Indie ReCon took place a few weeks ago, and it has been a smashing success. It made such a buzz in the social media world that #indierecon was actually trending on Twitter on its first day! If you didn’t have a chance to “attend” be sure to look out for it next year. But so that you don’t completely miss out on the wealth of information, you can read through what I consider to be the five most important take-away lessons from the conference.
From the amazing content to the awesome giveaways to the fact that it was completely and utterly free and flexible, Indie ReCon has given the indie author community a wealth of encouragement and knowledge. Follow as many of the links as you can and read through the rest of the great content — you won’t regret it!
1. The Industry Is Changing
If there was one message that came through loud and clear, it’s that indie publishing has truly arrived. While there still seems to be somewhat of a stigma associated with indie publishing, there is no way to argue with the incredible success of many indie authors. They are creating what the market wants and offering it at an affordable, accessible price. Authors have more control over their work, and readers reap the benefits.
But anyone who thinks that indie publishing is easy or somehow easier than traditional publishing should have another think coming. If your goal is simply to have your book in print so that you can give copies to your family at the reunion this year, then yes, indie publishing is easier than traditional publishing. But if you want to make a living as a writer — if you want your books to survive and thrive in the marketplace, then you need to be incredibly savvy and dedicated. Indie authors are a publishing house all in themselves — if you want to see what hats you have to wear as an indie author, check out this list here. And your success rides on exactly one person: you.
That can be freeing or completely intimidating. Fortunately, the access to online classes and content (like what’s provided here at Million Pens) can teach you the skills that you may not yet have so that you can achieve your dreams of success.
The industry is also changing in other respects. If you’re not familiar with the explosion in the New Adult category — which matures the YA category just a smidge, allowing authors freedom to explore themes and deal with subjects that wouldn’t be appropriate in YA novels but without completely crossing into the realm of adult fiction — then you should take note. If you’ve struggled to find the right niche for your not-YA-but-not-adult novel, you just might have caught the next big publishing wave.
2. Indie Authors are Entrepreneurs
The sooner in their writing career that indie authors realize that they are in business — that they are selling a product and building a brand – the sooner they will meet with success. If you’re in this for the long haul, then you need to think seriously about things like business plans. As an author-entrepreneur, you need a clear vision of your goals. A business plan is one piece of that puzzle, where you lay out your vision of your brand (that’s you as author) and your roadmap for building success. Another piece of that puzzle is a marketing plan, which includes everything from pricing strategies to blog tours.
As your own publishing house (which you are, as an indie author), you are responsible not just for writing an incredible story, but also for every aspect of its production, from amazing cover design to formatting to pricing and distribution. It’s a business. You are not just a wordsmith…you’re an entrepreneur, and you’re building a business.
3. Indie and Traditional Publishing Aren’t Mutually Exclusive
There are examples galore of indie authors who sign book deals with traditional publishers, and of traditionally-published authors who decide to go indie for one or all of their future publications. As the industry changes (see #1), I think we’ll see more and more cross-over between what used to seem an insurmountable divide.
Indie authors can partner with agents and editors to handle aspects of their writing business that they’d rather not navigate alone — like film rights or negotiating with traditional publishing houses. Author C.J. Lyons has been very successful by building a hybrid career in both the indie and traditional publishing worlds — you can watch her explain the secret to selling a million ebooks here.
So don’t box yourself away from opportunities — you are master of your universe, and you can actually follow both roads, or blaze your own trail. It’s a great time to be in the book business!
4. You Control Your Level of Success
The great thing about being an entrepreneur is that you are your own boss, and you control your success. As an author, resources to help you through your publishing journey are multiplying by the day. You can put as much or as little effort into this endeavor as you choose. You get to decide. As you work through defining your brand and developing a business plan and a marketing strategy, you define what success means for you. If something isn’t working the way you hoped, you have the freedom to change it up and do something different. You can build a team to help you reach your goals, but you are the CEO — it all rides on you.
Even if you decide eventually to go the traditional route, you will still be largely responsible for your own success. You will be the driving force behind your book’s marketing. You will have a significant part to play in its sales. You will still have a lot of legwork to do to achieve your goals for your career. Any tools you develop or skills you learn will benefit you no matter how your career unfolds.
5. Never Stop Studying Your Craft
And that brings me to my final takeaway from Indie ReCon: don’t ever stop learning. There’s always someone ahead of you on the track, and I’ve discovered that writers are a remarkably generous lot. Have you ever stopped and wondered at the way that most authors eventually end up as teachers? They offer classes at the community college, on their website, or in person through seminars and workshops. They blog or offer podcasts. You can learn an incredible amount about everything from writing compelling characters to brainstorming your book to marketing strategies by sitting at the feet of those who have more experience.
Online writer’s conferences like Indie ReCon are once again revolutionizing the business. What used to require days away from home, travel expenses, and fees is now available on your home computer for free. The networking opportunities aren’t as great, so you should still try to attend a live writer’s conference if you can manage it, but the education is phenomenal.
If you’re not learning and growing as a writer and a professional, then you’re sliding backward. Don’t be afraid to spread your wings and fly.