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Indie Author Magazine: How will the strategy of publishing wide play a part in the future of the industry?

Elizabeth Ann West: More than ever, the personal relationship with readers will be a bedrock of sustainability for creators. Publishing wide offers an author so many different platforms and opportunities to reach fans. Using AI as a time saver on rote tasks opens up more time to specialize in multiple platforms, not just one.

Indie Author Magazine: Do you anticipate that the definition of wide will ever evolve to mean more? If so, where do you see authors going?

Elizabeth Ann West: Wide will mean meeting readers and fans of your content where they are. This means beyond the ebook store, and many authors now “Go Wide” with merchandise, special editions and formats, and membership or micro-transaction sites like Patreon, Royal Road, and more. This also shapes the future concept of a mid-lister, where making a wage that provides a living for an author requires multiple income streams.

Indie Author Magazine: On an individual level, direct publishing can equate to greater control over titles, greater royalties, and a closer relationship with readers. What will the trend of authors publishing direct mean for the industry as a whole?

Elizabeth Ann West: In my experience, my readers who bought directly from me also bought the book on their favorite ebook store. Direct sales is a relationship, and many of those fans can be served with knowledge and love for your book that they carry to those other more traditional platforms. They want their favorite author to succeed, and when they buy an early release copy, they proudly leave a review and boast about being in the fan club that gave them early access. When top tier authors run their direct sales, it’s numbers big enough to attract the notice of large store fronts, but for the average author, it’s an opportunity to stay in business as the playing fields become more crowded. As more authors adopt direct sales, realizing the investment is worth the reward, it starts moving the needle back to the reader is the author’s customer, not the store front’s customer.

Indie Author Magazine: With AI being such a hot-button, divisive topic now, what role(s)—if any—do you think it will play in the indie publishing world in five years’ time?

Elizabeth Ann West: I just want to say because the last part only gave me like sixty four characters to answer. In the last six months, I’ve watched this move from a single prompt giving a coherent four hundred words to a coherent two thousand to three thousand words. And I’m not talking about a bunch of mess word salad with some coherent paragraphs here and there. I mean, it’s already able to keep narrative logic over two thousand to three thousand words, and that just came out literally last week. Before that, other tools such as copyright story engine or looping commands and everything like that was what was required in order to get that that length of words out. So in five years time, it’s going to be the full instrument of production where the idea is what gets put in and how you want that ID expressed, and it’ll be able to produce for you a bunch of different options, and then you just choose which one is the best one. So I think AI is going to be our loom basically the the industrial revolution and how that hit manual labor And then it’s going to be on us to produce quality and luxury or this concept of what we’re actually producing and why a consumer should care about that product, which is a book.

Indie Author Magazine: How important is technology to one’s success as an indie author and to the industry as a whole?

Elizabeth Ann West: Again, this question is how important is technology to one’s success as an indie author? I think this is what our scalability is. None of us would really be able to publish as NDAs if technology hadn’t allowed the distribution to go worldwide and almost instantaneous at a button click. Back in the nineties and early two thousands before that distribution was there, independent authors would literally have to sell books out of the trunk of their car, go to actual trade shows and things like that to fill orders by hand. Now everything is automated. And so we have really succeeded on the back of that massive technology And now that AI is coming down the pipeline, this is yet another opportunity for Indi’s to get in touch with their inner tech nerd and realize that The sooner I learned how to use this, the stronger I’m going to be in the industry instead of going, I’m not gonna touch this because of X y z questions or or or issues there. So I think that the technology is absolutely critical to an indie author success. Doesn’t mean that you won’t still probably have assistance or editors or any of those other people as you get bigger and you you hire people to help you run your empire. Because while the technology specifically about AI can produce a heck of a lot of content, it’s absolute rubbish at actually being able to evaluate that content right now. And I think that even when it gets better at that, a human is still going to need to be that final say so or we’re just going to have stuff that doesn’t really move the needle. It’ll be same, same, same, over and over again. The human is what really brings that spirit. Because while an AI can talk about, you know, like, an experience that a human has, say, for example, slamming your hand in a car door for example. We’ve all done that as kids. The AI can say, explain that. But the AI has never had a hand, actually gets slammed in a car door. So it doesn’t really know what that experience is like. And so there are certain things that the human is always going to have to breathe into that writing.

