What’s So Special About Indie?
Now that virtually every person with a keyboard and Internet connection is a published author, what’s so special about you?
Let’s face it, how many of us roll our eyes when yet another “new author” adds us as a friend on social media, and then blasts a “Buy my book” link over and over? Being an indie author was special in 2008. Today, it is not only something not worth declaring, but is probably something you shouldn’t even mention. It’s not special. It’s exceedingly common.
I’ve been a big proponent of always staying ahead of the crowd. Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say it’s best to be totally oblivious of the crowd. That’s why I’ve been fascinated by the social-media discussions here at WG2E. Because conventional wisdom tends to be conventional, and convention in writing is to fail.
You can say there are exceptions to the rules, but look at some of the conventional wisdom I keep hearing quoted in social media as the Indie Gospel:
John Locke broke through via successful blogging.
That’s absolute crap! He hasn’t blogged since June 22, and someone like J.A. Konrath gets more post comments in an hour than Locke does in a month. John Locke got lucky with some Amazon algorithms, and to that, you can attribute probably 950,000 of his sales. If you think differently, and if you follow the blueprint in his guidebook and expect to sell a million books, please let me know if you make it. Locke’s genius can’t be reproduced, nor can his timing, situation, and luck.
Amanda Hocking broke through via successful blogging.
That’s absolute crap! Those of us hanging out on Kindleboards last year saw her explosion—it was luck. She had maybe 200 people following her blog at the time, and she herself seemed as surprised as anyone. You don’t parlay 200 followers into a seven-figure book contract through spontaneous strategy. It was timing, Amazon algorithms, and luck. True, passionate book bloggers helped fuel the success, but without the feeding by Amazon algorithms, none of it happens. None.
J.A. Konrath broke through with successful blogging.
That’s absolute crap! Joe himself admits his blog doesn’t sell books. He uses it to educate writers, partly because he wants to be “right” about the indie era. Sure, you couldn’t read an ebook article in 2010 without the author invoking Joe’s name, and that certainly didn’t hurt, but Joe rarely shows up on Twitter and Facebook. And he’s the first to admit he got lucky.
You have to be on Twitter and Facebook!
That’s absolute crap! He doesn’t get talked about much because he doesn’t get up on the indie platform, but J.R. Rain just may be the most successful indie author on the planet. He doesn’t blog at all and maintains only a token presence on Twitter and Facebook. All he does is write the next book, and he’s ridden his Vampire for Hire series into a dedicated fan base. I collaborate with him, and when I tell him all my promotional plans, he just says, “Wow, you put a lot more thought into all this than I do.” I would trade all of my plans for only a fraction of his sales. All he does is write books and get lucky.
You have to blog, Tweet, Facebook, Google+, network, advertise, and cross-promote!
That’s absolute crap! Indeed, it seems the reverse is true. The busiest and noisiest don’t seem to be successful. Maybe it’s the “indie noise” has finally made everyone deaf or maybe those writers don’t trust their books to carry themselves, or expend all their energy climbing a wall they could easily go around. Maybe they don’t have a real personality to pitch, or a message to convey, or a reason to write. (Money is a laughable reason to write, even as easy as the money is these days compared to every other era in history.)
So, what’s special about these four guys?
If it wasn’t luck built on Amazon algorithms (nothing sells like sales), how come none of these authors broke out in every market at once, as one would expect from a brilliant promotional campaign? No, they hit big on Amazon, got in the news and the buzz, and then built in the other markets. I’m not here to say you should gear all your indie energy into gaming the algorithms, because they are constantly changing, and the future will not be like the past. Instead, look at the factors behind the luck.
These guys tell their stories and stick to their vision. They are prolific writers, so they have lots of books out, and are increasing their odds of getting lucky. Talent is just another kind of luck, after all. They are special and stick with what is special. They aren’t out there divining the crowd, or tapping the conventional wisdom, or shouting over the indie noise.
I’m more interested in my philosophical, spiritual, and sociological messages than I am my book sales. The journey for faith in my early supernatural and fantasy tales are giving way to a more aggressive and challenging search for purpose in my thriller fiction. That’s my specialty, my world view, and I’ve been lucky to find readers around the world. Yes, lucky.
Writers become special by being special. So don’t worry about how somebody else made it. Consider yourself special, and then be special.
Beats six hours a day on Twitter, doesn’t it?
Scott Nicholson is author of The Indie Journey, available at Amazon, BN, and Smashwords. He’s published more than 20 books, including Liquid Fear and The Skull Ring. Sign up for his free monthly newsletter at firstname.lastname@example.org to get the personal touch, or follow hauntedcomputer on Facebook or Twitter if you want the random touch. Or go to http://www.hauntedcomputer.com and buy all his books so he won’t have to give advice anymore.