To Indie, or Not to Indie…

To indie or not to indie… that is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind… no, wait, I’m not going to do a whole Hamlet metaphor, that would be tiresome.

But this question really is kind of tearing me up.

How do I want to sell my books? Do I want to self-publish using Amazon and be an independent author, or do I want to find an agent and/or a publisher and let them put out my books?

If you’re a writer, I’m willing to bet you have a very strong opinion on one side or the other. But I want to tell everyone my side of the story and let you see it from that angle.

I never believed I had the ability or attention span to write a novel. More to the point, I never believed that cultivating those things and having a go at a novel-length piece would ever pay off. Nobody would ever see it. I knew how hard it was to break into the industry, and while I’m confident that I’m a decent writer, I didn’t have a lot of faith in getting that lucky break.

So, I didn’t write a novel.

And then I discovered Wattpad.

Now this was a few years back. Wattpad was a pretty messy place when I stumbled upon it, but I appreciated the potential. I also appreciated the price. I was poor as dirt and desperate to read stuff on my phone.

So yeah, I waded through some sludge, but I did find some really good stories that were only shy a good editor.

And suddenly, I realized that the gatekeepers in the publishing industry, who made me believe that my contribution to the slush pile wasn’t really worth months or years of my life, didn’t have to keep me from writing. I could write ANYWAY. Despite them.

That’s why I even started Shadow of the Portico. Because I knew I’d have an audience one way or another.

Fast forward to now. I just attended Armadillo Con, a terrific Sci-Fi/Fantasy convention largely geared toward writers. It was GREAT! I learned a lot, confirmed a lot, put out my story ideas and received positive feedback, got a great vibe.

Until I said I was an independent author.

Oh no no no, those traditional publishers and editors said. I should most assuredly query agents and publishers and try to get my work traditionally published. Because once I self-publish, it’s kind of Game Over. And do I want people to actually BUY my work? Do I want to sell more than 100 units? How willing am I do to do all my own marketing work, everything, by myself?

Three years ago I would have shrugged and said I’m just doing this for fun.

But is that still true?

I do take this writing gig very seriously, and I think I have at least a slightly-better-than-lottery-winning chance that someone might notice my books and want to do something with them. I wouldn’t be at all ashamed to query the profession with my stories, and wouldn’t be shattered if they said no thank you.

In that regard, indie publishing is a great safety net.

But wait. Is that all they are? No way. Indie writers are my tribe. They have been the people who have built me up, helped me along, sometimes carried me through. I don’t believe I would have something to query about if it wasn’t for the indie authors who have had my back these last few years.

I honestly feel like I’ve stumbled upon the crucible of my writing career, even before my career is a career.

My brain tells me to query, of course, what do I have to lose. My heart tells me to stick with Plan A and publish on my own.

And I have one more consideration.

Traditional publishing takes a long time. It’s a big boat that doesn’t turn quickly. It takes years to get things going. Now, that’s not really a huge deal. I can write other things while I wait, even indie publish other works outside The Journeymen series.

Except I take four insulin shots a day and I have had eight heart surgeries.

Time may be the one thing I don’t have.

I’m sorry, I don’t want to end this piece on that maudlin note. While I’ve been open about my health issues, it’s not who I am. It’s just the rather colossal elephant in the rather cozy room of my life.

Okay, this isn’t Hamletesque life or death decision making here, I admit it. But it’s something that’s on my mind, and a decision all serious writers face. It’s one of the myriad things that have moved me after a weekend full of writing inspiration. There’s definitely more inspiredness to come, and I promise I’ll do more than exhume Yorick’s skull.




Filed under Writing Advice

9 responses to “To Indie, or Not to Indie…

  1. Plan A all the way. You should totally indie publish.

    The vast majority of ArmadilloCon authors are, frankly, stuck in the past. They mean well but they don’t understand the options and opportunities available now. They don’t understand that rather than struggle for a living and hope that the publisher who has deigned to give them a pittance per book will actively promote their books (many don’t), there is an option where they can take 75% of their royalties and control their publishing destiny. They think that once self-published, you’re dead to traditional presses (you’re not at all) and that people will never find your books (they will if you work at it, same as traditional). They think all indie books are trash (and they aren’t, not by a long shot).

    Join the Indie Publishing meetup (soon to be the Indie Author Society meetup) and Indie Authors Unite! on Facebook. Get to know all of the successful indie authors who have vastly larger audiences and paychecks, and can write what they want and publish as often as they want with the covers they want. Pick their brains, learn how it works, and be part of a community that actually cares about you and wants you to succeed and will help you all the way.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. As Jackie said, there are a lot of benefits to self-publishing, namely the time-frame. I like to think there’s a “third” option – Kindle Scout. Somewhere between traditional and indie, you get a lot of creative control, a $1500 advance, and you’ll know within 30 days if you’re accepted or not. Also, a lot of publishers are more open to publishing your books if you already have a fan base, so self-publishing can work for you in that respect. Obviously, you probably won’t get a publishing deal with anything you’ve already self-published (which is probably what your conference acquaintances were referring to), but that’s not so bad if you’re making money on them. Carpe diem! I think you’ve built up a pretty nice little community who’s more than willing to help you get the word out if you do decide to self-publish, which means you’re ahead of the game. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It’s a personal choice. Each person needs to look at the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing and make their own decision. It sounds as though you’ve already put some thought into making this decision.

