Insights into Indie publishing Out on a Limb or Positioned for Success?
No one wants to believe they are at a disadvantage, but reality is reality. Yes, getting your books into print or available on an e-reader is easier now than it has ever been. But, is publishing the goal or is there more to being a success? Is it possible to go out on a limb and define your own success?
The Hat Juggler
Understand from the start that as an indie author/publisher it all rests on your shoulders ultimately. There are three hats that you are required to wear: author, producer, and promoter. Notice there are 3 and not 2 roles filled. It’s easy to see the writer and the promoter (marketer) role, but the producer role is both the lynchpin and the bridge in the process. Being a book producer encompasses everything from editing to layout/formatting to cover design.
The difference is that as an indie author, you never really get to take off your marketer hat while at the same time you are working as an author and producer of upcoming titles. It can be daunting to say the least. That’s why it is important to truly understand your strengths and weaknesses and seek out qualified help to ease the burden of the tasks you are not as solid on. Not only will your finished product be better but your sanity will remain intact (at least a little bit longer) than if you try to handle everything on your own.
Yes, many authors begin on shoestring budgets, but remember your books are alongside the shelves, virtual or physical, of those who have an army to support them. David may have beat Goliath with his slingshot and a stone but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t have some assistance along the way to get himself prepared for the fight. Find your tribe, enlist your supporters (both readers and non-readers), and remember…celebrate every victory along the way. It makes the daunting feel more like a series of parties rather than a war and a series of battles.
The Myth of the Overnight Sensation
Overnight sensations rarely (if ever) happen that quickly. Sure, things can click in an instant and catapult you to a new level, but the reality is that you will inevitably have to pay your dues in one form or another. There is no magic bullet, genie in a bottle, or secret sauce to make that truth disappear.
What you can do to insure that you are positioned best when opportunity knocks is to simply dedicate yourself to your dream/goal and religiously do what it takes to make yourself (and your work) as opportunity-friendly as possible. Constantly learn more about the world of indie publishing. It’s easier and faster to learn from others successes and failures than it is to test everything yourself. Not to mention it’s usually cheaper too.
While learning from others makes your own learning curve faster and easier, dismiss or at least be very skeptical of anyone claiming they have the golden ticket to the “fastest”, “easiest”, “automatic” way to become a successful indie author. There are tons people and businesses willing to take money from success-starved authors by making outlandish promises. That’s why you have set yourself up for success and be clear about your goals.
Know Your Goals
Sure people would love to be the next best seller or find a bibliophile willing to promote them to the moon (a la the Oprah nod from years gone by). Indeed, I believe you need to dream big to get your book baby out into the world, but there’s no need to set yourself up for disappointment. The truth is that more than 90% of titles fail to reach 100 in sales, and 80% of those that do, don’t make it to the 250 mark. That means that only approximately 2% of titles published exceed sales of 250, let alone the millions of copies people envision.
Instead of getting depressed and questioning your sanity in your publishing pursuits, back it up a bit. You need to lay the groundwork and give yourself a chance to celebrate victories along the way. That’s the only way an indie author/publisher can remain motivated and courageous for the long slog that produces a writing career.
You don’t control the best seller lists or the mysterious algorithms that proclaim best seller status so stop making that your goal. If it happens great…if not you’ll still be building for greater success as you continue on your path. Instead focus your goals on what you can control, For example:
• Promote your book(s) to reach the 100 sale mark and then shoot for 250. Then up it (realistically) from there.
• Work to add x number of people to your mailing/newsletter list with each title.
• Get comfortable with the fact that you are never done marketing (if you want sales to continue), so always have marketing material available and ready to share. Then make a goal of sharing your work with X number of real/live people each week. At the very least ask them to join your newsletter, and don’t rely only on social media.
• Explore ways to cross promote. Helping others is the key to helping yourself. Stop thinking of publishing as a competition. There are plenty of readers out there. If a reader buys someone else’s book, it doesn’t mean you lost the opportunity for a sale. It means you’ve found someone who reads, and readers are not a “one-and-done” crowd.
• It can be overwhelming to write, edit, design and then market your book, but remember…we live in a world of what-have-you-done-for-me-lately? That means, don’t rest on your backside once your book is out there. If you want a career rather than simply checking of the bucket list item “write a book”, start working on the next one while keeping your marketing hat on.
• Ultimately, always deliver the highest quality product that you can. A single poor book can undermine all the work that you have done by breaking the reader’s trust. It’s challenging to win readers over in the first place, so if you break that trust it is HIGHLY unlikely that they will give you another go. Don’t give them a reason to seek something else. Once you win a reader, make sure you keep them wanting more by honoring the time and investment that they place in your work.
