you know more than you think


Last night, I participated in an event at the Tigard Public Library that was organized by the Northwest Independent Writers Association (NIWA). Essentially a bunch of us writers showed up to sit at tables scattered around the community events room, and people with questions about writing and publishing could sit down with us individually to discuss.

I don’t think a single one of us really knew what to expect, but it was a lovely evening. I think what it proved to each of us is that we know a good deal more about writing and publishing than we may have thought.

Apart from moderating a debate between two attendees about the state of advertising in The Oregonian and hearing both positive and lukewarm feedback on my own newspaper articles, I spoke to a published author about setting up a blog tour to market his books without having to travel; talked with a lady about costs involved in self-publishing, the reality of DIY self-publishing vs. buying packaged services, and choosing an illustrator and cover artist; brainstormed with a hopeful screenwriter about getting his script into the hands of the right people; spoke with a budding memoirist about capturing his story for his children; and talked to another lady about the self-publishing possibilities for her non-fiction book, already beautifully structured with photographs and Native American lore.

(My longest conversation was with a 93-year-old man?a published author?who was telling me about the history of the area [something I’m admittedly not well-versed in, having not grown up here], the inspiration for his works of fiction, his service in the Pacific theater during World War II, and the politics behind current U.S. military involvements. I know other people may feel frustrated about getting “stuck” in these conversations, but I love it?getting this personal window on history, being the beneficiary of someone else’s life wisdom, and sometimes simply being a good listen to someone who needs to talk. But I digress.)

I’m not suggesting that we each had all the answers for everyone we spoke to last night, but sometimes the best way to really know what you know is to teach it or share it with someone else.

One of the best questions I was asked by an aspiring indie author was, “What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you got started?”

Limiting my response to self-publishing?and even more so to my more recent indie publishing?I didn’t even really have to think before answering, “I wish I had started before I did.” I put off my entree into indie publishing because I was still caught up in the fairy tale of traditional publishing (that it’s the only real way to be an author), and because I wasn’t really sure how to get started. Except that even then, I knew more than I thought I did, and when I finally did decide to take the plunge I discovered that I already had most of the tools, skills, and know-how to get the job done, and that what wasn’t already in my personal toolbox was within reasonable reach.

Being an indie author is still a lot of work. As my table-mate, author Brad Wheeler, said to another hopeful author, “There aren’t enough hours in the day.” But, if you put your mind to it, I imagine you’ll find that you’re better prepared than you might have thought, and that there’s plenty of room for your imagination to run (productively) wild.

Creative Commons photo by florianric.

Posted in writing & publishing.


  1. Jen, what is the difference between indie publishing and self-publishing? Or is there one? One complaint I’ve heard about self-publishing is that you have to do all the marketing yourself. Which may be a challenge for strong introverts like myself.

    • Self-publishing and indie publishing are basically two different terms for the same thing: publishing your own work. “Self-publishing” had gotten a bad rap and can too often be equated with vanity publishing and just plain crap. Indie publishing was adopted by more serious writers turning to self-publishing, in order to differentiate themselves. At least, this is my understanding.

      These days, it’s all too common for authors published by “traditional” houses to have to do most or even all of their own marketing. Unless you’re an established author or otherwise a big name going into the process, you often find yourself on your own. A number of established authors have “jumped ship” from traditional publishing for precisely this reason — if you’re going to have to do all of that work yourself anyway, you might as well take full control of the process and keep the lion’s share of the royalties while you’re at it.

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