Today I’m sittin’ on the porch with Margo Bond Collins, author and publisher extraordinaire. We’re sipping on some sweet iced tea and talking about Margo’s journey from author to publisher. She has some great insight we can all learn from. Let’s listen…
Indie Publishing. It means a number of things these days, from self-publishing to publishing with a small press, to publishing with a bigger publisher that still isn’t one of the Big Five.
I’ve never thought of myself as entrepreneurial. In fact, if anyone had asked me two years ago if I wanted to start my own publishing company, I would have laughed. I didn’t want to publish. I just wanted to write.
But then I became a published author.
Don’t get me wrong—I love the publishing companies who have published my books. I wouldn’t change a thing about my experience with them. In fact, I have sequels planned for several of those books and have every intention of continuing to work with those publishers.
But this is a rapidly changing business. Go to any writers’ conference, and you’ll hear it over and over—the publishing business has changed more in the last eighteen months than in any other time in its recent history. And the more I learned about the business, the more I knew I wanted to explore some of its flexibility by publishing some of my own books.
Moreover, in my day job, I’m a college professor—for many years now, my job has been to teach other people the things I’ve learned. So I knew that I also wanted to be able to share what I learned about indie publishing.
And thus Bathory Gate Press was born. Our mission statement includes helping new authors learn to navigate the indie publishing business should they want to do so. In every acceptance letter, we note that we welcome authors who want to build a long-term career with us and authors who want to move from BGP to either self-publishing or another, bigger publisher. Right now, I am helping mentor one author as she is developing her first self-published book, even as I am editing her first novel with our press. We also have authors who have told us quite clearly that although they will of course work to market their books, they have no interest in ever self-publishing.
So I find myself thinking a lot these days about not only writing, but publishing and marketing, as well—and if I had just five things to share about this business in general, I would tell new indie authors this:
1. Network. I would never have been able to do the publishing work I’ve done in the last year, either as an author or as a publisher, were it not for the people I’ve met in the business. For me, this has meant going to conferences and joining online groups, making connections, and maintaining contact—I know that anytime I have a question, someone I know will have the answer.
2. Keep up with trends. This may be the most difficult element of the business for me—because it changes so quickly, so do the trends within it! What’s hot one moment (the New Adult genre, for example) can become over-crowded in an instant.
3. Don’t be afraid to try your own thing. Just because you’re keeping up with the trends doesn’t mean you have to follow them! Also, don’t be afraid to keep doing your own thing, even if it fits into a trend. Ten years ago, an agent told me that vampires were “over.” Then Twilight came out.
4. Be flexible. If something new comes along, be willing to try it. Try new marketing strategies, new publishing platforms, new programs, new advertising opportunities.
5. Be patient. But don’t change everything you’re doing every time something new comes along, either. For example, when Amazon changes the way they do things, the doomsayers arrive. Kindle Unlimited will be the death of us all, some of them wailed just a few months ago. Right now, I’ve got some books in KU, some books out of it, and I’m gathering as much information as I can about how it seems to be influencing sales. But in order to do that, I need to be willing to risk leaving those books where they are for a while in order to see what happens. Above all, I think it’s necessary to remember that this is a long game.
Ultimately, though, the very best thing any author can do is work to craft the career he or she wants.
Thanks for the chat, Margo. We can learn a great deal from all you’ve shared with us today. Find out more about Margo on our Porch Guests Page.