5 May 2014

Maximilian Timm talks about what it means being an indie author

Max is a risk averse, blindly ambitious, forcefully sure-footed writer who continuously laughs at his ability to avoid confrontation. It is, however, equally comical that he chose a profession within the world of the arts and entertainment since his aforementioned 'misbehaviors' are constantly challenged.

It means a lot, and it means nothing at all. I know - not a very specific answer. But consider what it is to do anything independently. To do something independent of a parent company, or backer, or any kind of overhead business force is really the basic idea behind being independent. An Indie Author is, very simply, someone writing with freedom.

Does that mean authors who are represented by a publisher (big or small) are not as free as an Indie Author? Not at all. As a matter of fact, a big publisher can bring even more freedom to the overall book development process since they can open doors that most Indie Authors can not. What many Indie Authors praise about the self-publishing world is their "director's cut" mentality. They have full creative control over the full book development process. They have final say as to what the cover looks like, how the artwork is arranged inside the book, to whom the book is delivered and how (in terms of audience). They also have a final say on the creative direction of the story itself.

Let's face it, beyond all of the pretty covers, cool logos, fantastic graphic designs and romantic images, a book is published for one reason and one reason only - its story. Does the story deliver? Does it entertain? Does it hit its target audience and keep readers coming back (if it's a series)? It's all and only about the story, and even though an avid reader will admit to loving a book cover enough to purchase a book, she won't love the story just because the cover is cool.  An Indie Author must understand the importance of story beyond the generality of a solid concept. Coming up with an idea is a lot different than delivering an excellent, entertaining and unique story.

Why do I enjoy being an Indie Author? Let me be straight and say, in a few ways I don't enjoy being an Indie Author. In a lot of ways, though, I really do. It is a difficult distinction to make as to why an author enjoys self-publishing. For me, I love the marketing, promotion, cover design and material creation of the entire publishing process. If I were to land a big publisher, I would sincerely be concerned about not having enough creative "say" and control over a brand that I spent years creating. On one hand, the author has to let go and trust that a major publisher such as Random House knows what it's doing. They have been publishing books for a lot longer than I have been writing them. They know how to create a brand, and since they picked up a particular property, we must have confidence that they love it enough to give it as much care and attention as possible.

Beyond the business and branding elements that a big publisher can provide, the most important one is that of the team of editors. There is not a more important element in the book publishing world (Indie or Traditional) than the editor, and a big publisher has the best. They not only know grammar and have an unbelievable eye for detail, they understand story AND they understand what audiences want. When I decided to self-publish my book, it was primarily because of the reasons agents said "no" to it. They repeatedly told me that they didn't have a spot for "this kind of book" in their rotation, or they were unsure as to how to market such a story. I knew that my ten years of experience within the writing and screenwriting worlds, developing thousands of screenplays and stories, and working with some of the top people in the entertainment industry had given me the expertise as far as story creation and development. I was confident in my writing ability and in my talent in delivering a story. What put me over the self-publishing ledge, though, was the constant reply from agents that my story was difficult to market.

I flat-out disagreed with them. I disagreed that Shea didn't have an awaiting audience. I disagreed with the lack of attention the agents were allowed to offer submitting writers. Let me re-phrase that - it's not that I disagree with the lack of attention, I am saddened by the lack of time they are able to give a particular project. Truly, this is just the nature of the beast and there isn't anything we, writers, can do about an agent's availability. Thousands upon thousands of book proposals and queries are sent to agents every week, so it's a losing battle to be disappointed in that regard. Ultimately though, and I admit, I learned that I am a better novel writer than a query letter writer! The art of query writing could be a completely different blog post, and there is a good possibility I did not sell the idea well enough in my query letters.

In the end, I am quite happy being an Indie Author. I have the freedom to create what I want, when I want. I have the freedom to choose which book outlets receive my material, and I retain all rights to the property in every way. There is a lot of freedom in that, but at the same time, every writer needs a champion on a white horse riding into battle for him. They need someone that will die for your book; someone who will love it just as much as you do. An agent and editor can offer that kind of support, but right now I am hoping my champions are that of my fans. I am hoping that the reading champions out there can find Shea and her story, and root for her just as much as I do. I am hoping that her story resonates with readers, because no matter how many people pick up The WishKeeper, my only intent is to connect a reader to a good story.

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