Why Indie Authorship is Viable

Okay so on “pimp my novel”: Prithee Convince Me: Self-Publishing the blog poster wants self-publishing authors to “convince him” that self-publishing is a viable alternative to trad publishing. According to his blog bio, he works in the sales department of a publishing house.

What’s most interesting is in the comments section, almost all of the people commenting are trad publishing hopefuls. NOT indie authors. I tried to make a post but I got one of those ridiculous blogger errors (I HATE blogger. I don’t know why anyone uses the foul thing.) And it wouldn’t let me post. So I am reproducing my comment here. Hopefully within the next day or so the problem will be solved.

Most of the respondents to this have been trad published authors or trad pubbed author hopefuls. So, here is the perspective of an actual indie author.

Unless a publisher was willing to make me ludicrously rich (which I don’t expect to happen btw), they are completely irrelevant to me.

I love being an indie author. I’ve sold over 5,000 Kindle copies of my novella so far. (Over 23,000 total downloads including the free PDF’s out there) I’ve started to build a platform/fan base. Except instead of doing that to “impress someone” I’m doing it for my business to help it grow. I’m doing it for ME.

Self-publishing is a business.

I don’t like working for other people in any capacity. I don’t like being told what to do. When I pick a title for a work I don’t want someone’s marketing department coming by and trying to name it something else cause they think their title is “more marketable.”

Whether it is or isn’t, it’s my book and I’m not selling the rights to it.

I don’t want to have to wait 18 months from the point the book is FINISHED for it to be available for sale. It causes me to miss out on riding trend waves which I could otherwise benefit financially from.

I don’t want my e-rights mismanaged. And the Big 6, especially the “Agency Five” are proving over and over that they are just not willing to deal with ebooks in any sane way (overpricing, windowing, some books not even available in E with no plans to MAKE them available in E.)

Further, as an indie, I get full creative control. Full profit. (As of this moment I have made over $2000 on one kindle ebook. This may not be a lot of money, but it is my debut release and is more than I would have made as a newbie author for an advance for a novella with a major pub. And yes, almost all of that is straight profit.)

I get to pick my cover design. No one can “drop me” because I publish me. My audience can build organically over time as it should with no pressure or need to artificially inflate those numbers in order to hold onto a contract whose terms would be questionably beneficial to me anyway.

I can write and publish at my own speed.

My backlist doesn’t go “out of print.” Every single book I publish will be available both in print and in Ebook indefinitely. Until I get tired of selling it. Most midlist authors have many books “out of print” not making them money. How does one gain traction that way? Sure, they can put those out of print books (assuming the seven or more years has passed allowing them to get the rights back) on the Kindle, but that’s self-publishing. And if they will benefit from self-publishing THAT then why don’t they cut out the middle man (the publisher) from the equation altogether?

Authors are branded. Not publishers. Publishers will suffer if not die because of that stupid marketing choice way back in the day.

I have an excellent cover artist for the series I’m releasing (Starting with the book Blood Lust. For anyone who has seen my name, I don’t want them thinking my awesome cover artist designed the cover for Kept since the Kept cover isn’t as good. I did that cover. Though I’ve still sold over 5,000 Kindle copies with it.) I have a fabulous editor. Both my cover artist and editor *I* chose and were right for the project.

I have readers who love what I’m doing.

I love what I’m doing.

Before I decided to self-publish I could barely make myself write. I was miserable. I was depressed. I was anxious all the time. I HATED it. I will never go back to that type of literary slavery again.

The real question should be… Why exactly… in the world of the Internet, where mainstream publishers don’t truly market most of their list, with digital books growing exponentially and the publishing industry seriously in trouble… why is trad publishing viable for anyone who isn’t already a brand name?

And to the person who mentioned the types of people who self-publish, anyone can learn about the publishing business. It’s not mystical. You don’t have to be “inducted” into it. The knowledge is there. People are just lazy and unintelligent as a group.

But that has nothing to do with “me” or “you.” Each person chooses how much they will research and learn before making a business decision. The problem is, most writers have no business head on them no matter what route they take. And those authors won’t survive in the new publishing climate.

To the person who mentioned needing to be able to get into brick and mortar bookstores… brick and mortar bookstores will die. That is not where the money will be in the future. It’s a bad bet to aim all your energy in that direction. Brick and mortar bookstores are also entirely irrelevant since more than half of all book buyers buy at least SOME of their books on the Internet and ebooks require no physical stores.

A smart indie is going to aim all their marketing focus to online consumers. It’s a VERY large niche that is consistently growing. No need to chase after the wrong end of the 80/20 rule.

  • Really nice, succinct take on what’s really going on out there. I’m slowly building my own small press, and it’s posts like this that help keep me focused and plowing through all the BS out there. Thanks!

  • Hey, Shannon. Thank you and you’re welcome. Good luck with your small press!

  • Going to have to favorite this and recite it if anyone ever asks why I self-publish. Really, really good post. Being self-employed, doing a job you enjoy, outweighs the strain of being under others, whether that’s a publisher or an employer.

  • Hey, James! Thanks! I totally agree about the DIY stuff. (Obviously, lol.) Clearly a lot of people are wired to “follow” and “cooperate” and “work for other people.” Most people aren’t all that self-motivated or self-directed. That’s great for them, but I’m not all rah rah about cubicles or working for others.

    And since I would not be “in charge” with a traditional publisher, I’m just not interested.

