I’ve made my living as a writer for around four years now. It’s not always been an easy road, but it’s certainly been educational. Here are 8 pieces of indie writing advice to live by.
Writing Is a Business
If you want to make a living as an indie writer, there’s one thing you must always remember – writing is a business. That’s something that new indie writers often don’t recognize until they’ve quit their jobs and are waiting for inspiration to strike. Even indie writing is a business. If you don’t produce (and successfully market) content, you won’t make any money. Sure, people say it’s all about the process, but the process doesn’t pay your bills.
Understand the Market
This piece of indie writing advice is meant in two ways. First, understand the indie writing market. Where are the best places to advertise your work? Where are the best places to get reviews? If you’re looking for an indie publisher, who is currently reviewing manuscripts in your genre? And that brings me to my next point. You really need to understand your audience, what is currently selling, and what is not selling well. I do believe that people should write what they want to read. Yet, if you want to really make money as an indie writer, you have to write what the public wants to read. Hey – I am all for you developing a “cult” following, too.
Learn Where to Research
Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, learn where to research your topic(s) and even your genre. There are a lot of great websites and groups dedicated to indie writing. There are also great sites that provide genre research. Some websites are free and some do charge a fee. Why do they charge a fee? Because hosting websites, doing the research for indie writers, and creating resources and content isn’t free.
Don’t Publish without Getting Your Work Professionally Edited
I had a friend call me tonight who is working on his first book. He had questions about choosing an editor. So, I explained the (main) differences between proofreading, line editing, and developmental editing. He has a plan for his book…and it includes hiring a professional editor. Most people who write can do a basic proofread on their work…except your eyes are often immune to mistakes that you make on a regular basis. You can’t necessarily rely on spell check and grammar check in Word (although they are admittedly getting a bit better). You need an editor. Your editor doesn’t necessarily need a degree in English, Journalism, or even a Master’s in Creative Writing (sorry, y’all). They do need a firm grasp of the mechanics involved in the language you write in. It doesn’t matter if that’s American English, British English, Spanish, or Celtic. Just find an editor.
As an indie writer, you need to put your best face forward. How people see your book (and your writing – and your mistakes) is how they will ultimately see you. Too many typos, grammatical errors, and plot holes (and unanswered questions for you non-fiction indie writers) can lead to poor reviews and fewer sales.
Think about Marketing from Day One
Again, I know….so many people will say that the reward is in the process. Really, though, everyone wants to get paid for their work. Even people who write self-help books would have to find away to pay for hard copies if an organization wanted to use their material. So, whether you’re heart is burning with philanthropic love or you’d just like to pay your electric bill, you need a marketing plan. Start by writing down your goals (and be realistic). How many copies would you like to sell? Is Kindle Unlimited a good option for you? How will you reach your target audience? Who could you contact to possibly help you spread the word about your work? Marketing and pre-publishing starts the day you decide that you want to write and publish a book.
Reconsider the Use of Vanity Publishers
Ultimately, you do what you want… However, I urge you to reconsider the calling of the vanity publisher. Why? Well, very few will bother to market your work (keep in mind that even traditional publishing houses often task their writers with marketing their own work at least to some degree – so, smaller vanity publishers without the marketing budget can’t do it all). Oh, and then there’s that little thing where they publish anything and everyone…as long as they can front a fee for publishing and to buy multiple (sometimes hundreds) of copies of the book in advance. Indie publishers and traditional publishers pay their writers (although some fees may be withheld from future royalties, but that’s a discussion for another time). You could be out thousands of dollars for something you could do on your own in 15 minutes through CreateSpace. Seriously…and because they print on demand, you don’t have 96 boxes of unsold merch in your garage for your cat to pee on and ruin.
Invest in Good Cover Art
I’ve had some good experiences using Fiverr. I’ve also had some terrible experiences. And the terrible experiences? They are enough for me to tell you to find a good cover artist. Go on Upwork. Look on social media. Talk to graphic design students from local colleges who need something to put in their portfolio. Good cover art is an investment. Sure, many print on demand services offer basic covers that you can design on your own. The problem is that relying on it will mean that your cover looks like the cover of thousands of other books. Your cover is the first interaction that your audience has with your work. Don’t let them down.
Support Other Indie Writers
Buying, reading, reviewing, and sharing work from other indie writers is important. It’s important to network. It builds your platform. It helps you gain new readers. We’re a community and we have to support each other.