In the main, there are two different types of indie authors (and I'm being broad here, so no one has to send me emails about this). There's the indie authors who self-publish because they've already been on the Merry-Go-Round and now they want to take charge. Then there's the indie authors who self-publish because they're hoping it will lead to something more: a book deal with a major publisher. There's nothing wrong with using self-publishing as a stepping stone. Just make sure you're going about it the right way, or you could step right into the lake.
For some authors, self-publishing is merely a stepping stone to another type of publishing -- small press, or mass market maybe. But if that's your end game, start working on achieving that goal right now. As an indie who wants to move on to something else, there are some things you have to focus on:
- Brand image: You're a brand, so treat yourself like one. Build a blog, gain a following, and establish yourself across all major social media platforms. Keep your brand consistent across sites. That means use the same images, the same wallpapers and the same author name everywhere. Brand recognition is the most important aspect of any brand.
- Fans: You need a fan base, and you want to build a pretty strong one. Reach out on Twitter and Facebook. Join reading groups, author groups and forums where book-buyers gather. Comment on book blogs and participate in reading and writing communities. Get a strong following on Twitter, and you can accomplish almost anything.
- Books: You want to build up a strong catalog of books if you're going to move on to another form of publishing. Show them that you know how to write, sell and market your work. Publish regularly, and frequently, in order to build up your catalog.
- Reviews: Get a lot of reviews. You want to show publishers that you can get them. And if you get them, do what you can to make sure they're good. Produce high-quality, well-edited work and you'll stand a much better chance of doing that.
Self-publishing isn't a permanent gig for everyone. If you want it to be a stepping stone for you, keep your goals focused ahead while you stay rooted in the here and now. Conduct yourself like a professional author, and you'll be one. Once you're ready to take that next step and you have an amazing book to sell, start reaching out to literary agents and publishers. Don't wait for them to come to you. Always be trying to take the next step. What else are stepping stones for?