Sunday, May 5, 2013

So what’s it take to succeed as an indie author?

So what’s it take to succeed as an indie author?

[note: this article first appeared as part of the How to be a Good Writer series on the C.P. White Media Blog.]

Sales. God help us. My good friend Aaron Patterson once posted up a comment on Facebook about this: what’s it take to sell your book (basically)? I mean, some of us are selling and some of are not, and it’s not as if it’s cut and dried that the nonsellers are shitty writers. Pardon me, but come on. And there’s plenty of hot-selling total crapola out there. So it’s not simple.

Adding to the complexity is the free market, which I adore. The rise of the eBook has been confounding the Big Six publishers today in the same way that Napster and iTunes changed just about everything in regard to the music business a while back. Well…when I say everything…the point is that Bob Dylan was right about how times change, but only insofar as they don’t really, which was King Solomon’s counterbalancing bit of sagacity.

Aaron and I secretly agree that for the business-minded author, the entrepreneurial, the indie author…pssst: there’s really no need for a publisher. The dirty little secret is that the Big Six will expect you to work just as hard for them as if you were going it alone, and in exchange for that gigantic favor they will be taking about 85% of the pot, thanks. At least. I personally don’t want to shove against that wall. Someone else can shove it, if you get my meaning.

The facts, therefore, have been distilled down to these: editing, cover design, publishing, and marketing strategy. Those are the things that matter most, and the things that any competent publisher (even if he’s just a one-man operation, i.e. an indie writer) will spend the bucks on. Let’s have a look at ‘em one at a time.

Editing is the process, often painful, whereby you as the author pay large amounts of cash so that your work can be pulled apart by someone wiser than thou. It’s also so that you can be emotionally abused about it. Okay, I’m (mostly) kidding. A great editor will do that so nicely that you’ll catch yourself saying, “Thank you, sir, may I have another.” Remember that editing isn’t just spelling and grammar; it’s content, the creative bits, pacing, character development, plot, and so on. It’s my personal opinion that the best editors are a one-stop shop. Spelling and grammar are fixed pretty easily, either by Word itself or by the conscientious author. Anyway, editors who only do spelling and grammar are called proofreaders, not editors. And if you’d like to get in touch with me aboutediting your work, please do.

Okay, covers. Cover design is something at which I suck. Okay, that’s not fair, but let’s say that a guy struggles when he lacks tools and experience sometimes. Just being honest. So few authors are double-edged swords; able to produce literary and graphic excellence. I once posted on Facebook a cover I did for my novella The Marsburg Diary, alongside another cover that was professionally done, and asked people to vote. It was something on the order of 20:1 against mine. Not to say that I can’t learn eventually, but for now, I’ll be leaving it to the professionals. I’d counsel you to do the same. It’s almost impossible to spend too much on a good cover. Don’t be afraid to “focus group” it with your friends, either.

Publishing. Right. That just means that you’re taking your work public. That’s all. And right now one of the best ways to do that is to convert your Word .docx to Amazon’s eBook format (mobi) and everyone else’s (epub). And guess what. Once you pay for the file conversion, there’s no more overhead, really, and Amazon pays out 70% royalties on eBooks, provided you’re within a certain price envelope. Plus, there’s always the possibility that you could learn how to do conversions yourself. I’ll be covering that next week, so stay tuned. I will warn you right now, if you want to publish to the iBookstore you either need to own a Mac or know someone who will let you use one. Apple. Psh. Whatever. You can easily reach the i-Masses through Amazon’s Kindle store, though, because there’s a free Kindle app for every device under the sun except the Nook. Apple. Psh again.

But what of marketing strategy? What about print? What about eBooks? This is such a loaded subject that I think it might be best to broach it in a separate blog. And I will. Soon. There are so many opinions on this kind of stuff, and I have mine, for sure. Mostly, if we’re keeping it simple, you’ve got to know that all the work you’ve done before this point will dry up and fall to the earth like something nasty on the underside of a cafe table if you’ve not got a marketing plan, and a good one. Also bear in mind that, hello, technology, love it or hate it, is a very important part of how well you’ll do as far as sales are concerned. It’s my opinion, and Aaron will back me up on this, that social media is still a large part of the best marketing plan for an eBook, and rightly so. Until the sea changes again, Facebook and Twitter are necessary evils at worst, and powerful tools at best.

