More than once or twice, I’ve heard an author apologize, “I’m just self-published.” That phrase hurts my heart. Why? Because what I hear beneath their choice of words and tone is something I want them to hear:
“I wrote something straight from my heart that I believed in so much, I backed it with my time, energy and money so other readers could believe in it, too.”
While this has rested on my heart and mind for a while, two takeaways have surfaced. They go together, though, so please don’t read one without the other.
1. Wash that just right out with a shot of confidence.
Before I dive in here, please take extra note that I wrote confidence. I did not write pride or hubris or boasting.
Now that we’ve got that clear, you are just as much an author with your one book that you published as an author who’s been published countless times by one of the Big 5.
You plotted and outlined—or pantsed—your way to a first draft where you went beginning to end (or zigzaggy) until you had a completed story baby.
Then you revised, rewrote, edited, rewrote, got help and feedback and critiques and outside—hopefully professional—edits and rewrote again until your book shone as bright as any polished diamond.
Whatever your reason, you chose to put your money behind your dream and publish your own book. You’re kind of a rock star, my friend!
This leads us to my second takeaway that MUST accompany the first.
2. Chase it down with a slow drink of professionalism.
I’ve got to give you a note before we tumble down a cliff on this one, too. You may not have done this on your book—or your first five, depending on where you are in your journey. And, that’s OKAY. Reread that last sentence until it completely settles in your soul, because your commitment to fulfill your dream is what makes you the author I declared you to be in the first point.
Sure, there are still a few pockets of folks who look down long noses over horn-rimmed glasses at anyone not traditionally published, but they are few and far between and transitioning to the land of the dodo bird.
Chin up, writer friend, and let’s make ourselves better than we were yesterday! How do we do this? I’m so glad you asked!
You’ve got your shot of confidence warming your resolve, so now it’s time for some slow sipping. I have to add here that some folks sip slower than others and that is just fine.
Don’t compare your rate of progress to someone else’s. The only person you should ever compare yourself to is yesterday’s you.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get on with this whole professionalism thing!
How to Be a More Professional Author
Outsource to the professionals …
… or become a pro yourself in: editing, formatting, cover design and marketing (both creation of materials and the marketing itself).
I’m not going to turn this into a soapbox post, but I will quickly explain what I wrote above.
Editing, designing, formatting and marketing must be handled professionally and thoroughly. You would be a rare breed, indeed, if you could handle them all on that level by yourself. So, for the sake of all that inspiring belief in your dream that we lauded earlier … don’t try.
Up next, present yourself as the professional author you are. Step one is keeping that pesky just out of your introduction. I’ve made the next three steps into an acrostic for you. How about PRO?
I’d like to think these first two are no-brainers, but—alas! Wherever you go and whatever you do, specifically as it relates to your public profile online or in person as a professional author, be polite to everyone you meet—from the president of the board of a book festival to the stranger in line next to you at a book checkout.
As an additional piece of advice for your online endeavors, just stick to books and writing and reading and the occasional pet or food picture. Politics, pet peeves, soapboxes and rants of any kind have no place there. And, that’s all I’ve got to say about that. (Said in my best Forrest Gump voice.)
Let’s take this a step further. I was in a local independent bookstore last year—trying to work up the courage to ask for their process and policies concerning local independent authors—when in walks a lady who put a pamphlet in the salesperson’s hand and proceeded to explain why she needed to put them out on display. You see, this woman’s friend—who was self-published—was holding an event—to sell his or her books, by the way … wait for it … at another business!
I was confused, too.
The saleslady was far nicer than I would have been as she explained how it didn’t make sense for them—a book STORE—to promote an event for books to be sold at ANOTHER business. This friend got quite indignant. I just shook my head. The saleslady shook her head. We had a laugh over it, and then I politely and respectfully asked for the store’s process for Indie Authors.
Apparently things like this happen often in our wonderful independent bookstores. One of the panels I attended last year at the Alabama Book Festival was led by bookstore owners. They talked about how many writers come in with books that are not edited—or well-written to begin with—or well-designed. They expect the bookstore to want them, no questions asked. Often, these books are also not appropriate for the audience of the store, and the author has no marketing plan or desire to help promote their book.
Don’t be that person.
Open & Organized
With these two word choices, let me be clear—I do not mean “say yes to everything” and I do not mean “you must be the most squared away person who’s always got every aspect of their lives together.” If that were the case, then I’d have to tap out right now!
Be open to opportunities. Often it’s when we least expect it that the best breaks come our way. The best way to be in a position to accept such chances is to simply be an involved member of your local literary community as well as the online literary community.
Not everyone is a planner user, but you’re going to need some sort of system if you’re going to start entertaining opportunities as they arise. And, remember, some of these may pop up a year or more in advance. You don’t want to agree to help with something only to have to back out because you forgot about another commitment. You’ll also want to be prepared with a business card or a pen for signing or a book kit with which to present a bookstore owner. Have your media kit ready so you can forward it in a couple clicks. That organization could be the difference between a place on a panel at a huge conference and missing out on selling the hundred books you could have if you had been ready to say yes.
I’m full of suggestions and advice for authors ready to drop just from their vocabulary, but I’ll close with this today. I prefer to introduce myself as an author or an Indie Author for a couple of reasons. First, I want to avoid any negative connotations some people may still have with the term self-published. I don’t want to give them a reason to automatically discount me over one word.
Second, this is my business—my career. I am serious about it and believe these titles best convey that focus and dedication.
So, to all my fellow Indie Author PROs, rock on!
Readers, do you have any aversion to the term self-published? Is it something you’ve never given much thought to? Or, perhaps, do you seek out new Indie Authors in order to read their books? Who are some of your favorites and why?
Writers, have you ever used the word just in introducing yourself? Are you ready to break free from that word? If so, shoot me an email or leave me a comment. I want to hear all about it!
And, if you’re looking for a book editor, please let me know. I am in the process of building a second website with all the details, but I am currently taking new clients for my new—and improved—book editing, specifically for Indie Authors! Shoot me an email today for all the details, and I’ll update this with the link as soon as the new site is live.