When did you begin indie publishing?
My first venture took place late in 2010, at the SmashWords eBook publishing website. The novel was Which Art In Hope: the first volume of my “Spooner Federation” science fiction series. I was gratified to receive excellent reviews and a great many readers almost immediately thereafter, which moved me to put my other, long neglected books at the site in short order. Today, however, my eight novels are available through Amazon, both as eBooks and paperbacks.
How did you make the choice to go indie?
My stories tend to be fairly far out of the mainstream. Publishers’ editors have frequently returned my manuscripts with comments to the effect of “I love it, but I can’t imagine how we could market it.” That seemed a clear indication that if I wanted a readership, I would have to seek it on my own.
What do you enjoy most about being an indie author?
The sense of not being beholden to a gatekeeper is precious, but even more gratifying than that was the huge surge of readers I acquired upon putting my books before the public. I never expected that sort of reception, nor did I expect that I would receive so many emails from readers around the world, all of them eager to converse with me about the themes in my books. They displayed a hunger for my sort of story that, before I issued my books, I could only hope was out there somewhere.
What do you think is the hardest part about being an indie author?
Even the most successful indie writer is naked before the world. He must arrange for everything himself. The absolute worst aspect of that is his worry that his judgment of matters such as cover art and promotional blurbs might not be accurate. The proliferation of specialists in those matters has helped, but the essential solitude of the indie writer remains…and with it, the constant fear that “it could be done better,” for many different meanings of “it.”
What advice do you have for new and aspiring authors?
Above all, refine your craft. It’s simply not enough to have stories to tell; you must also have sufficient command of the mechanics of prose storytelling to be capable of doing the job without embarrassing yourself. There are any number of freelance editors available to help you with that, though (of course) their efforts come at a price. After that, never be reluctant to admit that there are things you don’t know, or aren’t particularly good at. Humility is an attractive characteristic; among other things, it attracts help from persons who might just be competent at the skills you lack.
If you had it to do over again, would you make the choice to go indie?
Definitely. I’ve accepted that my sort of fiction is of no interest to the “above ground” publishing world for reasons of difficult marketing. Once I internalized that lesson — and it took a long time for me to do so — there was only one direction in which to turn.