In the end, if you decide to self-publish for your love of writing and reading, success is possible. Don’t let anyone deter you, and most definitely don’t let anyone tell you success is impossible. You simply need to remain dedicated and define success on your own terms…on that point, no one else’s vote matters.
Excerpt from Wingdog Soul Pup
Yes, I slept with him on our first date. It felt so good to have his warm body against mine. He was gorgeous and sweet as slumber set in, and I couldn’t help but curl up closer. We were already doing our own version of spooning, just hours after meeting. Everything was once again right with the world thanks to his warmth by my side. It was a case of love at first sight that grew deeper in the darkness of the bedroom around us.
I couldn’t help but run my fingers through his fur as his brindled coat rose and fell with deep, sleep-filled breathing. His fur was the perfect texture, not too course but without fluff. The hairs behind his bouncy ears were already my favorite, so silky fine. He sighed as I continued rubbing up and down his side before once more scratching behind his ear. With the ear rubs, he pushed closer into me. His sixteen pound body firmly tucked at my hip.
Ah, I’m home.
I wasn’t sure if it was my thought because it could have easily come from the pup at my side. For the first time in weeks, I began to doze off, peaceful and content. The neighbor problems that plagued my previous weeks faded away with his comforting presence.
Sometimes it does all work out. Bad things can lead to great opportunities.
The stress of moving from California to North Carolinaevaporated. The distress that plagued me eased. It was what I'd been craving: a chance to forget and to enjoy life again. It was what my soul needed. I sighed and let go. All was good, at last.
The day started like most of late when I got sidetracked by my inbox after clicking on the message. A small, brown puppy snuggled face-to-face with a tabby kitten appeared. The expression in the picture wasn’t curiosity. It was more like a big brother protecting a younger sibling. The other picture was of the same puppy looking up at the camera. His brown ears were as big as his head. The look in his eyes was that of questioning intelligence, and only the slightest hint of his blue left eye opposite the brown one showed. He seemed to know it was not simply a picture being taken.
It took less than thirty seconds. I was in love.
Immediately, I hit reply. He’s adorable. I’d love to meet him!
With that, a flurry of emails was exchanged. I rushed out into the silvery, fall day, filled with clouds. I stopped at the ATM before getting on the highway for the trip down to Rock Hill from Charlotte. It felt odd to pull money out to buy a dog. Granted, I rescued pups before, but this felt different. Then, it hit me. There’s something not all together right about exchanging money for a living creature’s spirit, and that thought caught me off guard.
“What’s that all about?” I muttered as I turned down the onramp to Highway 85, heading south. I shook off the feeling with the thought that it helped pay for his care rather than buying him per say.
As I made the transition to the 77 near uptown Charlotte, I started thinking of names for the pup. Angie named him ‘Ace of Spades’ or Ace for ease, but that wasn’t right. I knew that instantly. My dogs have always named themselves. He’ll let me know. I thought, but still names flitted through my mind.
What do I want from all this? That made me laugh. It’s a dog adoption, not a marriage. The truth was already apparent. This was going to be bigger than a simple custody transfer. The anxiety over recent events with neighbors at my apartment complex threatened to rear up again. I needed someone…something…to help watch my back. I wanted a right-hand man…a wingman…or, in this case, a ‘wingdog’.
That’s it! Goose. Like the wingman in Top Gun, he’d be my extra pair of eyes and ears. I loved it immediately and settled on it before remembering that the dog does the choosing.
“Okay, just keep it in mind,” I mumbled as I got off the highway and made a convoluted trip to the apartment. I texted Angie from the parking lot because I couldn’t make sense of the numbers in the complex, so she agreed to bring him down to meet me. I waited in the car for a few minutes, laughing at myself for having a bit of ‘first date’ jitters about meeting a puppy.
They seemed to appear out of nowhere and stopped at the end of the walkway.
I got out, and as soon as I cleared the bumper, he spotted me. It was magic – a connection in an instant – as he leapt towards me despite his leash. His eyes lit up like I’m sure mine did. With a big smile and open arms, I walked up to him at Angie’s side and said hello. He barely reached my kneecap, but his eyes were wide and bright. I dropped to my knee. Given my earlier thoughts about marriage, I chuckled and shook my head to clear the whole proposal analogy from my head. He nuzzled into me immediately and toppled me onto my rear.
Who are YOU? I haven’t seen you before. He did a once over with his nose. Yep, you smell nice. You’re a good one. How ya doin’?
I smiled ear to ear as I situated myself, sitting cross-legged so the little guy could sniff away at will. If that isn’t an enthusiastic yes, I don’t know what is. My heart swelled as his furry little body shivered with excitement. His wild tail matched the leaping in my chest. I looked into his wide, trusting eyes: one brown, the other blue. It was a match. You choose me too! I thought as I wrapped my arms around the brindled bundle showering me in warm wet pup kisses.
