*including bonus swears
1 – DO YOUR HOMEWORK – read my books, study the bestsellers, invest the time and money it takes to do that. To REALLY do that, not a five minute glance at the bestseller charts and assuming you know what they’re saying. Construct your own graduate-level Indie Publishing course and get a damn A in that class. (Note: I’m not saying “get someone else to teach you this” via webinars or workshops or whatever—I’m saying “become the flipping professor or at least an underpaid TA”. Because that’s the only way you’ll develop the skills for this job.) Then construct a badass business plan based on what the successful people do, not the misty fabric of your dreams or the grudging reluctance of your fears.
2 – INVEST UP FRONT – Man, this whole business is comprised of nothing but upfront investment, and you have no idea whether it will pay off or not. You invest countless hours learning HOW to write (right? don’t skip this step). Then countless more actually writing the books. BOOK*S*, plural, because you can’t write just one and succeed. In fact, the more you write, the more you’ll succeed, full stop. So once you’ve done that, then the really HARD part of investing comes because now you have to part with money – covers, advertising, etc. And you have no idea if *that* will pay off either, but you still have to do it. Be smart about it, sure, but SMART =/= STINGY. If you don’t have the funds, wait. Save. Prepare. You’ll need at least $1000 capital to invest in launching your career, and that’s if you do everything right the first time. Then you’ll have to invest more for the second book. Most businesses don’t succeed – 90% failure rate doesn’t just apply to brick-n-mortar businesses. Writing is probably higher. The ones who succeed have ALL THE THINGS going right, plus sufficient capital up front and a stomach for risk, which brings me to…
3 – GO ALL IN – No toe-dipping. No “I’ll try a novella and see how it goes.” Commit to writing and publishing a trilogy. Have a plan. COMMIT to the plan. If you did your homework, it’s a damn fine plan. Go all in on it like SEALs at Normandy. Work that plan until it’s done and then, and only then, re-evaluate the success. Not only is planning the launch of an entire series the best way to succeed, it’s also the practice you need to plan an entire successful career. If you can’t make that level of commitment, stop, figure out why, and go back to step one.
I lied—doing these things will help you succeed, but there are still no guarantees. I can only guarantee that if you DON’T do these things, your chances for failure go way up. And if you succeed once without them, it’s probably due to lucking into something that will be hard to replicate. These things are all within your control.
And if your first trilogy fails to meet the markers of success that you want (don’t be crazy with that, btw—holy crap, indie publishing isn’t like printing money. You’re building a BUSINESS here… that takes time and sweat equity and a lot of antacids), then either go back to STEP ONE and try again (“fall 7 times, get up 8”) or decide that what you really love is the art and not the business.
That’s REALLY okay.
One thing that having a commercially-focused penname as well as an art-focused penname has taught me is that it’s really, really okay not to sell books. To only reach a few, treasured readers. To write the damn thing because you just freaking love the story or the ideas or the subject matter, and dammit, that stuff needs to come out of my head and find expression on the page. I know, deep in my soul, that THAT is intrinsically worthwhile and really justifies the entire enterprise.
4 – say SCREW THAT to everything above and live in the joy of creation. But if you go with STEP FOUR (and it’s really not incompatible with steps 1-3), then be at peace with it. Don’t agonize—that tends to dampen the joy. And share your art when you’re done, even if it’s just for the few rabid fans who stumble on it and love the hell out of it.
Because that connection is why we’re here in the first place.
Art hard, my friends.