Is Indy Publishing for You?

Kaitlyn Dunnett: Please welcome my special guest, Love Barkhurst. I’ve known Love since she was a teenager, but I only recently discovered that she’s joined the ranks of Maine writers with her first novel, Dark Chocolate. I’m reading it now and enjoying it very much. No, it’s not a mystery, but I know I’m not the only one here who reads in other genres. I also read other blogs, and when I visited Love’s I was tremendously impressed by her common-sense approach to the rapidly changing world of publishing.That’s why I asked her to share some of her thoughts with us today. Here’s what she posted at LoveBarkhurst.com earlier this month.

Love Barkhurst: Is Indy Publishing for You? The publishing world has been turned on its end with the vast influx of Indy published books. Some retailers embrace them with open arms (Amazon), others do not (independent bookstores). I understand their hesitation to buy a book and put it on their shelves. It’s a guessing game what will sell and what won’t and how much risk their small business can take. Plus the pricing gets tricky and the large publishers have been battling with amazon about market price control . . . ugh. Do you really want to even know all this as a writer of novels, or poetry, or short stories?

I have been selectively reading the articles, which are mostly sent to me either by people who support my self-publishing efforts or those who think I am nuts. Everyone has an opinion on this and people aren’t shy about sharing. It’s funny to hear what other people think I should be doing with my writing, my time, and my life.

Self-publishing has been a wonderful, fun, and scary learning experience for me. I completely enjoy writing and all the processes that go into making my manuscript into a book people can hold, read, and share. Many talented and dedicated people participated in getting Dark Chocolate market ready. Here is what I learned from this part of the process.

#1 Always hire an editor and a proof reader. The editor will get your manuscript polished and ready for press. The proof reader will spot problems you and your editor missed the million times you read the manuscript. And you will miss things so don’t be arrogant and think you won’t. Do not skimp on this step.

#2 Unless you have serious technical skills, hire a cover design team and interior design team, especially if you are e-publishing your book. We have all seen those books that come out the meat grinder of e-pub transition in a dreadful mess. Don’t be this author. It’s worth having a professional do it. Your book will be more visually pleasing and this is important for the next step. And even though you have hired this out, double and triple check it. Always! They will make mistakes too. Read, read, and read it again!

#3 If you aren’t an established author with a loyal readership and a way to communicate effectively with that readership, expect marketing and sales to be a giant task. Your wee novel, no matter how fabulous it may be, is being dumped into a vast sea of books. Have you perused the virtual shelves lately? There’s so much out there it is mind boggling! Let’s face it you are going to be doing most of your sales online because bookstores will not pick you up. It isn’t in their best interest to do so. Don’t count on them taking a chance on you.

It’s up to you to make your book as visually pleasing as possible. I struggled with this for Dark Chocolate. It’s market competition is mostly naked people in sultry poses. We chose to go simpler and less in your face. Will it keep Dark Chocolate from getting picked out of the lineup of new romance novels? Maybe . . . we’ll see. But I just couldn’t bring myself to go the Fabio route. (Yes, I realize I am dating myself with that comment, my designer made that very clear.)

You’ll be selling on Amazon, B&N, etc . . . and there are literally millions of books out there! You will get lost at sea. But don’t feel you need to stay there. Reach out to your target audience. I have contacted numerous bloggers and promotional sites who work with indy authors. I admit only a few have given me the time of day. Still, it will take one big break, at least that’s my hope, to push Dark Chocolate into the light of day. So, be brave. Set aside a day a week to promote and keep at it.

This is what I am doing anyway. Who knows, maybe I’ll be one of the lucky ones. I know marketing and selling myself isn’t my strong point. I don’t enjoy it. It makes me uncomfortable. But even if I was with a large publishing house I would still be required to do much of it on my own, so, toughen up chicka and get out there! That’s my pep talk to myself.

#4 Ask yourself why you write. What is your goal in publishing. Mine was to get the manuscripts out for readers to enjoy. I never thought of getting rich. I do hope to break even at some point. And if I don’t, I will have to stop and be realistic about things. Just because a few people enjoy my books it doesn’t mean I can afford to publish countless novels at a loss.

I’ll keep writing them but they’ll just have to sit and get dusty. Mine aren’t alone, there are lots of writers like me. We do it because we can’t help ourselves. We have to write. Doing so doesn’t promise success. There are no promises in life.

#5 Control. Being able to control what I write, why I write, and when I write is a great thing. I don’t worry about what my publisher wants, what is trendy, what is selling. I can write freely. This is wonderful for the creative process and my sanity. I also control where my work goes and what happens to it each step of the way. That is comforting.

