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Going indie — is it for me?

September 27th 2014

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my writing career. A lot. And where I see myself in a few years. It was always my intention to submit another book or two to Red Adept Publishing (with whom I have had an awesome experience) and I do still plan on doing that, but then I had wanted to shop my YA historical mystery (which has not been written) to agents in hopes of getting a Big 5 contract. That was my plan. But recently I’ve been reading up on self-publishing and that route is looking more and more attractive to me for several reasons. Of course, like anything (and I’m a realist) there are pros and cons to self-publishing.

Pros:

1. I write what I want and I publish it. Many of my outlined projects are historical mysteries. Unfortunately, it’s also not the most popular genres for the big publishers to acquire, or so I’ve heard. I can’t imagine writing a book that might not see the light of print, not because it’s bad, but because a publisher doesn’t think anyone will buy it. I have three young children. If I’m sacrificing family time to write, then it better be worth it.

2. I am in control over my writing projects, my cover, and pricing. I’ll pay for good cover art and editing, but if I want to run a sale, I run a sale. If I want to price my book at $2.99, I can. If I want to release two books at once, I can. I am my own boss.

3. My earning potential might be greater than a traditional publishing contract. Emphasis on might. Some indie authors make good money (check out this article by Hugh Howey) and I’m not just talking about the big names in indie, but authors who would’ve been called “midlisters.” Some of these midlisters are earning $1000 or more a month. Some authors are earning more from their self-published titles than they ever did at traditional publishing houses. These authors bust their butt and hustle. They are prolific, but they make money. By going indie, I also wouldn’t have to worry about not earning out an advance and not being offered another contract. I’ve heard quite a few horror stories about authors not earning out their advances and subsequently not selling another book. That sounds demoralizing.

Cons:

1. Visibility is tough. Very tough. I’m having a tough time getting visibility on my traditionally, small press novel. It’s not easy to separate yourself from the pack; to get bloggers to notice you. I’ve come across many blogs that do not accept indie books for review. Some bloggers won’t take books that aren’t Big 5 pub’d. It’s a tough business to get noticed.

2. There’s an investment. Self-publishing requires a sizable monetary investment. Cover art. Editing. Formatting. ISBN numbers. I estimate the cost to be between $1500 and $2000. My husband just about balked at that number. For good reason, there is no guarantee I will recoup that money in sales. And if you’re not getting sales and making money, your author career has just become an expensive hobby.

3. Writers who make money, write a lot. I’m a slow writer. Outlining alone can take me a month, not to mention drafting, and constant editing. It took me years to write GG&G. If I’m going to go indie, I’ll need to increase my input to at least two books per year to stay viable.

4. Indie authors are not always perceived as ‘real’ writers. Do some self-published writers put out crap? Yes. For every Hugh Howey, Colleen Hoover and J.A. Konrath, there are other writers who don’t put out a professional product. Readers depend on the NY publishers for quality control. I understand that. Indie authors need reviews to show that their books are worthy reads and those reviews are hard to get.

5. I would be in charge of everything. I will pay for editing, covers and formatting. But I’m also in charge of ISBNs, uploading my book, dealing with Amazon’s constant fluctuating programs, and marketing (which I do now anyway). From cover to cover, that book depends on me. And that sounds overwhelming. Not to mention, I’ve never been a detail-oriented person.

6. I won’t be in libraries. I’m a librarian and as of now, indie books, and many small press books, do not get on library shelves. Why? Because libraries base their collection development on professional reviews (Library Journal, Kirkus, Booklist). Right now, GG&G is in five libraries and that’s because I have library connections. And in one case, my brother donated his copy to his local library (thanks, Justin!) And that’s the only reason. It would mean the world to be on a library shelf — way more than a bookstore. I love libraries — that’s how I discover new authors. So this con is quite crushing.

Am I definitely going to indie publish? Well, I can’t say for sure, but I’m leaning in that direction. Like any smart person, I’ll do my research thoroughly and weigh my options. In the meantime, I will get back to writing, because none of this will matter if I don’t have a book done.

I’m a strong writer and I’ve always been a strong writer. I know that if I do choose to publish independently, I will put out quality, professional, good books. Because I don’t even let my critique partners read my work until it’s polished.

Are you self-published? Traditionally published? Hybrid? What are you thoughts on the road you’ve taken? Would you do anything differently? Sound off in the comments.

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