Thursday, August 06, 2015

Indie Publishing Paths: Do You Know Your Goals?

By Jami Gold, @JamiGold

Part of the Indie Authors Series

One great thing about the indie author community is the willingness to help each other out. A quick search on the KBoards Writers’ Cafe forum can often provide information from those in the trenches who are ahead of us on the indie publishing journey. Everywhere we look, authors share the pros and cons of methods they’ve tried and “what not to do” advice.

So it’s no surprise that many new indie authors choose “virtual” mentors. We can watch what successful authors are doing and try to emulate them.

That’s a great technique, and one I’ve followed as well. However, we need to keep in mind that there’s no one right path to success. Many indie authors are successful, and they didn’t all do the same things as far as pricing, release schedules, choosing vendors, etc.

To that end, I’m thrilled to join the faculty for Janice’s Indie Author series, where I’m starting a series that digs deeper into the various indie publishing options. There’s no one right way to be an indie author, and hopefully, with a little information, we’ll be able to find the right method for us.

What Path Is Best for Us?

Because there are so many paths to success, we don’t want to limit ourselves by focusing only on one path or one virtual mentor. If our virtual mentor or source of advice has different goals from us, their decision-making process won’t match ours.

We want our choices to be best for us and our goals. And the only way we can know what advice is a good match for us is to know what our goals are.

The first goal that many people think about is income. Throughout much of the developed world, income is how we determine success. A job promotion might not feel like a promotion unless it comes with a raise, etc.

So it’s not surprising that income is the default measuring stick for many authors. Many want to quit their day job or be able to improve their family’s lives.

However, that measurement doesn’t work for everyone. Some authors would be happy making enough from their books to recover their costs for editors, cover artists, and formatters. Others want income but rank other goals just as high—or higher.

How Do You Measure Success?

On my blog, I’ve talked about the two ends of the author spectrum:
  • Artist-Author: They don’t measure success by income. They write for the joy of writing, and money is a bonus.
  • Professional-Author: They measure success against typical business-oriented specifics—namely, income.

There is nothing wrong with either kind of author. Both types can take the writing craft seriously, or either could release crap. These labels have nothing to do with quality; they’re only focused on how each type measures success.

Personally, I’m a mix. (Remember what I said about not focusing only on one path? *smile*) I have many of the attitudes of a Professional-Author (setting up business plans, etc.), but I don’t measure success by income alone.

Once we know where we fit along the continuum, we might have an easier time knowing what advice and publishing paths won’t work for us. From there, understanding what else matters to us can help us know more about the path we should take.

What Are Our Goals?

So if generating income is only one way to measure success, we need to widen our ideas and discover what resonates with us. Other possibilities include:
  • Having as many readers as possible
  • Landing on a bestseller list
  • Reaching a high Amazon ranking
  • Seeing high-star reviews
  • Receiving a professional or industry review
  • Collecting x-number of reviews
  • Building momentum for the long haul
  • Reaching a sales milestone (1000 copies, etc.)
  • Being invited to participate in an anthology (especially with a favorite author)
  • Writing and releasing as many books as possible
  • Releasing only the best quality books
  • Staying top-of-mind with readers
  • Increasing visibility with potential readers
  • Receiving fan mail
  • Reaching other success measurements without doing something we hate (having to promo all the time, etc.)
  • Having our book available in as many places as possible
  • Being able to hold a print version of our book
  • Releasing multiple versions of our books (audio, translated, etc.)
  • Receiving an award
  • Being invited to an event (speak to a group, booksigning, etc.)
  • Increasing name recognition with readers
  • Seeing our book on a bookstore shelf
  • Witnessing someone reading our book “in the wild”

I could go on, but hopefully that makes my point. Every one of us could have different priorities, so someone else’s plan or advice might not work for us. The choices we make need to be right for our goals.

As this series continues, I’ll try to include not only the pros and cons of the different indie publishing paths, but also how each option might match up with different success-goals. I hope you’ll join me and share your insights!

After escaping Area 51 armed only with a ukulele, Jami Gold moved to Arizona and decided to become a writer, where she could put her talent for making up stuff to good use. Fortunately, her muse, an arrogant male who delights in causing her to sound as insane as possible, rewards her with unique and rich story ideas.

Fueled by chocolate, she writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy tales that range from dark to humorous, but one thing remains the same: Normal need not apply. Just ask her family—and zombie cat.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Barnes & Noble

About Unintended Guardian, the free short story introduction to The Mythos Legacy:

A shapeshifting gryphon cursed to eternal darkness…

Sunlight shouldn’t be deadly to Griff Cyrus. Determined to break his curse, he follows an oracle’s bizarre instructions to have a magical package shipped to his apartment. Since when do brown trucks deliver mystical cures?

A lonely woman craving the spice of life…

Kala Kaneko’s social life couldn’t be more bland. When a strange parcel arrives at her door by mistake, she seizes the excuse to introduce herself to the intended recipient, her mysterious neighbor.

