Monday, July 2, 2012

The Life of an Independent Writer

My Story: The Life of an Independent Writer

I remember a few years ago when I finished writing my first novel, Legends and Landmarks, Volume I: The Night Walker I was excited to have actually finished writing a book and had an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. It was over 300 pages of a story that I was actually happy with. Not a bad job at all for my first try at writing a novel.

So I felt great about the accomplishment and began to send query letters to agents in hopes of finding traditional representation. After about forty or so rejection letters (I mailed over 100. 50-60 agents didn’t even bother to respond.) I decided there had to be another way to get the attention of a good agent. I was no Stephen King or Dean Koontz, but I have read my fair share of books that made me wonder how the hell that writer found an agent. I was reading some updates on the website for one of my favorite mystery and suspense writers back in early 2002. I decided to click on the contact button and ask the guy what advice he gives to writers with my dilemma. Certainly there had to be a lot of writer’s in similar situations. I won’t disclose who the well known author is, but his less than friendly reply was to find an agent, piss off, and stop bothering him with dumb questions.

At that point I decided never to pose a question to any published author again. I really enjoyed his books but I haven’t spent a dime on his work since. I told myself then that if I were ever a successful and well known writer I would never talk to anyone that way, especially someone seeking a little advice. Kind of hard to sell a book if you treat your readers like jerks.

I really wanted my work to be read so I decided to self-publish through I do not recommend anyone use that company, however. After a ton of rejection letters I self published The Night Walker with a corny generic stock book cover and smiled with anticipation when I saw it available on Amazon and other online book sellers. I was excited to soon see myself on the best seller lists!! The only problem was that I barely sold enough paperback books to cover the costs of self-publishing.

One lesson I learned from my first novel was that I had a great imagination but I was a piss poor editor. Thankfully I was contacted by a few readers that really enjoyed the story but wanted to know what was up with the bad editing. A few great folks agreed to help me edit my other works for free simply because they liked my work. I was flattered and humbled. They found me on social networking sites and I am glad to say I made some new friends from that experience.

Since then I have self-published seven books, most available only for e-reader devices. I publish these days on Amazon because I have a reasonable assumption that they report sales correctly to me. I cannot assume that with the previous company I used for print books for very specific reasons. Besides, as much as I love holding a book in my hand it’s nice to save a few trees as well.

I am often asked by new writers if self-publishing is worth all the hassle. My answer is simple: Yes, if you want people to read your work. Don’t expect to get rich and make sure you have a day job. I still receive rejection letters to this day, mostly because an agent seldom bothers to promote Indie Writers. It does happen, but so does winning the lottery. If I waited for an agent and a legit book deal then I would have been writing for over a decade without the pleasure of a reader enjoying one story.

Being an Indie Writer does have its pitfalls. For starters I know little about marketing and have no budget for it even if I did. So any kind of success has to be by word of mouth. Patience is a requirement and I have very little of it. Also, you are at the mercy of the publisher you choose and hope they don’t rip you off. Once you decide to publish, traditional agents seldom even return an email.

On the flip side, being an Indie Writer means that you work at your pace and don’t have to be held hostage by corporate red tape. Your success as a writer, financially as well as your personal successes, depends on you instead of an agent and publisher that may not have you high on their list of priorities.

I don’t sell a lot of books mostly because not many people have heard of me. I hope that changes over time because I would love to focus on writing full time. However, I still get that giddy feeling whenever I sell a book. That makes all the work and worry worth it. If you know an Indie Writer I suggest you pay him/her a nice compliment on their efforts once in a while. It’s a lot easier to get frustrated and quit on a dream than it is to keep struggling. Your kind words or few bucks spent could make all the difference to a great writer that may have a big future ahead.

If you would like to check out my work then go to and search my name, John Schweingrouber or copy and paste the link below. Thanks for stopping by The Ritter Files.

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