Young writers are amazing.
Never say I didn’t say that. More than that, they are capable of great things—like being awesome published authors who, yes, can make a career out of their writing!
However, new writers (whether they’re ten or ninety-two) often make a basic beginner mistake, and that is believing they are ready to publish long before they actually are.
When I was a newish author, I indie published several books—only to regret it later! Thankfully, I was able to take these books down, edit them, and relaunch them in a more professional way. However, I would’ve saved myself a lot of time and effort if I’d just started out professionally!
To some, this may seem like a mean post. But I’d define it more as tough love.
It all starts out with a simple fact: new writers aren’t ready to publish yet. And often, when you think you’re ready, you’re just not right.
There’s a huge pressure to publish. I get that. But writing is an important skill that takes a lot of honing, and so is indie publishing!
Here are some things I wish I’d done before I indie published.
Don’t Jump the Gun – Practice!
Write several full-length novels—don’t publish the very fist one you finish!
Granted, you may eventually end up publishing your first novel (with a ton of edits!). That’s more or less what I did. But it’s so helpful to write as a writer, gaining more and more experience as you go.
Seems obvious, huh? Yet so many young writers neglect it, never actually finishing more than one or two projects before diving into publishing.
Another rookie mistake is only writing novels from the same world/series. This gives you a narrow view of writing and doesn’t prepare you for a lasting career when you will, presumably, write many different books set in many different worlds!
It’s important to invest time in the craft of writing—including, of course, reading books and articles about writing and implementing them—and this all has to start with actually writing. The more you implement what you learn, the better writer you will be.
ASK YOURSELF: How many novels have I written? Are they from different series/worlds? Have I done a series of self edits yet? Have I had them professionally edited yet?
Pull out Your Indie Checklist – Edits, Cover & Website!
It’s vitally important as an indie author to pay for professional cover design, editing, and a great website.
These, nine times out of ten, make the difference between an indie author I know is going to make it—and one who needs work if they’re going to succeed.
Be sure to check and see who has worked with your editor and cover designer in the past, before you settle on working with them. Make sure you shop around for a truly professional option—and ask advice from other authors, too!
ASK YOURSELF: Are you ready, financially and mentally, to hire your cover designer, editor, and to either create (or hire someone to build) a professional website? Have you done market research to see what other book covers in your genre look like? What about other websites of authors in your genre? Is your editor a true professional?
Focus on Your Platform
It’s time to build an author platform.
This doesn’t mean ‘gain thousands of subscribers’ or anything like that. No, it just means get into the platform game BEFORE you publish.
At the very least, you probably need one form of outreach (social media, usually) and one form of private readership building (email list, usually). However, this can look different for each unique author.
This also includes doing things like figuring out your branding, though you will of course polish it as time goes on. This one element doesn’t have to be perfect—but it has to be started. Check out what other authors are doing to give you some ideas, and get on it.
It’s important to start building up a community early on. How do you do this?
By intentionally engaging in a self-sacrificing, Godly way in the writing/reading community. Do this by enthusiastically supporting other authors and readers however you can. This is as much a character-building exercise as a platform building one. Go the extra mile for people, and they will eventually (maybe) do the same for you!
Even if they don’t, that’s what it means to be an indie author. So get on it!
This also has an additional benefit—making friends with other indie authors who have been there before you! I also suggest doing things like joining Facebook/other groups for indie authors that will allow you to ask questions and join in the conversation about indie publishing.
ASK YOURSELF: Are you ready to start reaching out to readers and other writers in your genre?
Mindset is everything.
Part of it is having the right mindset going into publishing.
Are you willing to be your own boss and take on ALL aspects of the publishing process?
Are you doing this because it’s a last resort (bad idea!) or because you legitimately value the indie process?
Are you going in thinking you’re going to make a lot of money off the bat? Will you be disappointed if you don’t or will you stick with it?
Do you take feedback well and implement it?
Do you have the discernment to not take ALL feedback—to brush some off as unnecessary for your project?
How do you do with rejection?
Are you going to be okay if this doesn’t immediately pan out? Do you have the determination and discipline to work toward making this happen even if it’s tough?
Do you understand, at least in part, the amount of work this takes?
There’s a lot to ask yourself. Some of these questions won’t have firm answers. A lot of the time, you have to find out by getting going. But preparing yourself ahead of time for indie publishing to not be all sunshine and roses is a great step!
ASK YOURSELF: Those questions! Be sure to prayerfully consider what it means to be an indie author before you dive in.
Starting small doesn’t hurt anything, and starting young is a great idea, but starting unprofessionally won’t get you far.
An unedited manuscript with a cover slapped together by your friend and a website that still has the “wordpress” attached to it just isn’t going to cut it.
Yet that’s not the end of the world. It’s how I started, and though I spent what feels like half my life fixing my youthful errors, I was able to do it. It’s not the end of the world.
Does that mean that it’s not important to start professionally? No, it doesn’t. It just means that it’s more important to keep moving forward from wherever you are.
I believe young writers are important. I coach them—and, really, I am them, if you’ll forgive my poor grammar! 😉 Your youth isn’t the issue here. It’s your lack of experience.
You could be fifty-five and have less experience than some fifteen-year-olds. Does that mean that the fifteen-year-old should wait until they’re fifty-five to publish? No. But does that mean you’re all right to publish just because you’re older? No again! It’s about doing the hard work, regardless of your stage of life.
And hard work, regardless of your age, takes time. Time that we’re sometimes pressured into feeling like we just don’t have.
However, we have that time, God willing. So take it. You won’t regret spending more time honing your craft and building your knowledge base before publication.