This past November, I was among the many indie authors disrupted by the news that Pronoun was shutting down. If you aren’t familiar with it, Pronoun was an ebook distributor run by Macmillan Publishing. I was using it to distribute the ebook versions of my three nonfiction books on non-Amazon retailers.
I set off to choose a different platform for ebook distribution. My search took me to Facebook groups and other online gatherings of indie authors, where I encountered the shockwaves of this closure firsthand.
In hindsight, of course, none of us really should have been surprised. No one promised us a long run with the service. But a few of the reactions from indie authors were extreme. Some authors reacted with panic (move all your books NOW!). Others despaired. One person wrote, “There goes my plan for 2018!”
The loss of a distribution partner is an inconvenience, but it shouldn’t be a major setback. As indie authors, we need to be resilient to change. Heck, we need to embrace it.
That experience inspired me to create this indie author manifesto – I hope you find it inspiring as we start off on another year that’s bound to present its own surprises.
There Are No Guarantees (in Publishing or Life)
If there’s one fundamental truth of indie publishing it’s this:
Things change. Roll with it.
2017 brought countless changes that affect authors and publishers, in addition to Pronoun’s closure.
- Amazon now features third-party sellers of “new” books alongside genuinely new books, incurring the wrath of indie authors everywhere.
- Now Kindle does paperbacks?
- Amazon closed the CreateSpace store.
- Facebook announces algorithm changes (again).
- [add your own here!]
Nearly every month, something shifts significantly in the publishing ecosystem. No doubt 2018 will be just as filled with change.
We may not control all of the parts of the systems that we use to publish and promote our books, but we do control how we react to changes. We can fear change or embrace it. You’ll be happier if you go for the second option.
Flexibility Is Your Competitive Advantage
Indie authors have an advantage that others don’t: the ability to adapt rapidly. We can change course on a dime compared with larger publishing houses that have hundreds or thousands of titles.
For example, we don’t have to rely on retail bookstores. We can pitch books at the local history museum, or sell them in the back of the room when we speak. We can advertise on Amazon, on Facebook, on Google, or in our local papers. We can offer online courses, publish sections of the book in blog posts, or revise the book when things change.
The possibilities are nearly limitless.
If you believe that you’ve found the single best approach to publishing and promoting your book, then any change may feel like a loss. But anyone who tells you that there is one single right path to book promotion is misguided.
I have published three different nonfiction books, and the tactics that work well for one don’t work for the others. There isn’t a one “right” answer, which means that you’re free to experiment.
Change is an excuse to experiment and raise your game.
The best way to adapt to changing tactics is to have a strong, solid strategy.
Tactics May Shift, But Strategies Endure
Pronoun’s closure saddened me – I liked the people there and had been happy with the service. But let’s be clear: using an ebook distributor is a tactic. Tactics can come and go, without derailing strategy.
Strategies are what you’re trying to accomplish. Tactics are the means for doing so. When it comes to ebook distribution, here’s the difference:
- Go wide – distribute my ebook on many different platforms to reach a wide range of readers
- Protect my time so I can work on writing the next book.
- Use an ebook distributor (like Pronoun) to do the work of distribution for me.
The loss of Pronoun was the loss of a tactic, not a change of strategy.
Whenever a tactic disappears, return to the strategy that prompted you to use that tactic, and look for other options to achieve the same ends. Think creatively – you might end up better than you were at the outset.
Applying This Mindset to 2018
I have no idea what changes 2018 will bring. But I have a set of strategies for each of my books, and I intend to execute on those strategies as best I can. When new platforms pop up, I’ll see if they fit my strategy before I jump on board. And when things change, I’ll revisit my plans and pick a new course.
I’m ready. How about you?
Anne Janzer is an NFAA member and author of the books Subscription Marketing (now in its second edition!), The Writer’s Process, and The Workplace Writer’s Process. Find her at annejanzer.com.