Two days ago was the first anniversary of one of the most momentous days of my life, my first publication date. (I missed making a fuss on the actual day because I was neck-deep in working on Enemy of the Fae, and honestly, I forgot. Heh.) Yep, a year ago, on April 4th, Ordinary Angels was released by a small press. This was before things went (sadly) south with that publisher and before I discovered the joys of indie publishing.
As I’ve said many times on this blog, when I decided to go indie, I made a ten year plan. I’m still very much at the beginning of that road, but it feels somewhat significant that I’ve passed the one year mark.
Here’s what I’ve learned in that time:
1. Dreams are fluid. I thought “publication” was my dream and that finding a publisher and seeing my name on a book would be the pinnacle of satisfaction. It did feel like an achievement, but on the other hand, it didn’t bring what I’d expected. Only by leaving my original publisher and going on my own did I find the success I wanted.
2. Success is fluid. I’m never really satisfied. As soon as I reach a goal, I move the bar. I wanted publication, got it, but then I wanted success. I had to define success, so I picked a number of book sales per month I thought was achievable. I blew the doors off that goal in the first few months, so I raised my expectations. I met my two-year goal within six months of going indie, so I raised my expectations even higher. Ambition is great, but I have to remind myself that by continuing to raise the bar, I’m depriving myself of any feeling of satisfaction. I have a new mantra that I repeat to myself when I’m feeling angsty about my ambitions: “Shut up. You’re doing well.” (It usually works.)
3. There are many paths to success. A year ago, I would have paled at the thought of going indie. My small publisher was, in my mind, a first step down a difficult but ultimately rewarding path to success. A year ago I would have been thrilled to accept an advance anywhere north of a few thousand bucks. Now I would feel insulted at an offer like that, since as an indie, I make more money than I did at my last “real” job. I’m not a millionaire, but I’m paying the bills. I don’t usually talk about how much money I make because I was raised to think it’s tacky to discuss such things. So this is not “look at me, I’m making lots of dosh”, but “I found a path to success, and I know you can too.” You might find your path with the Big 6, with a small press or by going it on your own as I did, but keep your options (and your mind) open. It’s a fabulous time to be an author, simply because we have so many choices that simply weren’t there a couple of years ago.
4. Take all publishing advice with a grain of salt. For example, there are a lot of people out there telling you you should always self-publish or you should never self-publish. The thing that strikes me is that a great deal of that advice is coming from people who haven’t done the thing they’re arguing against. I’ve done both traditional and indie publishing, and I found what works for me. Would I go back to traditional model? For enough money and the right contract, sure. For me the decision isn’t idealogical, but about meeting business goals. So yeah, read the industry blogs, listen to what people have to say, and use a critical eye to sift through. Do the numbers and experiment. But don’t make choices just because anyone else told you it was a good idea. Remember there’s no limit to the number of people who can be wrong at the same time, so just because something is popular doesn’t make it right for you.
5. Hard work, sweat and tears, toil and heartache… they’re all worth it. As my books have gotten more popular, I’ve started getting regular feedback from readers. There is nothing in this world quite like having someone write to me about my characters. It’s like having mutual friends, and I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to have other people care about them as much as I do. I work hard… maybe too hard sometimes. I fall into bed exhausted. I forget to eat. I wake up in the middle of the night, worrying I’ll somehow disappoint those people who have come to love my characters. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Honestly, I’d do this job for free. Some things are more important than money.
So happy anniversary, readers!