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Thursday, September 12

Indie Author Reality Check: Are You Ready to Go Indie?

By Ray Flynt

Part of The Indie Author Series


JH: The decision to go indie or not is a choice authors have to make for themselves. Ray Flynt returns to the lecture hall today to share a fun quiz and thoughts on the "indie or traditional?" publishing path choice. 

Why would you want to be an Indie Published author? Is it right for you? Are there any downsides? (Spoiler alert: Yes.) Isn’t it better to become traditionally published? (Ummm… stay tuned).

We’re going to begin with a quiz. It’s okay, I’m not looking over your shoulder as you mark your paper.

Get ready...set...go!


1. What is your primary goal as a writer?

a. To write an entertaining story
b. To have a story published by a major publisher
c. To see my story turned into a movie
d. To become famous

2. How familiar are you with the paths to publishing?

a. I stay informed about the process, attend conferences, communicate with fellow writers, and am current on the latest trends
b. I read a book about it a few years ago
c. Facebook and Twitter clue me in
d. My aunt in Hoboken keeps me fully up to date

3. How much time are you willing to invest in writing to become an author?

a. As much time as my work and family obligations will reasonably permit
b. Only when I feel like it
c. A couple of hours each week
d. I’ll write on holidays

4. Once you’ve written a book, how much money are you willing to invest to bring it to market?

a. Enough to ensure a quality product that I can be proud of and people will enjoy
b. Nothing, unless I hit the lottery
c. I figure they’re going to pay me
d. I’ll invest my holiday bonus

Scoring Your Test


While there aren’t necessarily any wrong answers to the quiz, let me suggest that all of the A responses are the most prudent way to think about Indie Publishing. Although, if you have a knowledgeable aunt in Hoboken, I’m pretty sure Janice would like to sign her up for guest articles here at Fiction University.

Being an Indie Published Author gives you extraordinary control over your work, while at the same time conferring lots of responsibility. It begins with crafting the best possible story. Shakespeare said it best: “Unto thine own self be true.”

Don’t be sloppy. Check your spelling. Inject clarity into your prose. Follow the standards of the publishing industry, which are easily found in countless professional examples. Thousands of people will read your words without ever having met you. Your mother may overlook those five misspelled words in your first chapter (because she loves you; you can do no wrong), but readers will not.

(Here's more on Give Your Self-Published Book Its Best Shot)

I participate on several writing forums and routinely see posts from new writers along the lines of, “I’m writing a book. How do I get it published?” Wow!

Then I remember that I was new to the writing game once and had lots of questions. Heck, I’ve been writing for more than thirty years and still have lots of questions. Curiosity. Time. Experience. Success…and even Failure bring us memorable lessons.

Writing and publishing is no different than any other endeavor in life. If you woke up this morning and decided to scale El Capitan, it might be good to visit the local fitness club equipped with a climbing wall first. Learn the ropes, literally.

You’re reading this blog post, which means you’ve already discovered Fiction University. So you’re on the right path.

(Here's more on 5 Tips for Success from an Indie Author)

The BEST Thing About Indie Publishing


I titled this post a Reality Check. I love being an Indie Published author because of the control it gives me over the entire publishing process: Formatting. Cover art. Tracking sales.

Time, in my opinion, is the biggest investment you’ll have in becoming an Indie Author. I’m retired from having a day job, and it takes me at least six months to write a book. Despite programs like NaNoWriMo, writing fast doesn’t work for me. Everyone has a slightly different process.

I edit as I go, in addition to editing when I’ve finished the manuscript. After completing Chapter 1, I’ll go back and read it (invariably making tweaks) before I move on to Chapter 2, etc. I have found critique groups to be invaluable. They read and comment on the work in progress. As a result of their feedback, I might end up going back to earlier chapters to plant seeds that will grow along with the story.

