Guest Post: I am an indie author, and proud of it

A BiblioSanctum Guest Post by Ramsey Isler

I am an indie author, and proud of it.

I’ve been in the independent publishing game for a few years now, and I’ve watched the industry grow more respectable. In the past, when I’d meet people and tell them that I self-published, they just assumed my book was crap. Now, some of those same people assume I’m pulling in Amanda Hocking money.  But we indie scribes still have a bit of stigma attached to what we do; we’re still trying to garner as much street cred as indie musicians or film makers, but we’re making great strides.

Many people ask me why I decided to go this route. To answer that question, let me take you back to 2011 when I’d just finished my first novel, The Remortal. I did what most eager authors do; I pitched it to literary agents and editors. I sent off my carefully crafted queries and manuscripts, and waited. Days turned into weeks, then weeks turned into months. Then the rejections started filtering in.

It was disheartening at first, even though I had prepared myself for the inevitable flood of terse-but-polite “No thanks” messages. Then, something interesting happened. The rejections changed to more personal, customized messages. People were actually enjoying the book, but deciding that it “wasn’t right for the market right now”. The theme was no longer “No thanks”. It had changed to, “This is good but I don’t know if I can sell it.”  This continued for weeks, and then on one fateful day a New York editor sent me an email saying he really liked my book and felt it could potentially be a commercial hit if I just did two things: change my main character from a young man to a young woman, and introduce a love triangle.

I refused, of course. I had no interest in changing my work so dramatically, and I have a great personal distaste for the love triangle trend in young adult fiction these days. I was dejected once again. This respected editor and former agent liked my work, but he still wanted to tweak it to fit “the market”. It took me a few days to get over it, but then I realized something — he did actually really like the book. He had said it could potentially be a hit. The problem wasn’t the words I’d written, it was the “market” I was trying to break into.

So I decided to find my own market. I would go indie. Buck the trends. Self-publish.

How is it going so far? It’s the hardest, most educational, most depressing, most fulfilling thing I’ve done. There are days when I do wonder if there are better things I could be doing with my time. It’s an immense amount of work, and when the writing is finished that’s when the real effort begins. The process of marketing the work is the tough part. Creating something is only half the battle. The other half is finding people who care about it.

But that process of finding your audience, tough as it is, is also extremely rewarding. There’s something remarkable about reaching out to an ordinary reader, asking them to take a gamble on your book, and they come back and say they loved it. It’s personal, it’s powerful, and it’s priceless. And as an indie, you have to do it over and over and over, gaining a fanbase one reader at a time. Each sale is a tiny personal victory, and it’s made even sweeter by the fact that you do it all on your own. And many big artists started out this way; Jay-Z started off by selling CDs out of his car, one listener at a time.

Will I publish traditionally? Maybe one day, if “the market” ever wills it. But in the meantime I’m having a great time doing it my way, and being free to tell the stories I want to tell, how I want to tell them.

Ramsey Isler is an author, software developer, and designer who lives in Los Angeles. Isler writes urban fantasy that blends elements of science fiction and suspense. His stories feature young protagonists that are often unsure of themselves, but they find the strength to persevere when faced with extreme circumstances. Ramsey does not write traditional “evil” villains or black-and-white morality tales; he instead opts for antagonists and anti-heroes who have viewpoints and ideals that pose difficult moral challenges for the protagonists, and the worlds they inhabit.

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