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Indie Author Magazine: Why is community important in the future of indie publishing?

Evans: Community is essential in the future of indie publishing. Mark Schaefer’s book, “Belonging to the Brand,” outlines why community is the last great marketing strategy. It all boils down to trust. Readers seek trust in the stories they read. They want to know they’ll consistently get a great story from an author they can rely on.

Trust is the linchpin of business success, and the traditional methods of building trust, such as social proof and advertising, are becoming less effective. Building trust through genuine relationships and word of mouth has taken the forefront. It might be challenging to measure, but it’s irreplaceable once established. Community is a key asset for authors in this context.

I’ve discussed this concept in a three-part series on the Descriptions for Authors website, starting with “The Community Economy.” In an era dominated by AI, intellectual property’s value is evolving and uncertain. What do valuable IPs have in common? They all have strong, genuine communities built around them. Take Disney, for instance, a company that excels in connecting families through shared memories. It’s challenging to find stronger relationships than those within families, and Disney capitalizes on that, making them one of the largest community-focused companies globally.

However, competition with other stories has diluted their influence. Platforms like YouTube have surged, where kid-friendly channels are among the most prominent. For authors, this underscores the importance of community. The relationships readers have with your work determine the value of your intellectual property and the success of your business.

In our digital age, where traditional social institutions have faltered, readers crave belonging and shared passions. They want to be treated as individuals, not mere statistics or algorithm inputs. Building this type of connection differentiates you and elevates the fan experience. It’s vital for staying in the minds of readers with busy lives. A strong community offers a consistent touchpoint, sparing you from the pressure of churning out book after book.

In the words of Becca Sine, community helps you create a vertical platform where readers are drawn by deeper experiences, rather than just content. It may not suit every author, but community is undeniably valuable for specific sets of authors. Readers and the communities around them will wield increasing power in the industry. Digital communities are becoming the bedrock of online book sales, shaped by reading creators, TikTokers, YouTubers, Instagrammers, and book bloggers with dedicated followings. Understanding these communities and their role in the genre is crucial for authors’ success. In essence, community is becoming a significant factor in selling and building trust in the near future.

Indie Author Magazine: How crucial is technology to an indie author’s success and the industry as a whole? What strategies can authors use to avoid burnout?

Evans: A long-term mindset is crucial for success. Rather than obsessing over algorithms and shortcuts, focus on connecting with real people. As the internet becomes more saturated, breaking through the noise requires genuine human connection.

View social media platforms, software, and devices as tools to build a community, not as distractions. Community isn’t about follower counts or Facebook groups; it’s about fostering real relationships. Readers want to incorporate your story into their lives and share it with others. This sense of belonging is at the core of community, and it’s been around for ages. Now that it’s online, nurturing and building community has become more apparent.

Authors should think about two types of community: acquisition-focused and engagement/retention-focused. To create an acquisition-focused community, consider building something that appeals to a broader audience within your genre, separate from your personal author brand. It should be about delivering an exceptional experience to readers, not just promoting your books.

For engagement and retention, the community should work for you. Respond to fan emails and messages, maintain a clear brand promise, and understand why people connect with your stories. The best way to understand your readers is by talking to them, forming deeper relationships, and learning what role your work plays in their lives.

In essence, use technology as a tool, create meaningful experiences, and focus on building authentic connections with your readers. This approach, combined with a long-term mindset, will help authors avoid burnout and find lasting success in the indie publishing industry.

Indie Author Magazine: What role do you see AI playing in indie publishing over the next five years?

Evans: AI holds enormous potential for indie creators. I believe indie authors can remain primarily writers, and this is our superpower. Generative AI technology is advancing rapidly, and we’re on the cusp of innovations like “text to worlds,” where you can describe a virtual world and build its game mechanics. As Roblox’s CEO suggests, most of the code and visuals will be generated.

This evolution emphasizes the pivotal role of the stories we create as transmedia experiences become the future. Authors can focus on crafting compelling narratives, and these stories can seamlessly transition into various media formats.

Collaboration with other creatives is key. While some jobs in indie publishing may evolve, there will likely be more opportunities for talented cover designers, editors, and other professionals. Authors can engage in exciting projects, such as comic books and video games. Video games, in particular, offer a significant avenue for authors to explore.

Managing rights becomes crucial. Authors need to be vigilant about who holds the rights to their work, especially for creating transmedia properties. Collaboration with fellow authors and maintaining a growth mindset is essential because building a media empire is challenging alone. Working with other creative talents can lead to remarkable outcomes.

The future is promising. We’re already witnessing innovations like the “imagination machine,” which transforms text into immersive visual and auditory experiences. It’s challenging to describe the sheer mesmerism it offers. This technology opens doors for unique storytelling experiences.

While we can go deeper with superfans, the love for reading and traditional storytelling remains. Not everything needs to become a movie or a blockbuster. Transmedia allows authors to create complementary content, like comic books or YouTube videos, which can attract more fans and enrich the world of their stories. Combine this with other elements like direct selling and merchandise, and authors are not just writing books but building future businesses.

In essence, authors should continue focusing on their core strength—writing exceptional books. The unique neurological journey of reading and the experience it offers won’t be replaced by transmedia. Authors shouldn’t view transmedia as a competitor but as an avenue to enhance the reading experience and serve a different purpose in their readers’ lives. This shift to transmedia provides more control and power to indie creators, which is something to look forward to.


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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