Dara M. Beevas, The Indie Author Revolution: An Insider's Guide to Self-Publishing
day I receive two or three requests to review books which the authors
have published (or rather printed) at personal expense. Most look like
fly-by-night operations, typeset on an antique Smith-Corona and
mimeographed in the author’s basement. They may have good content for
all I know, but they don’t look like their own authors took them
seriously. I wish these aspiring writers would read Dara Beevas’ new
a professional publishing mentor, makes her living guiding would-be
independent writers through the difficulties of getting a
professional-quality book on the market. Because the publishing business
has so many aspects, many of which are not visible when you browse
bookstore shelves, many guerilla writers miss important steps. Beevas’
solution is to stop thinking like a writer and start thinking like a
the author gets the byline and the glamor of writing, dozens of
professionals have a hand shepherding a book from raw idea to marketable
commodity. You can do some of this yourself: Beevas gives detailed
instructions on how, for instance, to devise your marketing plan. But I
especially appreciate Beevas’ explicit advice on knowing when to bring
other professionals into your “self-publishing” fold.
instance, you absolutely need an editor, to act as a sort of surrogate
audience. Your best friend who spells really well is not an editor.
Beevas describes not only what an editor does, and what you can expect
to pay for an editor’s services, but what you need to do to get a
manuscript in shape to present to an editor. Remember, you’re a
professional; don’t give collaborators product below your ability, or
below their dignity.
resist the temptation to think that, just because you set your Word
document in PDF format, you know how to design your product. Book
designers make books look clean and polished for today’s media-saturated
market. We say not to judge books by their cover, but we do so just to
winnow today’s overcrowded shelves. (Beevas gives many good pointers,
but Joel Friedlander goes into even more detail, if you need it. And you do.)
And marketing means more than buying ads or listing your book on Amazon. Beevas discusses topics like knowing if your book meets a real marketplace need, and how to distinguish your book from similar, but not identical, titles. Will you sell more print or e-books? Do you know how to sell your book on social media and other new platforms? Nobody knows with scientific accuracy, but Beevas knows which questions to ask in finding the answers.
repeatedly claims throughout this book that we have entered the age of
the independent author, when writers armed with a little ingenuity have
the market power once exclusive to media conglomerates. I’m willing to
say that’s possible. However, I have a cabinet full of books, mostly
from vanity presses, that indicate such an age faces an important
counter-influence. Indie authors still need to pay their dues if they want the prestige.
Many vanity presses like to point out that William Wordsworth, Walt Whitman, and Virginia Woolf self-published the books that made them famous. This is true, and it does not jeopardize their prestige with literary history. But all three were more than just authors. They were skilled entrepreneurs who managed their careers the same way they would manage their own store or factory. Too few self-starter writers have learned such business acumen. Yet.
Unfortunately for contemporary aspiring authors, going it alone means the dues you must pay have become more intense. In Hemingway’s day, he had to be the best writer he could be. Today’s guerilla authors need to be business-savvy, technologically forward-thinking, and engaged in all aspects of publication. That’s where Beevas steps in, providing us the questions we need to ask our inevitable partners, and the facts we need to evaluate their answers.
Beevas includes a chapter on writing for publication (as opposed to
writing for enjoyment or a class), this is not a book on writing. This
book empowers writers to manage their careers without the sometimes
myopic interference of multinational conglomerates. This book guides
entrepreneurs who have the potential, but not the know-how, to get in
the ring with publishing’s major contenders, and play to win.
indie is not for everyone. Some writers are better off following the
old rules, which do survive for a reason. But for writers ready to plow a
new path, Beevas is the mentor you’ve waited for. Follow her guidance,
and go get ‘em.