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Indie Authors: How To (And Not) Ride the Lightning

Not too long ago, a successful indie author friend of mine found herself mired in conversation with a writer who could not, for the life of him, understand why he had not been discovered as the genius he is (cue Scar's "Be Prepared"). I asked for extrapolation, and she provided what was supposed to be one of his blog posts.

It was actually a thousand words of self-gratification that literally begins every paragraph with "I write". "I write this". "I write that". "I write."

He could not, for the life of him, understand why none of the big publishing houses had picked up on him, or why he had such a difficult time moving his books. He lamented;

"I can't wait until I become a real boy and one of these publishers picks my books up. I can't fight this demoralizing publicity battle by myself anymore."

Personally, I'm offended by this statement, but I hope he gets his wish fulfilled. Because this life clearly isn't for him.

He may be a great writer, but the problem is, a lot of us are great writers. The first mistake he makes is not realizing that it is the differences in our work that keep us from being picked up by the big houses. Publishing is a business, not an art, and businesses are leery to take chances on an unknown. They should be leery. Not because our work sucks, but think about it. How many of you think long and hard before loaning money to a friend or family member? Now imagine doing that with millions of dollars to a stranger.

The truth is, we indie authors have a better chance of being struck by lightning than succeeding as full-time indies. It is in no way impossible, the goal is far more attainable than it used to be, and there are ways to bring the storm to you.

1). Dedicate Yourself to Improving.
Read. Read everything you can on your craft. Study your market. Watch and learn from those pursuing the same endeavor from you. Write daily. Write outside of your comfort zone. Publish frequently. Learn. Unlearn. Keep learning. You will never stop improving, and your work will consistently get better.

No, seriously. Read EVERYTHING.

2). Stay Frosty.
Keep an agile mind. You'll be wrong more often than you're right, especially in the beginning. Adjust quickly. Don't get comfortable, or you may become stagnant. Always be on the lookout for something new, something you may not know. Continuously adapt your methods.

3). Stay Humble.
Publicly admit your shortcomings. Own your mistakes so no one else can. Don't brag your successes. Never forget those who helped you along the way, because you won't do it alone. Be ready to help someone else, and do so graciously.

Here's three things you shouldn't do.

1). Don't Whine.
We all struggle. We all have issues. But the internet has enough negativity on it. Don't add to that. Yes, your book missed a list. Instead of complaining about it online, write a better book.

2). Don't Point Fingers.
The worst thing you can do in a self-publishing endeavor is blame someone else, unless they blatantly ripped you off. But if you didn't make a list, it's not the list builder's fault. There isn't some grand conspiracy to keep you from being successful. Again, write a better book.

3). Don't Get Discouraged.
It's hard work, we know. It's mind-breaking, and we often feel as though nothing we do will ever be good enough. It's easy to get lost in the sea of noise. We all feel like quitting. And you know what? If you feel like you've given it your all, and you just don't have anything left, it's fine to walk away. It's fine to take a step back.
It's also fine to come back with new ideas and try again.

This is simultaneously the most difficult and rewarding thing you may ever do (outside of raising successful children). Know you're not in it alone, there is all kind of support for you, and if you're out here doing your best and making the reader's market a better place, then one day, the lightning will find you.

And you will fly.

Thanks for reading.

Avery K. Tingle is the author of epic dark fantasy Era of the Scourge: Reclamation and scifi/romance the Anniversary. Titles are available on Nook and Kobo too. If you’re new to Kobo, you can get both stories for free!
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