As you guys might know from my last post, I’ve decided to embark on a hybrid career. This means I'll be charting my voyage here as I delve into the world of indie publishing, trying my best not to fall off my kayak in my usual clumsy manner.
The first challenge I've come up against is figuring out which idea to launch my indie career with. One thing I do know is whatever idea I go with, it can't be too similar to the genre I write for my publisher, Lake Union (Amazon Publishing). So no women's fiction or psychological suspense. Not just because, ya know, I might get my arse sued for going against my contract with APub but also because I want my indie books to be distinct from my trad published books. Just makes it feel cleaner, you know?
So what kind of genre? I adore writing about 'other worldly' things and I'm no stranger to the fantasy world: the first ever book deal I got was for my debut, a teen paranormal romance (girl falls in love with a shapeshifter. Yep, I was ahead of that shifter curve!). It was published in (randomly but also brilliantly) Germany. I won't go into detail about how that phone call went with my agent at the time but here's how it started: 'So Tracy, Penguin said no in the end but guess what? The Germans love your book!'
So that was decided: whatever I write, it will have fantastical elements. But which idea? I've been trying to decide between a dystopian idea (think The Power by Naomi Alderman) or an urban fantasy idea (specifically, witches!).
But still, I've been struggling to decide which one to go for. Spells or superpowers? Superpowers or spells? (or are they the same?!)
You might think the fact I'll be independently publishing this novel would help me with this decision. It's not like I need to run the idea past my agent or editor to get a nay or a yay before it’s published. I have 100% control so really can write from the heart.
But the problem is, there’s a huge risk factor involved, a risk factor I haven't been used to. Awareness of that risk leads to fear. Specifically, fear all my hard work will be wasted.
The thing is, I sold my last few novels based on just outlines. These outlines had to go through professional readers (my agent, my editor, her colleagues) before being given the green light. And that green light meant guaranteed money in the form of an advance, even if the books tanked. Not to mention the minimal outlay involved. Contrary to popular belief, the good traditional publishers do cover all the marketing costs alongside the print and production.
So this all meant I was able to approach each project with a degree of comfort and confidence. My little security blankets, you could say! But I won't have these security blankets for my indie project.
And actually, you know what, I think this is the issue faced by all traditionally-published authors looking to go hybrid or full-on indie. It's not just the extra work involved with indie publishing. I think a lot of people think that. Like, 'Oh diddums, the poor little trad published author doesn't want to get their hands dirty.' It's more that we've just got used to a low risk life so to step away from our cosy little worlds and embark on this hybrid voyage can make us feel, well, naked. And as much as I love whipping off my bra at the end of a hard day at my desk, I ain't gonna be sharing that with the rest of you.
You'll be pleased to hear I've managed to get some grit about me. I've grabbed a dressing gown of my own making, sewn with courage and independence, and I'm stepping forth. I know which idea to go with now and I'm more excited then ever about embarking on this journey.
So what did I do to get over myself?
1. I've looked at the market
While I’m aware trends change month by month, it’s still been useful looking at what’s selling. I did this by seeing what indie authors were saying on groups like 20BooksTo50K® and the Facebook groups set up for people who have signed up for any of Mark Dawson's courses (I signed up for his Self-Publishing 101 course a while back and will be using what I've learnt from it to publish this book).
I also signed up for K-Alytics where I'm getting access to fantastic deep dive reports into different genres to help me figure out where the market’s going. Just reading the reports or watching the videos can be enough to help you choose between any ideas you’re torn between.
I also looked at other books like the ones I’m considering writing. How are they doing in the market? How are they similar?
What did I learn? Well, did you know academy paranormal romance is hot right now but supernatural prison fiction is about to take over? I mean, how cool does that sound? Prisons! Supernatural creatures!
Seriously though, this doesn’t mean I’m going to write in any of these genres (no matter how tempting!) but what did become clear was that one of the genres I want to write in - urban fantasy - is not only uber popular but also oversaturated. That should have put me off it, right? Instead, it made me realise even with this knowledge, I still love the idea.
2. I've told myself I have a good head-start
Then the fear came back. It's scary to know urban fantasy is such an oversaturated market with so many awesome book to choose from. Why would people want to read my book, a book that won't have even had a seal of approval from my agent and editors. Oh god, I could feel the dressing gown coming off. I was feeling naked again. Noooooooo!
But instead, I gave myself a good talking to. I realised I need to have more confidence in my instincts for finding a good idea and writing it well. I've sold hundreds of thousands of books, have hit the Kindle #1 spot and Germany's top 50. This will not guarantee indie success, sure, but it does give me a better chance.
And then there's the fact I've already written loads of books, some which have been published, some which haven't seen the light of day. I have honed my craft. Sure, debut novels can do really well. But it certainly helps if you've had a little practice and I've had a lot.
Reminding myself of this has made me stop panicking and that in turn had helped me to...
By play, I mean taking time to really think about my ideas and have fun with them. And this in turn has helped me stop worrying about the financial risks too. I've earned decent money from my writing, after all. A lot of it goes back into living, into paying bills, into tax and into savings. The dull stuff!
How about I spend some of it having a play and experimenting? If it doesn't work out then at least I can say I had fun while doing it. But damn it, I am going to do all I can to make it work for me!
In my next blog post, I plan to cover the writing process as I embark upon it, and why it will be different from how I approach my trad published stuff. Please comment with your own experiences and views!