You’re sitting behind the Reference Desk or maybe trying to slip unnoticed through the stacks on your way to a staff meeting, when an elderly lady or gentleman quietly asks for help.
“I am trying to write my memoir. I’m a retired (doctor, lawyer, construction worker—you know the drill, so fill in the blank) and I want to write the story of my life. But I’m stuck. I thought it would be easy. After all, I lived it. But now I see I don’t know much about writing, much less about getting published. I just spent $4000 with a company that was supposed to help me with the writing and then print the book, but all they did was type up my notes and print them on cheap paper with a shoddy cover that didn’t even show the photo I sent them for it. Now, what do I do?”
In your mind, the question is not only what does your patron do, but what do you do? The patron doesn’t need a referral to a long list of resources that might or not be of help, much of which is appropriate for published indies but not for novices. He or she needs direction to a reliable, trustworthy resource that is written for someone in his situation—the beginning, unpublished author.
I am not a librarian, but since I work in publishing, people sometimes find their way to me for advice on how to write or publish a book. It’s usually a memoir that they have in mind, but sometimes it’s a work of fiction based on their life. One man had written a heartbreaking memoir excoriating his former son-in-law for the destruction of his family and his daughter’s death. It was sensational and horrifying, but not destined for New York Times bestseller status. Another had written a graphic novel whose protagonist was a dust bunny trying to escape the vacuum cleaner wielded by the antagonist. The author was not a dust bunny, but rather a janitor, and the book was actually pretty good. Sometimes, librarians even refer authors to me. (Please don’t. I’m not looking for that kind of business.) And I’ve struggled with what to say to these writers.
These are not people who seriously want to become full-time authors. Most of them don’t want to join writers’ societies or take classes in how to write. They have a story to tell. They want to tell their story, and they want to tell it well. Then they want it published. But they don’t know POD from KFC. They think ePub is a digital tavern. They need basic help.
Encounters with indie authors, or wanna-be indie authors, come up in my life every few weeks, but for librarians, they can be a daily challenge. Librarians need a resource that they can rely on, a place that offers everything the author needs, from the basics of organizing and composing a book, through formatting, through publishing and marketing it at minimal cost but with maximum exposure. This article features the best resource for this.
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While researching an earlier article on indie authors, I encountered Mel Parish, an indie author of “contemporary fiction with a twist of mystery and psychology. Mel introduced me to K.S. “Kat” Brooks, administer of the Indies Unlimited blog. Kat and I scheduled an hour for a phone call, and as we talked, I realized I had found that single, reliable resource that I needed to help novice indie authors. Enter Indies Unlimited.
Named by Publishers Weekly as one of Six Great Blogs for Indie Authors, the super-blog Indies Unlimited (IU) was founded by author Stephen Hise in October of 2011 as a “platform to celebrate independent authors.” Now administered by K.S. “Kat” Brooks, it features contributions from over a dozen successful indies who have written and published both traditionally and independently. They write in a range of genres from fantasy to romance to science fiction to mystery, and of course the ever popular “how to write” category. IU provides over 5100 blog posts with more added every week. They are organized so that even the newest wanna-be author can find his or her way through them to exactly the right article to answer a specific question.
Entries range from advice pieces, tutorials, and social media events, to resource pages on writing, publishing, and promotion, and all this is absolutely free for authors.
I phoned Kat Brooks both to get her story and to find out what Indies Unlimited can do for authors and libraries. When I learned that after years of working in the electronics industry on the East Coast, she had relocated to the peace and sanity of northeastern Washington State, I had a chuckle, for I had often traveled through that area, long ago when library budgets were healthier, and my work for Grolier and other publishers led me to its libraries.
K. S. Brooks wrote her first book, a swashbuckler set in 17th-century France, when she was only 15 years old. Her first traditionally published novel was released in 2001. In 2011, she began her self-publishing journey and joined the brand new Indies Unlimited as an administrator to help other authors along their road to publication. She has written over 30 other published books ranging from educational stories for children to action-adventure novels. She is also a photographer and poet. You can read more about her on her website and on her Amazon author page.
Indies Unlimited was founded both to celebrate indie authors and to help them in their writing and publishing efforts. The site is operated entirely by volunteers, and it is not out to extract money from indie authors. In fact, it would not take their money even if they offered it. You can safely refer patrons to it without fear of their being taken advantage of or given bad advice.
As Kat says,
“The IU demographic is retirees. They are not computer savvy and get screwed by companies like PA and AU.”
I’m sure you know them by their initials. IU actually has a category for scams that take advantage of indie authors. It’s publishingfoul, and it is worth reading so you get an idea of the scope of the indie author predator industry. It seems like bilking elderly memoirists out of their life savings and retirement accounts is a new twist on older scams for cheating retirees.
Indies Unlimited has also done its share to support libraries. In 2012, Kat founded Indie Authors for Hurricane Sandy Library Recovery as part of IU. This hurricane relief effort supplied printed indie books to restock the many libraries damaged not only by Hurricane Sandy but by other storms that struck the Eastern and Southern States.
Your patrons will want to know if using IU will cost them anything, and the answer is “No, not a cent.” They will also want to know about specific information they know they need, and whether IU can help them. Here are some highlights you can share with them, as drawn from the IU KnowledgeBase. You will see that IU offers a comprehensive, one-stop source of reliable information for indie authors.
- Writing Basics
- Grammar, punctuation, mechanics of writing
- Character development, creation, description
- Kinds of editors and their functions
- Beta and other readers
- Indie (Self) Publishing
- Ebook publishers and distributors
- POD services
- Social Media
- Press Releases
- Book Trailer Videos
“What libraries need is a good indie author program.”
Kat was also kind enough to give me her insights into indie authors and libraries. She said that “indie authors look at libraries as the big establishment enemy, but it isn’t like that at all.” She also added that the Tucson library had “a sophisticated indie author program. If more libraries had something like this, they could get some great books from indie authors.”
One of my earlier articles in this series details how San Jose Public Library uses their resources to promote indie authors to the benefit of both the authors and the library. Libraries and indies can definitely help each other.
We also discussed ebook issues in libraries, and why more libraries don’t have indie ebooks in their collections. A later article in this series will treat this in more detail, since it is a complex issue in itself.
To conclude, if your problem is where to refer your indie authors, then your solution is Indies Unlimited. Here, they will find the help and advice they need to write, edit, publish and market their books without being taken advantage of by the many author scams that prey on indies. Be sure to visit IU’s website, where you can subscribe to the newsletter and follow IU on social media.