I almost decided against this post today, but I thought we could use a distraction. I’m jumping right back into more serious writing questions and essays. If you’ll add any questions you have in the comments (throw my name in there somewhere so I can search for your Qs later) I’ll do my best to tailor future posts to focus on them.
And as always, if you’d like to share your experience with a short essay, email me. I think sharing our stories is a great way to focus our chats. Today we’ll jump in with an essay I received at the end of March:
Carol Van Natta shared her experience in a comment and expanded on it in a short essay:
I’m an indie author because it’s the better business model for me, and see it as the only road to decent profit.
I’ve been in the indie publishing game since Oct. 2014. My flagship series is science fiction/space opera, with 4½ books out and counting, and working on a 5th even as we speak. I also write fantasy paranormal romance, with one out, and three more planned for next year.I’ve been in the indie publishing game since Oct. 2014. My flagship series is science fiction/space opera, with 4½ books out and counting, and working on a 5th even as we speak. I also write fantasy paranormal romance, with one out, and three more planned for next year.In early 2014, when I was finishing the manuscript for book 1 in the space opera series, I attended a local writers conference and listened to a panel with agents and trad-publisher editors. An aspiring author asked about the science fiction romance genre (which my series can also fall under), and the panel responded with varying degrees of pity and condescension, because “no one buys that sort of thing.” I’d been leaning toward indie publishing because I wanted my first book out that year, on my schedule, and I had a day job that allows me to invest in my author business, i.e., production of my books.I read the helpful blogs and articles by indie authors wherever I could, and got recommendations for editors, cover designers, and file conversion specialists. I made contacts with author groups on Facebook, and still interact with them regularly, because we all learn from one another on how to handle the ever-evolving marketplace for genre fiction books. I don’t make even moderate money (yet), but I’ve only just hit the threshold where readers will trust me to continue and finish the Big Damn Story Arc that I’ve started in the first 4½ books. I plan to invest in more serious marketing this coming year, with the release of book 5.The most tangible difference between trad pub and indie pub is the money. With trad pub, if I negotiated a smokin’ contract, I might get 12% royalties on ebooks, which is where the profit margin is. With indie pub, I get 60-70% royalties. The difference is primarily marketing and paper print runs. However, if I’m supposed to come to a trad publisher with an established social media platform and a built-in audience, why should the trad publisher benefit from my hard work in establishing it, and still only pay me 12%? If ebooks result in the highest profit margin, why am I subsidizing the trad publisher’s vertical supply chain business model for paperbacks? A publisher’s customers, by the way, aren’t readers; their customers are bookstore buyers. “Ooh, look, a new book published by Random House,” said no reader, ever.The indie author gig is like any startup business, with product acquisition and startup costs. Your product is your writing, which is the only thing you can’t outsource (James Patterson notwithstanding). If you have more money than time, you pay people to do the things you can’t (cover design, editing, marketing). If you have more time than money, you can learn to do things yourself, though I’d still recommend hiring a professional editor and cover designer, because it’s the very rare author who can do those things well, and your books will not fare well in comparison to the competition.My long-term goal is to be able to support myself with my writing. I’m writing as fast as I can and continuing to learn the business in case the odious popular-vote-loser and the co-dependent opportunists in Congress tank the government and the economy. I don’t think I’d have that option at all with a traditional publisher.