Indie Authors: the DOs and DON’Ts from Thomas Edison

Nobody doubts Thomas Edison’s brilliance. He produced an unparalleled number of patents and his inventions alone made the 20th century what it was. We all know about the light bulb, of course, but more importantly he created the generator and power grid to make the light bulb work. But that’s just for starters. How about the phonograph? How about being the father of the modern moving pictures industry? But he had a downfall as well. He became envious and vindictive towards his brilliant young apprentice, Nikola Tesla.

Tesla resigned from Edison’s employ and took his idea elsewhere. What was his idea? AC – alternating current. Edison was the father of DC – direct current and he believed, wrongly, that his DC design was the correct and safe way to go for the nation. Arrogance can get in the way of logic. Edison went out of his way to try to discredit Tesla’s design, trying to convince the nation that alternating current was much too dangerous. He used Tesla’s design to electrocute an elephant to show how harmful it was, and then Edison just went a little overboard. He agreed to design the first ever electric chair for human executions as long as he was able to use alternating current for the deadly event. As the first spectators looked on at the first use of the electric chair, nobody thought about Tesla and the current. They only saw the barbarity of a botched execution. Nobody blamed the mess-up on Tesla, but everyone remembered the maker of the the electric chair – Thomas Edison. This was a huge stain on his reputation from which he never recovered.

AC, of course, went on to be the delivery current of choice for the nation’s first massive power plants because of its great power which could be sent long distances. DC became relegated for small power jobs like flashlights or car light bulbs. Edison overlooked the obvious advantages of AC simply because he was too proud to admit that someone might have had a better idea than himself.

So how can we apply this to the indie author world? Here’s two things we shouldn’t do:

  • Don’t envy other writers’ success. Congratulate those who have made and encourage others to not give up.
  • Second, don’t be flame happy when someone criticizes your work. It may be possible that all your hard work comes in second to someone else’s story. Or that someone doesn’t like your novel for this or that reason. Tip your hat, smile, and move on. Dig in and do better the next time.

So how exactly should indie authors emulate Thomas Edison? That’s an easy one. By never giving up. This above all else is what makes inventors successful. As Edison commented, he found thousands of ways for the light bulb not to work until he found the one way which made it work.

And if you are an indie author, the application from that is easy. There are easily a thousand mistakes and misjudgments that any indie author can make. A poor advertising choice. A poor writing session. A poor marketing choice. A failed promotion. A poor review. A poorly received blog post.

No sweat. We just figured out one more thing that doesn’t work. We are also one step closer to figuring what will eventually break through the ice and enable the indie author within you to find the readership that you desire.

So let’s put both the pride and failure aside, and humbly try something else.

Keep moving forward.


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