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Sharks, Dolphins, and Snails: What Type of Independent Author Are You?

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If you’re an independent author, then what color is your water-resistant skin?

In today’s wild, wild West of digital publishing, shotgun marketing and last man standing scenarios, I’ve identified at least three main categories of fiction writers that remind me of certain species of marine life that Native American myths and legends, especially those from the Pacific Northwest region, would nod to in anthropomorphic agreement: sharks, dolphins and snails.

Sharks are independent authors who are constantly in motion, swimming the seas of social media networks, aggressively sniffing for scents of marketable niches, pushing their way into schools of smaller fish and intimidating them with their online presence so that they’ll either flee in fear or be gobbled up, spit out and left in their wake. They give nothing but take everything and use every opportunity to bare their razor sharp teeth in order to carve out territory for themselves.

Dolphins, on the other hand, are those writers who intelligently and intuitively realize that the ocean is full of sentient beings like themselves and gracefully bump up against others, freely sharing their advice, experience and support in order to collectively reshape an industry that is in seemingly total disarray.

Although dolphins are aware of their superior talent and instincts, they don’t use them to belittle struggling authors who need a helping hand to navigate the treacherous waters of predatory and opportunistic bottom feeders like start-up promoters or author representatives that prey upon the naiveté and idealism of virgin talent, sucking dollars from them that are wasted on marketing packages that are redundant and ineffectual.

And then there’s the lowly yet dignified snail who inches along, nourishing its creative ability and concentrating on its craft without much concern, carrying a borrowed, protective shell on its back, hoping that it will be noticed and picked up by an agent or publisher who will treat its soft underbelly with tender loving care and nourish it to its full potential.

As an independent author, you might recognize yourself as falling into one of these categories, or a combination of them. Then again, you might already be a leviathan best seller, riding the foam crested waves of success, forgetting that you, too, were once a smaller life form, swimming upstream against the tide like a desperate sperm cell seeking a womb in the storm, a safe refuge from financial insecurity and doubt that you would ever reach your goals as an author.

Whatever you are, remember this: Change is constant. Fortunes rise and fall like the endless swell of waves that move forever across the ocean surfaces. Make sure you learn and never forget how to tread water.

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About John H. Byk