The Who Installment of
(W5+ H) x (IP ÷ RMs)
The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of Indie Publishing - R McCormack Style
Here we stand. At the edge of a new world. It may seem like the appropriate first question to ask is: What is this place? For me, starting with a more introspective query gives me the opportunity to decide if the new world is a place I’d like to go, explore, dwell in. So, I ask: Who am I in relation to this place?
This is the same first question I’d urge anyone to consider when deciding between a traditional path to publication and the Indie or self-publishing marketplace. Why? Well, this question happens to be the one I avoided until I found myself creatively tapped out and spent. Now, going through this internal rassle lead me right where I needed to be, so I’ll never regret it. But had I reflected on who I was as an author and who I wanted to reach with my writing, the ride would have been more pleasant.
With that said, I suspect that most Creatives today understand the general aspects of self-publishing, which essentially requires dedication to the production and marketing of a product. Next week I’ll dive into the channels and off-shoots of this industry and describe the differences between the self and Indie labels, but let’s keep our focus with the general framework of this thing called self-publishing in an effort to see who we would want—and need—to be in this new world.
Who am I?
If you really want to blow your mind, sitting in deep thought and pondering this question can do the trick. And though I won’t suggest weeks of silent meditation (unless you’re up for it), I will say self-publishing does require that we know ourselves on many different levels. Some things to decide:
Am I the kind of person who enjoys dedicating my heart and soul to crafting a quality product?
Am I the kind of person who refuses to let confusion or frustration with learning curves destroy my self-motivation?
Am I the kind of person who easily manages my time, the health of my body and mind, and my inner critic?
Am I the kind of person who is willing to accept my mistakes and know that, in the end, perfect is impossible?
Am I the kind of person who will have fun with this process, including the marketing, which is about innovation, pacing, and patience?
After spending some time answering these questions, don’t be discouraged if you said No to one or more, because there’s a follow-up question:
Am I the kind of person who’s willing to change or ask for help when I need it?
I hope you can see how each of these questions would apply to the commitment you need to make when deciding to self-publish. And if you aren’t yet sure, but are willing to admit that you may need to be flexible in the face of changing times and are willing to accept that you won’t know all the answers and will have to learn when to do it yourself and when to get help, you can overcome most any disruption.
Beyond this initial introspection, it will also be important to know if your work would fit into the self-publishing marketplace. Really, any book, including artist books and those with illustrations, will work as a self-published title. Quality becomes the issue here, and you may like knowing that on the traditional path, the editor and art department will assist you with cover designs, front and back matter, choices for fonts, and all interior formatting and structure. This is in addition to editing the content and grammar of your book. If you aren’t the kind of person who cares to be the designer and editor as well as the writer and/or illustrator, that’s okay. You just have to be willing to get help. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to pay an expensive industry consultant or professional to do the work for you. You could trade services or ask an expert to teach you. Still, you must ask: is this who I am?
The truth is, defining who you are on the front end of the self-pubbing quest is monumental because once you get into the minutiae of this world, you will be tested. Self-publishing isn’t happening in a vacuum; it exists and operates in our larger fast-paced, do-er world, and as most of us know, it’s easy to lose your footing out there. It’s easy to become disconnected from your instincts and disregard your limits...as an artist and as a human.
Who is my audience?
Another important part of the Who in this equation is to define the audience that will buy and read your book. This question alone can help you decide that, yes, self-publishing is the place for you. The reason? Some concepts are just too unique or niche for a traditional publish house to invest in. This isn’t to say boutique presses wouldn’t be willing to take on a title like, Whales and the Women Who Love Them, and it isn’t an expression of annoyance with what editors in the traditional houses are buying. Publishing is a business, and publishing a book is an expensive process. It’s better that a big house tells you they can’t sell your idea than to end up out-of-print with few sales and no audience for future titles.
So, who is your reader? Is your audience so small that you could go old school and print up just the amount of copies you need to gift/sell to your friends and family? If your audience is larger, consider whether they would buy your work as an eBook and as a print-on-demand title, or only as one or the other? The more ways you plan to sell (you-as-salesman, eBook platforms like Kindle, or in print through entities like Amazon’s CreateSpace), the more time it will take to create (and market) your product.
You also have to think about where your audience hangs out, buys books, talks about books. And what are their expectations on quality and style? Are you the kind of person who can deliver on their wants/needs? Are you the kind of person who can reach them in their natural habitat? Or are you the kind of person who can draw them—and maybe crossover readers—into your own world? Maybe you can do both. If you answer the Who Am I? questions, you’ll know.
So, here we stand. At the edge of a new world called self-publishing. As we go along in our discussion, we’ll add more elements to our equation, and hopefully in the end, you’ll be closer to a solution that fits your writing life. Just remember, the answers you come up with in the beginning stages will help you decide if you can navigate this universe without losing track of who you are as an author, artist, Creative.