Tuesday, March 01, 2011

For/From Indie Authors: Mary Anna Evans

Mary Anna is the author of the award-winning Faye Longchamp archaeological mysteries, which are all available in print and ebook editions. Her work has received recognitions including the Benjamin Franklin Award, a bronze medal from the Florida Book Awards, and Notable Book designations from BookSense and IndieNext. She is a licensed chemical engineer, and her indie-published novel, Wounded Earth, is a thriller inspired by the years she spent traveling the country as an environmental consultant. There are some scary things out there. Fortunately, we have environmental professionals like Wounded Earth’s protagonist Larabeth McLeod to take care of those things for us.
So what advice can I offer that you haven’t already heard before? If you’ve already asked a real live person for advice, I’m guessing you’ve already gotten the best piece of advice out there: Hire a professional editor. Right behind that juicy tidbit is the second-best piece of advice which is this: Hire professionals to design your cover and your book’s interior layout, unless you are stone-cold sure your skills are good enough. I confess to doing my indie books’ covers and layouts myself when I first launched them. I considered the initial publication to be a pilot test, in engineering parlance, and I wanted to do that at minimum cost. After I’d looked around enough to know what I wanted my books to look like and who I’d like to design them, I hired professionals. The interior redesign of my novel, Wounded Earth, was launched about a month ago, and I’m getting the final version of the new cover tonight, so its launch is imminent. Redesigns of my shorter fiction are in the works.

But I still haven’t given you that first piece of advice, have I? I think what I’ll do is expand the obvious advice to get an editor, and advise you to--
  • Look like a professional. If you do your own editing, make sure no one can tell. If you design your own cover, make dead certain that nobody would ever guess. And for goodness’ sake, get a professional author photo. This is more important for an indie author than for a traditionally published author. Almost all of your publicity is going to be on the internet, unless you have a platform that’s going to get you broadcast or print media. Unlike print media and radio, your photo is going to be on your web page and your blog and…well, everything. Invest some money in looking your best.
  • Remember that no education is ever wasted. This was one of my father’s favorite sayings, and I think of it often. Learn all you can about your business. Meet your peers.  Make it your business to find out how books like yours are priced and marketed. How else are you going to be able to make your work stand out among the million or two competing books in the marketplace?
  • Wear your business hat when it’s appropriate, and put on your artist’s hat when it’s time to be an artist. The artist in you is going to weep when that first bad review comes in. Try to look at it like a business-oriented professional. “I wanted publicity. I got some. I don’t like it, but I did get it.” The business-oriented professional in you is going to be very impatient on those occasions when you just can’t get the book right. There will be times when the proper thing to do, business-wise, is to rush the book into the marketplace, whether it’s ready or not. On those occasions, let the artist win. We’re not making widgets. We’re doing art. We’re putting our own very human feelings and thoughts onto the page, hoping that our readers will recognize them, since they’re humans, too. Write the book to satisfy the artist inside you…then let the business side of you sell a million of them.

Good luck to you in this indie publishing adventure!

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