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I spent a couple of days in Stockholm last week, and did three events in just over 24 hours for Lava Forlag, meeting authors at all stages of the journey. Here are my reflections on my time there.
The indie revolution is expanding… and it is incredibly exciting to see the light dawning in people’s eyes.
The Swedish publishing industry is still in the old traditional, print dominated way of doing things right now. Ebooks haven’t taken off yet, Amazon hasn’t opened its .se store and authors are still focused on the route of agents and publishers to reach readers.
I was told that the biggest publishers are integrated with the media companies – in the same way as Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp owning Harper Collins, the Fox Network, The Times and the Wall Street Journal.
When big media owns all the publishing channels, there is little chance for the independent voice against such established behemoths. But change is coming …
I was asked to Stockholm by the lovely Kristina Svensson, an indie author who sees the digital future coming to Sweden in the next few years. I spoke to the audience of authors about my reality, the world I live in, where authors are writing what they want, publishing what they want, and in many cases, making a decent living from their words.
In my world, authors sell books globally, in ebook, print and audiobook format, they are paid monthly and they have creative freedom and control over timing – all without a publisher.
When I spoke at a packed gallery space in downtown Stockholm on Monday night, I saw the light dawning in some people’s eyes at the possibilities.
Some of those authors saw their future in my current existence – and that is truly exciting.
We take for granted our incredible reality these days and it’s only by stepping outside, to those places where the change hasn’t come yet, that we can really appreciate how far we have come.
I didn’t enter this author life via the traditional publishing route. As a business woman and an entrepreneur, I only pursued this author route when it became a viable business option as a self-publisher.
Embracing the indie way was natural for me, as someone who doesn’t like asking permission, who has no patience with waiting, and no love for power imbalance.
I have stopped speaking at events where the industry tries to cut authors down to size, where they negate creativity and try to crush us back into the box where they once controlled the rules. I don’t want to speak to groups that aren't delighted at the explosion of expression that is happening now.
I don’t want to argue with people who don’t see my way of life as a valid choice. I don’t try to convince people that going indie is fantastic anymore. I only want to speak to those who are keen to learn about the new ways of being a creative in this exciting digital world.
Entrepreneurs create new things out of their heads – and the world we live in right now embraces entrepreneurs. It worships Silicon Valley startups. Well, we’re entrepreneurs too.
Writers are artists and creatives and entrepreneurs, just as the painter, the sculptor, the dancer, the dressmaker – and anyone who creates new things in the world.
Entrepreneurs don’t wait for permission, they try new things, they fail, they pivot, they keep going in the face of criticism.
The next big opportunity: Joint ventures with other creative professionals
One of the sessions I did in Stockholm was a lunchtime seminar on “How to sell more books.” As none of the authors who were present actually self-published direct on KDP, discussions on metadata and keywords fell on rather confused ears. So I started with what seemed to me like the biggest issue.
There are 9 million people who speak Swedish. There are over 400 million who speak English. If you want to sell more books, then they need to be in English. Luckily, Swedes mostly speak excellent English but they still need help with translation and editing. I had the most number of questions about how this would be possible without paying half a years salary to a translator.
Here’s what you have to consider: the world has changed!!
Not just for you, but for everyone involved in the publishing industry. Editors and cover designers, who were laid off from big publishers, now happily freelance for indie authors. Many of them continue to work for traditional publishing, well as freelancing on the side.
In the same way, translators are discovering the joy of working in collaboration with authors. For years, they have been undervalued by publishers, treated as ‘workers’ rather than creatives in their own right. I’ve now partnered with six translators and I can tell you, translation is an art, it’s definitely a creative process.
You don’t have to follow the rules anymore. In fact, there are no rules!
I’m about to start working with a Portuguese translator, who has books of his own in a genre similar to my ARKANE series. He wants to translate mine alongside his, so together, we can mutually promote, and it will be quicker to have more books out if he translates at the same time as writing his own. He’s currently working on Terry Pratchett’s books – and we’re doing a 50:50% royalty split, as I have done with all my translators.
This is only possible in a world where creatives just try stuff, take risks and ‘play' together.
Other creative industries do this very well – look at musicians and dancers, film-makers, actors – most other creative industries collaborate in every work. Authors seem to default to timidity. They say “but I can’t do that .. no one would work with me.” Really? Have you actually tried asking?
Collaboration is a (not so secret) weapon for indies. When you own your own rights, you can do anything you like.
You can put 12 books in a box-set and together, you can hit the New York Times and the USA Today bestseller lists. You can co-write with multiple different authors. You can write a single book with multiple authors. You can do promotions together. You can write books that feature each others’ worlds. You can do anything you like when you own the rights. Other creative professionals work together collaboratively. It’s time for authors to do the same. Try asking and see what happens.
Stop waiting, stop asking, stop begging to be picked. Embrace the opportunities in front of you. Create!
Photo credit: Petra Rolinec,www.8tiesbaby.com