The Next Level? What’s an indie to do?

Today I feel like my brain is going to break. Like, moreso than usual.

It all seems pretty straightforward when you start. For the beginning stuff, information is pretty abundant.

Write a book. Well, okay, I’ve read a lot about doing that. Got lots of books on the shelf, have read countless advice on the internet. Been processing all that and practicing for years. Let’s sit down and write a book. Okay, done.

Edit the book. Well, okay. I guess I can pretty much go back to those books and articles and all the practice, and hopefully come up with something readable. Okay, done.

Format the book. Hmm. Well, okay. New searches, new articles, talk to some friendly people. Seems pretty step by step. I think I can do that. Okay, done.

Publish the book. Okaayy… Read the instructions, ask a few questions of the friendly people. Click, click, okay done. Finally. Now let’s sit back and…

Oh, no. Go market that book. Oh, right. Marketing. Okay. More books, more articles, social sites, lots more being friendly. Some comfort zone issues, but also a lot of fun and rewarding. So that’s cool. And oh, look, sales are starting. Awesome!

Write the next book. Sure, okay, did that before. Oh, no wait. This is a sequel. Okay, that’s different. But okay, I can do this. Because of the reading and the practice and stuff. It’s just going to take some different thinking and some more time.

Time. Well, there’s less of that. Nothing is going right. And we need things to be just right. Plus, you know, got all this other stuff to manage. Got all these new friends to follow and get to know and remember all their stuff and want to read their books and check out their blogs, but also gotta keep learning stuff, and gotta reply to comments, tweets, emails. Don’t want to miss anyone. Need everyone to know they’re appreciated. Don’t ever want anyone to feel slighted because I can’t keep up. But my inbox won’t stop refilling itself. Is it possessed? Is all this really necessary? Of course it’s necessary. If they take the time to say something nice, they deserve a thank you. If they ask me a question, they deserve an answer. Does the answer have to be hundreds of words and take the whole morning? Well, maybe not, but I want to be thorough. These are people, and they deserve attention.ย ย  But so does my family, and my home, and that poor, unfinished book that those people are waiting for.

Waiting. Right. Two people–more?–are still waiting on interview questions to be answered and sent. Gotta get those done. How many people have I promised giveaway copies to? Are those due yet? I hope they follow up with me, because I don’t have a way to be organized with this stuff.

It’s just those emails got buried under the barrage of alerts I got, and flagged for follow-up, of places advertising my pirated book. Well, what to do about that? Just shrug it off? Say oh, that’s ok, because it probably doesn’t hurt sales anyway and maybe we’ll find a way to make us think it’s actually a good thing. Maybe. I don’t know. It seems wrong. Especially those guys who are trying to sell it for $4 and haven’t offered me a cut. So do I just ignore it? When in doubt, we have to ask ourselves: WWHRD? What would Howard Roark do?

Um, well, when Howard Roark lost control of his work, his designs, he blew up Cortland homes. So…maybe not really. Perhaps we should just go with the lesson that we should make an effort to do something, if only to say look, this is mine, I made it, and it’s not okay for you to give it away without asking me. I’m pretty generous with stuff. My photography isn’t great, but still, a lot of it’s got Creative Commons licensing on it in case it’s useful to someone. I try to blog a lot of useful stuff, information that I might have been able to compile and sell. I try to share what I can and keep back some particular things for myself. So it kind of sucks when someone takes them. I don’t think that’s okay. Not trying to start a movement, not holding a rally or screaming and whining about it. But if I believe in doing what I can to protect my own property, I have to follow the leads, find the files, find the hosts to contact, write and file the proper notices, and this is all stuff I have to learn and do. (And thank goodness I found an awesome friend who has been very generous in helping me get started learning this stuff. Even though a lot of it is still over my head and dealing with me requires a lot of patience.)

Do I want to license out some of my other rights, stuff I can’t do on my own? Umm…well, yeah, I guess so. I mean, really? That would cool. But wait. Is this for real? Is this legit? Google Google, seems okay. But…I have concerns. I need more information. But how do I ask? Is asking for more unprofessional? Will it make me look like I don’t know what I’m doing so I can be taken advantage of? Is this just how it’s done? How is it done? I have no clue, I need help.