Indie Author Magazine:What does transmedia mean for an author’s business? Will indie authors ever need to be more than just “writers” to survive in the industry?

Elizabeth Ann West: So this is an interesting concept because I would even argue that those indie authors who adopted the fast production schedule as a core component of their success was actually an element of Transmedia in the sense that it was a relationship between their readers and them that they could deliver a product on such a short timetable. Like once a month, or once a week for cereals or once every two months or whatever it was. The actual act of fulfilling the promise of the production schedule was part of a and part of an experience for their readers. Transmedia, I think, is going to be even more important for indie authors. Because more and more people are using digital products and also physical products to get into a story world. Even if they themselves may not be necessarily interested in the novelizations or the novels. I know the article you linked to, the butcher was an example, I would also even point out to things like Magic: The Gathering, which does Transmedia with your cards. The core thing is the game. But there’s now novelizations, web comics, on on on websites, and also different t shirts and things. And now that indie authors actually has have access to create those products, I’ve seen fantasy authors and stuff create entire card games for their their story world and everything like that. So anything that gets people interacting with the story world in between book releases I think is a really great way to keep your story world alive. And I also think that indie authors are going to need to do that in order to survive in the industry because As we all know, it’s tougher and tougher these days to just write a book, release it, and hope that that’s going to make enough money. The algorithms are tougher than ever. And there’s just more competition. When I started off in indie writing, we had less than a million books in the store. Now there’s many more there’s over a million published every single year. And so I think that the Transmedia is it serves your readership by giving them great quality content to interact with your story world. And then that also works as a marketing endeavor because it produces a bunch of different channels for people to come to know you and your product line. So I think that’s gonna be very important for especially the top indie authors to to keep moving in the right direction.

Indie Author Magazine: What can authors do now to build community with their readers and within the industry?

Elizabeth Ann West: There have been lots of books out there about, you know, finding your first one thousand fans or finding your first one hundred fans or whatever number it is that that it wants to talk about. I think that making an author website, even though that seems so old fashioned and so funny, Daddy, It is absolutely the core to your community. It is literally your storefront that is open twenty four hours a day, seven days a week no matter what. And provides the links and everything like that for your readers to get into other spaces with you. Yes, you can build a Discord community. Yes, you can build a Facebook group. Yes, you could have a patreon. But as many of us who’ve been in the industry for longer than a decade know, the rules and regulations and terms and conditions of those other platforms and things like that can change on a whim. They can change overnight. The company could get sold to, I don’t know, meglamaniac. Who knows? Many of us woke up one day and all of a sudden our Facebook pages only reached the tenth of the audience that we had built up and we suddenly had to pay to reach the other ninety percent that we had already done the blood sweat and tears to build on our own. So some of us old timers are very salty about this. So I absolutely advocate that to build a community with your readers, you need to one hundred percent make sure it’s in a space that you can control. And while you may not exactly own your domain name, it is a lease from the iCAN. It’s still the best space for you to have control. Same thing with your newsletter. Make sure you download your email lists pretty regularly because, again, if something changes with your email newsletter provider, you wanna have those emails that you can contact your customers that you work so hard to gain. You don’t wanna leave your business to be at the whim of the terms and conditions of some other company. Especially a big corporation whose interest at any time may no longer align with yours. So that’s why I say to authors, build your community, and the way to do it now is the same way it was back then. And I even recommend blogging your chapters. It’s crazy, but it works. Even to this day. What readers wanna do is they wanna read the post about your cat and your writing process and stuff. It’s great and it’s interesting to your existing readers. But what does a brand new reader to you really need in order to come join your community? They need to see your writing. That’s what happens inside of the bookstore. If you’re browsing a bookstore, you’re picking up books and you’re looking at the inside to find authors that are new to you and that you wanna read. So I highly recommend blogging your chapters having them connect to your website, and then having some kind of space that you can interact with your readers. You don’t have to do a whole lot of giveaways or anything like that. One of the things that I do is I have my readers pick Easter eggs that go into books that I’m working on. And that makes them excited. And then I put a list at the back of the book of the easter eggs they could find inside of the book. And then say, hey, this is where the group is that you can actually have a say in the easter eggs in the next book. These are things that you can do to build community. Community is a relationship with your readers. It’s not necessarily just selling to them. It’s involving them in the process. So the more you can brainstorm things that how would you want to be treated as a member of a community Think about that. Think about your favorite authors, your favorite movies. What experiences would you love to have be offered to you as a fan of that world? And then you can figure out how to scale that for your own indie author business and career.

