Adjusting The Sails: Is It Time To Go Indie?
**Warning: This is a much longer post than you usually see here. Just sayin’.**
I’m old school, I’ll admit that. I remember the days when manuscripts were carefully typed on one of those things pictured to the right — double spaced on bond paper, bundled together in a box and sent directly to a publisher via the United States Postal Service. You know, that building where they sell stamps and you can actually mail a letter? Yeah, that place. There were no other options for getting a book published. Agents were something you got after you made a couple deals. If your manuscript was picked up, the publisher handled everything while you, the writer, continued to write more books and run to the bank to cash your royalty checks.
It appears those days are long gone. Or, if not totally gone, at least facing a slow demise.
Lately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the whole Indie publishing movement. It all started when I began researching small presses as a possible option for BD&L. What it turned into was a ton of (on going) research on the Indie world, and a questioning of my motives for wanting to go the traditional route in the first place. Basically those are (among others) validation, that old school hang up mentioned above, the dream of that big (or at least decent) advance for a multi-book deal, the idea that I’d be “giving up”, and the feeling that readers would look down their noses at me. Yeah, I agree, some of those are pretty darn silly.
One of the first articles I stumbled upon, and the most pivotal for me at the moment, was this one: Publishing Is Broken. The quotes below are from that article but you should go read it when you have the time. Remember one of my hang-ups, the one about readers caring who published my book? Well . . . duh!
No customer going to Amazon knows what is traditionally published or independently published – and they don’t care. They’re interested in an experience that will educate or entertain them. ~ Robert Bidinotto
Sounds pretty much like a no-brainer but because *I* actually do check out the publisher, it honestly never occurred to me that not everyone else does. But I’m not the average reader. I’m a writer. That’s professional curiosity on my part.
Most of the rest of my reasons for seeking the traditional route are all addressed in one way or another in the above article. Of course, I’ve been hearing this same thing from writer friends, but sometimes you just have to hear it — or read it — from someone else for it to really sink in. Or could be I’m stubborn and hard-headed (it has been rumored).
And when you start to pick apart the “benefits” of the traditional route — well, it provides more than food for thought, it lays out a whole freaking feast. As if on cue, I ran across a comment by an agent on my “dream list” who said their agency saw over 36,000 queries over the past year and of that number they only asked for 78 full manuscripts. How many of those they actually signed, I don’t know. But 78 out of 36k — even taking into consideration that a chunk of those were simply wrong genre — wow. That’s an eye opener.
Time is another factor that sneaks into the equation. It took me roughly 4 or 5 years to write BD&L and polish it to the gleaming gem I believe it is. Now I’m into book two and book one is getting paraded in front of agents. Let’s say I get an agent and we sign and after I’m done doing the happy dance and the glitter wears off, it’s more months as the agent tries to land a deal which, debut author, multi-book project, is going to be a tough sell. But my agent does, so Yea! We get a deal. Now how much longer until BD&L sees the light of day? Another year at least? More? And then book two has to follow. There’s definitely a book three. More years in between. But BD&L is ready *now* and I’d love nothing more than for complete strangers to actually be reading and (hopefully) enjoying it and asking, “When’s Book Two coming out?!!?” Why do we have to wait a year or more for sequels? (Okay, besides the simple fact that it could take that long or longer to write the blasted thing.) There are two series I follow, published traditionally, and that’s my biggest gripe. By the time the next book comes out, it’s a good year later and I barely remember what I read in the previous one.
And then this smacked me between the eyeballs:
Tell me this: why is self-publishing antithetical to “honing one’s craft?” Who ever received writing advice in a rejection letter as sound as the worst 1-star review out there? There’s far more to learn from engaging the market with your product than there is in form letters that tell you not-a-single-frickin’-thing. What’s wrong with testing the waters? Instead of wasting one’s time writing query letters, why not work on that next manuscript instead? ~ Hugh Howey,
Huh. The man has a point. And a very good one at that. Because I worry that the public’s perception is that there’s a lot of tripe out there in the self-published world. But how would they know? They don’t care who published it, remember? What they do care about is who wrote it. If it’s tripe, they won’t buy from that author again, regardless of how it was published.
As if I needed more at this point (my brain was already edging perilously close to complete meltdown) this article on E-Books Becoming Bigger Than We Imagine gets into some of the financial aspects and the amount of profit the writer can expect traditional vs Indie. Which is just fuel for the burgeoning fire. Sure, going Indie there’s no hope of that multi-book, big money advance but these days that’s about as likely as winning the lottery, and I’ve never managed to win more than a few bucks at that.
One of the other benefits of traditional publishing used to be that they handled the marketing. This is a biggie for me. I used to work in advertising & marking. I’m familiar with the game but there’s a reason I don’t still work in that field. I didn’t enjoy it. And when it comes to tooting my own horn, quite frankly, I suck. I don’t want to be in the spotlight, I want to be the one behind the scenes, the recluse writer, remember? However, all my research tells me most traditional publishing houses, and definitely the small presses, require the author to be very involved in the marketing of their book — by “very involved” I mean totally handle.
So if I’m going to be doing all the work anyhow, why should I be sharing the profit with a publisher and/or agent? Well, there are arguments for both sides. I’ve probably argued it myself. I’m just not sure I can back it up any more.
Does this mean I’ll turn down a deal if I hear from Harper Voyager in the next month or so that they’ve chosen BD&L? Or if an agent calls and says they’d like to have “that” talk, will I tell them I’m no longer interested? Are you nuts?!!? Well, obviously, I’d probably say yes to Harper Voyager, I mean, come on.
Or would I?
Yes, the brain is exploding. But the gears are turning. I embrace change and new technologies in every other aspect of my life. Why is this one so hard to accept? Especially when it seems so obvious.
And, just because this quote seems to be relevant, I leave you with the words of William Arthur Ward.
The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.