uninspiring. I am convinced the indie evolution will continue, and I think we have taken baby steps so far – there is more to come. This is why my approach to all this is one of learning and observing while doing. It is my way of making sense of the indie movement. How?

For once, before deciding to become and independent author, I learned as much as I could about it, compared it to what information was available about traditional publishing, and then, examined my personal criteria – values, work ethic, working style, expectations, and goals. Over some time, I was not sure of what path to follow, and I had not submitted work to agents, which made my decision solely based on the above mentioned personal criteria. Once I deeply thought of these things that were very important to me, and considered all the information I gathered, the decision became obvious and clear to me – I wanted to become and indie author. Then I took the steps. However, because all the changes occurring in the publishing industry and all the new information available, new faces rising, leaders, preachers … I will not deny that as exciting as it was, the experience was also overwhelming and exhausting. And this is when I decided to stop following advice, and instead treat each available piece of information and experience  as precious, be grateful for it, study it, evaluate it against my personal criteria, and look inside myself and embrace only the advice and information/methods/”to do’s” and so much more … that were aligned and in balance with my personal criteria, while developing my own style. This is how I embrace independent publishing.

It is just the beginning, and I think that over the next few years we will be amazed at what is to come, and many will be inside the process, outside of it, while others will be it. Daring times!

 

 

 

Novel or Novella?

I have been immersed in the editing process of The Book of Sharon for the past couple of months. I have changed, cut, rewrite, added, pondered, ignored, and have been guilty of neglecting this blog a bit (mea culpa). In the process, I reviewed my writing habits, and what is truly important to me as a writer. I found that I needed to eliminate a few things, and strengthen others, so I could use my writing time more efficiently – in short, editing leaked from the story to my life.

I discovered that I need to tend a bit more to my author website, as well as this blog (the venues I love most), but I also discovered that I do not want to Tweet, but will continue to enjoy meeting people on Facebook, so I closed my Tweeter account. I thought about other issues that were clogging my brain, such as joining Goodreads, Shelfari, and other sites that I have pondered about too much for too long, and concluded that I don’t want to join now, despite all the advice I’ve heard for indie authors to join as many venues and be everywhere to gain exposure. I felt that I needed to get back in touch with the writer in me, and keep up the activities that I enjoy most while ignoring every sound advice out there for indie authors. At one point, it seemed overwhelming. I discovered that the only few venues I wanted to keep up at this time were Inkspeare, my website, and Facebook. I decided to offer my books through Amazon/Createspace only at this time. And while that may seem extreme, it is what I need to do to get in touch with the writer again. Finally, I gave  myself permission to accept that I do not have to follow all the trends, and understand that it is okay (however it plays out). I’d rather do more of the few activities I love, than do less in tons of other venues/activities, so I adjusted my focus.

After I sorted all this out and emptied my scattered brain, I realized that I had to make a decision about The Book of Sharon, and that is to publish it as a novella, which suited best the story, and not follow the earlier pattern of my other books, which are novels. I listened to my gut, and decided to make it a novella. It will be available through Amazon and Createspace in a few days. In the meantime, I will give you a peak at the cover.

 

THE BOOK OF SHARON

THE BOOK OF SHARON

Dinorah Sandbeck, half-Human/half-Anarth, has been chosen to deliver a message, one entrusted to her by birthright. However, she must not reveal her Anarth ancestry. The pages contained in the ancient tome may alter the path of the human race.

 

The Book of Sharon follows a different style from the other two novels, and it was a bit of a challenge to write because it included Dinorah Sandbeck’s (main character and a writer/librarian) book, as well as pages from her old tome – an ancient book that guides her and that she must protect, but those had to be weaved in the story – the story I wrote. So there are three main components to this book, as well as three voices throughout – Dinorah’s, the ancient tome, and me. Think of it as a book inside a book inside a book. To help the flow of it, as well as the tone, I felt that making it a novella suited best the style. I am happy with the decision.

Food for thought – As an independent author, how do you cope with all the advice offered and the new trends developing? 

 

Today, I Must Rant

Over the weekend, I was disappointed and annoyed. I am sure that this happens to many indie authors, and I would like your opinion on this issue. I checked my books on Amazon and realized that other independent Amazon sellers were selling the paperbacks at unreasonable and shameful prices. One of my novels was priced over $100 dollars. It made me angry because, this is stealing from readers, and I worked very hard to produced those books, and I don’t like the idea that someone is allowed to sell my novels at an exorbitant price, and make more on one book that I would make as an author in selling several. Do you understand my point?

