Evolution of an Indie: Assume You Suck

Evolution of an IndieEntering my third year as an indie, it is my responsibility to impart sage wisdom to the world. (Don’t blink, or you might miss it.) See the series introduction post for more on my saga. But for now, lesson #2 for 2012:

In the beginning, assume you can’t do anything well.

A depressing bit of realism, I know. But I’m going somewhere with this. Indie publishing requires skills not just in writing, but in art, formatting, design, marketing, sales and social media. The fact might be that you are pretty dang good at most everything you do. If you are expressing indie art, then it’s a garunteed certainty you think you are. And that is exactly the problem.

Artists are renown for lofty passions detached from a cruel reality. We think everything we do is art, while everything else is cunning drivel at best. Unfortunately, we are wrong, most of the time. (Or at least this is often true in the beginning.)

Our critical eye can be attuned to reality through the tedious and humbling process of listening to others. (I know! What horribly uninspiring claptrap spews from my lips!) But seriously. Do it.

For the first major project, rely on other freelance professionals to help you with every step of the process. Even if you are the best cover artist alive, hire someone else to do it for you. Maybe you have been editing your friends blue book essays for years. I don’t care. Hire an editor.

Maybe you don’t have enough money. Fine, I don’t either. What indie novelist does? So you won’t be able to hire the best money can buy. Believe it or not, it is possible to find competent cover work for $100. I have found a good copy editor that averages around $200 a book (I write short novels). Professionally publishing an ebook with freelance help can be done for between $500 and $900.

If you can’t put that much scratch forward for your first project, then you should find a real job until you can save it up. Otherwise you’ll just be pissing in the pond (it scares away the fish).

After you’ve hired help the first time through, keep back a few of the steps for yourself. After a few run throughs you’ll have a good idea of which steps in the process you don’t need professional help with (and which ones you do). But if you never try professional help, trust me, in at least one aspect of the trade you will come off as an amateur schmuck.

***Standard Disclaimer: There are 3 brands of Indie:

  1. an artist expressing him/herself for the pure joy of it
  2. an artist or idealist who wishes to express an emotion or idea to the world
  3. an artist/entrepreneur who wishes to make a living as a writer

An indie can be one, two or all three of these. But knowing the composition is critical. I am all three of the above, but first and foremost I have to be #3, or I won’t be able to continue doing #2 and #1 full-time. Not all of the above applies to someone seeking #1 or #2. Man, this is sounding scatological, isn’t it?

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