Fate has a twisted sense of humor…

Griff expects the package to free him from the curse, but opening the box unleashes a mythical creature bent on Kala’s death. Yet if Griff follows his instincts to protect her, he could sacrifice his last chance at freedom.

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  1. Thank you so much for inviting me to join the faculty of The Indie Author Series! I'm so excited to be here. :)

    If anyone has questions, feel free to ask them in the comments!

  2. Excellent post, and I'm so excited you'll be joining the faculty of the Indie Author Series as well. I'm looking forward to the rest of the posts in this series.

    Like you, I'm a bit of a mix. Income and high-quality products are definitely big goals for me because I don't have a "day job" outside of the writing world. On the other hand, I also mark success by how many people I'm able to help. Letters from readers and good reviews mean a lot to me because then I know I'm making a positive difference.

    1. As a "pathologically helpful" person, I know just what you mean. :) Thanks for the welcome to the faculty team!

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  3. Jami, this one is so helpful, I've killed a little tiny tree to print it off for posterity! Thanks, as always.

    1. LOL! Um, sorry? :)

      I'm glad you found it helpful. I'm looking forward to digging deeper into the subject myself. :)

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  5. Yeah, I agree with the point that there is no right path for everyone. I recall a post I read somewhere that we don't need to use the social media we feel uncomfortable with. We could just use the marketing tools we are comfortable with. So for instance, we don't need to use Twitter if we don't want to, lol. There are many ways we can promote books.

    Just a side: I find that personally, when I decide whether or not to buy and read a book by an author I don't know, I care most about the blurb. So I care even more about the blurb than about the title, cover, even sample, and even whether I already know and like the author as a person! However, I know not everyone is as blurb-focused as I am, lol, so I can't generalize my preferences to everybody.

    Ah, I remember the artist-author vs. professional-author distinction! Well, I'm still pretty much the artist-author, where things like enjoyment, writing high quality books, constantly improving my craft, and getting to know and meet awesome story characters, are still my number one goals. But I've become a little more open to the professional-author kind of perspective, as I'm at least willing to try to reach as many readers as I can, since I recognized that among my family, friends, and acquaintances who are willing to and actually read and finish my books, there may not be that many who would be my specific target audience.

    And I guess there's that thing about gradually increasing my "author self-esteem" and feeling that my books deserve to find more readers than just my friends, family, and interested acquaintances, haha. Not saying I should be arrogant now (you know how much I hate arrogance =_=), but that I should have more faith in my stories in attracting more fans. And if I think in the perspective of the reader, I WOULD appreciate the author making more of an effort to get her books out where I can see them, buy them, and read them. There were two Indie books I read recently that I really, seriously loved (and yes, I'm in love with the main heroes in them, haha). I was certainly VERY happy to find them and was grateful that the authors put their books out there. :D

    Yeah for some reason, seeing my own joy in finding books I love, gives me encouragement for my own books. I hope that one day, I will also find readers who are as crazy in love with my stories as I am with the two Indie stories I mentioned above, haha. Can't wait till I get to the editing stage so I can make my books as great and enjoyable as possible!

    So we could see developing our self-esteem and self-confidence in our stories as part of our writing path. :D

    1. Hmm, let's see if I can comment without doubling up this time. LOL!

      I agree about the importance of the blurb. :) I think it's because certain tropes are "catnip" to me, and if I see that trope hinted at in the blurb, I'm more likely to check out the Look Inside--regardless of the author, cover, title, etc.

      Ooo, author self-esteem. I like that term, and that ties in with a blog post I want to write for my blog next week, probably for Thursday. :) Thanks for stopping by!

    2. Lol catnip. I understand what you mean. For instance, if I see a story about a small group (ideally 4-6) of children or teenagers who go on some fantasy or sci fi adventure, preferably with fighting in it, I'm likely to want to check it out, lol!

      The Animorphs series is a perfect example of this type of story, haha, and that's why I read all of their very many books! (Man, I would be really thrilled if I get a reader who loved my series so much that she reads all the books too.)

      :D Yay! I'll look forward to your post next week, especially as I like this author self-esteem idea too, and am still working at gaining more confidence in my writing, haha. I also have a feeling that my "journey of increasing my author self-esteem" will never end, lol.

  6. I am dying to hold a print copy of my book in my hands! Even if I am the only one to buy it! Everything else would be a bonus.

    1. LOL! I understand. :D

      *fingers crossed* that you'll be able to make that happen!

  7. Hi Jami. Congrats on your Fiction University post! Ah, this publishing thing really baffles me as I inch ever closer to that point. Not sure what I'm going to do. Although I appreciate this post and hope that when I get to the point of publishing, things will become clearer as to what direction I should take. Thx. :)

    1. LOL! I understand, Karen. I felt paralyzed for a year by indecision and self-doubt. But things eventually gelled--especially when my beta buddy cracked the whip and made me decide *something*. ;)

  8. This post pleases me. Carry on.

  9. I think most of us write because it is impossible for us to do otherwise. That said, I use SMART goals to turn what I love into what can be shared (published) as in my book, Know Your Mission So You Can Reach Your Goals.