Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Indie Publishing: Is it Right for You?

Our once-a-month guest, Terry Odell has some great reasons for going indie. Thanks Terry. Be sure to stop by next week to hear from Morgan Mandel, who also embraces indie publishing in a big way.

Indie publishing is, according to Angela James, Carina Press editor, "the new black." Although I've never been much for fashion, this is one trend I'm happy to follow.

Of my nine novels, I've indie-published eight titles. Only two of them would qualify as indie books, since the other five are back list titles, previously released by several different publishers. However, since the rights have reverted to me, they're now mine. And number nine will be on its way this summer.

Indie publishing creates new opportunities for authors. Why did I decide to go indie with mine? Each one had its own reasons.

1. Blurred genre lines. When I tried the traditional route with my mystery, Deadly Secrets, the comments I got included things like, "great writing, great voice, but we can't figure out if it's a cozy or a police procedural." Traditional publisher like boxes. I tend to write outside them.

2. Book in a back list series. My newest release, Saving Scott, is part of my Pine Hills Police series. However, I had the rights back to the first 2 books, and they were already re-released as indie titles. No publisher would want to jump in with Book 3.

3. The bottom line. The small-press publisher of my Blackthorne, Inc. series doesn't contract multi-book deals. Each book has to be completed, submitted, and then it's a waiting game to see if it will be picked up. Plus, for other reasons, including a restructuring of their imprints, there was a good chance that they wouldn't take Danger in Deer Ridge, and even if they did it would be at least 2 years before I would see it published. And although they pay an advance, it is small and barely covers the promotion they expect their authors to do. Since they produce only hard covers for the library market, it's a tough sell to readers who aren't going to shell out $25.95 for an unknown author.

4. It's fallen off the radar. E-publishers publish a lot of books, so you're competing with countless other authors. New releases get the visibility. And, again, it's a bottom line thing. If you have to do your own marketing, are you going to spend it pushing a book where the publisher gets most of the money? Check your contract for reversion of rights. If your book isn't doing as well as you think it could, you might be able to get rights back and publish it yourself. But publishers are growing more aware of the value of e-books, and are tightening the reins on their control.

My advice to those who want to try indie publishing: Just because "anyone can do it" does not mean everyone should. If you've been getting rejections for reasons other than, "we're not sure how to sell this", it's quite likely you haven't yet crossed the line into presenting a professional product. Readers recognize inferior writing, and getting a book out there too soon is likely to do more harm than good.

For all my indie books, I hired a cover artist. I paid for a professional editor. And this is after my crit partners had their way with my manuscripts. About the only place I didn't hire out was for formatting, although I'm still picking up tips on how to deal with the various e-stores' software. (The Smashwords Style Guide is excellent, and their "meatgrinder" will catch a lot of errors.)

You're not restricted to e-books when you go indie. CreateSpace is one outlet that makes it easy to produce quality print books. But it's been my experience that the sales are in the e-books, despite all those who say, "I want to turn real pages."

Another aspect of going indie is the marketing … but that's another story.

Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Her newest indie release, Saving Scott, is part of the Nook First promotion. It will be exclusive at Barnes & Noble for 30 days, but will be available at all other e-book stores the latter part of April.  Her next traditional release is Rooted in Danger, which is book 3 in her Blackthorne, Inc. series. It's available for pre-order. Buy links are HERE. To see all her books, visit her Web site. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.

Posted by Maryann Miller who has a hard time keeping up with all the new releases by Terry. Good reads all.

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  1. A clear-eyed analysis of the indie route, Terry, and of what makes it the way to go in many but not all cases. The cross-genre and timing issues were persuasive in my case. Did I want to spend another three years trying to find an agent and publisher for an unclassifiable novel or have it in the hands of real readers for those years? I might have continued the slog through the old-line jungle, but family, friends, and fellow writers persuaded me my novel deserved the light of an earlier day. Bashert has done well for an odd novel from an unknown indie writer, ramping up slowly but finally making--and staying in--some of Amazon's Top 100 lists.

    Three years and three more novels later, I have learned a lot about how this indie business works. Two important things I would add to your analysis. First, for most books, the indie route demands far more from authors, who really must themselves master--or monitor closely--every single aspect of the development, production, and marketing. Another issue is that, for most books out there on the indie frontier, the sales numbers are going to be smaller. Yes, there are the well-publicized monster success stories, but the middle of the pack is where most writers will stay, and the number of units moved will be smaller than in the middle of the pack with one of the Big Six publishers. In compensation, the revenue per book to the author can be higher, so dollar-wise, it may cancel out.

    --Larry Constantine (Lior Samson)

  2. Blurred genre lines is a lure for many authors who were rejected by traditional publishers who prefer books to fit into certain niches.

    Morgan Mandel

  3. Like Larry, I think your reasons make complete sense, Terry. Another reason, which obviously doesn't apply to you, is author age—those over a certain age may not want to engage in the often lengthy process of being picked up by a major house before holding their book in their hands.

    As with anything, an informed decision is the best decision.

  4. For me, marketing indie books isn't another story ... it's the whole story. Root canal, anyone?

  5. Larry, true, and thanks for your input. You can't measure yourself against the success of others. And most traditionally published mid-list authors can't quit their day jobs.

    Morgan - yep. That's why the e-publishers (not indie) were good starting points for so many. They're more willing to take risks.

    Kathryn - thanks, but I didn't start writing until I was a card-carrying AARP member, and I just got my Medicare card. So, for me, age also plays into the picture. (And it can for publishers as well, although they might not admit it)

    Larry - I agree, but you still have to crank out quality products. Time management becomes a critical skill.

  6. Oops - meant to say Chris, not Larry in that last comment. New screen layout isn't friendly!

  7. Great post, Terry. I went the indie route after a couple of unscrupulous agents tried to sucker me in with complimentary words and then my footing the bill for their work - which I later learned from the preditors and editors site didn't even exist. They were scam artists. Fortunately for me in my naïveté, I didn't have the big bucks they required to provide me with such wonderful opportunities.

    Then the age thing played into the picture; even back then I had qualified for Medicare. Now all I need to do is master the marketing thing . . .

    Thank you for mentioning the editing and cover art elements of this process. They're even more vital for indies than for those who publish traditionally.

  8. Thanks for your insights into the indie process, Terry. I also agree with those who have said that we need to pay careful attention to the editing and overall book production. I was spoiled by having a publisher who did that for me, and have spent a lot of time and money and effort to get those elements right for my indie books.

  9. Linda, I agree the marketing thing is the hardest. It's important to be visible, but just as important not to be a "nag"

    Maryann - I agree, it's nice to be able to say, "that's out of my hands" when your publisher handles things. However, it's also nice to say, "I'm getting more money" than when my publisher handled things!

  10. So are we now calling self-publishing "indie publishing?" This is a new one to me, and I wonder if it's meant to counter the stigma attached to self-publishing by the books that were not ready for the light of day.
    How about a 'micro' publisher? Pearlsong Press published my memoir, and did all the design work for me at no cost to me.

  11. Hi, off kilter. Yes, the new term for 'self publishing' has morphed into "indie publishing"--probably because self publishing harkens up images of vanity presses. Small presses are still "publisher publishing" (although I'm sure there's a real name for it.) Traditional publishing tends to be used for print books that go through the larger houses. But heck, I wrote a book called "What's in a Name?" and that's my attitude about labels.

  12. Thank you for sharing this. I just self-pubbed my first story to Amazon Kindle this weekend and I'm in love. Amazon made it so simple and painless. I am now more seriously considering going this route for my first novel.

  13. Brianna - the publishing part is the easy one. It's writing the good book that's hard!


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