Sunday, November 4, 2012

Indie Author vs. Indie Entrepreneur

As you may have noticed, it's been a LONG time since I've posted here. There are good reasons for that, like the fact that my former house was foreclosed in August and I had to move on short notice, plus some divorce-related challenges that I can't really detail for you here.

But I've been thinking about this post for weeks now, and I'm sorry to tell you that it won't come as a welcome insight to everyone. Still, judging by the recent blog posts or inactivity of many of my online writer friends, I don't think it will come as a huge surprise to very many of you, either.

I've said all along that in order to really make a go of earning a living as an indie author, one must approach it with all the verve, dedication and business acumen of an entrepreneur. I stand by that to this day, but here's what's new: maybe not all of us need to be, nor even want to be, indie entrepreneurs.

This new paradigm of indie author-entrepreneur (I'll abbreviate it to IAE in this post) is totally different from what the idealized picture of being a Published Author was just a few short years ago. While the IAE has much greater control over her work and career, with that control comes greater responsibility, too.

You've got to SELL, SELL, SELL. You've got to PROMOTE, PROMOTE, PROMOTE. You've got to LEARN, LEARN, LEARN. You've also got to WRITE, WRITE, WRITE, because having a large published catalog is one of the commonalities among indie authors who are truly making a living at it. And once you get that momentum ball rolling, you can't stop pushing it, EVER. Not if you want to continue selling, that is.

So making it as a fulltime author means working at it, fulltime. It also means coping with the same stresses and uncertainties as any entrepreneur: unpredictable income, all the administrative duties and headaches that come with running a small business, the constant pressure to produce and promote, et cetera.

A few years into it, many indie authors are stopping to reassess. The initial rush of excitement over being able to call our own shots and write our own tickets is over, and now we're wallowing in the morning-after hangover realization that being a successful IAE means spending at least as much time on the business and promotion side of things as on writing.

All those years we spent daydreaming about being a Published Author never included scenes of bookkeeping, coming up with promotional campaigns, buying our own ISBNs, boning up on ebook tech, strategizing over our books' prices, and so on. We weren't daydreaming about running a small business, but unless we're willing to go back to the old ways of querying agents and praying for a mainstream publishing contract, that's exactly what we have to do.

Those who are trying to transition to being a fulltime IAE while working a fulltime job to pay the bills are finding it very difficult, if not impossible, to manage. It was never easy finding the time to write, let alone query agents, enter contests and so on; being an IAE adds many, many more hours of work to the authorship equation.

I've concluded that for me, it's just not worth it.

I'm not willing to give up so much of my life to this effort, even if I knew for a certainty that I'd be a Joe Konrath at the end of it: making a comfortable living as a fulltime IAE. I'm not willing to trade years of stress and 80-100 hour workweeks to achieve that particular goal, then continue working 60-hour workweeks to maintain it. Considering that I was never in it for the money anyway, I guess this is not a difficult decision for me to make. For those who are struggling with it, consider this:

Being the next Konrath may not be realistically possible for most of us indies, anyway. Remember, Konrath went in with the advantage of already having a large back catalog of mainstream-published books (plus the royalties that go with them), and he was already a fulltime author before he went indie too. His journey to fulltime IAE was much shorter and less difficult than what the rest of us are facing.

At the outset, my goal for my novels was to get them published and know they'd reached an appreciative readership. My hope as an indie author overall was to see indie authorship go mainstream and become a respectable alternative to mainstream publishing within my lifetime. I've achieved the first goal, and seen my hopes for indie authorship realized far beyond my original notions, and much more quickly.

I have a 'day job' I love that's steeped in books and media (Editor in Chief of Kindle Fire on Kindle Nation Daily). I've come out of a marriage of over 18 years, and I'm facing the happy prospect of building a new life for myself, exactly how I want it to be. I'm also thoroughly enjoying these regrettably short years of remaining time before my kids are grown and out on their own.

So while I'll still write and publish, I'll continue to run Publetariat, and I'll remain active in the publishing and indie author communities, I'm not working toward the goal of becoming a fulltime IAE, and I guess I never really was. Anyone reading this who DOES want to be a successful IAE, you have my admiration and I support your choice completely. I'm certainly not making any kind of value judgment, or trying to imply there's something better about my choice in this.

All I'm saying is, if you have decided, like me, that being a successful IAE isn't really your dream after all, that's okay. Choosing a different path does not make you a failure. Just be glad that as indie authors, we now have the flexibility to design our own career trajectories. As with pretty much everything else in indie authorship, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.