I’ve always been an Indie.
I love it. Sure, at the close of another business day sometimes I wish I’d moved a few more ‘units’ but the best thing about being indie is you—I—am in control. The success is in the doing, as the saying goes, and no one can ‘do’ but you.
Steps to Success
Before I became an independently published novelist I was already an independently ‘published’ musician. In 2006 I released ‘The Stars Can See’ a lo-fi (mostly) alt-country (a bit) CD which got some great reviews, a little radio play and then faded from pop-culture’s radar before becoming much more than a blip on the outer limits of a screen jammed packed with major record company supported stuff.
Point is, as an indie novelist, when it came time to ‘get my story out there’ (as another saying goes) I already had the experience, when it came to taking my little piggy off to market, of being totally responsible for EVERYTHING.
I had my ‘indie’ T-shirt.
So, once I’d finished my first novel it was as with my music, up to me to get my art market ready. And what I found was regardless of the form, the process of packaging one’s creativity was very much the same. Whether sharing an album of songs or a new novel there were certain steps I had to take, steps very similar in each staircase to the top of the shop shelf.
First the Music
Back when I had finished writing the songs that eventually became my first album, the DIY ethic was around but not as prevalent as it is today. I thought I was showing a lot of initiative by taking all the necessary steps of getting my music into a form which could be appreciated by others. And, apart from doing a live gig, that meant (and means) recording the music and putting it into a transportable form.
My first CD, Bliss, was recorded/packaged/sold-to-friends-relatives-punters in 1998. And though I never scored the major deal I was always hoping for (I still remember the welling up of emotion I experienced when I finally made it all the way to London to drop off my copy of unquestionable brilliance to the jaded receptionist at EMI headquarters) I did get a distribution deal through Australian indie champions, MGM, for my next full-length release, The Stars Can See.
So the process of packaging my music taught me that whatever happens, if you present your work well, you’ve got a good chance of making it—eventually—into the shops. As I did with The Stars Can See (which went on to get radio play in Oz—and The Netherlands!).
On With the Story
So what is the process for making a CD and how is it similar to releasing an independently published novel? I’m glad you asked (not least ’cause it keeps this blog post on the subject at hand). Let’s have a look at…
The Indy Guide To Making Shop Ready Product
Basically it comes down to ticking off a list of To Dos:
1. Write your songs/novel.
2. Edit your songs/novel (after playing live/giving drafts to beta-readers).
3. Record and master your album of songs/hire a copy-editor and proof-reader.
4. Find art for your CD cover/Book cover (I’ve always mocked up some ideas myself first).
5. Choose a designer who can produce printer ready files of your artwork—to specifications (as my graphic design skills have evolved I can confidently take any artwork I’ve commissioned and get it into the necessary file-form myself now. Maybe you can too?)
6. Choose a CD manufacturer or book printer (after doing lots of research, comparing similar products to the one you’ll be making, and getting a good ‘vibe’ on where you’ll be spending your hard-earned.
7. Get the legals out of the way: you need barcodes for CDs and books and you should register your songs with your countries appropriate copyright registrar (in Australia I’d say that means APRA). Don’t be scared off though. Even without barcodes some shops will happily sell your product—as long as it looks comparable to the rest of the stuff they’re sellin’.
8. Send all your files off to the manufacturer and go have a glass of wine/beer/soda-with-a-squeeze-of-lemon.
9. Inspect your product by re-listening to your music masters/re-reading your proofed book (Advanced Reader Copy) and do this with your PH (Perfectionist Hat) firmly ON. It’s still not too late to make sure you know exactly what you’ll be offering for sale in the marketplace: quality or crap? Quality, of course.
10. Take delivery and hand over the goods to your first customers (friends and family).
So there you have it. There are, of course many sub-steps but I reckon that list of ten steps covers the main things you’ll need to do to turn your ethereal creativity into cash-making stuff.
Then, once you’ve got something to sell you can either go directly to your local shop (which I did for my first novel—resulting in The Last Great Day being best seller for one day at Dymocks, The Pines) or contact the relevant distributor to your product.
And, without going off on a major tangent at the end here, remember you can always just go digital. After all, ebooks and mp3s are designed to be shared over the net rather than over the shopfront counter. Then you can get distribution sorted without having to come up with any hard copy example of your work at all.
These days it’s so EASY to get your indie work into the hands of a paying public. Yes, there’s H.E.A.P.S. of competition but so what? At least you can get into the game. And with The Indie Guide To To Making Shop Ready Product all you’ve got to do is tick off each step.
Go for it, I say.
And enjoy your success in the doing!
PS. I recently recorded a song for my ‘Year of Living Sober’ blog which, although not yet for sale, you can have a FREE listen to here.
PSS. If you’re interested in purchasing any of my indie books or CDs head over to my website.