But…no one seems to know anything. Google Google, not really getting exactly what I’m looking for. I need to talk to someone who’s done this. Ask a few indies who are farther ahead than I am. Answer: get an agent.

Well, okay, that’s an answer. That would be someone who’s done this. Someone who has answers. Didn’t occur to me that I would need an agent for what I was going to do, or at least need one in the first year with one book out. Didn’t think THAT would come up. But one of the indies I wrote to basically said, paraphrase: if this is coming up now, it’s probably going to come up more.

Couldn’t I learn to just DIY? Um, yeah, I guess. But damn, look at how much DIY I’m already not able to deal with. Having someone to help me, to not go through these mornings of Googling and trying to piece information together, to have someone to go to answer my questions, someone I wouldn’t feel like I was imposing on…that sounds pretty freakin’ good right now.

Does that make me less indie? I don’t know. I kind of don’t see how, and I kind of don’t care. For me, part of independence is that I get to decide my own crap, not have it decided by the indie purist committee because this isn’t the junior high cafeteria.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still on the fence. After all, what the hell good does deciding to look into getting an agent do me this morning when I have this big red flag in my inbox needing attention right now? It’s not as though I’ve been approached by an agent. From what I’ve GOOGLED (omg I’m as sick of it as you are) there’s nothing for it but to start the process from scratch, as though I were going trad, with the added interest of trying to make them not see me as damaged indie goods.

Excuse me, what? Okay, let’s just skip that part. So should I add read/learn/practice the query process to my to-do and start the process politely asking, in just the right way, for the privilege of being allowed to audition for the person I’d like to hire to help me out with this? I understand, I really do, that there are reasons why the process is the way it is. But it just seems way backward to me, I don’t know if I want to get into that, and I don’t see it helping me deal with today.

Today I just want school to reopen, my house to magically clean itself, and to sit in the quiet and write my book. Write a book. Simple and straightforward, like it was in the beginning.

Should I be apologizing for the level of whining insanity self-disclosure lately? Does anyone else feel just totally overwhelmed?


Filed under self-publishing

28 responses to “The Next Level? What’s an indie to do?

  1. I don’t know all of what you said up there. ๐Ÿ™‚ But I definitely understand the feeling of being overwhelmed. There never seems to be enough time, motivation, or energy in the day to do all that needs to be done. At least not as fast as I’d like to go with my career. ๐Ÿ™‚ I contemplate outsourcing more and more as I progress with my writing, so I can do more of that… writing. ๐Ÿ™‚ I guess that’s where the CBA – cost benefits analysis – comes into play.

    Wishing you much luck bending your to-do list to your will. ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy writing, marketing, emailing, publishing…

  2. Alexandra

    Other non-agent option: intellectual property and/or contract lawyer. Costs something up front, unlike an agent, but *you* hire *them*, not audition for the privilege of giving them 10%. If you just want someone to make sure you’re not getting screwed on the movie/translation/int’l distro rights, they can do that for you.

  3. Alexandra

    Oh yes, and IP lawyers can also write intimidating letters to pirates on their official letterhead. Which, again, costs money, but works.

  4. 1. Congrats on getting to a point where you feel an agent will help you as you go further in your writing career.
    2. You have to do what’s best for YOU. If you’re already having difficulty with DIY as it is, then maybe you need to hire someone else for a specific purpose. Are you any less DIY because you might hire an editor to suggest improvements for your writing? Or that you hired a cover designer?

    Make it work for you. You’re still footing the bill.

  5. I would suggest that you keep doing what you are doing (because by the numbers I have seen, you are doing it very well) and sooner or later an agent will come to you. When that happens you will have far more bargaining power than you do when you query like a starving dog begging for attention, or a scrap.

    My sales are not nearly as huge as yours have been, but they are substantial, and I would rather not have a boss. An editor at my beconed call would be nice, because the writing gods know I need one… ๐Ÿ™‚ But editors are a dime a dozen (as are house cleaners) and they are starting to see that they can’t keep charging so much. The great story teller is still RARE in this overcrowded world of self publishing. Since you have that gift, I say use it. Pump out the tales and worry about selling them in between.

