Is publishing a book like surviving high school?

I’m starting to think so, particularly after reading a rather pig-headed, anti-Indie gang forum the other day.  But don’t get me wrong, as I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion, unless of course they look to revolt to make Amazon herd Indies into a chamber and gas them next, as was the impression I got in this case.

But I won’t let it get me down.  Because it seems that doing your homework is the best survival kit you can have.  Knowing your obstacles falls under this, and in a way I’m glad it’s not math.

Here’s what I learned so far that can greatly increase your survival chances:

1.  Know that not all Indies are writers fresh out of the box.  This is a very, very bad misconception.  The new ‘kid’ in the class is not always from another planet.  I receive a good dozen review requests a month from traditionally published, successful authors who recently got the rights back to their work and have just started on the Indie route.  To gas all Indies is taking unjust kill-shots at the pros.  (Pros in this case being often authors who have written multiple successful books over a decade or more.)

2.  How others look at you starts with how you look at yourself.  If you sell yourself cheap, then in combination with the latest Indie-stigma going around, you may to be herded into the wrong category.  A lot of people have started going out of their way to ignore Indies entirely, and I feel bad for them.  Yes, there are a lot of bad books (bad in this case being unedited, improperly formatted, etc…) but there are a lot of gems I have had the pleasure of reading, many of which might have remained invisible with the tight-choices that the bigger publishers have to make.  Put on your best clothes, straighten out your hair, pull your sagging pants up and get noticed.  And watch your manners!

3.  Don’t fight with the teachers!  Reviewers are just that, in a way, the eyes on our work that rate us.  Every teacher has their own taste.  Some will like how you work, some will fail you for no legitimate reason, but ultimately what it all comes down to is what they see and it can be an extremely educational way to improve your work to better cater to your audience.  If you don’t like it, go back to the box.  This one drives me nuts every time I hear from a fellow blogger that some jerk just assaulted their Twitter and email accounts because they are incapable of seeing the value of another person’s eyes and appreciate their time.  Bad, but constructive reviews are sometimes great reviews to other people.  I remember reading a 2 star review about a week ago that threw a barrage of darts at some of the book’s not widely-accepted themes, and I was left thinking I had to add such an intriguingly different book to my shelves.  And I did. 

4.  Choose your seat carefully.  Know what genre and age group you are writing in and where to set yourself up.  If you sit with your math book next to the horror section of the class, there’s a good chance you’re gonna get your butt handed to you when they beat you dead with your own book.  It’s a common thing to receive bad reviews from people who just don’t like your genre and can’t connect with your book as a result.  Be mindful of where you sit.

5.  Do your homework!  There is so much information on the web now about publishing and being lazy is no excuse.  If you’re self-publishing, stay up-to-date, as with how the Indie revolution has exploded the rules are changing constantly.  Don’t be carrying last-year’s textbook around with you unless you’re aiming to fail.

6.  Make friends with fellow writers.  They aren’t your competition, they are your buddies and there is so much to be learned from each other.  The internet bookshelf is insanely huge, and has become a share-attention sport to gain the lead.  If you’re fighting with fellow writers to claim your spot, you’ll be fighting for eternity and selling nothing.  Even traditionally published authors are encouraged to hang out with each other and learn something.  Readers are getting pickier, and while there are still impulse-buyers, more often than not your sales will come from people who see you on a few sites and then make the decision to try you out after carefully considering for a while.

7.  Eliminate the bullies before they get their kicks from tormenting you.  Bullies are nothing but bad breath and hot air when you simply hit the ignore button, and its all-too-common that their bad habit smacks them in the face eventually.  Most social sites now have means to erase a bullies’ digital presence from your life.  If you find yourself facing off with an extremist, report them to the police, as online harassment can get them ten years to be a jerk behind bars.  Many sites have policies and means to vaporize them as well.

8.  Stay organized.  Keep your friends, contacts, homework and info in order.  Chaos costs time, and if you’re Indie, you have no time to try and befriend chaos.

9.  Keep an open mind.  With how diverse and multi-cultural and skill-different the web of people is, you need to have an open mind to hear and adapt on the fly.  There aren’t two sides to a fence–but four.  The left, the right, the top and the underground.  All sides are needed to keep the fence upright, and overlooking one of more sides can cause problems or confusion.  An example of this are pirates.  Pirates are bad, yes–but why?  Income levels, accessibility, different country laws are just some of the barriers that make them what they are.  Learn the other sides to the story and adapt so you don’t get raided.

10.  Don’t give up!  Being popular isn’t everything.  Not every book can be a bestseller and more often than not, your first book or even second will get nowhere close.  Don’t get frustrated because your Indie book isn’t keeping up with the New York Times bestsellers.  Being Indie is a marathon.  Traditionally published is a sprint to win.  Practice and determination creates a perfect outcome, and/or the next best thing; doing what you love (and still being able to afford the cake).

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