An Indie Publishing Journey: 18 months on

It’s hard to believe that I began my indie publishing journey over eighteen months ago. And that was only when I’d made the decision to self-publish, I had been contemplating it well before that.

So, 18 months on, and one indie published novel under my belt, where am I at?

Firstly, I’ve been nothing but overwhelmed at the response and sales of my debut novel, The Memories We Hide. No, I haven’t made millions (or even thousands!), but the wonderful reviews, three reprints of paperbacks (small runs), and continuing sales even now, almost six months after release have far exceeded my expectations. The support from fellow authors has been amazing, and I’ll never tire of receiving messages from strangers or running into someone I know at the shops only to have them tell me they read my book and really enjoyed it.

And while the highs have been enjoyable, there have been lows. And I always vowed that going into this process I would be upfront about the good and the not-so-good.

For example, it’s always tough to read a one or two star review. Even thought you have to have a thick skin and take them when a grain of salt, that initial kick-in-the-guts feeling doesn’t get easier.

There have also been times when I’ve experienced the stigma that surrounds self-publishing. It still unfortunately exists. And even though a lot of the times it’s just how it is and things aren’t meant to be insulting, it has still been tough.

Going into the indie publishing world as a debut author I knew it would be tough. I knew how much work would be involved and how much I needed to learn along the way. At times, it has still been overwhelming. So very overwhelming. So, I thought I’d share a few things I have found most overwhelming.

The pressure to write a series.

I’m not sure if pressure is the correct word, as there’s no external pressure, it’s simply beginning understanding that many successful indie authors are so because they write series. Readthrough is a huge thing in the indie world. Capturing readers with your first book and then directing them while they are ‘hot’ (i.e. just finished and enjoyed your book) to the next in the series and so on, is important and highly valuable. It makes sense. I get it. However, writing a series has never once crossed my mind during any stage of my writing. I rarely read a series, at least not intentionally. The closest I get is a loosely related ‘series’ of standalones.

In my one and only attempt at writing a series, I found the pressure so overwhelming that I almost gave up writing completely. When I sat back and analyzed that feeling, I was horrified. I just don’t think I’m a series kind of gal! Not yet anyway.

Of course, writing a series isn’t the only way to be a successful indie author. There are many authors who do well writing and publishing standalone novels, but the deeper into my understanding of the indie world, the more and more I discover that those writing series are leading the way.

The Self-Publishing Stigma

It’s the elephant in the room. We all want to pretend it’s not there, that the stigma has long passed. That self-published indie authors are equally well respected inside and outside the industry. I wanted to believe it too. And don’t get me wrong, it is changing…slowly. But it’s still most definitely there.

I’ve experienced it in many different ways; book bloggers who don’t review self-published authors, being passed by on interview opportunities because I’m self-published, bookstores not willing to stock self-published books, being overlooked for promotional and speaking opportunities because I’m only self-published, the ‘oh, you’re self-published‘ comments when you tell someone you published the book yourself.

It sounds very much like a case of sour grapes I know. But it’s not. It’s simply the reality. And I get it. When self-publishing first reared its head, the quality of books wasn’t up to scratch. Books weren’t edited or proofread, covers weren’t professionally designed and a lot of the time the author’s storytelling skills were subpar. But, the industry has changed. All the indie authors I know wouldn’t dream of publishing a book unless it hit all those professional markers and most self-published books these days are in fact, indistinguishable from a traditionally published book. But, nevertheless, the stigma still remains and I fear for a while longer yet.

The Learning Curve

As I’ve said, I knew there would be a steep learning curve when I dove into self-publishing. And when I think back to my limited, naive views of the indie publishing world before I began researching it, I can see just how much I’ve learned and how far I’ve come.

Not only have I already learned so much, but there is still so much to learn. It’s how I imagine trekking to the summit of the Himalayas feels. Where it’s so steep that you can’t see the top, there’s no oxygen, and you are beyond exhausted. That’s how steep the self-publishing learning curve is!

And not only is there still so much to learn because there just is and the landscape is constantly changing, but the learning gets very in-depth, very technical and very involved. It’s unbelievably time-consuming when sometimes, all I want to do is just write.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly no slouch. I love a challenge and I love working hard, but I feel like there’s so much time I’m spending on learning and researching the next thing to know that my time spent writing is dribbling away to almost nothing.

The pressure to keep writing

I’m a writer. I want to write. I want to get my next book done and move onto the one after that, and then the one after that. And that’s exactly what you need to do no matter how you are published. But I feel like I’m in a catch-22 situation. I want to write and write fast to get my books out there, but I’m lacking time because I’m still learning so much and devoting so much time to what needs to be done on the business side of writing. See my point?

So it’s not the lack of effort or desire to keep writing, it’s the pressure of the why and how.

Am I questioning my decision to go indie? No, not at all. I am so grateful for the small successes I’ve had. I’m grateful for every lovely review, comment, sale, and cheer of support. And if I can be self-indulgent for a moment, I am super proud of myself for having the courage and resolve to do it. But, eighteen months in I do feel I’m at a crossroads with what to do next. I’m not disillusioned with the process, just simply at the point where I need to consider my options as a writer; who I am, and how I work best as a writer.

So, where to next? That’s a whole ‘nother blog post for next time!