by Elaine R Snyder
For many years before I chose to publish as an indie author, I worked hard at learning the ropes for traditional publishing, seeking an agent, and expected fully to wait years to finally see my work in print. I had begun gaining ground in the publishing world as I saw a few articles published, had the honor of being published as a poet in a small arts journal, and received several hand-written notes from editors who ultimately rejected my work, but let me know they still liked it.
This was all a good sign, but then I started learning about the behind-the-scenes facts about traditional publishing. I read articles, blogs, and social media posts about how new authors were being treated by their publishing houses, with little support for marketing, little attention given to their careers, and then their books disappeared into the ether of “out of print” status.
Such an end to the hard work a writer puts into an entire novel is entirely too depressing. Perhaps not every novel is worthy of being available for all eternity, but certainly an author deserves the chance to build an audience before throwing in the towel after a matter of months, or even weeks. Certainly a publishing house has advantages like marketing teams, editing staff, and distribution, but if you can be a smart business-savvy writer, you can learn how to accommodate these issues and retain more freedom and control over your work. Regardless of what I share in this article, I encourage all authors to research widely on this subject to make a decision which best suits your publishing dreams. In today’s world, there are a lot of options, and this article will walk you through a few self-publishing advantages.
1. You retain all rights to your work.
What does this mean? It means you have full ownership of the book you publish as an author, but be careful. If you publish on Amazon’s Kindle platform, you do retain rights to your work, but there are a few provisos on the “Kindle Select” program. Amazon will try to sell you on the benefits of enrolling in the “Select” program, but you must first agree not to sell on any other platform. If you decline this option, you are still open to publish on any other platform available to indie publishers, like Smashwords, Nook, iBooks, Kobo…the list is getting longer all the time.
It’s a matter of what you really want to get out of the end result that should help you decide. Do you want to be able to toss your hat into a dozen rings, or just sell on the biggest platform of all? A list of pros and cons might go a long way to help you choose which is best, and I recommend reading about the benefits of “Kindle Select” before enrolling. Always read the fine print before enrolling in any online book publishing program to be absolutely certain you retain all rights to the work. If it says anything else, take time to do your research so you understand exactly what your rights are.
2. Your book can live forever on the internet.
No matter how few or how many sales you achieve, only you can decide whether or not your book can be taken out of print. If your work still makes you proud in twenty years, you can leave it up for purchase. It’s fairly simple. A publishing house, however, can yank your book anytime it feels you aren’t pulling in enough cash to make their investment worthwhile. So, even if your book is still selling, if the publisher doesn’t think it’s selling well enough, they can nix your novel in a snap. Why leave that decision up to a total stranger? This was one of the biggest factors which pushed me toward indie publishing.
3. You can release as many books as you want in a year.
Typically, we see only certain authors in the publishing world working hard to release as many as two, three, or four books in a year, and they are usually bestsellers. If you happen to be a prolific writer capable of churning out a book every month (granted, I don’t recommend this for most writers), do you think a traditional publisher would agree to pump out all those volumes of work on a monthly basis? And yet, if you can actually write that much, and have an audience devouring your work, why shouldn’t you be releasing your writing as often as you like?
What’s especially nice is that you aren’t limited to a specific number of pages, so you can write a short “How-To” book, a novella, or a collection of short stories—anything goes. Imagine dropping a book a month and having the opportunity of an income stream from so many bodies of work! On the other hand, if you want to take five years to write a novel in order to get it just right, you can do that, too. As an indie author, your time is your own, and you have no contracts or demands.
4. You can be as creative as your imagination allows.
If you’re a writer who doesn’t exactly fit into the neat little cubbies of traditional genres, this may be your ticket to freedom. When I write, I cross all kinds of boundaries with my novels, like mixing SciFi with fantasy, horror with mystery, or whatever else strikes my fancy. This type of creativity isn’t necessarily rewarded in the traditional publishing world, and if you’re the kind of author who likes writing outside of the lines, then you may want to go indie. The markets trend around what’s good, and what gets noticed (read: marketed well), not what follows the “norm.”
I have often received unwanted advice from many writers about keeping myself limited to certain genres, or even just one, but my argument is to look at Nora Roberts or James Patterson. Those two bestselling authors have written in a variety of genres, and are successful at all of them. Why should indie authors be an exception? Rarely will a traditional publisher give a new author such a chance to be creative in this way, and for some writers this is a real loss. I know this advice goes against the grain of what many authors will say, but I see a lot of cross-genre work doing very well on the market. You decide what’s right for you as an indie author.
5. You don’t have to wait to start making money.
As soon as your book is ready to publish, you hit the button, and it’s available. No waiting for publishers to release it on a distant future date. When you’re ready to release, you can shout it from the rooftops and call every library to stock your book. If you know how to whip up a frenzy about your work being published, you can do it on your schedule, and then you can start booking readings, host events, or plan to hand out copies around the times that work for you. In the indie publishing world, the choice is yours to decide how you want your book to be received.
The advantages are far more widespread than I am sharing here, but this list at least offers a few highlights. There are always disadvantages, too, like having to market yourself, paying for your own editing, and being responsible for all the technology (like websites and email services) yourself. Take these into account as you consider your best option as an author. To query or not to query? You can decide tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. To your success, authors!
About the Author: When Elaine isn’t busily typing her latest novel or blog post, she’s probably on a trail in the middle of nowhere, or possibly singing and playing guitar with a bunch of crazy musicians…or she may even be making a mosaic art diorama out of magazines. It’s also possible Elaine is standing on a desk, wildly gesticulating to make a fervent point while teaching, usually handing out chocolate to bribe students into telling friends and family what fun they had learning to write. You may contact Elaine about teaching workshops, speaking about writing, utilize her as a writing coach, or hire her as a copywriter at www.elainersnyder.com. She might leave footprints on your desk, but she will also leave you chocolate.
Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.