It’s always great when you meet fellow indie authors that publish in the same genre as you do. Even better when they’re relatively in the same position in their careers as you are and you can see their potential success bursting from them whenever you converse. Sever Bronny is someone I met on KBoards and I’ve seen him take the Amazon charts by storm. His posts (whether on his own personal blog or on KBoards) are always knowledgeable and a great read. If you haven’t already, you’re going to want to check out his debut novel, ARCANE. It’s follow-up, RIVEN, is arriving shortly. Sign up for his mailing list to be the first to learn when it’s available! I’ll let Sever take over from here.
Indie publishing is about taking charge of your own destiny. The buck stops with you. You’re the boss, the master of your dreams. But following them sometimes feels like it’s not meant for you, like it’s something just for the movies, or really special and lucky people.
And how can you even tell if it’s a dream or just wishful thinking?
Let’s tackle the latter first.
A dream, or passion, comes easily. You can pore tons of time into it and feel fulfilled. The wishful thinking part is when you struggle against your passions to fulfill ego desire. Maybe you want to be Stephen King but you really should keep writing as a hobby. Maybe you want to play rock star but you really should be a mechanic. Some people think one profession is better than the other, but it really isn’t. There is joy and total fulfillment in every discipline, and we are matched with certain disciplines more than others—the trick is finding what you love through and through.
I used to want to be a rock star. I loved making music. Except I hated the rest of it—touring, practicing, marketing, etc. I told myself otherwise at the time, but it really always was a foot-dragging affair. See, I loved playing and partying and hanging out but didn’t really enjoy the nitty gritties of the music biz. Mind you, it was still a modestly successful venture—I got a song placed in a feature film; sold and shipped records to every corner of the globe; acquired the same mastering engineer for my final record that finishes Nine Inch Nails’ records; racked up half a million plays on myspace before it tanked; went on radio, TV, and print; and I had a strong following. Hell, I even had a fan tattoo the band logo on their skin.
You get it. Anyway, the light had long gone out before I finally had enough. The boys knew it, I knew it. It was just…too much energy to get anywhere. It felt like work, and that sucked. There was no I love every part of this process part. It was a struggle.
Hate doing a few things here and there? Fine, hire someone else to do it. Hate almost every part of what you’re doing except the creative part? Alarm bells should be ringing if you want to make money from it. If you don’t, you’re good to go, you’re not killing yourself with stress, with false hope, and you probably make money doing something else. That’s perfectly healthy. The problem arises when we do things for ego, when we fool ourselves into thinking we’re going to get somewhere by doing the least amount possible outside of the creative core. That kind of thing doesn’t last over the long haul, and the indie game is a long haul. It, like the music biz, will weed out the ones whose hearts aren’t in it.
I think I went through five different professions and countless kinds of jobs before I hit the I love every part of this process feeling. That’s indie publishing to me. I love the writing, the editing, the formatting (mostly when it’s done!), interacting with readers and fellow authors, the marketing, the release push, the cover design, the website design, the Twittering, the blah blah blah.
And it’s effortless. No part of this “sucks.” No part of this I truly hate. I might groan and whine now and then to my fellow authors, but I’m living the dream—I’m writing and publishing all week long (when I’m not hanging out with my amazing wife and finicky cat).
From my limited experience, what separates those that succeed and those that fail is perseverance. Grit, determination, a refusal to quit. You combine that with passion, and you have a career. And remember, that passion should extend to most of the process, not one part of it. If you want to make music but hate touring, work from home. If you want to write but hate marketing or publishing, get a publishing company. Do what you have to do, just don’t fool yourself. When it doesn’t feel right, especially over a long period of time, move on, you’ll find happiness doing something else, believe me. The show goes on when you step off the stage.
Let me repeat that: the show goes on when you step off the stage.
Now let’s talk about the first part of my post—following your dreams feels like it’s meant for the movies, for the “special ones.”
Let’s make one thing clear: you’re not special. Neither am I. No one really is. We’re all in the same boat. We’re all going to die. Some of the most successful, most famous people in the world are already dead. They’d probably trade everything they achieved to live another year as some yokel. Life is short, you either do what you love, or you suffer. Hell, you’re going to suffer anyway, might as well do what you love. Want to succeed at your passion? Find your inner strength, the part of you that believes in yourself. Don’t place success on a pedestal. It’s absolutely possible, you just have to work hard at what you do and make sure that what you’re doing is what you want to be doing.
And to be good at what you do, you have to study your craft. Let’s assume that as a writer you’re always studying your craft, trying to be better. That’s a given, but studying craft is an even more onerous prospect for an indie writer playing the part of the publisher. And that’s because your craft includes studying the art of marketing, social networking, editing, proofing, cover design, and on it goes. Some people hire others to do what they can’t. That’s encouraged—why make a cover when you’ll lose money with a crap design? Hire a genius. Work the angles. Know your strengths and hire out the weaknesses. But love every part of it. Find the joy in working with others. Squeeze out the juice in life for those things that aren’t writing. Writing’s the easiest part of this process.
I heard this recently, and I think it’s an apt closer: You can either build your dreams, whatever they be, or someone will hire you to build theirs.
Sever Bronny is a musician and author living in Victoria, British Columbia. He has released three albums with his industrial-rock music project Tribal Machine, including the full-length concept album, The Orwellian Night. One of his songs can be heard in the feature-length film, The Gene Generation. His fantasy coming of age book, ARCANE, has consistently been on the Amazon bestseller charts. The sequel is expected shortly.