Indie Writing Tips: Be Realistic
I think one of the things that surprise people is that I am not a full-time author. Sure, I have more than 30 books and novels out there. They do OK as far as sales, but there are people out there who do this as an indie writer full time and sell hundreds of books a day. I am not one of them.
So, yes I have a day job. I long for the day when I can write my books and do nothing else, but that day is not here and it may never be.
I think if you are a writer considering bypassing the whole literary agent/traditional publisher thing to do it yourself, the biggest tip I can give you is: set realistic expectations.
The people I know who do this for a living work harder than I do with the day job an my indie writing career. They spend the day working on their books or stories, but then spend hours and hours running ads on social media, culling their email mailing list and creating newsletters to do the direct email marketing that they all claim is their biggest and most successful marketing tool.
I think you need to set reasonable expectations. You do not get into writing books and publishing them yourself with the idea of earning six figures or becoming a millionaire. There are some things that just will not happen (or are very unlikely to happen) if you go this route:
1. You will not see your books in bookstores - I'm lucky in that I found a niche writing non-fiction books with some small publishers. This gave me the chance to see books with my name on them in places like Borders (RIP) and Barnes & Noble. I have done book signings in both of those places. It has helped me earn a tiny bit of credibility with bookstores, but my fiction has not made the grade. Why? Independently published books are not stocked even by small indie bookstores. Returning unsold books is key for any and all retail bookstores. Large publishers easily take back unsold books and refund the stores, mitigating losses. If you self-publish, that opportunity is lost. You'll either get your local store to only carry a few copies, or none at all. If you long to walk into a store and see your books lining the shelves, you had better find an agent or a publisher.
2. You will not see movies or TV shows based on your work - this is where the big money is. It is not impossible that an independently published book will get bought by a movie studio, but its very unlikely. If you wrote The Shack, and sold millions, then maybe. If you start a Kickstarter to raise money to create the movie yourself, sure. However, if you write what you think is a killer novel and then sit back waiting for Warner Brothers or Paramount to come knocking with a big check and a contract - you'll be waiting a long time. Movie studios want to deal with reliable properties backed by big publishing houses and those who can help shoulder the financial burden.
3. Book signings and author events - I have done solo shows. I have done a solo show where ONE person showed and had to crawl out of the store with books in a box, a red face, and went home and crawled into bed. I have done shows where the bookstore did not have copies of my current book. I have also done multi-author events with other writers where I sold a bunch of books, did sign a bunch of them, met great people and had a blast. Bookstores have a big financial output to do author events and don't want to get stuck with a bunch of unsold books. Unless they feel they can spread things out by having multiple authors - us indie guys are likely not going to have much going on.
4. Unrelenting fame - don't get into authoring as a living if you want to be famous. For every Stephen King, JK Rowling or James Patterson there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of Bryan Alaspas who have a small following, but carry no real name recognition.
So, if you want to work hard, spend hours writing, editing, formatting and marketing your own books for, sometimes, little reward - then indie publishing is your thing. If you want to set realistic goals, realize you will probably not earn a living, be willing to write for the love of writing rather than profit, then you definitely have what it takes.
I wish you luck. Work hard. Keep writing, but keep your head.