The Indie Author Conundrum

by S M HENLEY

Should I publish my work independently – or take a shot at going traditional? It’s the conundrum that most authors face right now. I chose to go indie. Here’s why. 

It used to be that there was only one option: writers wrote and publishers published. With editors, marketers, publicists, and agents doing their bit too. Nice neat packages of activity. The end result was paperbacks spilling from the shelves of brick and mortar bookstores; the author already head down working on the next book.

Beautiful.

There was one problem with this model. For every published author – the ones that managed to get a coveted book deal – there were hundreds (thousands) never getting their manuscripts further than the editor’s slush pile. 

Sad.

Sometimes hitting the rejection pile was based on the quality of the writing, and that was fair enough, but often a successful submission was relative to what the publishers believed the market needed at any one time ie what you guys, the readers, wanted.

Often they got it right. Sometimes they got it wrong.

Success was also about availability of budget or resource. A publishing house is a business after all, it has the same restrictions as other businesses if it wants to turn a profit. Fair enough.

It was especially hard for new authors to get that first opportunity. If they did, and that initial book was not a best seller, contracts for future books were not so forthcoming. Then, for those authors, the whole long submission process would start over. And in the meantime, you, the reader, wouldn’t be able to read that great book they sweated blood over.

But things are different now.

Thanks to a little online bookstore called Amazon the whole landscape of the publishing industry changed. The traditional guys are still there, but now the author also has the ability to publish their own work if they want to, without landing that big contract first.

And rather than just relying on brick and mortar stores with physical products, there are also ebooks. Masses of them, spilling from electronic devices everywhere: readers, tablets, laptops, PCs, cell phones.

Beautiful.

Of course, you can still do it the first way – the traditional way. But the point is, now authors have a choice. I think this is wonderful.

Images via Unsplash

So here’s why I’m taking advantage of that choice and going indie

Firstly, I’m an entrepreneur at heart. In my day job, I even help other entrepreneurs gets started. So for me, it’s hard to hand over my work to a third party. I want to own my success or failure – and control my product. Not just my words, but all the choices that go along with publishing a successful novel: cover design, editing services, marketing channels, etc. As an indie author, I can make all of those decisions myself.

I also don’t have to rely on someone else telling me whether or not my product is “good enough.” Just like any other business, I have my customers for that. If my readers don’t like my work, they won’t buy it – that’s all the validation I need – which means I can circumvent the agony of the publisher’s submission process.

Two: working as an indie means I don’t have to rely on a publisher’s schedule. So instead of one or two releases every year (if I’m lucky enough to even get a contract) I can produce three, four, or even six books if I’m physically capable (plenty of indie authors do it).

Three: I can also adapt my releases without submitting outlines to a publisher first for approval. Which means I can be responsive to reader feedback. Maybe even change story-lines or characters’ fates, or to extend or shorten a series. I can even “genre-hop” ie produce a romance alongside my urban fantasy if the mood takes me (probably not going to happen – unless it’s a very dark romance – but you catch my drift). As an indie I have more flexibility.

Fourthly, I can control my own pricing and run my own promotions, and control which platforms my books are sold on. Which means I can disseminate my work globally if I wish, to as many readers as possible, at a reasonable price.

Finally, and I think this is what actually makes me the happiest, by being indie I’m supporting a new and exciting industry. Just as the traditional landscape of publishing has changed over the last few years, so has the indie landscape.

There are more and more proud indie authors out there. They obtain professional editing services, commission cover design and formatting, etc. In fact, compared to the quality of the traditionally published book, I think the majority of us are doing rather well.

Furthermore, all of those activities require support.

New businesses are launching to support us, and the indie economy is booming: indie editors, cover artists, proofers, formatters, publishers (small press and online). Not to mention a wealth of advisory services.

It really is beautiful.

So finally, what does all this mean for you, my reader?

Actually, the news is mostly good.

While you won’t find my books in brick and mortar book shops or libraries for the time being, you will find them in the majority of online ebook stores like Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, etc. You will also be able to download them – and order paperbacks (via Amazon) – at prices significantly lower than the traditionally published guys.

That’s good right? For both of us.

So the indie conundrum never really trapped me for long. At least for now indie is my way. Will I ever try for a traditional book deal? Maybe. I’ll see how it goes.

But that’s alright, too. It’s all about choices, right?

Over To You ...

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