Monday, 7 March 2011

The Indie Path - Pros and Cons by Amy Rose Davis

When Pip asked me in her interview what the best and worst things were about being an indie author, I had to stop and think for a bit. I realized that was too big a question to answer in one short interview, so I asked her if I could elaborate in a longer post, and she graciously agreed. Thanks, Pip, for letting me ramble on your blog! [ You're very welcome! :) ]

My indie journey began sometime in the fall of 2010. I had a mostly finished novel, Ravenmarked, and I didn’t really know what to do with it. After quite a bit of research, I decided to publish it myself in electronic format as an independent author. I also had a short story that I expanded into a novella as my test run. I published the novella, Silver Thaw, in mid-December and published Ravenmarked at the end of January.

At this point, I’m almost three months into my publication journey, and while I don’t have all of the answers, I’ve had enough time now to settle in a little, let the adrenaline wear off, and figure out what I don’t like and like about the indie author path.

The Cons

1) The lack of clear answers about what pricing models work. The current environment for self-publication is new and exciting, and with all such “gold rush” environments, it’s a little tough to figure out exactly what works, especially in the areas of pricing and marketing. Some people are having tremendous, seemingly overnight success with very low prices for e-books, and there’s a bit of a “race to the bottom” with pricing. But some independent authors advise keeping prices up where the audience tends to be more discerning than the audience that will purchase on impulse. The higher pricing may produce a slower climb to success, but as a matter of positioning, I’ve decided to take that route with my novels. Novellas and short stories will be priced at a lower, “impulse buy” level.

2) The lack of clear marketing strategy. Again, it’s unclear exactly how to connect with readers. Writers tend to fall easily into communities, especially with social media where we don’t have to actually talk to each other, so there’s a danger in that we end up marketing our books to each other and never meeting actual readers. There are places like KindleBoards and the Amazon forums where authors are welcome to chat and occasionally post book information, but the rules are tricky… You have to spend a lot of time engaging people in other ways, and most of us just want to write. Plus, my experience has been that I mostly run into other writers in those forums. Other writers are great for support, but they aren’t as voracious readers as you think… They’re all busy writing.

3) The formatting and uploading are a huge pain. Seriously, the minute I am making enough to pay someone else to do my formatting and uploading, it won’t even be a question. I’ll do it in a second. It’s not hard to do, but it’s time consuming and occasionally confusing, and sometimes things don’t work quite right, and it can be very frustrating.

The Pros

1) Creative control. Far and away, this is the biggest pro for me. If I love it, I keep it. If I don’t, I ignore it. I’m not so arrogant as to completely ignore input from critique partners, because a lot of times they point out what I already kind of sensed wasn’t working in a story to begin with. And sometimes, they point out things I hadn’t even considered, and I am free to take or leave their advice. But when people don’t like a book cover or a title or a character, it’s really up to me whether I do something about that or not. No editor or publisher is sitting on my shoulder telling me what I can and can’t do, because I’m the publisher. I love that.

2) Speed to market. Another HUGE benefit to going it alone is speed to market. When I finish a book or a novella or a short story, the only thing standing in the way of publishing it is bandwidth. When I say finish, I mean write, revise, edit, get input, edit again, have a cover made, and do a final proof—I never upload unedited first drafts to an e-bookstore! But there’s no querying, waiting for an agent, waiting for an editor, waiting for publication calendars and schedules, and on and on. Best case scenario, a book can be published by a traditional publisher in about 18 months to two years after the author types “the end.” I can shorten that to six months, including writing time, if I work hard at it (and I do!).

3) Better royalty structure and shorter time to income. Just last week, I got my first royalty statement from PubIt!, the Barnes & Noble e-bookstore. Less than three months in, with two titles online, and I’m already making money. My hubby can’t quit his job yet, but if I were going the traditional route, I’d still be querying. I wouldn’t have that money in my bank account. And, at this point, publishers are stubbornly sticking to extremely low royalty rates on e-books; the best I’ve heard of through a traditional publisher is 25%. There are some small indie publishers paying 50%, which is very good, but I can still make 35% or 70% of the list price by publishing my work at Amazon. And, because I can price my work myself and don’t have massive overhead, I can sell a novel for far less than a traditional publisher can and still make better royalties.

4) The indie community. I have never seen a better writing community than this indie author community. Maybe it’s the spirit of small business ownership, maybe it’s the fact that we’re all in this thing together—I don’t know. But these authors are the most helpful, non-competitive people I’ve ever met in the writing world.

The verdict? The indie path wins. I think the pros far outweigh the cons, and I can’t wait to see what the next three months bring!
Thanks Amy! I hope you'll come back and tell us exactly how it's all going. :)


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  1. Thanks, Pip! If you or any of your readers have questions, please ask--I'm happy to answer anything I'm capable of answering!


  2. Thanks for posting this. I have just recently discovered my first indie writer and it was a bit of a revelation. I'm a new ebooker and suddenly the potential looks a lot more promising than the old self-publishing route.
    Good for you Amy! I'm off to check out your Amazon listings :)


I always love to hear your thoughts.