Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Equation Occasion - How

The How Installment of 
(W5+ H) x (IP ÷ RMs)
The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of Indie Publishing - R McCormack Style

Well, we’ve reached the last variable in our Indie publishing equation.  I’ve added many questions over the last several weeks, filtering the answers through the personal experience and knowledge I’ve gained so far.  I did try to keep to the facts, as I understand them at this moment, but today’s post will be more of a departure into opinion-based material because today we ask:

How do I make the most of my Indie experience?

Just like all things in life, the Indie publishing experience will be shaped by each individual’s skills, expectations, and unique view on personal expression.  The things I may find difficult, another person may breeze through.  The things that send me into fits of frustration may be a delightful challenge for another.  Knowing that Indie publishing is different for everyone is the reason why, in our first post Who, I suggested that you define who you are on the front end.  It’s also why I suggested making a Known and Unknown list in the Where do I start? post.  As you embark on this quest, you’ll hear and read lots of advice, tips, and stories, and it’s helpful to know which bits apply to you and which aren’t necessarily relevant to your process.

I’d say the most important things I was told or read would enhance my experience were:

Keep reminding yourself, you can do this 
Always be aware of your platform or brand 
Trust your creative gut

Here are a few things I wish someone had told me in order to make my experience better:

Give yourself lots (and lots) of room for this
Build up your energy reserves (on every level) before you begin
Leave your perfectionist tendencies at the door
You aren’t a mule, and don’t let your inner critic drive you like one
Celebrate everything, find joy in even small tasks, and laugh often

As I write all this, I’m thinking back on how I adjusted—and didn’t adjust—my work habits or goal-setting based on these ideas.  And it’s interesting that only one of these pieces of advice regard the actual business of writing, and the other stuff is a bit more, shall we say, touchy-feely.  Which is precisely why I’ve included them, and I would caution to never overlook physical and mental boundaries and strengths because these elements can make or break you during big creative movements like this.

Now let’s draw in more items that relate to the organization and actual doing portion of the experience.  Below, I’ll divide out larger parts of the process, and under each heading, list some things to consider if you want to make the most of this deal.

Make the Most of Research and Development By:
Taking a few days (or a week or a month even) to tool around self-publishing blogs and websites or hit the (Independent) bookstore or library in your neighborhood to just absorb information

Finding books and marketing plans that meet your high standards (you’ll be employing Steal Like an Artist techniques as you move forward)

Making your Known and Unknown lists, which will help with goal-setting and deciding who you’ll have to call on to help with things you don’t know how to do

Deciding what your schedule will be and how you’ll manage your time

Preparing your family and friends for the shit-that’s-about-to-hit-the-fan (if they need convincing about the time and energy this will take, show them your Unknown lists)

Preparing yourself with sleep, good food, exercise, and a stress management plan that’s do-able when you’re buried in editing, designing, and uploading

Make the Most of Your Writing and Revising Time By:
Keeping your butt in the chair except when you need to rest, eat, sleep, move the body, read a book, or have a little fun

Setting up your work environment with inspirational items and all needed resources

Asking critique partners to give you honest feedback, and then…

Sitting with that feedback and being honest with yourself about the writing or concept

Asking family and friends to cheer you on and generally proclaim how amazing it is that you’re doing this (this will counteract the brutal honesty of your critique partners)

Not analyzing the marketplace (many a Creative has changed their focus midstream to meet industry trends or demands)

Make the Most of Your Design and Uploading Time By:
Remaining flexible and creatively open

Referring to those books you consider high quality and allowing yourself to learn from and be inspired by how they used fonts, formatted the interior, and designed their cover

Using review and proof-ordering wait times to work on other tasks, like building a web or blogsite, or just to reenergize

Taking the proofing periods seriously, giving a critical eye to all elements of the book

Not being afraid to change, while also…

Trusting your vision with one eye on marketing (different from the marketplace)

And speaking of marketing...

This is a portion of the Indie publishing equation that I’ve really only mentioned in passing, and I haven’t been sure why I was holding out on you readers.  But as I outlined this post, the reason suddenly came to me.  Brace yourself for a serious truth.

Marketing is distracting.

What I mean by this is that marketing requires just as much artistic thinking as bookmaking, and from what I’ve learned, heard, and witnessed, those who simultaneously use their creative energy for publishing and marketing tend to burn out, or fall short.  Remember, this is about the book.

Now, I will say that there are a select group of people who have a well-established platform or brand and need a book to move their vision forward.  These people would still do well to focus on a quality book, but because they have a built-in audience and may have a history of marketing other products or services, would not be robbed of creative ideas or motivation needed for the book. 

With that said, I’m going to stand by my opinion that to be effective most people need to treat the bulk of marketing like a follow-up project.  I mentioned that establishing your target audience, defining your platform and/or brand, and doing some basic research and brainstorming can all happen during the creation of the book, but once the book’s in print and/or sent live as an eBook, you can turn your full focus to the bulky parts of marketing, which includes:

Building a online presence, most commonly done with a web or blogsite
Establishing a relationship with Independent bookstores and/or libraries
Planning events, charitable outreach, and/or promotions and giveaways
Networking (appropriately) online to announce your book and promotions
Creating a word-of-mouth campaign
Earning media attention through book reviews and/or press releases
Developing and living your platform/brand

A word on platforms and brands: your platform may not be easily detectable at first, but just decide what you want to bring to the reading community and work from there.  Your platform is a sort of mission statement.  Branding can be a bit confusing, and I hope I articulate this in an understandable way.  If your brand only describes your writing/book(s) and any related products/services, it becomes separate from your platform.  If your brand describes you as an author and your writing/books then the two essentially combine to be a platform.  Sometimes the author is the brand and the book is about the author, but again, in this instance the industry uses the terms brand and platform interchangeably.  This happens a lot with public speaking professionals who have one topic they present.   

To close out the marketing conversation, I’ll point out a few things that will help you make the most of your experience, though, you may have heard these before.  First, do only what you’ll love.  This includes joining social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, or starting a blog.  Second, it’s said often, but deserves repeating, there are online rules of marketing etiquette, and being a good social media steward will earn you the respect of your peers.  And the final note: when I reached out to a savvy marketing professional friend of mine for advertising and public relations advice, she talked first about pacing.  She reminded me that marketing a product is a marathon, not a sprint, and adopting this attitude will not only help us get the most from our marketing experience, but from the whole entire process (thanks SM).

(W5+ H) x (IP ÷ RMs)

So there you have it.  The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of Indie Publishing, R McCormack Style.  I can’t claim to know it all, and I’ve made and continue to make mistakes, but I wanted to share my experience with those that have been wondering about the risks and rewards.  I hope there’s some morsel in this series that speaks to you and helps you decide how to invest in your own personal expression and creativity.  Wishing you abundant words and helluva good time!

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