Years ago, it was a no-brainer that if you want to write a book, you try to go through the typical process of being traditionally published. So that means trying to find a publishing house directly, or if you want to land with a big hitter who doesn’t allow unsolicited manuscripts, then trying to score a literary agent first who then tries to sell your manuscript to a publisher. Basically, lots of queries sent out to capture attention and sell your manuscript to the right person.
However, times have changed a lot.
Now, if you’re interested in publishing a book, there are two primary paths to consider: traditional publishing or indie publishing.
When I first considered writing this article, I was going to approach it from a “Pros and Cons” of both formats. However, since I haven’t been traditionally published, I don’t think it’s fair for me to list pros and cons from that perspective. So instead, let’s just talk about being an indie author, and why it’s the path that resonates with me.
By nature, I am an impatient person. Honestly, it’s the primary reason for my launch into the indie world before I discovered what that term actually encompasses. I wanted to hold my book in my hands and didn’t want to wait. Independent publishing makes that possible.
The positive behind my impatience is that it serves my determination to get my goals achieved. With being an indie author, you have to be disciplined from the entire A through Z journey of book creation. No one is setting deadlines for you, so you have to keep yourself accountable. If you want that book in your hands, you have to work for it, and it’s not an easy process. Blood, sweat, and tears, but it’s worth it.
When it comes to writing a story, once I’ve completed it, I’m eager to get it out into the world so I can fully release it before moving on to the next one. As an indie author, you have more control of when that release will take place. You’re the sole person responsible for finishing it, formatting it, adding all the bells and whistles (cover art, etc), and getting it on whatever medium you’d like to see on. I consider that a huge plus with independent publishing. With the traditionally published route, you’re on someone else’s timeline. You’re waiting on every other person to do their individual job for putting together your book, from editing to publishing to marketing. Sometimes books can take 1-3 years from completion to get out into the world with traditional publishing. However, with indie publishing, you can get it done by next week if you were so determined.
A challenge can be finding a good team with indie publishing. Yes, writing a book is a huge accomplishment, but there are necessary components for a well-polished result, including editing. When you are traditionally published, you have a team of editors automatically at your disposal. However, with indie publishing, it’s up to you to find (and pay out of pocket) for those editors, which could include one good one or a variety dependent on what you find that works for you. You need to find someone reliable who understands your vision for your book while also providing the necessary feedback for improvements.
On the note of out-of-pocket expenses, marketing is also something that will be 100% in your hands. Word-of-mouth can only get you so far when there are billions of readers in this world, so having an understanding of advertising, events, online book tours, newsletter swaps, reviewer networking, etc. is essential. These are all things that will be important for you to study since you won’t have a publishing house who handles it all for you.
Strategy is also a big part of being an independent writer, which goes hand-in-hand with understanding the business of being a published author. If you don’t have an audience already built up just waiting for the release of your book into the world, it can be challenging to establish yourself when first starting out. The advantage of traditional publishing is that they’re already tapped into the market you want to enter; they know how to reach your targeted readers. There is a strategy to releasing books as an indie author and one of the best things you can do is read up on this before preparing to launch your first book if you want to be successful. Things like creating a reader magnet and building up a newsletter (similar to the other marketing tactics listed in the previous paragraph) can make a difference.
One of my favorite parts about being an indie author is knowing that the book cover choice is 100% mine. It can also be a little scary since a cover can make or break a person’s interest in reading the book. But honestly, anytime I need a little creative inspiration, I’ll spend time scrolling through covers of books that people have created and listed for sale. It’s another way of owning your book and making it yours; not just the inside, but the outside too.
When I first started as an indie author, I felt like I was swimming alone trying to survive in an ocean of sharks. All I wanted to do was write books, but I wanted to be successful doing it too. However, networking with other authors has been beneficial, and so has discovering such organizations as the Indie Author Project and Biblioboard, who aims to connect indie authors with readers and libraries, and a variety of groups on Facebook that have successful, independent authors sharing their knowledge and experiences.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the biggest pros and cons of being an indue author:
- Royalties are higher
- You have all the rights to your book
- You make all the decisions about your book
- It’s on your own time
- There are no barriers to getting published
- You have to pay out-of-pocket for editing, design and marketing of your book, and printing if not using a print-on-demand service
- It’s harder to distribute your books into bookstores without a proven track record
- You have to find experts to help on other areas of your book you may not be as knowledgeable in (like editing)
- You have to actively seek out promotional, marketing, and contest opportunities (and pay when required)
I’m proud to be an indie author because I like having more control over my writing, despite some of the challenges and expenses that arise from it. It can be a steep learning curve, but that’s also what makes it so exciting and rewarding, especially when you see your efforts pay off.
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