I’ve been at this adventure called indie authoring since the beginning of 2012–so I guess that’s about three years now. It’s a lonely, stressful, exciting, fulfilling pursuit. So far, there’s not a lot of money in it, and there’s a steep learning curve. I’m more confident more than I was when I started, but just like life, there’s always more to learn.
One thing I’ve learned is that there are more expenses for each book than you have money for. It’s pretty disparaging when you invest $1000 into a cover, and another $1-2 thousand into editing, only to have your book flop in the market. Even though I have a day job, I am like most indie authors in that I don’t have a lot of bucks to sink into an endeavor.
And then there’s the issue of marketing, which I have yet to master. I understand that it’s all about networking, and I am doing my best in that area, but I guess I don’t have the right personality for that. It’s an uphill battle for me.
Along the way, I have found many, many writers in a similar situation, many of them eager to learn from my mistakes. And that’s the fun of being an indie writer. One can take the view that these fellow authors are the competition and decide not to help them. But actually they aren’t. They are your colleagues in arms, just trying to survive. It actually gives the craft more credibility of more of us are successful, so if they win, you win.
I have linked with one author who writes dystopian fiction, who more than once has asked me to read his stuff and tell him what needs improvement. I have helped develop a small network of fellow writers who are working the margin between fantasy and Christian writing, and we try to help each other out as much as possible. I have found a few websites along the way that are built to help fellow writers, some are friendly and some are a group of already-established friends who have a hard time letting new people in.
One of the big ways that authors can help each other is by writing reviews, and I have been happy to do this in the past. The two stipulations are (1) the books be something I would have read anyway; in other words, books in my area of interest, and (2) they understand that I will give an honest review. More than once I have given a friend’s book less than a stellar evaluation, but I have never had any of them get upset about it. Critique is hard to receive, but when you understand it as an opportunity to grow and become a better writer, it changes your perspective.
I’ve known Celeste Perrino-Walker for more than 20 years, both as her editor and as a fellow writer. We had the opportunity to review each other’s work and interview each other, which led to the idea that we’d like to co-author a book together. Then finally, we agreed to edit each other’s books. This works for us because we both have editing experience. Writing and editing are not the same thing. But if you can find another writer you trust who is willing to do a reciprocal deal, it’s a good way to get a professional edit done without a lot of cash.
I have some advice on getting great-looking covers, too, but I will save that for another time.