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Your Indie Author Mission Statement

Being a self-published author, or indie author, does not simply mean that you write books and hit the publish button. Without the power of a publisher behind them, indie authors are forced to become much more than just writers. They have to become business men and women. They need to have great communications and marketing skills and they have to be relentless in their quest to get their books seen.

Indie authors have to do it all. There is no outside help. Sure they can, and should, hire an editor, but that comes at their own expense. They have to develop, or at least hire someone to develop, a quality cover. Another expense that a traditional publisher would normally cover.

You know what it sounds like an indie author is? A business in itself. Yes, an indie author is a person, but that person is their own business. Does that make sense? Yes. Okay, so now what?

Indie authors have to treat every day like a business day. They need a plan and they need to stick with it if they want to be successful. They need goals and they have to keep producing. They need quality material that never wavers and they need to gain and keep their readers. Treating it like a business will ultimately lead to success. What constitutes success for an indie? I wrote about the differing meanings of success for indie authors. Success depends on the author. Ultimately, though, it means having your books read and making a little money for it. It’s a business. You know what all businesses have? A mission statement.

What is a mission statement?

Mission statements are used in many different fields. Business, education, law enforcement, and churches. They provide for their stakeholders, or many times shareholders, to see that the organization has a clear direction with goals and growth in mind. They provide the employees or members of the organization with a constant reminder of the reasons for what they are doing. They usually discuss the values of that organization and try to distinguish themselves from the competition. Here are some examples of mission statements from various fields:

McDonalds CorporationMcDonald’s brand mission is to be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat and drink. Our worldwide operations are aligned around a global strategy called the Plan to Win, which center on an exceptional customer experience – People, Products, Place, Price and Promotion. We are committed to continuously improving our operations and enhancing our customers’ experience.

Google Inc.Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Columbia University – Columbia University is one of the world’s most important centers of research and at the same time a distinctive and distinguished learning environment for undergraduates and graduate students in many scholarly and professional fields. The University recognizes the importance of its location in New York City and seeks to link its research and teaching to the vast resources of a great metropolis. It seeks to attract a diverse and international faculty and student body, to support research and teaching on global issues, and to create academic relationships with many countries and regions. It expects all areas of the university to advance knowledge and learning at the highest level and to convey the products of its efforts to the world.

And here is one from a field more closely related to us…

Pelican Publishing CompanyPelican Publishing Company has been committed to publishing books of quality and permanence that enrich the lives of those who read them since 1926. With a backlist of more than 2,000 titles, Pelican produces art and architecture books, travel guides, holiday books, local and international cookbooks, motivational and inspirational works, business titles, children’s books, and a growing number of social commentary and history titles.

Even though those four mission statements come from different types of organizations, they all have common themes. They tell the stakeholders what they do and where they are going. Google is the exception. They followed their usual minimalist approach and stuck with a simple, yet powerful, sentence. It still tells you what they do and is probably more along the lines of what Sir Richard Branson would like to see from a mission statement.

Do you know any indie author with a mission statement? I don’t. That’s not to say there aren’t any with one, but I still haven’t seen them. As we strive to make self-published authors more respected, I think this could be a huge step in the right direction. We are all our own business, so we might all have different mission statements, but it will help. We will have something that tells people who we are, what we do, and where we are going. It will provide a promise to us and our readers. It will be a promise of quality and commitment. Does this mean that we can only focus on the indie scene? Heck no. Most of us have other jobs or are father and mothers. That still doesn’t change the value of having a mission statement.

Here’s my first draft:

Allen Watson is a self-published author dedicated to creating quality content for his readers. He has experience in politics, education, law enforcement, and emergency medicine and is an avid science fiction fan. He hopes to use his experiences and passions to write works that will engage a global audience and allow them to explore new worlds and ideas. Allen wants his work to inspire readers to become creators and allow their imaginations to run wild.

