Thinking back to the year 2000, it’s hard to remember my exact thoughts upon entering a yoga class for the first time. Something along the lines of, “Oh, crap, I’ll look ridiculous doing this” is probably close. Two new jobs and residences, a marriage and childbirth have all happened since then. Six major life changes have faded some memories. I do remember the feeling of relief when the instructor described yoga as a practice, something I may never fully master. Some poses will not be executed perfectly – precision is not the goal – hence the term practice. I sought a balance of exercise and inner peace, an intention.
Fear and self-consciousness definitely went to class with me that day and remain in the periphery even now. I was scared to look foolish or never be strong enough, thin enough, or as flexible as everyone else. My experience with this on again/off again, but much loved, exercise has lingered since then. I’m still nowhere near getting it perfect, much like my tryst with writing.
The desire to write also keeps coming back, and I go on working at it no matter the risk of never reaching perfection. So substantial doubt lingered in my subconscious when I decided to submit my first novella via independent publishing through Amazon. Using Kindle Direct Publishing offers a publishing route previously unavailable until the onset of e-books. This method allows a novice writer such as me to distribute her work without first gaining a traditional publishing contract.
The downside to not using a professional editor and publisher is withstanding criticism for rookie mistakes. Much like my obsession of being judged in a yoga pose, I was scared of people crucifying my writing ability, but it’s okay to have some healthy criticism. You can get useful feedback this way, although your skin definitely has to thicken. Not all reviewers are cutthroat, and even they can help you improve. An online friend suggested reading a review once, taking from it what will help, and never going back to it again. Some barbs then serve a purpose. Try to take what you learn and use it on the next work-in-progress. Self-confidence builds along the way.
The Kindle Direct Publishing program enables indie authors to make their work available online through Amazon. I’m not ashamed to say KDP was the quickest and easiest way to publicly distribute my work. My Kindle love affair drove a lot of cash to Amazon anyway, so why not get a few pennies in return? At least to supplement my book-buying habit with them. The major sacrifices with going through Amazon are committing the digital format of your book exclusively to that company and following their royalty guidelines. However, there is a new royalty program of 70% for purchases made via their newer devices and the Kindle app.
Indie authors who sell their e-books by way of this giant online outlet are sent a monthly newsletter of special promotions like kdp select and format updates. Amazon touts incentives such as this to use their service. Authors can allow special access to other kdp select participants through the Kindle Lending Library. After all, your success is their success ... as well as the bigger percentage of your profit.
Create Space is suggested for formatting and uploading your e-book, as well as making them available in print if you wish. But that’s just one more online profile to build and price to pay, right? While I chose not to go that route, there are helpful hints and other good information provided by that group. An endless number of suggestions and advice are also offered elsewhere online by writers who've independently published.
A lot of people are reluctant to bind themselves to an online “cartel” of sorts. I didn't have the time or energy to shop my first small work around to traditional publishers. Confidence was my biggest obstacle – the fear nothing I have to say will be good enough – along with reluctance to endure harsh scrutiny. So this is where the practice part comes back, writing and re-writing, asking every willing reader for feedback without sparing my overly sensitive feelings.
Many times the effort seems futile when insecurity rears its ugly head again. Just like never quite being able to master the pose called crow. As you can imagine from the borrowed picture, my hold in bakasana may only last a second and still risks breaking my nose (and pride). But, once again, I keep at it and have excelled to a three-second record! Much like my writing. I feel like it is improving with time, and I have to keep trying.
Using Amazon for distribution, even with its inherent restrictions, enabled having someone – anyone – read my work. The Kindle route was definitely not taken for personal profit, as their “cut” fairly disallows, but served as an avenue through which I can express myself in a further-reaching way than a blog. It was a sheer attempt to get ideas out of my head and onto the page. Other independent authors probably do the same, perhaps to the disdain of traditionally-published professionals who scoff at them. Maybe they're insulted at us high-jacking their art and call us hacks, but we all have to start somewhere.
The work of an independent isn't complete at finishing the book. Once a piece is ready to release, guerilla marketing is absolutely necessary. We are all likely familiar with, or need to know, the usual social media routes for promoting our so-called product. Personally I love blogging and tweeting, and probably don't spend enough time at it, but it’s the least I can do. Gaining online community support through these routes is a plus. There are many book bloggers willing to review your work online for the small price of a free copy of your book. I imagine a large reader base is the ultimate goal of most authors, and online praise can certainly help gain a following.
It's great to learn of other writers' success stories. Kindle Direct Publishing is a route much more talented people have chosen and been picked up by traditional publishers afterward, leading to much more profitability. Anyone paying attention to the independent publishing game has probably heard about John Locke's success as the first person to sell over a million e-books through Kindle’s program. Another prosperous writer who chose the indie route is Amanda Hocking, a 27-year old paranormal romance author. She’s not quite aged to our Studio 30 Plus group, but we can all aspire to her and Locke’s good fortune.
Practicing yoga brings a similar sense of accomplishment. Expressing myself in different ways and knowing I’m doing something healthy is its own validation, and my confidence and skill continue to grow. Even though I am not as adept at my own practice as I'd like to be, with both yoga and writing, I keep trying. Fortunately, I'm getting nearer my intention. I commend us all for trying.