Becoming an Indie author, a new chapter in my life
Seriously, writing is serious business and most authors live turbulence-hit lives.
So, you want to be an author? Excellent. Who doesn’t? Every journalist colleague and every second non-journalist friend have confessed to me that they have a book on their mind. In most cases, it remains on their minds.
Seriously, writing is serious business and most authors live turbulence-hit lives. If not assailed by doubts of their subject or plot, they are bogged down by the mundane task of keep the wolf from the door. Above all, the worry over whether their manuscript would be accepted by the almighty publishers and literary agents gnaws at their vitals? Of course, rejections are all part of the game, especially since we all know that J.K. Rowling’s first manuscript was rejected by as many as 12 publishers!
I have just become an indie author. (For the uninitiated, the term indie author refers to a writer who self-publishes a book without signing an exclusive contract with a trade-publisher). It has been a roller-coaster ride and a great learning exercise.
As publishers live in a bubble of their own, indie authors are the last thing on their mind. Literary agents have their own peeves and levels of arrogance. And then you have the ‘vanity publishers’, those sharks that want authors to pay to have their books published. When I sent my manuscript to one of the vanity publishers, prompt came the reply that my manuscript was approved, and was followed by a rejoinder that I should pay a publishing fee that ran into four figures in US dollars!
Then I discovered self-publishing: a world without publishers, agents, bookshops and borders. Everything is in the author’s hands, for better or worse! You are your own boss, publisher, marketing agent, distributor and propagandist, provided you are ready to pick up the gauntlet and a few tricks along the way, with the help of Amazon and Kindle Direct Publishing. It can get frustrating and technologically intimidating, but when you have gone this far to complete your ‘magnum opus’ you might as well accept the last-mile torture!
So, I embarked on a new journey to self-publishing, and along the way learned about margins, bleed and spine. I had to get to grips with things like creating a Table of Contents and drop letters. I explored the world of book covers, formatting and designing, pricing, printing costs, royalties, preview tools and how to upload the ebook and the paperback manuscripts. The only thing they didn’t teach me was how to make your friends and foes buy your book! But that’s fine, because the joy of having your book on Amazon store far outweighs the lack of sales.
That expectant period between setting up your account and uploading your manuscript can be exasperating. If you don’t get it right, try again. Revise the bleed and margin sizes to make sure they don’t overlap the page size. Make an extra effort to master tools to enhance the visual appeal of the page. Outsource some stuff like cover design and proof-reading, and handle a dozen other things that are usually done by sub-editors and designers. Yea, you have to sweat the small stuff if you want to self-publish. But the relief that follows after you have gone through the obstacles and challenges is immense. The doubts and worries are behind you. Mission accomplished.
You are waiting for the take-off.
The Eureka moment comes all of a sudden. An email from Amazon says: ‘Congratulations, your book There Goes My Million: A Dubai Diary is now live and available for purchase in the Kindle Store.’ And the paperback could be ordered by mail, thanks to Amazon’s Print on Demand innovation. It’s the kind of moment that calls for running out of the bathtub with nothing on. The entire world can now access your book.
The days that followed were filled with congratulatory messages from friends and social media contacts. The difficult part lay ahead. Self-publishing a book is a self-fulfilling job but the onus of promoting it and generating sales falls on the author, one of the downsides. The other big downside came when I discovered after publication that Amazon is not permitted to sell books in some countries.
All in all, it was a watershed moment, one that I will savour for the rest of my life. Not quite sure if the book will make money, but right now I feel richer than the Sultan of Brunei.
Anthony D’Silva is a Dubai-based writer and PR consultant, and author of There Goes My Million: A Dubai Diary.
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