Look, folks, the marketplace is changing everyday. It’s been that way ever since uncle Abu was hawking fish in the square in Mesopotamia and keeping the accounting ledger in Cuneiform. I love to write. In order to keep doing that, I have to sell the books I produce. While it’s not rocket science, there are certain requisites. I hope this longish post helped to illustrate some of those, and also that you’ll be applying some of these tips to your own journey as a professional. Look alive; it’s a wonderful time to be a creator and literary artist.

About Chris White:
You know what they say—that behind every great man is an unstoppable rebel force—and it’s true. Like Moriarty was to Holmes, C.P. White is the reversed polarity doppelganger behind it all. Author C.P. White blogs about weirdness on the C.P. White Media Blog and spins dark tales, psychological thrillers that you’ll want to read with the lights on. Author Chris White works in the front office writing romantic YA paranormal fiction with Aaron Patterson, collaborates with illustrator Joey Zavaleta on the Great Jammy Adventure children’s books, and even serves as editor to award-winning authors. Learn more at


  1. Your post in some ways makes me feel better, in others, not so much. I've been at it four years and thought I was doing everything right. Now I think I might just be a crappy writer or it really only has to do with luck.

  2. It's luck. Lots of luck. Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of luck.

    My husband is no slouch as a writer. His first two books won awards or were finalists for awards, one Shamus finalist. Yet you've probably never heard of him. It's not because he's a bad writer.

    If we could figure out how to get books sold, we would have done it by now.

  3. You rock. I need help. Check out my amateur blog @ I am in Boise.

  4. I've read previews of Bri's "books"... Given that she can't differentiate between the words "road" and "rode" in the first freaking paragraph of her terrible witch novel, I'd say her less that successful sales have EVERYTHING to do with shit writing and less to do with the Indie Publishing Scene. As with anything, if you have something of quality worth the popularity, it will be popular. Don't blame the market for your terrible product.

  5. What does it take, dear? Our input, too. Lemme fill-you-up withe avant-gardeness necessary to achieve Seventh-Heaven, dear... Would you puh-leeze help a 'Plethora Of Wurdz' which are look'n for a new home in your novel? Yay! Whew...

    Q: Can anyone tell me the difference between K2 and IQ? A: Nthn. In Seventh-Heaven, we gitt'm both for eternity HawrHawr Need a few more thots, ideers, raw wurdz or ironclad iconoclasms? Voila!!

    VERBUM SAT SAPIENTI: As an ex-writer of the sassy, savvy, schizophenia we all go through in this lifelong demise, I just wanna help U.S. git past the whorizontal more!ass! we're in (Latin: words to [the] wise)...

    "This finite existence is only a test, son," God Almighty told me in my coma. "Far beyond thy earthly tempest is where you'll find tangible, corpulent eloquence". Lemme tella youse without d'New Joisey accent...

    I actually saw Seventh-Heaven when we died: you couldn't GET any moe curly, party-hardy-endorphins, extravagantly-surplus-lush Upstairs (in [the] end without end -Saint Augustine) when my beautifull, brilliant, bombastic girly-girl passed-away due to those wry, sardonic satires.

    "Those who are wise will shine as brightly as the expanse of the Heavens, and those who have instructed many in uprightousness as bright as stars for all eternity" -Daniel 12:3, NJB

    Here's also what the prolific, exquisite GODy sed: 'the more you shall honor Me, the more I shall bless you' -the Infant Jesus of Prague.

    Go gitt'm, girl. You're incredible. See you Upstairs. I won't be joining'm in the nasty Abyss where Isis prowls
    PS Need summore unique, uncivilized, useless names? Lemme gonna gitcha started, brudda:

    Oak Woods, Franky Sparks, Athena Noble, Autumn Rose, Faith Bishop, Dolly Martin, Willow Rhodes, Cocoa Major, Roman Stone, Bullwark Burnhart, Magnus Wilde, Kardiak Arrest, Will Wright, Goldy Silvers, Penelope Summers, Sophie Sharp, Violet Snow, Lizzy Roach, BoxxaRoxx, Aunty Dotey, Romero Stark, Zacharia Neptoon, Mercurio Morrissey, Fritz & Felix Franz, Victor Payne, Isabella Silverstein, Mercedes Kennedy, Redding Rust, Phoenix Martini, Ivy Squire, Sauer Wolfe, Yankee Cooky, -blessed b9 (or mixNmatch)...

    God blessa youse
    -Fr. Sarducci, ol SNL

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