I’m going to print this out and tape it to my computer so I see it everyday. I’m going to put it on my blog under its own heading. I want people to take me seriously because I take my work seriously. I’ve written before about gaining respect from readers, and this is another way to do that. Professionalize yourself and it will transform to your work. If self-published authors work hard to ensure that they put forth nothing but quality work and they stick to a strong value system that their readers can appreciate, we will all be better off. At some point the people that refuse to read any self-published work will realize that they are really missing out on some good reading and the publishers will have to transform their methods even more than they already have. 

Don’t worry about making your mission statement perfect right away. Heck, I’ll probably change mine at some point. Just be sure to make one. Take a minute and do it now on a scratch piece of paper. You’ll discover something about yourself in the process.

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Please share your mission statements in a comment!

Related Articles

Writing as a Business


What Your Support Means To Indie Authors

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Authors have many different reasons for taking the self-publishing route. Maybe they’ve tried traditional publishing but got rejected. Maybe they didn’t get rejected but realized the possibilities present in self-publishing that might not be there from traditional publishers (percentage of profits). Maybe the authors simply want a way to share their work without having to go through the long process of submitting and having it sit at the gatekeepers desk for months or years.

No matter what your opinion of self-publishing, I think we can all admit that there is some seriously good work out there from the indie author scene. If you don’t think so, then you likely haven’t bought any indie work. As I’ve said before, there are many pieces of bad work out there, but who cares? Just like in music and movies, there will always be less than par work that gets into the mix. It honestly doesn’t matter to me. It doesn’t make my work look worse. If an author spends the time and puts forth a professional effort, as we have advocated, then the work will stand out. Many self-published authors take the time to do it the right way. I know that there are still some of you who will argue that unless a traditional publisher has vetted the work then it can never be as good. Fine. I promise that you are missing work that is often of higher quality than what is on the shelves of your chain book stores.

So, what should we do when we find work that is fantastic come out of the indie author realm? Well, we owe it to the author, and to ourselves, to let as many people know as we can. I’m talking, Tweet about it, Facebook about it, and tell your friends. Most importantly – LEAVE A REVIEW!

As I was reading some indie work yesterday, my main thought was about how much of a difference we can make in each others lives. 99% of self-published authors are nearly broke, but took the time to get their work out to the rest of us. It means something to the author, and if we find that it means something to us, we can truly make a difference in that author’s life. Let me do a little story and some math for you. Now, this may seem like I’m only writing this to make profits for indie authors. I’m not. I want you to know what a difference your support can make (because often, other indies don’t support self-pubbers).

Let’s say Ralph (nobody in particular) puts out his science fiction self-published book. If it had been printed, it would run about 300 pages, the normal size for a science fiction book at the local store. Ralph has two kids, a wife, and works 50 hours a week to support his family, but has always had a passion for writing science fiction. He decided to take the plunge and write a book. He writes it, re-writes it, gets it professionally edited, re-writes it, gets a professional cover done, gets it just right for Kindle (or other platform) and finally hits the publish button. Any of that sound familiar to anyone out there? He took the right steps to give us his story.

We buy Ralph’s book for $2.99, less than a gallon of gas or a cup of coffee. We start reading it and quickly realize that, dang, this Ralph guy has written a really good book! Upon realizing this, we should now have a responsibility to Ralph, particularly because he is an indie author. When we finish it, we need to review it. It needs to be a quality review. Something more than “Awesome book.” Write a paragraph encouraging others to buy Ralph’s book. Send out a link to Ralph’s book on your Twitter and Facebook pages. Even if only one or two of your friends pick up a copy, that is still a few extra dollars for Ralph. Let’s say that twenty people pick up Ralph’s book on day one and Ralph gets about $2.05 per copy sold.

20 x 2.05 = $41 – Ralph can take his family our for dinner or pay more on his credit card.

Now let’s say that each of those 20 buyers gets one more person to buy Ralph’s book. Now he has sold 40 copies.

40 x 2.05 = $82 – Ralph starts to feel good about his work and starts a second book, as well as pays down some more debt.

