Nine Indie Publishing Lessons We Learned in 2014

Last year, 1.5 million words or so hit the market with my name on them. This year, the same thing happened.

Sean and Dave, working in various combinations with me or without me, produced like maniacs.

Sterling & Stone, as a bona-fide entity rather than just a name on paperwork somewhere, came to fruition. We wrote a book live. We grew to six publishing imprints. We worked our faces off … and, in the process, learned a whole lot of lessons.

Here are the highlights. May your holidays be grand and your learning curves be a bit shorter than ours.

LESSON #1: There Is A Time For Production And A Time For Promotion

We sorta learned this lesson right off the bat as 2013 began. See, truth be told we didn’t try very hard to sell stuff in 2013. We wanted to produce … and speaking from the Realm & Sands and LOL sides of the coin (that’s me and Sean), we did that in spades. We closed a dozen product funnels, completing either first seasons or complete arcs in all of them.

We knew we wanted to produce first (2013) and then promote all we’d produced (2014). Two tasks, discreetly separated. It was a good idea, and we still believe it. But because we’re squirrels, we ended up all over the place. It might have been more sensible to book a bit more direct promotion earlier so we had focus, but we didn’t. We were all over the place. We had a ton of stuff to promote, but it took us until the middle of the year to settle down enough to start doing it right.

Which is maybe a good segue to head into the next point.

This is Why the Smarter Artist is Important

You know what I always wanted to be, ever since I was a kid? A storyteller. Not just a writer, but a teller of stories.

At no point did I want to be a blogger. At no point did I want to teach or sell knowledge. At no point did I want to be an “authority” in anything. I’m entrepreneurial by nature, but that has much more to do with my desire for freedom and choice than it does with my wanting to build a business for the business’s sake … so you never would have caught me, growing up, talking about the big business I’d one day own. I just didn’t care that much.

The business was always a means to an end. Same for blogging, teaching, authority-making, entrepreneurism, and so on. I was in no way opposed to any of that, but it definitely wasn’t what was frontmost in my heart. I had bills to pay and a family to feed, and up until recently “telling stories” wasn’t a viable or reliable way to do those things. My dad said (affectionately, at least) that I was “whoring my talent” to do the things I did before I told stories for a living … but hey, a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do to make it in the world.

And admittedly? The Self-Publishing Podcast, for me, began as a means to an end. I liked speaking to an audience, but didn’t want to SPEAK TO AN AUDIENCE just because it was neat in and of itself. Sean and Dave knew how to make fiction work as a career, and I wanted to learn more. That was why I pushed the guys to start SPP. We never figured the Self-Publishing Podcast or anything that came from it would make us any money. For all of us, it was about masterminding with each other, meeting people who knew more than we did, and reminding ourselves, every single week, that we were writers.

Along the way, something changed.

Is This a Turning Point in Self-Publishing?

To anyone with an Internet connection and a love of literature, it’s obvious that self-publishing is the future of the book industry.

Self-published titles are up 17 percent just since 2012 and a whopping 437 percent over 2008.

Clearly (and much to the delight of readers), writers are finding themselves increasingly empowered by the leveling technology of software like Scrivener and SmashWords and online marketplaces like Amazon that, for better or worse, have proved crucial to the success of our industry while ripping power from the greedy, grabbing hands of the traditional gatekeeper publishers.

But make no mistake: behind all those ones and zeros, this historic success is cemented in the ever-lengthening line of remarkable novels, shorts, and series from self-publishing authors who’re using this modern technology to craft the kinds of stories that keep us all coming back for more.