The Road to Indie: What's Next?

I have read multiple times that the hardest step to pursuing the path of an indie author is fully embracing the fact that you are about to walk down that very path. Like those who have a serious, detrimental problem in their personal lives, the first step is acceptance. And I did that! If you missed the blog, you can find it here. I announced to the world that I will be foraying down that terrifying yet exciting path.

But now what?

Well the hardest part is over, so it should all be smooth sailing from here on out, right? Now don’t get me wrong, it was actually quite tough to tell myself that I will be sitting in the driver’s seat for this whole endeavour. I will be the one in charge of marketing, promoting the book, getting it polished professionally, commissioning an actual cover for it, putting it up for sale, watching and analyzing its commerce. If one can be called a jack of all trades, it would seemingly be an indie author. And the sheer magnitude of all of that work seems like standing at the base of a sheer, looming cliff and telling myself that I need to get to the top. One step, or hand, at a time. So what have I done so far?

Okay, step one is a big one. The book is done. In fact, the manuscript has been finished for a while now. Check. Step two: Make sure that the title is good. Brainstorm it and bounce it off some of your peers. Make sure that it is an attention grabber. You can have the best story in the world, but it will flounder if it does not have a good title and cover. Okay, Archangel. It is catchy, powerful, and conveys a decent sense of the story right off the bat. All is well, moving on.

But wait.

Archangel is the first in the series of books, a series I had happily called Wings of Fire for the last two years. For some reason it was only now that I Googled that name to make sure there was not another Wings of Fire series. You do not know true heartbreak until you see that it has already been used by a children’s series about a dragon.

Okay, so back to the drawing board on that one. But that is just finding something I am equally in love with, I can do that. Let’s move on.

I was given a tip by a successful indie author that the two things you should never, ever skimp on is some professional editing and a damn good cover. It is not that I do not trust my friends, and it is not that I am in defiance of my infatuation with commas, but this thing should be professionally edited. This process is not cheap and is not fast. Slot 4-6 weeks for that, the experts say. So there is a next step for me. But I am not just going to twiddle my thumbs for a month, so what else?

Cover art. Do not judge a book by its cover, but also do not believe age-old proverbs that clearly don’t understand humans at a bookstore. So yet another expense, but a necessary one. But again, I run into a problem; how will the artist know what the story is about, short of reading it in its entirety? And on that note, how am I going to draw in readers beyond saying “trust me, friends, this is a good story”? So enter my two immediate and pressing tasks: a synopsis and a back cover blurb.

Now, these may seem like the same two things at face value, but they are incredibly different. A back cover blurb is a paragraph or two that teases just enough to draw the reader’s attention, to make them believe that this book is worth not only reading, but spending their hard-earned money on. Now, on the flip side, a synopsis is a much different beast. A synopsis is what you show a professional in order to make them fully understand your work, yet hook them to it at the same time. It is normally about a page in length, and is not meant to leave a cliffhanger. Those who read a synopsis not only want, but need the ending known to them. They don’t necessarily need to know every twist and turn, or how many freckles a secondary character has, but you do not want to leave them guessing about major plot points.

In other words, a back cover blurb is the worm on a hook, luring in the valuable fish. A synopsis is more like approaching the fish and diplomatically explaining to it why it should jump into the boat with you.

I know that, previously, my synopsis writing has been weak. When your submission to an agent or publisher is entirely dependent on a strong synopsis, it is intimidating and unnerving to condense 100,000 words into a single page. At some point I decided that I was just going to go with what I had made and edited in an afternoon. Mistake made, lesson learned.

So that is what I have been working on lately, making a polished hook and a perfect synopsis. It is not a one-night endeavour, it is something that requires a lot of work. And it is something that I am still learning to do. So stay tuned, and I will let you know when they are done!