Traditional Vs Indie—for many it’s a difficult choice. There are pros and cons of both, and even though I adore self-publishing, I know it isn’t for everyone.
A couple of weeks ago I attended the RWNZ (Romance Writers of New Zealand) conference, and was amazed just how well many self-published writers are doing. There’s some really savvy authors out there who are treating their fiction as a business. I found them really inspiring!
The conference got me thinking about the qualities an indie author needs to cultivate. My day job, as a self-employed copywriter, means that I’m already in the right mind-set for a lot of these, while others I need to work on cultivating!
Here’s what I believe are the five key attributes of successful indie authors:
- Independence: Do you like to do your own thing? Do you like to be the one to make the decisions on things like cover design, formating and marketing? Self-publishing was made for you! For those of us who like being our own boss (I’m self-employed anyway), being an indie author is a perfect fit. However, if you like having guidelines and structure laid out for you, traditional publishing is a better fit.
- Multi-skilled: I love writing, but I also enjoy the entire publishing process. I must admit that editing is a drag (some writers actually find editing the most enjoyable part of the process, but I’m not one of them!), but everything else is fun. I can’t wait to design my cover, format the print book, plan out my marketing and organise the launch. I’m also computer and internet savvy, and I enjoy using my marketing copy writing skills from my day job for promoting my fiction. Being an indie author means that if you don’t have these skills, you’re going to need to cultivate them.
- Patience/resilence: there’s so much online that tries to sell us the idea of ‘insta-success’. This can make you feel that if you don’t hit the big time with your first (or even your third) book that you are doomed never to make a living out of your writing. Anything worth having takes time to achieve … and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You need to be patient and resilent. That means you have to keep writing, publishing and marketing your work, even during slow periods, knowing that loving what you do is part of your measure of success. Plus, you don’t need to ‘hit the it big’ to make a living. Many mid-list authors earn very well. I aim to be one of those—I want to be able to make a comfortable living from my writing.
- Curiosity, flexibility and thirst for knowledge: That’s actually three things, but as I see it they’re all part of the same thing. As an indie author you need to be open to new ideas. There’s no point in doggedly putting your head down and writing, publishing and marketing without studying the market, watching trends, and learning what others are doing that works. This doesn’t mean you try every piece of advice you find online—the ‘scattergun approach’ is not only exhausting but it diffuses your energy, leaving you feeling discouraged. Instead, be a strategic information gatherer: focus on the areas where you need to improve and realise you can’t do it all. Don’t let your ideas about self-publishing be set in stone, either—be open to new ideas.
- Faith: I’m not talking about religious faith here, but the unshakable belief that you write to fulfil yourself on a deep spiritual and emotional level: it’s not just about the money. Sure, you aim to make a living out of this, but there are so many other easier ways to do so than choosing a creative endeavour. Remember that no matter how long it takes, you are in it for love. Sometimes this can be hard. Conferences, although inspiring, can also make us compare ourselves to others. It’s not a contest, and an author you feel jealous of has probably spent years getting to that level. You also need to have faith in your ability as a writer. We all have those moments when we think “I’m a useless hack who can’t write.” Understand that those are self-sabotaging thoughts. Focus instead on writing the best books you can—the kind you want to read.
The above list isn’t exhaustive, but merely a few points to inspire all of us indie authors. What about you—do you have any other attributes you believe a self-published author needs to have in order to suceed? Let me know in the comments below. 🙂