A year ago I found myself at a crossroads: should I maintain my starry-eyed dream of being traditionally published and continue to edit my novel to meet New York publisher’s needs, their restrictive word counts, the limitations on what I could or could not write depending on which house might publish my book…or should I jump off the cliff and go indie-publish my book to the growing number of ereaders?
A year later–after editing the book BACK to its higher word count, re-inserting deleted scenes and complicated storylines, and spicing up the cocky voice my heroine prefers–I’m thrilled to have taken the leap. It’s never been a better time to go indie, since traditional publishers are buying fewer books (even fewer from debut authors), advances have never been lower, print and digital rights are swept away as one, and the marketing support is dismal or non-existent.
So, why self publish?
New Model Means New Challenges
Indie publishing, on the other hand, is an exciting and vast frontier. My ebook comes out as soon as I finish editing, and my works stay online as long as I want, so I can build a readership and ramp up sales over a longer period of time.
Reversely, in traditional publishing, you wait eight months to two years to see a book hit the shelves and then you get two months to make or break sales. No sales, no new book contracts. And often your publisher owns your rights, whether they are still publishing the book or not (depending on the contract). So you’re out of luck.
Sure, you own every mistake as well as every success as an indie author, but you’re not out there alone. The indie author community is thriving and wonderfully helpful. The romance genre authors are notoriously business savvy (romance books bring in about 50-60% of the fiction world’s money), so I’m lucky to be starting my author career with my romantic suspense (I also write historical women’s fiction).
Finding an Indie Sisterhood for Mentorship
Two of my favorite Yahoo! Groups, Indie Romance Ink and Authors Network, have proved pivotal in my path toward indie publishing. Whether I’m seeking online classes on formatting my ebook, finding editors and photos for cover designs, handling reviews, or promoting my book…there’s always an eager author who’s several steps ahead of me ready to mentor me.
Many of my fellow indie authors group together for book promotions, panels at conferences, or blog tours. Even sales numbers and promo results are widely broadcast so folks can compare what works and what doesn’t. Moreover, their goal is to always be encouraging each other toward a livable career. I know many well-published authors in the traditional industry who’ve taken their back list, for which they’ve regained their rights, and indie published those books. The repeated comment I hear: “I’ve earned more in the last 6 months/year on my old books than I’ve earned in 5/10/20 years with New York!”
Frankly, I’ve never been so impressed with a group of women so determined to help one another succeed! This is a sisterhood that understands it takes a village–not just to help one author succeed, but it takes each author helping one another so the village succeeds.
Changing Minds, One Reader at a Time
And so we are rebranding the indie movement as a force to be reckoned with. Of course, through all our small and big successes, New York publishers and bestselling authors alike have criticized and dissuaded the indie movement. “No agent or editor will take you once you self-publish” has been a prevailing message. Publishers and agents and editors spit on the movement, saying we are ruining the pricing structures, cheapening ourselves and lowering the quality of fiction, devaluing the industry as a whole. Authors still contracted with New York were dropped if they self-published a book during their marriage with a house.
After 25 years in various areas of publishing, I haven’t seen such a fracture in this business since the Internet was lauded in the early 90′s as the Devil incarnate come to ruin magazines and newspapers. (Note: there were more niche magazines at the turn of the millennia than ever recorded.) The advent of ereaders have reckoned similar cries. But indie authors have been very personally labeled the bane of good authorship.
Tides Turn on Publishers
All this fear mongering has been at best amusing, at worst disenfranchising writers looking to make a living wage as published authors. That is till agents and editors got smart and started troving Amazon and Barnes & Noble for indie authors who’ve out-performed or out-sold traditionally published authors. New York is changing its tune!
But for many authors, the Johnny-come-lately’s are…well, too late. A few healthy royalty checks, the freedom to write what/when they please, and the pride of ownership over their career is addictive. More than one successful indie colleague has conveyed their story in our group about being approached with paltry advances ($1k-5k) from respectable publishing houses who want to absorb all the authors rights and tie them up for years in future books for single digit royalties. Fortunately, my indie author pals are smart business women and know they will make more money on their own down the line. OR…wait till New York gets smarter with their offers!
So the tides are turning in this business. We are now teaching New York how this business can be done in the digital age, how readers have changed their habits/likes, and how David can really beat Goliath at its own game. So to all my fellow indie-chick authors out there, go write your own future!
You can find Christine’s books on Amazon for Kindle at:
An Eye For Danger (http://amzn.com/B008QPZ8O4)
The Editor Devil’s Guide to DIALOGUE (http://amzn.com/B007K1PZZC)
The Editor Devil’s Guide to CHARACTERS (http://www.amzn.com/B007PTQKXA)