The Definition of “Indie Success”

I hope you enjoyed Carrie’s first installment in the four-part Blogging for Writers clinic. There are three lessons yet to come. But you see, Carrie gets to post on Saturdays, and I get to post on Wednesdays. And since I barely know what I’m doing with a blog (Carrie’s the brains behind this operation), I have to write about something else.

So I thought I’d talk a little bit more about what it is Carrie and I are doing with Indie Plot Twist, and its sister blog, As the Mystery Unfolds. In the intro post (before Indie Plot Twist was officially “live”), I described things in detail. The nutshell version is that Carrie and I have decided to fling ourselves full-force into independent publishing and attempt to become successful indie authors.

Which raises an important question. What exactly is a “successful” independent author? I came up with four answers to that one.

Indie Publishing Success: Financial Achievement

We’re not gonna lie. We’re in it for the money. When we realized that indie authors could claim the lion’s share of the income off their books–minus a deficit of extra blood, sweat, and tears–we were intrigued. Add to that a generous dollop of Ultimate Control over Everything Related to Your Book, and we were salivating like a couple of Bassett Hounds.

The flip side of this coin is definitely the whole blood, sweat, and tears part. Marketing is totally up to us. Book formatting is totally up to us. (Read that “Carrie” — did I mention she’s the brains?) All the promotional book trailers, bookmarks, and baby onesies are up to us. (Onesies? Sure! Who else promotes their mystery/thrillers on baby onesies?)

So what, strictly speaking, is “financial success?”

For Carrie and me, we’d really like to be earning a living off writing novels. (Isn’t that every author’s dream?)

In reality, it’s very likely we’ll end up making our living off of the novels PLUS cool stuff like … I don’t know, personal writing classes at Indie Plot Twist (it’s in the plans; stay tuned) and selling branded baby onesies. (???) But we consider satellite writing activities to be part of our passion, so we’re okay with that.

Indie Publishing Success: Fame, Glitter, Red Carpets

In the world of traditional book publishing, it’s fairly common knowledge that a “famous” author isn’t necessarily a “wealthy” author. (If you didn’t get the memo, this is the part where I yell, “Plot twist!”) Yeah, the traditional publishing machine has been known to eat the paychecks of even the well-known and well-loved writers.

So we’re just sayin’, if we miss that first goal of financial success, there’s still a chance our books could become well-known and well-loved. And when you step back and view the literary landscape, from the book of Job to The Lord of the Rings, isn’t a book that leaves a lasting impression on the human experience better than a book that made a pile of money for its author? I think so. Not that I enjoy eating pasta at every meal, but I could die of starvation happy if I knew that my books had made an impact on other people’s lives. (Or — dare any of us hope — on a culture.)

Indie Publishing Success: Career Satisfaction

‘Kay, now we’re just grasping at straws, right? Failed in the financial department. Failed in the publicity department. What’s left?

There’s a heck of a good chance Carrie and I will flub up this whole thing and not only end up working the late shift at a diner, but also run home in tears because somebody said, “C. L. Lewis? Didn’t you write that there Narnia thing?”

But you know what? Even if our books never get the lime light, I can personally guarantee you that Carrie and I will keep on writing. Why? ‘Cause we get a kick out of it. It’s in our blood. It’s our passion. When you’re going to be devoting most of your life to something, it better be good.

Indie Publishing Success: Following God’s Call

We’re not going to make a big secret out of this. Carrie and I are both Christians, and we’re pretty sure that’s playing in with what’s going on around here. I don’t know, like the fact that we both hit a career low at the same time, then Carrie’s husband read a book that gave us the idea for ATMU and Indie Plot Twist.

So let’s say we never make a dime, no one but our friends and relatives know our books exist, and we end up hating every minute we spend writing.

There’s a chance Carrie and I will keep on truckin’. Why? We feel called. I won’t say all our plans and ideas are divinely appointed and approved. Humans are shockingly bad at reading God’s mind. But we’re moving in the direction we feel pulled. And if God’s saying, “Go there,” it doesn’t really matter if we look like idiots to everybody else (ourselves included).

Following the Guy Who knows what’s really going on is the ultimate success.

In Conclusion

There you have it. Indie publishing success defined, in every way I could think. The thing now is to put our shoulders to the wheel and see how far we get. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover and a lot of things to learn, and that’s why we started Indie Plot Twist — to share the know-how with you and get you started on your own road to indie success.

Along those lines, we’ll be holding writing clinics throughout the year, so if you were thinking about clicking that subscribe thingie on the top right, you could do it now before you forget.

But I’ve rambled long enough. Your turn. If that comment box stays empty, I’m going to feel like I just stood on a soap box in the middle of a ghost town.

So how do you define indie success? If you’re already independently published, what do you think has been the greatest reward? If you’re thinking about giving indie publishing a spin, what do you most hope to accomplish?

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