Okay, this is the post before last on going indie for dummies. The last one will be a checklist of things before you actually put that book up there.
Right now this post is a hand holding post.
If you don’t need your hand held; if you’re all confident about your book; if you don’t get a chill down your back at the idea of exposing your work to the world, more power to you. You’re also a rare bird.
When I was first published (Absolute Magnitude and a short story I shan’t name and haven’t reprinted. It’s not bad, but it’s “raw”) I had a few moments of triumph. And then my friend Charles called to tell me the magazine with the story was in the kiosk downtown that carried all the science fiction. And I told him to buy every copy, because I was suddenly terrified someone I knew might read it. (To his credit, he refused to, even though I was willing to pay him back.)
Then there was my first novel, Ill Met by Moonlight, and to be honest I did something very difficult on that one. It wasn’t a made up world, it was historical, and I went and messed with Shakespeare. It was probably still excessive to spend the year in fear people would gather at my door to tell me how bad it was.
And then there was Witchfinder, my first indie novel. After 15 years of being published, and thirty some novels (not sure exactly how many at that point, I FROZE when time came to put the book out. No one had accepted it. No one had bought it. What if it was the worst thing ever?
Judging from reviews and particularly from sales, it wasn’t.
But if you’re facing the hurdle of putting your first book out, and hesitating, how do you know your book isn’t bad?
You don’t. And I can promise you for sure that if you put it up, and go on to write a lot more books, you’ll look back in ten years and think this was bad. ANYWAY. Even if it’s a bestseller.
Writing is an art. All arts improve with practice. If you continue improving at some point you’ll look at your book and go “that amateur!”
This effect is even more marked if you try to work from an old outline. Which I had to do when my book (Magical British Empire, being reissued when I have time) took 8 years to sell.
So, to help you make that jump, here are a few tips:
1- Every writer writes at least one book that’s not up to par. If this is your first, good. You’re not disappointing any fans.
2- You’ll still pick up some fans. No, seriously. I have read books that read to me like they were written on butcher paper in crayon, and which still have rabid fans (some more than mine.)
3- The worst thing that can happen to your book is not people hating it. It’s obscurity. And if you behave like a professional, even if your book doesn’t sell very well it won’t become a thing to hate. The books that become a cause celebre with how bad they are, really need their authors’ behaving badly, such as accusing people of conspiracy and atheism in the comments.
4- While we’re at it, your first book won’t sell very well, unless you have luck of the sort that wins the lottery. The problem is not that it’s bad, so don’t go getting jittery and pulling it. No first indie book sells very well. Promote, but keep your expectations realistic, particularly if you have nothing out traditionally. 200 books over a year maybe. And yes, we know that won’t make you a living. But it will sell more when the second book comes out and the third and the — Dean Wesley Smith says the magical number is 15. I don’t know. I have ONE indie book. Oh, and that’s the other thing — for reasons known only to Himself up there, Indie books are their own equation. Now, I sold more than 200 — about 2500 — of Witchfinder in two years, but even that is really low for my trad books. However I talk to other people who’ve done this. Second book will blow doors off first (need to get on that.)
5- You can always rewrite it but don’t do it out of pique. In three or four years, when you look at the book and clearly see what’s wrong, you can rewrite and issue a second edition (remember to change the cover.) But don’t rewrite because “it’s not selling.” And “It’s all wrong.” Write the next one instead.
6- Even if your book is the worst ever written — doubt it. I know both the worst books ever written — you’ll get better the more you write. I PROMISE. You should see some of my early stuff. So, leave it out there and write until you’re ready to rewrite it.
7- Ah, but if you’re experiencing this much doubt, it means you’re good enough at the craft to see the flaws. Which means your book is probably better than a lot of them out there.
8- Having a traditional publisher look at it won’t make any difference. They publish a lot of bad books. Think on some you’ve pulled from the shelves before.
9- And it could be wonderful. I’m always shocked at things my readers see in my books. Things I meant to put in there, but was sure I didn’t know how. Also, a book being or not being your favorite has nothing to do with how well it sells. Kris Rusch said to put all your trunk stories out too. If you’re embarrassed put them under an assumed name, but just put them out. Only don’t call the pen name I R Idiot, because next thing you know Mr. Or Mrs. Idiot will be a bestseller.
10- NO one ever conquered an empire by hiding under the bed. And no writer ever became a bestseller while unpublished.
Go on, pull the trigger.