Saturday, June 25, 2016

Essential Traits for Indie Publishing Success


What are the keys to success in independent publishing? There are many important elements, all of which we'll cover in this series. Things like: good writing and editing, quality formatting, good book covers, proper pricing strategies, advertising, reader engagement, and more.

Today, let's drill down to the fundamentals, and look at two basic traits that are essential to indie success:

Patience and Determination.

Without these qualities, I'd still be teaching grammar to thirteen year-olds (not a bad job at all, but being a full time author is even better!) In fact, I'd probably have given up on writing altogether.


We've all heard stories about "overnight" publishing successes. There were the days of the "Kindle Gold Rush", the "99 Cent All Stars", the "Kindle Unlimited Serial Scammers", and the "Fan Fiction Writers Make Good" authors. We've also heard, just as loudly, these eras proclaimed dead.

Is it possible to enjoy a breakout success with your first independently published book? Yes, but it's also possible that Anne Hathaway will show up at my house, offer me a shoulder rub, and my wife won't object.

Translation: It's highly improbable.

The good news is, that doesn't mean you won't eventually enjoy success. Most indie authors don't even begin approaching their goals until they've published multiple, quality titles (three in a series seems to be the frequent takeoff point), cultivated an audience, and honed their engagement and marketing skills.

I self-published (we didn't call it "indie" back then) in 2004. For the first year, I could take my family out to dinner once a quarter with my royalties. After a while, I was able to pay the electric bill, then the car note, then the mortgage. It took more than six years, and a lot of learning, for me to reach the point at which I earned as much from indie publishing as I did from my day job, and seven years before I felt comfortable devoting myself to full-time writing.

It won't necessarily be that slow for you. Prior to Kindle, the potential income wasn't really there for indies hawking overpriced trade paperbacks, and marketing opportunities were limited. We live in a different world now, and that's a great thing, but it still can take time.

It takes time to learn the craft.
It takes time  (for most of us) to save money for things like editing and cover art.
It takes time to build an audience.
And the list goes on.

Let's not forget, though. Being patient does not mean being complacent. We should always be learning, growing, honing our skills, and, let's not forget the big one: working. That's why our next quality is so important.


We're going to fail. Often. It's going to suck. We're going to feel discouraged, experience doubt, want to give up... Don't.

Just because our first book doesn't sell out of the gate doesn't mean we're doomed to failure. Neither does:
A brief dip in sales.
A slow launch on a new book.
A poorly-performing ad.
A few bad reviews.
A bad writing day.
(You get the picture.)

Most writers will give up at some point along the way. Most will dream about writing but never put fingers to keyboard. Some will start writing a book but never finish. Some will seek representation or publication, fail, and give up. Some will indie publish without learning the essentials, fail, and give up. Some will try to do everything write, meet with challenges, and give up. Don't be one of those writers.

Don't give up. You will struggle at times. You will fail. Learn from it. Adapt and attack. Always strive to be your best.

Be persistent. You'll get there!

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