Are You Really Ready to Indie Publish?

Photo © 2008 demented pixie CC BY 2.0

Agent Kristin of the Pub Rants blog posted some of her comments on how hard it is to be self-published. Those are my words. She put it differently:

Regardless of whether an author self-publishes or pursues traditional publishing, some writers just win the publishing lottery and their books become major successes.

Kristin points out how hard successful indie authors have worked, and laments the common misconception, that somehow indie authors have stuck it to the man, given the finger to the industry gatekeepers. Well, maybe they have done the latter, but only because the industry gatekeepers have different priorities than indie authors, and different visions.

Contrary to what many traditional and indie advocates will tell you, going indie is neither better nor worse than going traditional; it’s just different. If your vision as a writer melds well with the traditional publishing industry, you may be well be better off going that route, because the one thing that traditional publishers still bring to the table is their business model. Indie publishing is all about alternative business models, alternative markets, alternative strategies, and sometimes even alternative alternatives. That means you need to understand the insides of the publishing business, and that requires a lot of skill, a lot of knowledge, a lot of learning, and a whole hell of a lot of stuff that is the opposite of writing. If you’re not ready to take that on, you’re not ready to be an indie author.

(Note that I’m distinguishing “indie” authors, who pursue their craft in an alternative business model, from “self-published” authors, who are just publishing for fun or who self-publish as a stepping stone to a traditional publishing contract.)

Amanda Hocking’s post encouraged me in the publishing work that distracts me from writing.

This is literally years of work you’re seeing. And hours and hours of work each day. The amount of time and energy I put into marketing is exhausting. I am continuously overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do that isn’t writing a book. I hardly have time to write anymore, which sucks and terrifies me.

Yeah, I’ve been feeling the same way. I’ve been trying to get Love through the Eyes of an Idiot up on Smashwords, which has only served to remind me why Smashwords is not my primary (or favorite) distribution platform. (Their submission queue is backed up to a 20-ish-hour wait, and I stammer at how much time we could save if they were to provide a downloadable version of the Smashwords Meatgrinder, to run on my computer for testing purposes, so that when I finally do submit a document to their website, it would be the final version that actually works and that successfully accounts for all the Meatgrinder’s quirks and that comes out looking the way I want it to.)

Meanwhile, I’m quickly finishing up two new free ebooks, “Pine” and 7 Other Short Romances and “Disorder” and 7 Other Flashes of Character. If you follow my story blog, you’ll have read most of these stories before. But preparing these short ebooks for publishing is all about editing and formatting and cover art. And in the meantime, I’m making zero progress on the second Ardor Point novel, on the Second Edition of 1001 Character Quirks for Writing Fiction (which includes a couple hundred pages of new content), or on Catnapping for a Living (a book of humorous sketches about the life of an indie author, compared to what non-writers think it’s like).

So, yeah, crazy stressful sometimes. But you know, this is still a hell of a lot better than sinking into depression.

Keep writing!


4 responses to “Are You Really Ready to Indie Publish?”

  1. Abbey Rheinhartt Avatar

    She did stick it to the man, though, didn’t she???? You know you inwardly smile when you think that she got around the system…got published, and did not get ripped off. ABBEY RHEINHARTT

  2. J. Timothy King Avatar

    Yeah, Abbey, she did stick it to the man. I definitely smile when I hear stories like this. And I grin a big, broad, evil grin when I hear a story of an indie author whom publisher after publisher rejected, who set up his own publishing operation, refined it to the point that he was making money hand over fist, and then the same publishers who had rejected him start begging for a piece of the action, but by that point, they can’t afford to buy him out. (“You want me to sign with you for how much? Ha!”) Now, that’s sticking it to the man.

    But these authors only make it to that point through ingenuity, hard work, and probably a bit of luck. The myths still circulate that it’s better or easier to make it as an indie author (or in other circles, as a traditionally published author). “Why should I go through a traditional publisher, again?” as one writer put it. Well, you might want to go with a traditional publisher, because the traditional route might be the right fit for what you want to accomplish as an author. Indie and traditional are different, but one is not intrinsically better than the other. Modern indie publishing gives you alternatives, and alternatives are good. But there’s still no magic formula that will turn you into an overnight sensation without even breaking a sweat.


  3. Sonya Avatar

    I’ve gone back and forth, back and forth on whether I would rather go through a traditional publisher, or publish things myself. There are pros and cons to each, and I think you’re right that one way isn’t necessarily better than the other way. I have a background in marketing and advertising, and I would like a lot more control over my work, so for me I decided to go with Indie Publishing. The temptation is still there to go with traditional publishing instead, but I’m pretty confident about my decision. Thanks for the article.

  4. J. Timothy King Avatar

    Glad you found it useful, Sonya. And best of luck in your pursuits. Remember that you can always change directions, too. As an indie author, I’ve already changed directions several times—though I personally am still not interested in traditional publication. Still looking for the optimal direction to go in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.