Today I am welcoming Alex S. Bradshaw into the Indie Spotlight.
Alex S. Bradshaw grew up in Kent in the UK and spent much of his childhood hiding (sometimes under tables) and reading a book.
He has always been a fan of epic stories (as well as dinosaurs and cake) so it came as no surprise to anyone that he went on to study Classics and Ancient History at university.
Now Alex works in publishing and has turned his hand to making epic stories of his own.
Hello Alex and welcome to my blog today!
What made you decide to publish your debut book independently?
Publishing independently wasn’t something that I’d always assumed I’d do. I think like most people I had dreams of traditional publication for a while but as time went on I distanced myself from them and thought that independent publishing was for me. As I actually work for a publisher (and have done for quite a few years now) this might come as a bit of a surprise, but my work experience has given me a little bit of behind-the-scenes knowledge of what goes into making a book. Some of this has come through osmosis of being in the industry and some of it came from when I was applying for Editorial jobs and practicing the skills I would need in that department (spoiler: I no longer want to work in Editorial and am very happy working in Contracts!). That practice helped me realise that I could do what needed to be done to put a book together and, more than that, it made me realise that I liked being involved in the whole process of making a book. As well as the writing, I like to do the typesetting and making sure all the text looks good on the page, I like to look at the different formats and think about how best to put the book together, and I like to be involved in the cover process and all the rest of it.
For me, although it was a long journey and was tough at times, I’ve found it a joy to hold the final book in my hands and know that – cover to cover – it’s something that I’ve put together myself (with help from editors, illustrators, and designers I’ve worked with!).
The other side of it is that some people don’t like the idea of doing all those things. They might not want to do things like be involved in the cover design or have to (or pay someone to) do the typesetting and those jobs are taken away from you if you get a traditional publishing deal! Some would prefer to write the book, make the edits, and leave the rest to people who love books and can use their skill sets to make the book the best it can be and I think that’s an excellent choice too.
That’s the crux of it really, I like doing those jobs and untangling the parts I don’t know how to do (yet!). I am lucky enough to be able to publish independently whereas other people might not have the time, resources, or inclination to publish independently and a traditional publishing deal would suit them better so I would rather publish myself and not take up valuable submissions space to agents and authors.
It sounds like it is a lot of work, but well worth the effort if you feel prepared to take it on yourself. What are the benefits of being an indie author?
There’s a flexibility that comes with being an indie author that wouldn’t come with being a traditionally published author. I think this has a couple of facets, firstly as an indie author you don’t have to run your writing projects past other people in your business to decide if the project will make enough money to justify its production. If you want to write a story then you can! And secondly, a traditional publisher’s production schedule can stretch across years. Some of this will likely include writing time, but it also takes months for the cover to be designed, edits to go back and forth, and for the print run to be completed. Being an indie author means you can really streamline the process, especially once you’ve got a few novels under your belt. Some indie authors publish books every month! But on the flip of that, as an indie author you’re not beholden to a contract so you don’t have any deadlines (beyond those you want to set yourself) so you can take as long as you want to write the book.
You also have more control as an indie author. You get to decide on what your cover looks like, as I mentioned you can decide how long until you publish your next book, and you’re deeply involved in every step of the process. If you went the traditional publishing route then some of these things would be taken away from you – although as I’ve said some people don’t want to have anything to do with these things so that can be a pro and a con!
I can see that it would be hard for a lot of people to relinquish control over their books.
What challenges do indie authors face?
I mentioned control as a benefit of being an indie author, so I want to start with that here too. The control that you have as an indie can be a double-edged sword – we’ve all heard the horror stories or warnings about people writing a story, doing a cover on their computer in five minutes, and throwing it out into the world. It is an excellent thing to be able to make the story you want without having to worry too much about it being a runaway commercial success like corporate publishers (although I’m sure we all hope we get that anyway!) but you need to make sure that you are writing a good story and putting out the best product you can and that can be tougher as an indie. It can be tough to find critique partners or beta readers you can trust and the editing and cover design – all the things that go into turning your book from a good manuscript into a fantastic book – can be expensive.
And that’s another challenge: the expense. You don’t have to pay other people to help you with your book and the budget you can self-publish with is basically as much as you want to spend, but you should certainly hire an editor at the bare minimum and hopefully a cover designer too (or buy a pre-made one that fits your book!). This can get expensive, especially if you have a long book as editors will most often charge per thousand words.
This really feeds into the biggest catch-all challenge of being an indie, which is that you are the whole publishing team. As well as writing the book you also need to be the one to hire the editor, speak with the designer and sort out the cover and then once you hit publish you still have to market it. I’m only about halfway through my indie journey as I’m about to hit publish, but I know that this won’t be for everyone and I do know that it can be a tough road to walk.
