HallowRead was fantastic! Loved every bit of it. Saw writer friends from past events, chatted with awesome readers, listened to Darynda Jones’ excellent keynote speech, sold some books, and participated in two terrific panels. Below are the notes I put together to prepare for the indie panel. The discussion itself was more organic, but I’m sharing these thoughts because they’re already written and ready to go – hopefully perfect for some Monday writing/publishing motivation!
The Pep Talk I Prepared for HallowRead’s Indie Uprising Panel
- Don’t get discouraged. Writing is hard, self-publishing is even harder. But there are benefits that can make it worthwhile. Creative freedom, flexible schedule (you determine your own release dates), the best covers you can afford, a sense of empowerment (you are the ultimate writer entrepreneur), and being part of a supportive, helpful community.
- Don’t quit your day job. Overnight successes, whether traditional or self-published are rare. It’s okay to write for commercial reasons, but plan on a slow build. Most writers grow their readership one reader at a time. Remember that quote from Dune, “Fear is the mind-killer”? Well, for self-published authors, frustration is the career-killer. There should be an indie “Litany against Frustration.”
- Do try to work somewhere that is compatible with your writing, both in terms of hours and substance. During the many years I’ve been a creative writer, I’ve had several different day jobs, but they’ve all supported my creative writing goals in one way or another.
Years ago, I was a lawyer. As a practicing attorney, I didn’t have much time to write but I crammed it in during lunch hours, evenings, and weekends. On the plus side, lawyers are wordsmiths and that career gave me countless hours of butt-in-your-chair discipline. By the time I left, I was used to spending hours in front of my computer, hacking away at my keyboard, in the hopes of finishing a competently written piece.
After that, I worked as an adjunct professor and taught legal writing. That experience gave me an appreciation of structure and knowing who your audience is and what they want from your writing.
Currently, I work part-time as a librarian, which is probably one of the best “supplemental” careers a writer can have. Every time I work, I’m exposed to new books, fellow readers, and innovative ways to reach them.
- Publish only your best work. Take the time to learn your craft. There’s always something new to learn. Hire the best team you can. For me, essential team members include an editor, a cover designer, and a formatter. It can be tempting, with indie publishing, to load up a manuscript before its ready. A good chef wouldn’t serve undercooked food. Don’t be the writer who offers an undercooked book. Cook it to perfection and then “plate it” to the best of your budget’s ability.
- Have fun! With so much emphasis on To Do Lists and Don’ts, it can be easy to lose sight of why you started writing in the first place. As much as we’d all like to make money at writing, the reason we started — and the reason you will be successful — is your passion for this form of creative expression. If you’re like me, you love to live in made-up worlds, spend time with fictional characters that make you feel something, and you like to play in a sandbox full of words. When things get tough, always go back to the core of what matters — YOUR STORY. When the business side of things starts to drive you nuts, return to your WIP.