Now let’s say that some reviews start to give his book a boost and all the previous buyers get one more person to buy Ralph’s book. Maybe Ralph gets up to 250 copies sold

250 x 2.05 = $512.5 – Ralph used this to make his car payment, allowing him to possibly spend some more time with his family instead of at work.

How many of you would have your lives transformed just by having an extra $500 or so? All of us.

Most indie authors aren’t looking to become rich. They are looking for just a little extra to help out around the house. There are so many ways for people to make a difference in the world. In fact, because there are so many ways, many people get overwhelmed and do nothing. Instead, let’s play to our strengths – writing and communicating. We are in the indie author scene! Let’s use it and make a difference for our friends and fellow authors. 

When we find great indie work, we CAN absolutely ensure that the author gets that little extra to help them out. Imagine if Ralph’s book hit one of Amazon’s best seller charts for a day because of your help and he sold 2,000 copies. Suddenly he can take a vacation. You helped Ralph take a vacation and all it cost you was $2.99 and some tweets. The indie author scene can be transformed by all of us taking simple steps and recognizing quality work. We may not all be the next Hugh Howey, but dangit, we can still make a difference around the house. Take care.

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Your Indie Author Mission Statement


Making Dialogue Feel Real

Dialogue

I read a book recently, The Settlers, by Jason Gurley, that had fantastic dialogue. I wrote about it in my review. It was powerful and, more importantly, made me feel like it was REAL dialogue. Have you ever read a book in which the dialogue fell flat? Maybe like the words spoken between characters just didn’t seem right? Heck, maybe you’ve written some pretty bad dialogue yourself; I know I have.

When I’m reading a book, I love the dialogue. That’s what makes me feel involved in the process. With conversation, it opens up the characters to one another. As readers, we are gods. We’re omnipotent observers because we get to read the back stories. We know the characters thoughts. The other characters don’t know these things, so when the dialogue comes along, the characters are letting out the secrets that we already know. You know how hard it is to keep a secret!

I’ve said that the hardest thing for me has been character development. I think I have a decent handle on that now, but the second hardest thing for me is dialogue. In my opinion, dialogue is a very important part of character development, if for no other reason than it is what makes them seem real. I mean, Ian Fleming could have filled our heads with great backdrops, stories, and thoughts of James Bond, but it really is the suave way that Bond talks to others (particularly the women) that make us love him. Unless your story is going to be set up based around the life of a mime, then you have to practice your dialogue skills. It certainly took a good bit of practice for me.

Assuming that you already know and understand the rules of punctuation surrounding dialogue (no small feat if you are new to it or are not an avid reader), you have to have a certain flow. I almost don’t know how to explain it. Coming from an academic, research based writing background, my dialogue flow was rough. Contractions were so non-existent in my head that I didn’t know where the apostrophe button was. Unless you are writing a Commander Data or Spoke fan fic, you really need to know where it is. People usually don’t talk in proper English. We are all about some contractions.

Making the dialogue real is important, but you know it can go overboard. Very rarely can an author go full on slang and get away with it. Mark Twain could manage it, but I certainly can’t. Could you imagine reading a book base on characters from Boston or How about southern Louisiana in which the author tried to get every word phonetically correct? You can throw most accents and slang out the window, especially if you are new at writing fiction (like me).

Most of the time, dialogue can’t simply be the spoken words (I know that it pretty much the definition though). What you put around the spoken words is just as important. Conversations between real people usually are accompanied by some kind of hand or head movement. Real conversations are also filled with thought in the heads of the participants. That has to be shown through the dialogue. Here is a brief snipet of dialogue that I just wrote for two of the characters in my new book, but completely stripped down and flow inept:

“I still have not opened the Bible you gave me,” said Benjamin. Pastor Raymond had given it to him a few months ago.

“I did not ask if you had,” said Raymond.

“I know, but I did not want you to get your hopes up,” said Benjamin.

“You will open it when and if you are ready,” said Raymond. “Rushing faith is an easy way to turn people away from God.”

Now, to me, that is about as ugly as it gets. Let’s look at what I really wrote:

“I still haven’t opened the Bible you gave me,” said Benjamin. Pastor Raymond had given it to him three months prior, probably hoping that Benjamin would gain a better understanding of faith.

