As someone who does not write mainstream literary fiction, going to a literary conference is always daunting.
My writing straddles too many genres to be categorised. So I turned Indie. However, when my self-published, first novel made it to the Amazon bestseller list, I realised I had a niche: a group of readers around the world who liked what I wrote. They wanted to know what it meant to come of age in a complex environment like India.
So, my second novel is about a teen protagonist coming of age in Bombay: a city already so post-apocalyptic in the today that I didn't need to look further for dystopian settings. Its action-oriented plotline is inspired by the history, and events in the timeline of the city.
Once an Indie always an Indie: so I thought.
Imagine my pleasant surprise when I turned up at The Literary Consultancy's (TLC), Writing in a Digital Age conference, to find that the boundaries between Indie and mainstream publishing seemed to be blurring.
The more enterprising commercial self-publishing platforms of Kobo and ePubli along with Amazon KDP & Createspace are at the forefront of working in partnership with Indies to ease us along our next self-publishing endeavour.
There is also the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi): a non-profit collective of independent self-publishing writers, which advances the interests of Indies. It means we now have access to a support community of peers; invaluable for the kinship it offers to help ease the loneliness in the journey of a novelist.
What TLC does particularly well at its annual conference is:
a. Humanise the professionals in the publishing business: Curated by Jon Slack and Doug Wallace, this is the rapid fire Canon Tales session, where UK's top literary players talk about what motivated their choice of careers. Using just 20 images each presentation lasts precisely 21 seconds. A great adrenaline rush from which I walked away with much inspiration.
b. Give authors a chance to pitch to agents: Through its Pen factor competition, TLC provides a great way for authors to present manuscripts to agents. Nothing like having to prep for a live pitch to get that synopsis and opening chapter in top shape. It's nerve wracking, but invaluable for the author who is pitching. A live demonstration of what that all important promotability factor--which all agents are looking for--is all about.
In addition, I hope the following learnings will help other Indies:
1. Identify your target audience: Like me, you may not write within a conventional genre, but you must have a niche. Find it. That is the starting point.
2. Once you know your niche, you must target your audience. Write for them. Let their needs overrule your preferences.
3. It still is all about the quality of what you write: perfect your craft, keep at it, spend time with your characters, learn how to plot. Put your time and money behind actually learning how to write.
4. Write the damn book. Just do it. I use SelfControl to block out social media and get the words out.
5. Once the book is complete, invest behind editing and the packaging. It will pay off, in loads.
6. Get the pricing right. Pricing is still the number one factor that influences discoverability for an author.
7. Now, let the social networks in. Be professional in your marketing, appeal to your target audience groups: identify their passion points online, go to where they are. Get the book in front of them.
8. SEO aids discoverability, if you can use it to help you, nothing like it. I have to admit I haven't managed to master this one completely yet.
9. Write the next book: you need the bandwidth to see the income.
10. The long tail is important. Don't ignore your audience between books. Personally, my blog and Facebook page have been invaluable in staying in touch with my readers. This is my tribe after all: where I really belong. And it's not always about the writing. I try to share a little of what I am thinking, what I see everyday. It's a more genuine way of keeping in touch.