Indie Author Magazine: Why does community matter in the future of indie publishing?

Elizabeth Ann West: Just to expand on this, community matters in the future of indie publishing. Because the amount of content that can be produced, a click of a button is going to get increasingly bigger. I mean, by multitudes, by exponential numbers. So how do you compete if there’s now suddenly a thousand books in your genre and before thousand books being released every thirty days when before there was only like sixty two or two hundred. You’re going to have to have this relationship with readers. These core people. And this matters because all of these e bookstores are running on algorithms. So if you have five hundred people say on your newsletter and twenty percent of them will buy the book on that day one. So five hundred, twenty percent of that is what, like, a hundred people So a hundred people. Those one hundred people all buying the book on the same day actually moves the needle on the algorithms on those storefronts. So it does become kind of a competition. It’s better you’re better off in a lot of a lot of experience a lot of situations to have one hundred people buy the book in the same forty eight hours rather than that same one hundred people like buying one book a week over the next one hundred weeks. Because one will the the first one will actually bump you up into the algorithm to increase your visibility. Everybody thinks that the tail wags the dog and not the dog wags the tail when it comes to visibility in store fronts and sales. The first thing you have to do to get visibility in the store is sales. You have to literally get people to buy your book. One way I like to test if my book is in a good space and everything like that is to make sure that Amazon sells a handful of copies before I even share the link. That lets me know that I have put it in the right categories, and I’ve put it in the right the the covers right and everything like that. That it’s it’s organically getting some traction. The next thing I do is I make sure that my newsletter has it. And then I also always do like a follow-up to the people who didn’t open that email like a week later saying thank you so much for everyone who has looked at the book. My records are that you did you missed the last email. I just wanna make sure you didn’t miss it. So that you really wanna keep that community helping you be that bedrock of those first sales, especially in that first thirty days. And they’re not going to be mad at you because if you frame it in such a way that it is an active service and it should be, it’s about honoring the fact that they liked what you did before, and that you are just alerting them that there’s new product available so that they don’t miss out. Yeah. Everybody literally everybody. We think we’re overwhelmed with how much we’re bombarded with, what we have to keep up with. Our readers are in the same boat. They all have careers. They all have, you know, kids or family obligations. Favorite TV shows, favorite, you know, music that’s coming out text messages from their friends and their families. They are also in the same boat as us where they are getting an onslaught of notifications. So it’s even more critical than ever before that your community is something that you use in the future to to get your sales going, and then also making sure that you’re using them to help you frame what do they need next because if you build yourself a community, you have also given yourself a group of customers that you can serve. And if you ask them what they need next and what they need next, and what they need next, and you’re willing to provide it, you’re gonna find yourself in business for a very, very long time. And I think that that is what the future of indie publishing is. And these have always done really well. We’ve created new genres entirely because we decided, like, we wanted to do this and it took it took hold with readerships. So that’s the future where you can actually serve a readership exactly what they want on a consistent basis. And the only way you’re gonna be able to do that is if you have a community that you can talk to. And find out what they need.

Chelle Honiker

Chelle Honiker

Chelle Honiker is an advocate for the empowerment of authorpreneurs, recognizing the importance of authors taking charge of both their craft and careers. In response to this need, she has founded a media and training company dedicated to supporting these creative professionals. As the co-founder and publisher of Indie Author Magazine, IndieAuthorTraining, Indie Author Tools, and Direct2Readers.com, Chelle’s team of more than 80 writers, editors, trainers, and support staff provides resources and insights that help authors navigate the complexities of self-publishing. Her role as the programming director for Author Nation, an annual conference in Las Vegas, further exemplifies her commitment to fostering a community where authors can grow and succeed. With a career spanning over two decades in executive operations and leadership, Chelle has honed her skills in managing complex projects and delivering impactful training programs. Her experience as a speaker and TEDx Organizer has taken her to many countries, where she has shared her insights with diverse audiences.

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