“I didn’t ask if you had,” replied Raymond.

“I know,” said Benjamin, “but I didn’t want you to get your hopes up.” Benjamin smiled a little, hoping he could keep the pastor’s patience in check. He knew he didn’t have to worry about it, though. Pastor Raymond was the most patient person he knew.

“You’ll open it up when and if you’re ready,” said Raymond. “Rushing faith is an easy way to turn people away from God.”

Mechanically, everything that could be contracted is. That’s just how we talk. We’re not writing a research paper, we’re writing fiction. Also new to the second part it the filler between the characters speaking to one another. It tells you that they are not simply robots, but people that are having their own individual thoughts and feelings. In real conversation, this is stuff we do. We think about what the other person it saying and we wonder what they are thinking. Often what we are thinking is not what we say, and that has to be shown to the reader in fiction dialogue. If you want your audience to connect with the characters, you have to make them real. OH! Yes, I was hoping I could circle this back around to character development and there it is (I’m feeling a bit like the Doctor today thanks to my new sonic screwdriver).

New fiction writers, like myself, often rely on too little dialogue because it scares them. Sure, descriptions of the scenes are nice, and who doesn’t love to take a trip into a character’s past via flashbacks? But dialogue is where it’s at. I like to think of all the words in the book as parts of speech, with the dialogue being the action verbs. It adds the excitement and ups the tempo. Everything else is important, just not as much.

What do you think about dialogue? If you disagree, please let me know. On this blog, I just write things down regardless of whether or not it is right. Do you have your own way of making dialogue work? Put some of your own dialogue in the comments!


The Stigma of Self-Publishing – An Indie Problem

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Indie authors are dirty, sloppy, and worthless. Their covers are crappy and you should just look at their writing skills – makes you wince even thinking about it. Character development? Self-publishers have no clue. Their work does not deserve to be displayed anywhere near the work that has been vetted and edited by actual publishers.

Anyone who has followed me for any length of time probably just had a heart attack. You know that I clearly don’t feel that way about self-publishers. My first book will be out in a month or so and it will be self-published. 

I’m proud of it. Not because it’s fantastic (that’s for you to decide), but because I actually got a book written. Not only did I get it written, but I am following the right steps towards getting it published. I pounded out a first draft and then took my time completing a second draft. I printed multiple hard copies of that second draft and gave it out for editing from serious professionals that I have networked with for years around my area. They are marking it up now and I will get those copies back soon. I will then complete a third draft and get some of my gracious beta readers to give it a test drive. In the mean time, I have contacted a great friend and spectacular artist that I know to begin work on my cover. She has an MFA from the University of SC and our creative visions are similar. I know that I will get what I want from her and more.

The stigma that surrounds self-publishers is not going to go away any time soon. No matter how many success stories come out of the indie author circle, it seems that so many people refuse to pick up an indie book. They are convinced that nothing good can come from anyone that didn’t go through a traditional publisher. I just read a review of Hugh Howey’s Wool that I think was tainted by the reviewer’s disdain of self-publishing. I honestly wondered if we had read the same book, because I loved the book.

Like it or not, many of the problems are on the shoulders of snobby self-publishers. You know who they are, so don’t pretend you to have no clue. They put their work out well before it is ready. I’m not talking about having a bad story, that can happen to published authors (come on, sometimes Stephen King’s stories need a little help). I’m talking about work that an author might have let their spouse read and that’s it. Right, your spouse if going to tell you the truth…

I’m talking about the indie authors that never had to write a single paper in college, if they even had a college class. There is nothing wrong with that. Heck, some high schoolers are successful self-publishers now, but guess what? Someone helped them! Someone looked over their work and took a big red pen to almost EVERYTHING. I’m talking about the ones that are published and then given reviews from friends and family as the rest of us look at it and say, “Sure, we self-pub to avoid the almighty gatekeepers and slush piles, but damn, that piece of writing is really not good.”