I checked several indie authors and most of them had the same problem with their novels. I checked a best-selling author who publishes traditionally, and she did not have this issue. I don’t know if this happens with indie authors because many are not in the category of best-selling authors yet, but to me, there should be a stop to this madness. I understand that every seller has the right to price their product, but ridiculously overpricing a novel that the author has priced reasonably is unethical. I don’t know who would pay over $100 for a used book that they can buy new for under $15.00, but obviously someone does, otherwise this would not happen.  Amazon should regulate this issue. Of course, there is the argument that no one is putting a knife in the neck of the buyer, if they want to buy the book for the abominable price.

As an indie author, what do you think? Are you experiencing this?

Now, to my other disappointment – The FAKE WordPress blogs. I saw that a suspicious fake WordPress blog (that had no content) posted one of my posts (A Gift for You) as a reblog. When I looked at the blogger/blog there was no content at all in the site, only my post, making it appear as if I was the blogger giving away my novel. Immediately, I reported it to the WordPress team. I am awaiting a response. This happened yesterday. Again, I understand this happens, but it would be nice if WordPress would require their users to legitimize themselves by having a full profile and the required information before allowing them to have a blog. I think there should be a measure in place. As an author, I love WordPress, and overall, it has a great community and an awesome team. It is my blogging platform by choice, and in my opinion the best out there.

In both instances, my husband was upset and irate, because he knows how much effort and care I put into my work. I think there should be boundaries and regulations that would not allow this type of issues to exist so easy. And the word here is EASY.

What has been your experience as a blogger or indie author?

 

Picking Up the Pebbles, Carrying the Rocks, and Embracing Boulders

Present Universe/Earth – The location

Human – The vessel

The Material – The physical state, the condition in the vessel

Change – Fuel, motivator

Target – The journey, the material experience in the vessel at the location

Goal – Growth through the experience, enjoyment, discovery, being, creation, union … to each its own journey, One as Many

Time/Space – Now (always Now, other measure of time is irrelevant)

Report – Ongoing

 

Although life might seem a weird experiment at times, it is a journey, a destination in itself, and a different experience for every person. It presents its challenges as a way to keep the journey going in the now. Without challenge, conflict, unfortunate events, fortunate events … without change, there cannot be movement, journey, growth. It is necessary as fuel to keep us going. Imagine a life of perfect harmony, everything goes one way – perfect, and nothing happens that will let you have/create a frame of reference that serves as a compass to evaluate your journey. If everything is as perfect as it can be, how would you know the difference? Simply put, without a compass/navigator you might be lost.

Many times, change (fuel) will present itself in various degrees of difficulty, as much fuel as we might need to propel us to the next level. I truly believe that. Sometimes, the size of a pebble, other times as a rock, or even a giant boulder. Sometimes even as the entire quarry. However, if growth is the goal, the natural way would be to keep walking the path, pick up the pebbles, carry the rocks, and even embrace the boulders, and if we have to go inside the quarry, may we find the message in its walls. And when we do, evolution continues.

Photo by M.A.D.

Photo by M.A.D.

 

 

 

After the Series – What Now?

What now? or What’s next? These are questions that I will answer after I write the last book of The Dinorah Chronicles series. At the moment, I’m ready to start the third re-write of The Book of Sharon, book 2 of the trilogy. If I’m lucky, I’ll have the first draft of Sunrise Souls ready by the end of the year (9 months left). What have I learned?

Moonlit Valley inspired the writing of The Dinorah Chronicles. I never intended to write a series, but it developed as a natural process, so I let it be. I have found that writing a series gives me a bit of comfort in the sense that I am navigating known territory, as opposed to writing a new story. However, I have to admit that I enjoy the process of writing a single story more than writing a series. I never say never, but I think that in the future, I will focus on single stories rather than writing a series (unless I’m inspired otherwise). This took me to ask, What’s next? The answer is not as simple as I thought.

As an indie author, I have the flexibility to do pretty much what I desire. I don’t have contracts to fulfill, or lined up books/deadlines, or commitments abroad. The deadlines are the ones I imposed on myself. My commitment is to the story and to the reader. When I asked myself – What’s next? – I understood that many roads were right in front of me, and the one I take is not so clear yet. Why?

The writing industry changed so much in the last few years, and as an independent author, I need to balance my energy and efforts. It means that I do all the work, and any assistance hired is tied to funds available (if any). Also, it means that it does not make sense to follow trends if I don’t love the process. So naturally, my attention will hover around those projects that I am ready for and will enjoy. These days, the speed of publishing and everything else that surrounds it has multiplied, and indie authors are bombarded with many choices and possible projects that they might feel obligated to undertake to follow the developing industry and current trends – podcasts, audio book, channels, speaking/teaching engagements, the translation of their books, and many other endeavors. I admire indie authors who have the energy and focus to have many of those endeavors developing at once; I called them the Super Indies. They are an inspiration.