    Just my .03 cents. M. R. Mathias-Fantasy Author/Master Wizard

    • I love your advice, Michael. Everyone’s needs are different. However, I think of the querying process (which I spent 9-10 months doing) and don’t look forward to doing it again. On the other hand, I imagine if your sales are high (satisfactory to an agent), finding representation wouldn’t be as difficult as it is for writers with absolutely no platform or record.

    • Your thoughts are worth way more than 3 cents, and I really appreciate them.

  6. Overwhelmed???? Me??? OVERWHELMED???

    Yeah, I can pretty much relate to almost everything in your post, except that I’m not deemed valuable enough to pirate yet… ๐Ÿ˜‰ So, I have that to look forward to, I guess…

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think I’ll ever look for an agent. I have thought that, should I ever need someone to help me protect my rights, I’d probably hire an attorney, as Alexandra mentioned. In fact, I suspect that entertainment and IP attorneys will have all kinds of new clients in this Brave New Indie World as folks shun traditional publishing and take control of their own destinies.

    I’d ask around among your friends, family, and writing contacts for a couple of names of good attorneys, if I were you.

    Thanks for being transparent. It reassures me that I’m not the only one feeling overwhelmed.


    • I come from and live in a pretty blue-collar world. In real life, I don’t know a lot of people, period. Lawyers really only come into the picture when someone dies or divorces. Not that I don’t like them, just more that I don’t know how they work and stuff. I’m not uneducated, but I’ve always been a McJobs person, mostly by choice, and easily slip into feeling out of my depth. But I suppose I’ll muddle through and hopefully not make too much of a mess.

      Thanks for thanking me. I write these things thinking that they may be helpful. I often want to know what’s coming. I want to feel like I’m not the only one who’s totally confused. But then I get concerned that maybe I’m just kidding myself and it’s all just whiny drama queen self-indulgence.

  7. Sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe. Yeah, I think that’s feeling overwhelmed. And all of us get that way from time to time. I try to fit writing, exercising, laundry, etc. into that small window between the time I get off from work and the time I need to go to bed. And it starts over again the next day. I don’t know what I would do if I got as popular as you are and had that many emails, etc. to take care of. (I should be so lucky that it becomes a problem.)

    Why don’t you try to jot down everything that you feel like you have to do? Then put them in categories like 1) Things I must do, 2) Things I should do at some point, and 3)Things I can let go. And then…breathe.

    • Lauralynn is a wise woman. Brilliant idea.

    • Lauralynn, you are very wise. And you’re one of those, like Kait, who makes me feel I’ve got no reason to complain about not having time to get stuff done. Because you guys always use your time well and get stuff done.

      But then I have to tell myself that I’m not you or Kait, and that I have what I have to work with and work around.

      Anyway, thanks for being my voice of reason.
      And, as popular as I…bah. Who’s kicking my butt on B&N right now?

      • Susan, one difference is that Kait and I don’t have a child to deal with. And everyone is different in the way they handle things. Life can be hard, but always interesting.

        You can be my voice of reason the next time I freak out. LOL.

        The B & N rank will be a fleeting thing, I’m sure. But I’m enjoying it while I can. I’m so close to the top 100 right now that I can taste it. At the same time, the Amazon ranking is going slightly the other way. It’s all fun. If we love to write, then what’s the downside? :0)

  8. Peter

    I’m not nearly as far a long as you, but while I’m trying to start up my social media presence, I’ve realized how hard it is keeping up with everything. I feel your pain, to an extent, and thanks for letting me know I’m not the only one feeling a bit overwhelmed.

  9. Overwhelmed, yes. Leading to a block and no writing getting done, yes.

    Re: the emails and questions, maybe think about taking the time to do a faq sort of page on your blog and forever more refer people to said page when they have questions. Then go offline. Seriously, take a couple of weeks, stay away from blogging/commenting/all of that shit and write the damn book. Take offline space regularly and don’t be so accessible because you sound haunted right now and that’s not good. I feel panicky just reading that post.

    As for the legal stuff, Alexandra has good advice up there. Also, agents. You’re not begging for their attention or respect. You’re a proven seller with an established market, you are giving them the opportunity to ride your train if they so wish. You’re doing the hiring, not them. I wouldn’t really worry about that until you have another book out but it’s your call, if you feel that’s what you need then go for it.