Professionalism and Discipline

Just because we self-publish and call ourselves indies does not give us the right to skip vital parts of the publishing process. Professionalism and discipline has to be our mantra. Sure, write a sloppy first draft. Write a sloppy, if somewhat better, second draft. Then give it to someone smarter than you. Give it to many people that are smarter than you (preferably with some editing experience). Give them free reign to rip it apart. Let them know that your feelings won’t be hurt. Get those copies back, cry a little, then pound out another draft. Then, if you think you need it, get a good group of beta readers. There are many people willing to trade work back and forth online. All you have to do it network and be nice in the right circles online to find them. Please don’t skip the cover. It has to be professional to be taken seriously. I’m getting someone with a master’s degree in fine art to work on mine. It doesn’t get more professional than that. The cover will be the thing people see first, so make sure it is great!

Does it all sound hard? Of course it does. Is it a ton of steps to take? YES. It does take serious discipline to take the professional route, but it has to be done. You took the time to put your awesome ideas down on paper, so treat them with respect. If you don’t, the readers will respond accordingly.

This is the only way to rid ourselves of the stigma surrounding indie authors. We have to become our own gatekeepers. Just because we chose to not take the traditional route does not mean we get to skimp on our work, and that is unfortunately what has happened to much of it. Sure, there will always be bad work out there. We will never be able to fix that. In fact, I don’t want to fix it because it shows the freedom that we have as authors. But, with some hard work and serious perseverance, we can get the good work to rise to the top. We can break even more indie authors out into the world. We have great stories to share so let’s make sure they don’t drown in laziness and complacency.  

**I know some of you will take offense at me saying college is necessary for good writing. I know it isn’t. I will say this – college and grad school forced me to really analyze my writing and ensure that what I wrote was quality work. It also made me realize that everyone does indeed need someone to read over their work.


Why Do You Self-Publish?

I mean, I already know the generic answer to that question. People self-publish to escape the evil twenty-something gatekeepers that hate their work, even though the work is fantastic. They self-publish because they don’t want to go through the many rounds of rejection, many times because what they are writing ‘is not currently selling.’ Of course, one of the main reasons to self-publish is for an author’s creativity to remain intact, which they often see as one of the things that publishers suck away.

My reason for pursuing the self-publishing path is pretty simple. I like immediate results and I want a bigger percentage of the money. I also think that, with the internet, everyone has a right to have their stuff read. Sometimes people’s work is not that great, but there is an easy way to handle that – don’t buy it.

Don’t take this to mean that I am going to cut corners. I know the importance of good writing, solid and complete editing, and sound cover designs. I understand that it is easy to spot the self-published authors that really don’t have a firm grasp on plot and character development. Heck, I might not be that good at it either, but I sure as heck will work hard to improve. And again, it seems like a better deal to keep more of your money. Why should good authors be forced to take such a small percentage of the profit?

What I really want to know from other self-published authors is this – what do you hope to realistically gain financially from self-publishing? I know that’s a personal question, but it seems like such a tall order to do well in the current market. The market is filled with good work. Sometimes that good work makes it big. Hugh Howey certainly did with Wool. Heck, even bad writing can make it big if it involved sex. I saw shirts based on Fifty Shades of Grey the other day at the bookstore (unfortunately it was next to the kid’s section of the store).

How about you? Do all self-published authors get into it seeing dollar signs? Or do you do it just because you have some extra time and want to share your work with the world?

For the sake of all self-publishers, I wish more semi-successful indie authors would speak up with some of their incomes figures from books sales. I know how personal finances are to most people, but it sure would be nice for others to know that there are some serious success stories out there. I’m not talking about the ones selling thousand upon thousand of copies. I’m talking about the authors that can pay their bills from their self-published work. The ones that aren’t rich, but can now go out to eat without worrying about blowing their budget. Where are you? I know you’re out there. We want to hear from you.

I have my own reasons for going the self-published route, and I will discuss that further in another blog post in about a month or so. It’s two-fold and deserves more than a sentence here. Take care!


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