Why I Chose the Indie Route

Okay everyone, it’s story time!

Everyone has their own entry story. What led you to enter into this Independent Author business. Well, here’s mine.

As an author, I often get asked (usually by my publishing friends from grad school) why I chose to self-publish, especially after spending a year and a half learning the ropes of traditional publishers. I actually made the decision to self-publish in the middle of grad school, after an eye-opening first semester. Let me explain…

There I was, just barely 21 in a whole new environment: the Big Apple. So much different than where I grew up. Within the first few weeks of classes (I should clarify that my degree is in publishing…) the subject of self-publishing was raised and how with the emergence of ereaders, especially the Kindle, and the success of self-published authors like E.L. James and Fifty Shades of Grey that self-publishing could eventually become a threat to the Big 5 publishers.

Let’s rewind six years when I was in 10th grade and I had just completed the first manuscript that I was proud of (I had written a long-winded epic beforehand that I realized later was total crap). My English teacher—the closest thing to a publishing professional I knew at the time—had agreed to read it. She marked up almost every page with edits and suggested that self-publishing might be a good avenue for this body of work. At the time (back in 2006), self-publishing was viewed as a vanity project and the authors that I emailed about self-pubbing had basically said, “If you have money, you can self-publish. There’s no credibility to it at all.” Then came the Kindle a year later and I was left oblivious, continuing on my edits, writing out queries to random agents that sounded so promising without knowing that self-publishing was becoming a respected form of producing books.

Fast forward to when I was in grad school and I was quickly realizing that I was behind the times with the self-publishing revolution. At this point, I figured my writing would be focused mostly in magazines and writing a novel would be something I got to if the opportunity presented itself. Yet another dream shelved.

A few months after learning about the most obvious self-publishing success story (E.L. James), I discovered Joe Konrath‘s blog and spent a lot of time devouring it and researching and fueling my inspiration to kick-start my book again. It had been about three years since I last picked it up.

Once I moved back home, I spent the rest of the year marking up my manuscript. I was still finishing up my master’s online and I had agreed to read my cousin’s manuscript for edits. My book took a backseat to that for a month or two. Fast forward to the spring of 2014 and I had discovered KBoards and had fully committed to making my indie career a full-time thing in the future. I enlisted the help of an editor, had a cover designed, and continued to crank out edits and rewrites until my manuscript was as polished as I could get it on my own. In between all that I was researching effective marketing tools and trying to slowly establish my author platform. I set a publishing date for my first book over a year away so that I could allow myself time to get as much done on the subsequent books as I could before I hit “Publish” on the first one.

Some of the pros of self-publishing:

  • I can maintain control. No one is telling me what I can publish, when I can publish, or where I can publish. If I don’t want to create an audiobook, I don’t have to. If I want to translate my book into Mandarin, I can. I choose what the cover looks like, what the front and back matter says, what it costs, and what the final edits are.
  • I earn more money from self-publishing. With the Kindle Direct Publishing format, authors get 70% royalties on their books. The numbers are similar for other self-publishing channels. The royalty numbers aren’t as great for the traditionally published who can be lucky to earn 25% in royalties (which they then split 50/50 with their agent). Not to mention, I will continue to earn royalties on my books sold no matter how long they’re available. I could be laying on my deathbed and the book I published in my 20s could still be racking up the royalties.
  • Publish more frequently. If I want to crank out six books a year then that’s fine. If I want to take my time and only work on one book a year, that’s good too. With traditionally published books, the publishing cycle usually takes 18 months. That’s because your writing doesn’t necessarily become a priority to editors unless you’re J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. But when you’re your own publisher, your book is your everything. You’re putting in as much time and energy into your book as you want. The only time you have to work on someone elses schedule is for the editing and the cover design, and even then, they can turn their work around in a couple of weeks tops.

Some of the cons of self-publishing:

  • No money. When I started this venture, I was just out of grad school and hadn’t even started to pay my mountain of student loan debt yet. I had almost no money to my name and I needed to save my extra pennies in order to afford an effective editor and a designer.
  • No experts. I was learning as I went. Learning from other people’s mistakes, hoping I wouldn’t make the same ones. When it comes to self-publishing, there is a huge learning curve. You don’t have a team of people guiding you like the traditionally published authors.
  • Less eyes. You don’t have the major advertising channels looking at your books. In fact, your writing will probably even get lost in the shuffle that has become the self-publishing world. This is something that is difficult for newbie writers. The important thing to remember is to remain patient and focus on crafting the best book you could possibly publish. Let your writing stand out for you. Also, if you have a professional online presence along with your professional-looking book, most readers won’t even know you’re a self-published author unless you explicitly tell them.
  • Stressful publishing schedule. There is a pro and a con to being able to publish whenever you want. You can choose your own writing/publishing schedule (pro), but you’re also pressured to put out the next book to increase sales of your back list (con). Putting out another book is the best way to increase sales. That’s why newbie author’s don’t see much of a return unless they put out a second one. This has led to authors writing “shorts” or “short stories” and releasing them as serials so that they can continue to publish and stay in the spotlight of their readers. For writers who like to produce longer works, this can be an added stress, but if your writing is sufficient enough, your readers will be willing to wait.

So there you have it. My list of reasons why I entered the business. Like I mentioned before, everyone has their own story, what’s yours?

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