#6 You’ll be alone. If you want a support team Indy Publishing probably isn’t for you. I work well alone. I will admit it is extremely overwhelming and I spend a great deal of time second guessing myself. It would be nice to have a team with connections who knew what to do, how to do it right the first time, and such. (I can pay for this, you can pay for pretty much anything, but can you afford to?)

My success or failure lies squarely on my shoulders and mine alone. The fact that luck is a huge factor isn’t all that comforting when I have been working my tail off and seeing little results. I am blessed with an optimistic view of life and an incredibly loving and support family who already thinks I am a huge success. Sales reports mean nothing to them.

I have to be okay with the fact I may never sell tons of books. I’ll keep putting them out there as long as I can afford to do so. After that I’ll have a really great library of private stuff I can read over and over and perhaps one day when I am dead and the world has discovered me my kids can publish. Cause that is often how it works isn’t it?

Life, it is an adventure!

 

Love Barkhurst currently lives and works in Connecticut with her husband, two kids and lab Ajax. She’s an avid organic gardener and has a lifestyle blog filled with stories from the garden, homeschooling, recipes, and green cleaning tips. She was born and raised in Maine. She grew up in the western hills in a small rural farming community and a part of it still holds her heart. The clear mountain streams are calling her home and she and her family are searching for the perfect homesteading property so they can one day return to her roots. You can follow her lifestyle blog at http://missloveb.blogspot.com/ or her website where she chronicles her adventures into the world of indy publishing at http://lovebarkhurst.com/index.html

 

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8 Responses to Is Indy Publishing for You?

  1. MCWriTers says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Love. Whether to go this route is a question on many of our minds these days.

    Best of luck with Dark Chocolate. Great title, by the way…

    Kate

    Like

    • Kate,
      Thank you! It is very tempting to self publish. And I have found it is a wonderful experience and also incredibly challenging. As with everything there are pros and cons. I was happy to share some of my experiences here.
      Happy writing!
      ~Love

      Like

  2. Thanks for sharing your journey. Daunting and exciting. I’m traditionally published and now indie publishing a trilogy. The effort is no less challenging. Best of luck with your books.

    Like

    • Susan,
      Thank you! I would love to hear your experience as both a traditional and indy published author. As I am sure would the other readers of this blog. Perhaps you will write them for us one day. My publishing company has many authors like you who have made the transition, some completely and some just partially publishing with both a big house and an indy house. Their stories and experience are fascinating and influenced me the most when I was making the decision to go this route.
      I just purchased your Task Force Eagle series and I am anxious to dive into them when I can pull myself out of this editing blitz I am currently enduring.
      Happy Writing!
      ~Love

      Like

  3. Hi Love

    Congrats on getting your book out, that’s a huge milestone!

    Can I point out one small flaw in the cover? Okay I will.

    Your name should be absolutely prominent, not the name of the book. It’s your brand you are building. Also the title and cover tell me nothing about the book. What genre is it, what sort of story? How will readers know if it’s a book for them? You have less than 30 secs to grab a reader. The title, cover THEN blurb grab someone. I think you need show something with the title and cover – why should I, the reader, stop and read your blurb.

    Just some advice from someone who has been there and done that!

    Best of luck.

    Like

    • Molly Anderson says:

      Sorry Ms Evans, but I wholeheartedly disagree with the “author as a brand” philosophy, as well as the idea that the cover art should somehow indicate the storyline held within.

      More readers than you think are put off by the seeming arrogance of writers who feel their names are more important than the actual book, especially if the name is one the’ve never heard before. Readers look for intriguing titles, and yes, “established” authors’ names. Cover art is so subjective. What you don’t like, someone else may love. In the instance of this particular novel, Ms Barkhurst made it clear that she did not want her cover to look like every other cover in this genre. I believe she succeeded. Whether or not it helps or hurts sales requires the questioning of her readership.

      For a first book, self-published to boot, the number of copies sold in just a few months are fairly good. At this point, it’s word of mouth and transactions that speak the loudest. I feel Ms Barkhurst was writing about her experience, the team she had working with her and the process she was able to follow to see her book published. I don’t believe she was looking for a critique.

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  4. Just a quick comment from Kaitlyn. Opinions are always welcome, and everyone’s input is valuable. Both of these posts make good points and I wouldn’t call the first a critque so much as a bit of helpful advice. After all, Ms. Barkhurst has more novels in her future. As for cover desigin in general, one of the nicest things about indy publishing (and ebook reprints) is that the ultimate decision on the cover is up to the author. In traditional publishing the author has no say at all in how the cover looks (or how large a font is used for her name!)

    Like

  5. Judi says:

    Great information, Love. Publishing is a crazy ride. Love your cover by the way.

    Like

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