Fiction – A product of the imagination. The category of literature with imaginary characters and events, including novels, short stories, etc. (American Heritage Dictionary)
If you are an independent writer, it is likely that you have been asked one or more of these annoying questions, and usually by people who have not read any of your books. These are questions that are “meant to happen” at one point or another, so might as well have some fun answering them.
Question: Why do you write?
Answer: Why do you breathe?
Question: Are you really published? I mean not self-published.
Answer: Do you own the company you work for?
Question: Do you make any money doing that?
Answer: How much money do you make at your job?
Question: What is your real job?
Answer: What is your life purpose?
Question: Is it true that self-publishing killed literature?
Answer: Is it dead? Oh, my sincere condolences.
It is probable that you have been asked at least one of the questions above mentioned. Instead of becoming annoyed, have fun answering them. I invite you to share some of your own.
First of all, my best wishes for the New Year. This post will take a retrospective tone, my view on becoming an indie author, and what I have discovered on the journey. Last year was very challenging in the personal and the professional aspects, however, I can say that I passed the test – it was the feeling as I received the New Year. I took some time off to think and regroup, and I put writing aside for a while (hence Sunrise Souls is not finished). I am glad that I did this because it made me focus on my journey, and I realized that I create my writing journey and walk its path, and that I don’t have to follow another’s journey – even when it is full of great ideas and awesome “to-do’s.” It is the spirit of indie – to create and give life to my art form, whatever it may be.
Like many independent authors, I was feeling the pressure of the indie movement (as a general) presented to us by the “new-born gurus,” and which I thought was becoming as rigid as traditional publishing in some aspects. I noticed that “one-way of doing things” was emerging, as well as criticism from the pros who were leading (not on purpose but by default in most cases) the masses of newborn indies who were trying to walk before they learn to crawl, maybe because they felt the same pressure to keep up with the rapid changes while not realizing that the pros and gurus did their crawling and hard work before walking, and took their time. I also saw the insane craving for sales, writing tons of books fast, and making money while the market “is not too saturated,” and that did not make sense to me because it was not part of my journey. The more I learned about this movement, the more I understood what I wanted my journey to be, as well as my pace and method. I guess that in short, I can say that I am not a follower but appreciate many points of view and understand that there is more than one way of doing things.
As I gave myself the time to do nothing, I found myself watching two major shopping networks during the holidays. I don’t watch too much television, and I did not buy anything, but I kept coming back to these hosts who understood the art of selling and promoting. I was mesmerized by the choice of words in description, and by the feelings that these words created in an almost non-perceived way. At one point, I heard the callers repeating the same words of the host, as if they had made the discovery. These hosts were doing the impossible – they were practicing the art of selling from afar, of selling something via the air waves, something not yet tangible to the audience, but these callers wanted it badly. The key to their selling was not to sell, but to create a strong desire, a “want it now – have to have it” feeling. They are successful at it. Although I have a strong background in sales (real estate and jewelry/diamontology), and always knew that the key to selling is not to sell at all, it was the level of descriptive selling and choice of words that caught my attention and admiration of their craft. Some of these hosts do a three-hour show on a line, and many seem to have a huge following of customers for many years. Many recognize a caller from time to time. All this lead me to think about my writing, not so much about selling or promoting, but about the necessary time to create, to build a story with the right words, and to let these words do most of the selling, awaking feelings in the reader. I am not saying that an author should not sell or promote a product, it is a necessary practice. What I am saying is that I should put more attention on the product (the writing and crafting of the story) that on the number of books, sales numbers, or revenue. I want to make a living from my writing, yes, but I don’t want that to be my sole focus/effort. Going back to the shopping network hosts, the ones who seemed to sell more, were the hosts who focused the effort on creating a love affair with the product.
One thing that became clear during this time is that I will pursue my writing on my own terms, while keeping an open mind about new developing, and while enjoying the journey. A journey that I want to create at my own pace and space while being true to my work ethic and working style. It is the indie spirit after all.
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!