    Yes, you might find some people who look down on indie authors, but that opinion isn’t shared by everyone. Authors who self-publish can be successful. There are several self-published authors who have been on the NY Times Bestseller List, USA Today Bestseller List, and other lists.

    As Angel pointed out, you won’t get a publishing deal for something you self-published; however, there are benefits if you’ve already self-published. Your author brand is already established. You have a fan base, social media accounts, and a website. If you later decide to publish traditionally, those things make a difference.

    There will be more work involved with self-publishing, but you will have control over the service providers (e.g., editors, cover artists, formatters) you work with, the work you do yourself, and your budget. You will also have control over publishing dates and deadlines.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ll share my personal views on this topic, which is fresh for me as I’ve very recently put my first novel on Createspace and KDP.

    Going the indie route is not easy, but when you get there, very rewarding. The main challenge is the marketing, but even traditional marketing ends when the allocated budget is used up, and for a new author, the allocated budget doesn’t tend to be much. Which basically means, everything I’m learning now, I’d have to do anyway even if an agent or publisher picked me up.

    But the flip side is, you never know until you try. I believe its worth querying to agents first, then publishers who accept unagented material. There are two reasons I have to want at least one book to go this route. The first, I want to work with a professional editor and learn as much as I can. I don’t have the funds to engage a seasoned veteran. With VISITOR, I was very lucky to find an excellent young editor for a very reasonable fee, and perhaps she is just as good, if not better, than the traditional caliber. But I won’t know for certain until I see what the traditional editors are made of. They also possess the wisdom of their company, so the learning opportunities may be very valuable, for at least one trial.

    The other reason is distribution. I know there may be easier way to manage this, but from what I’ve researched so far, it will be next to impossible to see my book on a bookshelf in a library or bookstore. I’m okay with Amazon’s vast reach for paperbacks and eBooks through their website, but for expanded distribution you have to agree to a huge royalty cut, and deal with the fact that 99% of the bookstores out there will not carry your book. There are a number of reasons for this, but the bottom line is competing with traditionals for space on bookshelves is worse than writing 1000 query letters.

    The bottom line, you can try querying first, which only requires a few months of waiting before you can move on to self-pubbing. If something comes of it, you may have to wait a couple of years before you know for sure if your book will sell or not (after changes your publisher and/or agent recommend). This is up to the individual. I do see the value of at least one book published traditionally. But if it fails, and let’s face it, the odds are strong against it not because we write bad books, but because an individual does not click with the material. Its a personal choice. After interning for an agency for 6 months a few years back, I understand how important it is for the agent (or editor) to really connect with the story at a very personal level, at least for a new author, so they can put themselves into the project 100%. Which means amazing stories have been rejected purely on subjective taste, not readership potential.

    So, if the queries fail, you self-pub, and get the material out there. I don’t think there is a self-pub stigma any longer in the industry. I see many agents now stating how they are willing to work with self-published authors. And why not? We’ve already mastered all the marketing tasks that will help a new author become known, and sell more books.

    Whatever decision you make, there is no wrong one. Do what works best for you, then start working on the next. That is the part of writing I love the most. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I strongly recommend that before you send out anything or book an agent you join and lurk on the selfpublish yahoogroup. It’s very active from newbies to experienced pros who started in the traditional world. I also suggest you read Kristin Kathryn Rusch’s blog – especially her recent and eyeopening (as well as depressing) look at current contracts floating around in the Traditional Publishing and Agenting world.
    No matter your choice, you should go into it eyes open.


  6. I think that this is a wonderful post. I really like how you describe indie publishing as a safety net while still giving it the credit of a viable business option.

    As a reader, I dislike reading self-published books when it is obvious they are self-published. (poor covers, poor editing) Because it is far easier to self-publish than traditionally publish, it is far easier to find a bad self-published book. If I can’t tell from the cover or the first chapter that it is self-published, I will likely enjoy the book regardless of how it was created.


    • Thanks for commenting. Yeah, I agree with you. Even before I started writing and learning about the business, I never looked at which house published a book. I looked at authors, covers, first chapters, like you do. It’s really important to me to put out as polished a book as I can, not only because my name is on it, but because I feel like I’m representing the self-publishing community. I don’t want my book to be used as yet another negative example, so I’m taking my time and doing my due diligence.

      Liked by 1 person

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