Writer’s Journal: Success and the Self-Publisher

Writer's place of peace, Success and the self-publishingIndie Publishing, or self-publishing, is slowly assuming a skin of respectability. It’s a thin skin, subject to the puncture of snobbery, self-doubt and, ultimately, the bruising engagement with readers, but self-publishing  is a democratising force for thousands of people who don’t have the contacts or the desire to submit to the withering forces of traditional publishing.

However, anyone serious about indie publishing has to be clear-headed about the process. It’s not just about the writing, or the marketing, or the social media, or the reviews. It’s a way of life. It has to be integrated into everything you do, otherwise you will not succeed.

Self-Publishing as a Business?

Many people online talk about it as a business. I’m not sure it’s helpful to think in these terms. I think what they really mean is ‘take it seriously, don’t play at it’. For most writers of fiction, especially self-publishers the feat of writing is the act of finding tiny spaces of time in a busy life, between family and other work or freelance commitments. With it comes dreams of success, appreciation, simple acknowledgement.  A business though, to survive, needs to make a profit, to pay its bills, to bring in money to fund development and research, to bridge the gap between paying out for goods and services and the point where customers pay for what they’ve received, to pay the employees, the rent.

A self-publisher has the luxury of not having to think like this: focus on the writing, think about the world of the book. Think about the audience too, but just get on and write!

Fitting it in

There is a distinction between the professional writer, the copywriter or journalist whose writing is costed and planned, who bill for the word or by the hour, who negiotiate with a third party before putting pen to paper, and the mainly fiction writer who fits everything in around the real business of living and working.

I know writers who take their children to school, squeeze in an hour of writing before the shopping and other chores take over, I know others who get up early to feed on the calm of early morning, and those who wait, tired at the end of the day, for everyone else to go to bed, to wrap themselves in the blanket of the night and write while everyone else sleeps their life away.

For the 95% of writers who are trying to express themselves in their writing, the life of writing is the act of planning and crafting, writing hasty notes during the day, observing relationships and events all around, remembering the sunsets, the concantation of sounds as the natural world fights it out with the industrial all around us, the aromas of the shops, the memories of our past and the fleeting insights that assault our everyday lives.

What is Success?

Beyond this, there is the serious business of defining success. We all have a personal vision of success and should not be bullied into a received wisdom about success. When I was a teenager I remember my first poem was published in a small journal called Wayfarer. I had no connection with them, they had chosen the poem on merit and oh boy was I chuffed? It kept me going for months. That was a success at the time and gave me confidence in every other part of my life. I don’t think I told anyone about it at the time because I didn’t know anyone who wrote, or anyone who would understand how much it would mean, but that didn’t matter: I knew, that’s what mattered. Now we have Twitter and Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, blogs and so much more to share these personal successes.

So, success in self-publishing is about setting personal goals and working consistently at achieving them. Whatever our circumstances all creative writers feel compelled to write, but to combat the dark forces of  distraction and procrastination we need to identify our goals. Sometimes of course, these goals change as we adapt to new circumstances and barriers.

At the moment, my goal is to create a corpus of genuinely good writing, in a fictional world that encompasses novels, short stories and novellas. When I’m happy with the writing, when it’s edited, then I’ll be ready to release and promote it, whatever the consequences!

By the way, the image at the top of this post is another photo from my writing space, with a few treasured books, a 1975 Fender Strat and some of my daughter’s endless supply of items in need of repair.

Writing Tips

  • From the Creative Penn website, an article on lessons learned from a first publishing deal, here.
  • From Kristin Lamb’s blog a terrific post on honing your self-publishing skills, here.

And some other posts on this site you might be interested in:

Do you have any strategies to keep yourself going? I’d love to hear.