Once my manuscript is complete (NOTE: It’s not a finished book, yet.), I send it to a line editor for her input. I then ask beta readers to comment on the entire story. In recent years, my final editing step is to read the entire manuscript aloud. As you can imagine, that takes time. However, reading aloud catches repetitive words or clunky phrasing.

At that point, it’s ready for publishing. Is it error free? I’ve discovered that it isn’t. Readers (fans, really) will let me know if they spot a typo. Posted reviews might take me to task for a misused word. The good thing is that as an Indie Publisher I can make immediate corrections.

You DO NOT have to throw a lot of money at creating quality Indie Published works. My pre-publication costs are typically $250 (could be more depending on the artwork used for the cover). I have design software to create my own covers and friends conversant with Photoshop bring their A-game to help me with the process.

(Here's more on Path to Success: Writer as Entrepreneur)

Wouldn’t it be better to concentrate on the writing and let a traditional publisher do all those other things?

In my experience (my first book was traditionally published), you’ll spend a lot of time finding an agent (or a publisher directly if they don’t require an agented submission), and then you’ll sign away the rights to your work in exchange for an advance. You might even get a three-book deal. They will bring your book to the marketplace, but once published, YOU still bear the bulk of the responsibility for marketing. So it’s not like you’re going to save time.

Publishers are in business to make money. Trust me, when they give you an advance of $2,500 for your first novel, they don’t plan to print any more copies than required for them to make back their investment. If your book takes off, you’ll be in good shape.

But what happens when, a few years down the road, you’re publisher decides not to publish any more of your books? You’re back to square one. It could even take years to get back your rights.

(Here's more on Are You Good Enough? Evaluating Whether You're Really Ready to Self-Publish)

Marketing Reality


I’m going to repeat the wise words of a successful author friend. “Marketing is the merry-go-round from which you can never get off.”

The key for an Indie Published author is to develop a plan to maximize your return on investment. There are lots of low-cost strategies to market your book. In our next blog installment, we’ll elaborate on those as well as how to spend a marketing budget wisely.

Before we leave the topic of marketing, please know that being an Indie Published author means spending time on the business aspects of your career. Another of my author friends estimates that you’ll spend 40% of your time on writing and the balance on other issues.

Before We Wrap Up


Please post in the comments section below about your marketing challenges. We’ll tackle your questions and concerns next time.

Ray Flynt authors two series: Brad Frame mysteries, and one featuring journalist Ryan Caldwell. He’s also written a political suspense, Kisses of an Enemy. A native of Pennsylvania, Ray wrote and performs a one-man play based on the life of Ben Franklin. Ray is a member of Mystery Writers of America and active with their Florida Chapter. He is a life member of the Florida Writers Association. Ray retired from a diverse career in criminal justice, education, the arts, and human services.

Website | Goodreads |



About Unforgiving Shadows

Brad Frame lived a serene but aimless existence on Philadelphia’s Main Line until his mother and sister were kidnapped and murdered.

The tragedy transformed his life.

After helping the police catch their killers, and with the aid of his mentor, Philadelphia Detective Nick Argostino, Brad opened his own private detective agency vowing to help bring justice to others whose lives had been turned upside down.

Eleven years later, Brad is invited to the execution by lethal injection of Frank Wilkie, one of two men responsible for the death of his mother and sister.

Thinking that Wilkie might have something to say, Brad reluctantly attends. Wilkie remains silent, but as Brad exits the prison the chaplain races after him, thrusting the condemned man’s Bible into his hands.

Within hours another man is anxious to get his hands on Wilkie’s Bible, and Brad suspects the motivation could involve the still-missing ransom money.

But as the reason becomes clear, Brad’s world is once again turned upside down. Aided by his associate, Sharon Porter, Brad unravels an eleven-year-old mystery that casts new suspicion on family, neighbors and business associates alike.

UNFORGIVING SHADOWS is the first book in the successful Brad Frame Mystery Series.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble |Indie Bound |

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