So this past weekend a friend from my local RWA chapter and I ventured to Rhode Island for the Indie Author Symposium. I woke up not knowing where I was and without the little feet of toddlers pushing me to the edge of the bed. New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Marie Force and Penny Watson—blogger and author of seasonal Christmas stories—hosted a series of workshops regarding indie publishing.

This past year a new tract for self-publishing was presented at the national RWA conference to address this growing demand. The turnout and the amount of agent and editor pitch appointments that went unfilled clearly exposed the shift in publishing trends. Despite the diminishing self-publishing stigma there is a barrier of misinformation for authors new to the indie revolution.

The misinformation hurdle makes indie publishing seem like a mystical process that only those with an entrepreneurial or business background can handle without the divine intervention of agents and editors. However, agents and editors that embrace the changes in the industry remain relevant and are often sought after by those who take a hybrid approach to publishing. Make no mistake that I would rather have an agent in my corner to act as a business partner to tackle foreign translation and other avenues that I don’t have an inclination to explore.

I’d rather use my time to write more books.

But Marie and Penny recognized that there was a need for updated and relevant information about indie publishing. The take-home message to those who want to take the self-publishing plunge—the book is king.

Sitting in the audience I found myself smiling and nodding.

As a very young author and newbie, I quickly discovered how much I have to learn. I’d always considered myself a fairly decent writer. I could string words together. Anyone can string words together and even form coherent sentences. That doesn’t mean they can write a book. At least not without investing in learning craft and sitting in front of their keyboard clacking away until they get right. I’d been doing it with short stories since I was a kid. I practically lived at my local library as an act of escapism and self-preservation from headgear, braces, glasses, and the host of hardware that gave middle school classmates a reason to taunt me.

When I’m not writing you can find me reading other books in the genre I write, books about craft, and more blogs than are probably healthy for one person to read. I still read genre fiction for pleasure. But I also read to research what others have done because the original idea is rare and when you see how other writers do it, at first you learn by imitating, by emulating—like using training wheels before learning how to ride a bike.

A few months ago a friend of mine on Facebook contacted me to ask how to publish some short erotica stories on Amazon after learning that I write erotic romance and erotica. My response probably shortened the learning curve as I guided him to some of the resources and writing communities that I use.

The story is everything.

I want to tell these stories today. I know that I still have a lot to learn. Readers and fans only give you one chance. And I know that my debut novel—Eternal Ever After—coming out in December will not be as good as my second, third, or even fourth book. Inevitably, books that I write tomorrow will be better than the ones I write today. It will reveal that I’m learning and growing as a writer. This is a good thing. If I wake-up and I’m not absorbed in learning from other authors, excited about their books, and excited about writing—I might as well quit what I’m doing.

Last month I read this article by James Clear on Rebelle Society about Richard Branson. The takeaway from it was to do it now, do it before you’re ready, use what you have, and build on it. Penny Watson reminded us that there are a lot of three star authors and they’re doing all right.

That’s exactly what I plan to do. And use best practices to do it right. Do it to the best of my ability and hire out for an editor and cover artist. Shoot for the four and five star reviews. I’ve always been a very stubborn person, almost to a fault. No one likes rejection. I plan on writing for as long as my mind is able to form cogent thoughts and my fingers are able to type. If you’re serious about writing—take yourself seriously. No bullshit. If you churn out drivel, then you’re setting yourself up for upset readers and returns. There’s no one you can blame for failure in this business. Believe me, it’s very much a business and it’s a lot of work. But it’s your business and hopefully you’re in it because it’s a passion.

Next year Marie Force and Penny Watson will be hosting another Indie Symposium. In an industry that’s changing at the speed of light, they plan on presenting new workshops and new information. I look forward to seeing what their conference workshops will be next year and hope that I can attend. It was a pleasure to meet them both and I’m sure I speak for everyone who attended when I say thank you for putting this together. I walked away more motivated, more inspired, and more informed then you can imagine.

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