All the above considered, I sat down with pen and paper at hand, and thought hard about where I am on my journey, and tried to answer the question (now). I felt that my next natural step (after finishing the series)  would be to write a new single story, and focus on the Spanish translation of my first book, and possibly the series. Any other components of marketing books, gaining exposure, or other writing-related projects will be assigned secondary status (as far as focus and effort). This is a prelude, a peek, an early answer to my question, but of course, it all may change. What’s important is that I challenged myself to think about it and took a glance at the possibilities. It also helped me measure my level of readiness according to where I am on my journey. It was worth considering.

As an indie author, how do you feel about balancing current trends and your own journey?

photo by Maria Antonia Diaz

photo by Maria Antonia Diaz

 

Introvert of Introverts

Lately, I read or hear an increasing amount of information on the topic of being and introvert, and wonder if the people who call themselves introverts have mislabeled themselves. Introvert is not synonym of shy. According to the popular definition now, an introvert is a person who recharges or gets his/her energy from enjoying moments of solitude, working alone, as opposed to an extrovert who energizes by having people around, spending time with others and socializing in more live environments. An introvert would feel drained in this environment, and would need “quiet time” to recover. That does not make him/her a loner, socialization/interaction is enjoyed in moderation. This definition sounds good to me.

Another topic that goes hand in hand with this one is book marketing. Indie authors who consider themselves introverts might have a hard time grasping the now popular concept of indie book marketing, which just as the indie publishing movement, has gained momentum, hence all the bombarding with Must Dos, Nevers, and Don’ts related to self-publishing and book marketing. For an Introvert of Introverts, all this advice may be confusing, overwhelming, exhausting, and frightening. Why?

Most likely, when a movement starts and gains momentum, by default it gains followers, and originates experts, teachers, gurus … and so on, and where there are leaders, there must be followers, and followers sometimes forget that they are the leaders of their own movements, life, and or projects. Introverts who are also followers may feel/think that they have to follow or catch up with all the advice that there is about self-publishing/book marketing and end up feeling so overwhelmed that they might end up frozen or unable to decide, frustrated, and in despair because they cannot follow all the advice. As an example, I will use my dislike of making videos or vlogs, and yes, I consider myself an introvert in the sense of the above mentioned definition. What I’m trying to convey is that introversion is not a black and white topic, it has shade areas or degrees, and as so, introverts should assess what their likes and dislikes are, their level of comfort, and decide which activities fit better with their personalities, and focus on those. Just because everyone is Vlogging does not mean that you have to, and if you love blogging but dislike being in too many social networks at once because you become overwhelmed with too much interaction, then focus on one or two that you love most. Tailor your book marketing activity to your personality and level of comfort and enjoy yourself, otherwise, if you try to catch up with everyone else, introverts who enjoy a higher level of interaction, or the extroverts, you may end up frustrated and angry at yourself. People grow and evolve, and what I dislike at a particular moment, I may end up embracing in the future – it is evolution, and introverts evolve as well.

It is not a race, it is a journey, your journey, so choose wise, and enjoy every minute of it. Journey

Heartless Dissection Ready

I hope I didn’t scare you with the title of this post. Almost a month has gone by since I put aside the first draft of The Book of Sharon. The time away is necessary for what comes next – a heartless dissection of it, and I’m ready.

As writers, we pour our heart and soul into our work, then the time comes to forget about it, followed by a cold stare before we are ready to slash it into pieces – heartless and purposely, not an easy thing to do but necessary. From this dismemberment a second draft is assembled. The process goes on until the story is as ready as it can be.

During this time, emotions run wild – from doubt, insecurity, uncertainty, and not wanting to let go, to perfectionism, pride, fear, doubt again, restlessness, exhilaration, incessant questioning … all of it culminating in exhaustion, and all of it necessary. Sounds painful and not too enticing, but it is what writers subject themselves to repeteadly, and beyond scrupulous consideration, and all for the love of the story.

A love affair with words, a crime of passion?

 

My next victim.

First draft of The Book of Sharon

First draft of The Book of Sharon

For Aspiring Writers

Today, I completed (finally) the Resources and Tips section on my website. This is an ongoing labor; however, it had been left as Coming Soon! for a while, and my goal was to have it ready for January. There are some good websites and recommended reading for aspiring writers. I hope it serves its purpose, and that it may be useful to someone.  Here is the link . I hope it helps a bit. I know that when I started, it took a lot of time and effort to find the best sites, as well as to separate the husk, so this is only a very small list but good for starters. I included a few websites at the end, good for exploration, inspiration, research, and learning. I will keep adding with time, as well as updating this section.