At the end of the day, though, you get to publish the book the way you want to so I’d say it’s worth it.
Do you have any advice for aspiring indie authors?
First, do your research. This applies to the story you’re writing – make sure you get the details right – and also to the publishing process as a whole. No matter what you’re writing about there’s a slew of information out there and there’s loads of people in the indie community who are free with their knowledge and want to help. Every time an indie author succeeds, we all succeed so it’s a very friendly community!
Building on that, I would say it’s a huge plus if you can find a community to engage with and find support when you need it. Writing can be a lonely vocation. Most of the time when you write it’s alone at your computer tapping away on a keyboard. If you can find a community that you mesh with then you can commiserate with them, celebrate with them, and they can support you in turn. It will make sure you know you’re not alone and will make sure you don’t feel like you’re banging your head against the keyboard for no good reason.
My last piece of advice is to write what excites you. One of the huge benefits of indie publishing is that you can write whatever you want to write. You don’t have to worry about selling hundreds of thousands of copies like a big publishing house does (although I hope you do!) so you can take risks and write stories you want to read. If you’re not writing what you want to write, then why do it at all?
That is all excellent advice! What have you learned from being an indie author?
It’s harder than it looks! Even now I’m realising that all the things you have to do after the book is published is a whole different beast – even though I knew that going in! – and there are plenty of new skills I’ll have to learn.
Having said that, it’s been a tremendous amount of fun learning the skills necessary to publish a book. I’ve had to learn how to use new programmes and I’ve done some very basic coding to get the ebook into shape. I’m sure there are plenty of other skills I’ll need as time goes on and I’m excited that I’ll always be learning and (hopefully) always be improving!
I’ve also come to find out about the wonderful and friendly people out there in the indie community. Everyone wants everyone to succeed. Help and advice is freely given and available (I don’t think I’d have come as far as I have if it wasn’t!) I try and embody that and give help where I can (for example, I did a short blog series about publishing contracts) and I want to do more to boost fellow indie authors. Finding a good book is a victory for everyone!
Final question. What can we look forward to seeing from you next?
I think the biggest thing I’ll be doing in 2021 is publishing my debut, Windborn!
It’s a Norse-inspired fantasy that follows Edda Gretasdottir, a shield-maiden who finally has enough plunder to buy her own farm with her husband and escape their overbearing chieftain. But the fates are cruel and Edda loses everything, her home is burned, and raiders toss her – beaten and bloody – into the ocean. She rises from the waves as a Windborn – a warrior with supernatural powers – and armed with her new powers she hunts for whoever is responsible for taking everything from her.
I am also about a third of the way through planning the next book set in the world of Windborn, but it’s likely it won’t be out until next year, but I’ll keep you posted!
Please do – I absolutely loved Windborn and can’t wait to revisit Edda! Thank you so much for taking part in the Indie Spotlight, Alex. Good luck with your future endeavours!
Drowning is only the beginning…
Edda Gretasdottir is a raider, a fell-handed shield-maiden, feared along every coast. Hers is a life woven in battle scars.
But she never wanted to walk the warrior’s path. All she wanted was freedom, to earn enough gold to buy her family their own remote farm, and to escape their oppressive chieftain. Now, she has enough plunder so that she can finally hang up her shield and live in peace.
That peace is stolen from Edda, however, when raiders burn her home, destroy all that she loves, and toss her, wounded and bleeding, into the ravenous ocean.
But the fates are cruel and this is not the end for Edda: she rises from the bloody surf as a Windborn, a cursed warrior whose supernatural gifts are a poor exchange for everything she has lost.
Fuelled by rage and armed with strange new powers Edda will hunt for whoever sent the raiders, for whoever is responsible for taking everything from her. She will show them the sharp edge of her axe… or die trying.
Windborn is a dark, character-driven Norse fantasy packed with emotion, deadly foes, and vicious battles.
Buy Windborn here:
Add Windborn to Goodreads here:
Read my review of Windborn here
Who is next on Indie Spotlight?
Sandra Kopp is an Idaho farm girl and voracious reader with a big imagination who decided to
become a serious writer in 2003. Her fascination with period homes led her to serve as a volunteer docent at the Pittock Mansion in Portland, OR and to help spearhead the restoration of the James A. Moore House in Pasco, WA after a 2001 fire left it heavily damaged and in danger of demolition. Ironically, this fire and the spirits rumored to haunt the house inspired her book, THE WINDWILDER HAUNTING.