Challenges of a Mature Indie Career - Indie Pub It
Indie Publishing Update
I have been indie publishing for three years, this month. In indie terms, I’m an old-timer.
I have 45 indie titles in my “portfolio”, an 800 page+post site that I built and have maintained myself for the last 15 years. I also have a day job that covers the few bills my writing income does not (and the margin is diminishing each month).
Over the last six months I have become aware of the different set of challenges a settled and established indie author must face. These challenges each have their own solutions, but many of the solutions are strategies and tactics an author should put in place before the realities of a mature career become overwhelming.
The Reader Demand for More
Once you have a viable, vocal readership, the demand for more is a constant you cannot ignore.
With a backlist and a readership at significant levels, you must deliver new titles regularly, defined by the schedule you have kept to date. If you’ve been delivering a new title a month (go, you!), then you must meet readers’ expectations and continue to deliver monthly.
Because of the direct communications with authors that readers are swiftly growing to enjoy, you will find your email and blog, Facebook and other social networks start to fill with messages that must be answered.
Start early in your career:
Time the release of your titles. This particularly applies to re-issues, and short stories that you can crank out quickly. Set up a title release pattern early, spreading releases a rate you can keep up with, so your readers don’t feel like their supply has been cut off after a rash of releases.
Establish your writing schedule and teach yourself to honour it. When you have only a couple of titles, procrastinating your way through a week of not writing doesn’t seem like a big deal. However, you’re teaching yourself non-productive habits that will put pressure on you later, when you really must write.
Set up your communication with readers, and methods and policies for handling them. A regular schedule for answering reader messages keeps you sane, while rules for answering remove pressure, later. For example: Choosing never to respond to abusive emails, keeping all responses under 250 words. Establish your policies ahead of time, so you don’t answer inappropriately or waste time, later.
Managing Your Backlist
This is the biggie. For a long backlist, simple tasks take on gargantuan proportions.
Front and End Matter
Keeping your front and end matter up to date is a huge challenge when you have fifty books. A simple bio update (for example) must be replicated across 50 books and those 50 books republished…on all platforms.
Any improvements to your layout and formatting in new titles must be replicated in older titles so they don’t age.
The links in the back of your book pointing to the next book in the series, or the next book you would like readers to buy absolutely must be current and correct, or you will lose sales. As you release new titles, the previous titles in series must be updated with the new book’s buy pages on all the platforms.
Publishers sometimes (not often, thankfully!) rearrange their stock, or the way they build their permalinks (a.k.a. URLs). For example, Kobo restructured their pages about six months ago. A change of URL for the buy page involves changing every single book in your backlist.
Also starting early in your career:
Learn to format and convert your books yourself. This will save you weeks of waiting time, thousands of dollars in book formatting services, and allows you to be nimble and keep all your books current.
Set up a schedule for reviewing and updating older backlist titles regularly. Say, one older title a week or month. Keep a checklist of elements to review, and keep updated template pages for your front and back matter so you’re not reinventing the wheel with each title review.
Once you’re established, if you add a new distributor to your roster, setting up your backlist with that platform means adjusting each book to the platform’s unique specifications, converting to the correct format, and updating the front and end matter to suit the new platform.
Hiring out the conversion process doesn’t reduce the load much: You still have to provide a current file for each title. Therefore, it pays to:
Decide early on which distribution platforms you want to use. It’s easier to be inclusive, rather than exclusive. It’s far easier to remove books from an outlet if you decide the outlet doesn’t work for you, than to install every single book in your backlist if you want to try them out later.
Again, learn to format and convert your books yourself. Saves time, and many thousands of dollars.
The meta data you list on each book’s page, like series information, can date very quickly. A new title in a series means changing every series titles’ site page, too.
Any reorganization of your site at all becomes more time consuming by a factor directly related to how many back titles you have. The more you have, the bigger the job.
Get your ducks in a row early. Sweat over a website design that is structured and flexible enough to cope with massive numbers of pages and books. Look for a CMS (Content Management System) design that will grow with your career. Make decisions about page designs and stick with them.
Build yourself a schedule of review and maintenance (hint: try reviewing a title’s webpage when reviewing that title’s front and end matter and design.)
Doing it yourself really does save money and time, plus it gives you the flexibility to make changes on the fly and have your product look fresh and current at all times. But the downside is that DIY demands time you may not have had to worry about when you farmed formatting and site work out.
Even if you continue to farm those tasks out, as your backlist grows bigger, everything an indie author must attend to starts to take up significant chunks of time.
Acknowledge that you must spend the time to provide a great product. Schedule time for book maintenance and/or site maintenance. Settle your schedule into a habit early on, so it doesn’t feel like you’re depriving yourself of writing time, later.
As your backlist grows along with your career, don’t shortchange yourself on these tasks. If you become very successful and your revenue allows it, take the time to find the best, most efficient and most trustworthy experts to do these things for you, while you write. Ignore them at your peril.
Columnist: Tracy Cooper-Posey writes erotic vampire romance series and hot romantic suspense. She has been nominated for five CAPAs including Favourite Author, and won the Emma Darcy Award. She published 35 titles via legacy publishers before switching to indie publishing in March 2011. She has published 26 indie titles to date. Her indie books have made her an Amazon #1 Best Selling Author and have been nominated four times for Book Of The Year. Byzantine Heartbreak won the title in 2012. Tracy has been a national magazine editor and for a decade she taught romance writing at MacEwan University. An Australian, she lives in Edmonton, Canada with her husband, a former professional wrestler, where she moved in 1996 after meeting him on-line. Her website can be found at http://TracyCooperPosey.com