Why I’m going indie

This is not a surprise if you’ve been reading my blog, but I’m going indie — starting next week, I hope. Research, combined with my experiences in the newspaper industry’s transformation during the past decade have convinced me that at this point in my career, and at this point in the publishing industry’s transformation, that it’s the smartest option.

I made the decision a while ago, but I’m announcing it now because I plan to have my first e-book — a short-story collection — available late next week. I’m into final edits on the stories, and the cover is ready to go. It will be $2.99 at Smashwords, available in all formats — Kindle, Nook, PDF, etc. I’m planning to make it available at Amazon as well, but that might take a few extra days.

 The other reason I’m announcing it to share a little of my thought process behind this, especially since it wasn’t all that many months ago I was saying to Kyrie, my editor extraordinaire, that I couldn’t imagine self-publishing and considering myself an author. I’ve got some crow cooking on the stove as I type.

Why I’m going indie

– The industry is in the middle of upheaval and nobody knows what’s coming. With everything changing rapidly, giving up a right that seems innocuous now could cause big problems down the line. And agreeing to a certain percentage of revenue from a format could put a big dent in future income.

– Along those lines, the finances are changing. Publishing advances are getting ever-smaller. With more bricks-and-mortar stores closing, the chances to earn out advances and get royalties are getting lower. And the share of revenue from e-books is tiny under traditional contracts — 14.9 percent vs. 70 percent if I go indie. Even after giving Kyrie (over her vehement objections) a much-deserved portion of that for all of her editing magic, it’s still a better deal.

– Publishers are doing less and less. To have a chance of getting picked up by a traditional publisher, the book would have to be pretty much ready to publish when I submitted it — which means I’d still need Kyrie’s expertise. Not to mention I’d have to still do all my marketing and publicity. I’m not sure the additional credibility of having a Big Six publisher behind me is worth what I would give up. Assuming I could even find one.

– Fewer and fewer new authors can break in. There are fewer spaces on bookstore shelves, and more are taken up by big-name bestsellers. The chances of a debut novel to break in are not great. Not when agents and publishers can look at indie books out there and offer contracts to those writers who do well to try and capitalize on that. Before they rack up all the expenses, they want a guarantee a book will sell.

– As part of that, more companies are looking to indie authors to sign. Anne R. Allen had a blog post a few weeks back asking if e-books were the new query letter, and that seems a likely trend, at least until the publishing industry figures out where it’s going. And possibly in the future. I’d rather build an audience and find readers on my terms, then figure out if I’d rather stay indie or try to go traditional. Some authors have turned their back on the traditional publishers; others have used indie success to become prized properties among publishers.

– I have something of a fan base already. Because I’ve been writing NCIS fanfiction for several months, I have a base of readers who like my writing. Some won’t make the leap, but several have been reading my Story Cubes Challenge entries and asking when I’m going to publish some Exeter work. It’s not a big base, but it is a start.

– I write a lot. More than 500,000 words last year. I don’t know that I can do that every year — I have a lot of pieces to my schedule to juggle — but with that kind of output, I would do better to start out indie and get several novels, short stories and novellas out there. A traditional publishing pace would be a book a year — it would take forever to get all the stories I want to tell in Exeter published at that rate.

Those are my reasons. I don’t know how this will turn out, but it’s an experiment I think is worth trying. And for those of you who have been following along as I get started, when the book comes out next week, I’ll have a discount code for blog readers as a thank you.

7 Comments on “Why I’m going indie”

  1. Interesting comments, reasonable points, and ones that are very different from “others” I’ve heard. Plus, as you note, you’ve place a great deal of your work out for public review and are receptive to editing and other feedback.

    You aren’t vanity publishing. There’s a difference.

    Shoot. This means I have to buy a kindle, doesn’t it! 😉

  2. Thanks, Aleta. 🙂 Yes, Kyrie was commenting last night on how thick a skin I have when she starts marking up my copy. I think her comments were a third of the length of the one story when she finished editing.

    Actually, no. Smashwords makes it available in all formats, including HTML, RTF and PDF. So you don’t have to have a Kindle, Nook or iAnything to read the book. Now if you’re looking for an excuse to buy one, OTOH…

  3. Very sound reasoning, and I think you’ve made a good choice. It’s nice to hear how you made your decision. Mine was similar but with less of a cognizant recognition 😉

    1. Thanks, Emlyn! This was definitely my left-brained McGeeky side talking. 🙂 It actually process-wise was more of a “Wait, I’ve seen this before” reaction that got me thinking about indie. Been there, done that, have the T-shirt. Don’t need another one. This post was basically a polished version of how I pitched the idea to Kyrie.

  4. You’ve stated my reasons as well. I just published my first indie book, a memoir called Dancing in Heaven. In my post today, I lament the challenges of promoting for a self-publisher.

    I think the road to success is much different for an indie. Slower start.

    I’ll be watching you.

    1. Thanks, and good luck with your own book! I’ll have to head over and check out your blog once I get through today’s writing.

      I think the promotion challenges are similar for small press and even some Big Six authors, though indies don’t have the name behind them to help. And it does mean a slower start, but since you decide whether to keep going or to stop, you can get off to a slower start compared to traditional publishing where you have to succeed right away in order to keep getting contracts.

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