“We found him on the highway. He was in bad shape, but we nursed him back to health. He’s been dewormed too.”
He sat listening to the conversation like he would chime in at any time, sneaking glances at me as Angie debriefed me about his circumstances.
How could someone be so evil to such an adorable boy?
“Several people have come to look at him, but the brindle coloring gives the impression of a pit bull.” Angie sighed. “He’s incredibly friendly, but the people who’ve come to see him have scared him as well as my husband and me. It’s like he knows they’re not right. My husband and I figured they were looking for fighting dogs, or even bait dogs, when they start asking about his bloodlines.”
A chill traveled down my spine at the thought of people looking to sacrifice a loving creature for a blood sport.
Angie continued, “That’s why we’ve been saying that he’s a Jack Russell mix. We’re not sure though, and we can’t keep him anyway.” Angie went on to explain about their impending move as Goose scanned the yard of the apartment complex.
Hold on. His name isn’t Goose yet. I thought as my mind and heart made the leap. He gets a vote. Remember?
“He’s big into sticks,” Angie stated as she reached up into the branches of a small, almost bare tree near us and broke off a branch for Goose. He immediately plopped down to tackle his new toy. “I was going to name him Lucky, but that’s too common. So, I thought that the Ace of Spades is a lucky card. That’s how he got his name.”
I noticed that he wasn’t too fond of the name either, since he didn’t even twitch when he heard her say it. Good boy!You’re definitely a smart one. I thought. I could tell Angie was stalling a bit with her continued chatting.
“He’s still damp. I was cleaning the bird cage in the bathtub, and he jumped right in too. He loves water.”
“Perfect! I’m a surfer girl who needs to be around water all the time.” I said with a laugh and smile. “Yeah, I know Charlotte’s not near the ocean, but we’ll be at the lake a lot.” I felt like I was selling myself to win favor.
“He loves going for rides too. My husband has to take him every time he goes to the store or wherever.”
“That works out perfectly too. Though I am teaching online classes fulltime, I’m a bit of a road warrior right now with a side gig as a motorsports reporter. That’s what brought me to NC. We’ll be going to California in a couple of weeks for the Phoenix race, Thanksgiving, and Champ Week. He’ll get the ride of his puppy life.”
Angie’s shoulders slumped as we transferred his things to the car, and I handed Angie a hundred dollars for both the pup and all of her supplies. There wasn’t much: a used cat collar, a small leash, some food and a bowl, but it was a start. The supermarket dog food was going to be replaced immediately.
You’ll be eating way better than that. I vowed silently. I could tell that Angie was both happy and sad. I passed the test. He was going to a good home, but it meant that he was leaving her.
Whether it was Angie’s demeanor or plain puppy energy, he grew restless, starting to explore the yard as much as he could while still on a leash. After Angie ran out of things to chit-chat about, I opened the passenger’s side door and cradled him in my arms. His warmth traveled to my core as the soft bundle of brown, black and white fur rested close to my heart. A sigh escaped as I held him to my chest before placing him on the seat.
Shotgun! He perked up and sniffed the interior, which was already filling with the smell of kibble.
His investigation stopped abruptly and he stared at Angie and me. He knew something was different. This wasn’t a casual, meet-someone-on-a-walk encounter anymore. It was a strange new car. He looked at Angie. Thank you. I’m happy. She’s a good one.
Angie sighed. “Bye, Ace. You’re a good boy.”
He seemed to smile as he stretched, puffing out his puppy chest. Then he got distracted by the straw to my iced coffee. He was at ease, and inside of two hours, I became a pup mom. Life wasn’t going to be the same again.
Janelle Jalbert is the award-winning author of WINGDOG: Soul Pup, A Magical Mutt Memoir as well as Triangulating Bliss, Book 1 in The Mystique of Living Series, medalist for cross-genre fiction in the 2015 New Apple Book Awards, and Flash 40: Life’s Moments, winner of the 2015 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards Silver Medal for Anthologies. She worked as a ghostwriter, a copywriter, and a motorsports reporter. Jalbert enjoys bringing stories to life that celebrate the magic in everyday living. Jalbert currently lives in Southern California, though she regularly returns to her second home in North Carolina when her pack of pups grants her a vacation. Learn more at www.triangulatingbliss.com or www.janellejalbert.com.
Amazon Author Page: http://bit.ly/JanelleJalbertRRBC
Twitter handle: @JustJJWriting
WINGDOG: Soul Pup will be released on Amazon, March 7,with full release across most major retailers in June 2016