    Sit down and sort out your priorities and go from there. Work-wise, priority one (imo) should be the sequel so that gets number one attention and everything else slides. When the book comes out, work on marketing again but to me, writing trumps everything else right now. You could set up an automated email reply in the meantime. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t answer every single comment or email right now this second. Give yourself a break.

    • When Zoe took her internet vacation, she came back so changed, and so much less crazed. And even after just taking time off, she made conscious efforts to further downgrade and pull back. It’s strange for me to see myself the same way, since I’m not as big or far along, I’m not as out there or making myself noticed or really participating. But it seems like my tolerance is just so much lower to begin with.

      • Everybody reaches that point at some stage. There’s a lot of crap revolving around being online and everyone gets dragged into things they don’t necessarily need to be a part of. You, in particular, have packed in a lot of time and promotion in a short amount of time.

        It’s not that your tolerance is low (and even Zoe tried to fight it at first which just made life tougher for her), you’ve a lot going on – you’re a mother and have a family who need your time and that’s not even counting writing buddies who rely on you and other indies and fans who want a piece of you too. It’s a lot for anyone to take on and the more you give, the more people expect.

        Maybe it’s just me but I find all of this constant interaction very draining and a lot of the time it’s counter-productive. Says she as she comments on a blog. LOL.

  10. Hi Susan,

    I’m sorry you’re feeling overwhelmed. It’s not surprising considering all the hats you have to wear and how much knowledge you’ve quickly had to stuff into your brain. Hopefully soon the snow will melt, school will start back up, and you’ll be able to catch up a little.

    Instead of a full-blown full-price lawyer, a paralegal should be able to review contracts and write DMCA takedown letters much more cheaply. $20ish/hr vs $100+


    • I remember there being this graph in psych school where your smarts keep going up, then get steady, and then you get to the point where you don’t have to learn stuff anymore, so you don’t, and it starts to decline. So I guess at least I’m not getting any dumber, even though it kind of feels like it sometimes.

  11. Hi Susan,

    Thank you for posting about all this and being willing to go into detail. As I edit my way through my second novel in two years, I look at you and Kait as pioneers of the indie movement. Okay, that sounds like brown nosing, but it’s not, I swear. I caught you guys when you were sort of just starting out and it’s been a real eye opener following your process because you both work so hard and are so dedicated. Plus you handle all this marketing hoopla so well, and that’s the one thing that worries me about indie. It worried me a lot more when I wrote my YA novel, because I just *can’t* see myself getting up there in front of kids and talking about my story, so I went the traditional route and sought agents.
    Now that I’m writing a romance though… I wonder. It all depends how much editing I can get done during ROW80 and what sorts of beta advice I get.
    There must be some way for indies to deal with legal and copyright issues. How do agents learn all that stuff? That is, many agents seem to be editors or other publishing personnel who’ve gravitated toward agenting – where do they pick up info about contracts and foreign rights and so on?
    You know how when you’re job hunting they tell you to go to a company and ask for an informational interview, just to pick a person’s brains about the company, supposedly? Maybe you could find an agent that might be willing to do that for you. Tell you a little about how they learned all the ins and outs, and how much of the basics you might be able to learn on your own to stop copyright thieves and so on…

    Also, yay for a Roark reference!

    • Roark! High-five! I think it’s a fan club on just you and me on that one.

      And thank you so much for your thoughts. I’m feeling better today. I emailed a law firm that seems to deal in this stuff and gave them an overview of what kind of advice I need right now, and I emailed the person who contacted me about the rights I’m not using right now and just asked them to be patient while I get up to speed. Maybe it’s not a real thing or will all come to nothing anyway. But I’m hoping the lawyery people get back to me soon. At least I did something other than spin today.

      This was the first time that I didn’t have someone to go to who would walk me through it. The people I did contact told me to get an agent to walk me through it, fine, I see your point, but how am I supposed to do that today so I know how to respond to this inquiry I’m dealing with right now, you know? (It was good advice, and it was what they had to give since they don’t deal with their own stuff, so I don’t fault them for it at all! I just didn’t know what to do with it.) So I was waaayyyy frustrated, and while I think of myself as a little late to the party and wouldn’t consider myself a pioneer because I had people to show me the way, yesterday I was feeling pretty freakin’ alone on the plain.

      And blah blah blah, there I am, running off at the mouth again.

  12. Hope they get back to you with answers soon!

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