    Some may say that means I’m not paying my dues. EVERYBODY pays their dues. I’m paying MINE as an entrepreneur, not a worker bee.

  • klcrumley

    Hi, Zoe!

    Like I always say, it’s no different than choosing to sell Avon(tm) rather than work at the Lancome counter at Macy’s.

    Sure, the Lancome girls get an hourly wage in addition to their commission from sales; they get the advantage of being in-store, along with their products…

    but that doesn’t mean that Avon is “not real make-up” nor does it mean that the Avon lady hasn’t made any money doing what she is doing.

    More to the point, it’s like a baker opting to open his own bakery rather than working in a large chain bakery or supermarket bake shop.

    I agree with you, it’s better to be your own boss. I would rather give into my creative freedom than conform to what some editor or agent thinks I should write.

    I enjoy the creative freedom.

  • Me too, Karen!

    Although… someone told me when they went on their kindle and typed “Paranormal” in the search box, Kept came up first, and it was surreal. My husband said “It’s like you’re a real author.”

    He didn’t mean it mean, he was expressing the same shock and Twilight Zone feeling I was having.

  • Let’s cut to the chase. I have had 40 books published since 1975. Of these, 24 were originally released by traditional publishers and the rest were originally released by my own publishing company, which opened as a sideline in 1985. Today, my company has 30 of my own books in print, including several that, for various reasons, are available only as ebooks. All the rest are print-on-demand =and= ebook releases. Three of my books are in reprint editions by a traditional publisher, but I control the ebook editions.

    All but three of my self-published books were released in trade hardcover editions before ebooks and print-on-demand became feasible. I made it as the publisher of “real books” released in a time when all books were either “real” or simply not published. Between 1992 and 2000 I ran my publishing company full time and made a real salary even though I had to take five years off writing to do the publishing work. I published more than a dozen other authors, including all the first books of a half dozen whose ongoing careers I launched. In addition to making a fair living, I sold off every offset copy of my firm’s books in 2000-2001 and netted a cool quarter-million even after many books left at remainer prices (most by far left at good wholesale and retail prices).

    I’ve written a dozen new books since 2000, including nine pictorials I had to go to a traditional publisher with because print-on-demand is not suitable for photos.

    I net about $2,000 per month from combined print-on-demand and ebook sales. Riding the ebook wave from just Kindle (beginning in May 2009), I have added Sony and Kobo, will soon add iPad via an aggregator, and have been invited to submit to B&N when they get around to actually admitting small presses.

    I’m pretty much retired. All this keeps me active and supports my business. I have begun looking for new writers to nurture and publish (military history only), and I have begun moving previously published books of all genres back into print (print on demand and ebooks), because I know how and am willing to do so where most authors have no clue and don’t intend to grow a clue.

    Self-publishing worked for me and my family in an age when capital outlay and risk were frightening, and it works for me now, when I’d rather write than lift cases of books. BUT I was all the time working on amassing a life’s corpus of 40+ books, which I aggressively adapted to the current marketplace with experience I amassed over fifty years of transitioning from wannabe teen wonderboy to rather ragged retired guy.

    All the opportunties open to you today are not a solution in themselves. Hard work, skill, knowledge of the game, and some luck–intertwined and indivisible–they’re your solutions, they’re what it takes to create opportunities, then success, from the siren songs, from the illusion, of open horizons and limitless freedom.

  • Hey, Eric. That’s great!

    I agree that opportunities open today are not solutions in themselves. They are merely tools and opportunities. It’s what you do with them that counts. Plenty of people self pub on the Kindle and don’t make any money at it. And I’m certainly not making “the big bucks.”

    I’m writing fiction and it takes time to grow a following. I’m doing pretty well considering where I am in the game and have made more off my first novella than I would have been paid by a NY publisher as a debut author in a novella anthology.

    I’m also doing better than I expected to be doing this early in the game. Especially since I’m on a shoestring.

  • I don’t try to talk any writer out of the NY route–I want to gain a few more years before the vast majority of writers wise up. Even if you launched now, it would be probably two years before your book was out, and even if you had a three-book contract, it’s likely the number of bookstores will be seriously diminished by the time you were waiting for the next contract. Your numbers will look back, but you will have lost your ebook rights and the publisher will eventually put them out there at the market rate (which will be $2-$3 fro most midlist) and you’ll be getting a couple of quarters instead of $2. Don’t forget the 15 percent tip for the agent…enjoy. I’ve published in NY and it’s a cool validation but not a great career move for most people.

    Scott Nicholson
    Drummer Boy

  • hehe Scott, you’re more mercenary than me. Then again, maybe not. The way I see it, SOMEONE is going to be running around shouting rah rah indie. So I can either hoard my knowledge and powers of persuasion while someone else shares and gets the credit and exposure, or I can share.

    Ultimately most people just talk about doing things and don’t actually go out and do them.

    I know how hard it is to indie publish and do it semi-right. I also know most people don’t have what it takes to stick with it and figure it out. They’d rather make one paltry attempt, then flop around and whine and cry about how nothing worked out and they weren’t lucky.

    And I agree, with ebooks up and coming like they are, I think the smartest person to be in charge of my books, their formats, and their distribution is… ME.

    Because I know my own moron-level. I don’t know a publisher’s. I really don’t trust anyone but me. If I make a mistake (and I do), then I can fix it. If a publisher makes a mistake, I’m helpless. Screw that.