Going Indie: A Newbie Perspective

Posted January 29th, 2015, by Marie C. Collins

Has the landscape really changed — or just changed hands?

It’s been more than a month since I added my book to Amazon’s Kindle bookshelf from the quiet of my home office. Since doing so, my learning has been unexpectedly nonstop.

What did I expect to happen when I uploaded my Kindle book? As a formerly shy, still introverted person, I did not see beyond the fact that the indie author option allowed me to leapfrog over the ugly prospect of selling myself to agents. Selling myself to anyone goes against every fiber of my personality. I saw the learning curve I would need to ride to do that. And I knew that the odds of my success after undertaking the effort were stacked against me, as they are against all authors. “Easy option A-for-Amazon” was how the thing was logged in my brain.

I did not anticipate the loud “Now what?” that has been ringing in my ears since December 11, the day I quietly cradled my “baby” on Amazon.

I have a theory about life that I call “getting there by the back door.” I’ve learned that the harder you try to avoid something, the more likely you are to bring it about via an unexpected route. (Picture a circle: Label any point “the thing I flee” and run away around the circle as fast as you can. Surprise! The faster and more furious your flight, the more likely you are to turn up just where you started.)

Case in point: The back door I have been standing in front of since Dec. 11 has a sign over the lintel that reads, “Sell yourself, Marie!”

As a newcomer to the world of indie authorship, I can’t give you even a recent history of how the option of going solo has altered the publishing map, but I can tell you what I see in front of me today:

  1. I see a theoretically democratic shift in the route to publication that takes the potential for gaining readership out of the hands of the historical gatekeepers — agents and publishing houses — and puts it squarely in writers’ hands.
  2. At the same time, I see that to be read, I now have to learn to sell myself to the entire world — without the third-person validation that the imprimatur of a publishing house confers.

In the past month or so, this shift has at times been as daunting to me as selling myself to agents. Gatekeeping authority has transferred to readers (who were perhaps the rightful holder of the key all along). The number of people to “court” has actually grown exponentially. “Can I do this?!” I wondered open-mouthed as the true state of things dawned on me. I sometimes feel like I am at a huge rally, trying to get attention with a tiny handwritten sign. The game really hasn’t changed at all!

But the fact that I am here writing about this today memorializes a turning point for me. I am calling on my assets. (1) I love learning — so bring it, world! (2) I am not new to going it alone: I have supported myself as an independent writing contractor for 30 years. (3) I love to write.

And the beauty is that selling myself only gives me more opportunities to do all three.

Fellow indie authors, I would love to hear your take on this crazy roller coaster ride we’re on. What do you think? Has the landscape really changed or just changed hands?

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