Welcome to my annual Happy Independents Day post! Today I’d like to discuss one of the first obstacles you will navigate as The Indy Author: the potentially keel-scraping shoals of describing your publishing approach.
I recommend you do not describe your approach as “self-publishing.” It sounds amateurish—someone who gets drunk on a Friday night and by Monday has his or her college journals available in ebook format on Amazon (cover created in PowerPoint). It also suggests a solo endeavor, which successful indy publishing most definitely is not.
“Independent publishing” better reflects the fact that producing a high-quality book requires the participation of many professionals and subject matter experts beyond the author: the editor, the proofreader, and the book cover designer, to name a few.
But sometimes among readers, and other writers, even “indy publishing” carries a stigma. For those people, the imprimatur of a “real” (i.e., traditional) publisher implies some level of vetting: “If an agent, editor, marketing department, and publishing corporation sales force have decided a book is good enough, that’s good enough for me!” I’ve heard stories from fellow indy authors about conversing with a potential reader at an author event and having the reader ask who their publisher is. When the indy author replies that he or she published the book him- or herself, the reader replies, “Oh, I never read self-published books.”
I would be tempted to respond, “Oh, really? Which are your favorite publishers?” It wouldn’t improve my chances of making a sale, but it would give me a moment of snarky satisfaction when they would be unable to answer the question, because no one knows, or cares, who a book’s publisher is once they are pulled into the story. However, it seems unprofessional to recommend an approach that puts another person (even an obnoxious one) in such an awkward position.
I tried another approach at a major national thriller writers conference. Evidently the common conversation-starter at such events is, “Who’s your publisher?” When I would reply that I publish my books independently, I would get a polite acknowledgement, and then the person would wander away to other, more attractive targets of their time and attention.
After a few such experiences, I was feeling pretty dejected. The next time someone posed the question, I answered, “My publisher is William Kingsfield.” The person nodded sagely and replied, “Yes, I’ve heard of them.”
Much as I would have liked to believe that, I feel quite certain that they had not heard of William Kingsfield Publishers, my indy imprint. And my answer felt a bit disingenuous, and that put me in an awkward position.
Here’s the approach that has worked best for me: Whenever someone asks me who my publisher is, I reply, “I founded my own publishing company: William Kingsfield Publishers.”
The response? People invariably express admiration that I not only write books but also run my own publishing business.
Recognize your independent status as a strength, and find a way to share your status in a way that enables others to recognize it as a strength as well.