This week I’d like to talk a bit about what it’s like to be an indie author, how the process works, and why someone might choose to go independent over trying to break into traditional publishing.
Let’s start backwards.
Why would someone want to be published traditionally?
Many people out there in the world only consider books to be “good” if they happen to come from a traditional publishing house (Scholastic, Penguin, Hachette, etc.). Back when I was in search of an agent to represent my Aster Wood books, a good friend asked me why I didn’t just publish it independently. I didn’t have a good answer for him. I guess, like many, I thought that if I couldn’t publish traditionally, my book probably wasn’t any good.
But then I thought about it. This particular friend just so happened to have produced an indie film that made its way into the Sundance film festival. Nobody stuck their noses up at that. Why should I? Also, many, many indie films win awards every year at various film festivals and even the Oscars.
Would I be a laughing stock if I were to publish my books on my own? Turns out, not so much.
How does the indie process work?
In the past 10 years, things have changed a LOT in the publishing industry. The advent of Kindle Direct Publishing (through Amazon) was a game changer for hundreds (and now thousands) of authors. It’s allowed people to write, edit, and upload their work onto the Amazon platform (as well as many others). Some authors like to call 2011-2015 the good old days now, as the market has grown more and more competitive since then. But there is still money to be made by being an indie. I’ll go into that in a minute.
But for now, how does it work? Here’s the breakdown.
- Outline your book or series.
- Write the book.
- Edit the book.
- Find an editor to do a professional developmental edit to help you with story structure and plot holes.
- Make changes based on the editor’s advice (though you certainly don’t have to follow their advice to the letter).
- Find “beta” readers, people who enjoy reading in your genre who can give you some basic advice and let you know how they feel about the book. One thing to note here: don’t have your family and friends read the book as a beta. They either won’t read it (likely), or they will read it and not want to hurt your feelings if they didn’t like it. If they DO like it, that’s great, but it’s still waaaay better to find someone who won’t be biased and will give you good feedback. A stranger will give you their honest review.
- Get a professional cover made. Do NOT make it on your own! You’re a writer, not a illustrator, graphic designer, and/or typographer (probably). Covers can be expensive, that’s true, but there are options from $25 up into the thousands for good quality covers. There are many resources for finding good, affordable covers. Check out THIS link for some examples and prices.
- Learn about book marketing using promo sites, Facebook, and Amazon Advertising platforms.
Why go indie? (Here’s a hint: money, money, money!)
A lot of people think that it’s only possible to make a living by publishing traditionally, but that is very far from the truth. In fact, the vast majority of traditionally published authors still have to hold a full or part time job to make ends meet. Seriously! The average signing bonus for a midlist author is $3-5K. Not so much when you’ve been pouring your blood, sweat, and tears into a manuscript for however long. There is some hope of making money beyond that paltry sum, but many, many authors never see more than that when all is said and done.
So, if you go indie, will you be rolling in dollar bills soon? Probably not. BUT it’s important to note that there are thousands of indies making six figures (net), and quite a few are making seven figures. (I am not one of those authors … yet!)
Financially, the best choice an author can make (in many cases) is to publish independently. It takes a lot of learning about craft and marketing, but it can all be worth it in the end if you stick with it and don’t give up!
That’s all I’ve got for today! And you see that right… I haven’t made a word of progress on the 1-Million Words, but that’s how life goes! I’m still on track to hit my goal by the end of the year!
One-Million Word Counter
Until next time, happy reading!
Story One: Starfall
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