June 13, 2012

Debunking the Myths of Indie Publishing



First off, I want to give a big fat virtual hug to all my Plotting Princess sisters! This is the best writing group this side of the Red River..and maybe the whole dang U.S., not to mention the world...the Milky Way...you get my drift...I could go on and on!!! If you're an aspiring writer or even a published author, I recommend you join some type of writing group. The support is invaluable and besides, your significant other will never understand all your writing needs like your writer friends will! You need to have those writer friends to go to when you run into a wall while writing a book, to bounce ideas off of, to talk industry news, share marketing secrets with, when your characters won't shut up, etc.

Today is a special day here at the PP! We're debunking myths within the indie world. In other words, we've heard some crazy rumors flying around some writing blogs and I want to get the truth out for a couple of reasons. 1) I hate how negative rumors can ruin a very good thing. 2) If I were a new writer considering indie publishing my book, I know for a fact that if I read some of the false blogs about inflated costs, I'd probably never take the risk to indie pub my books and that makes me sad. :(



Some of these blogs are written by agents. Why would an agent write such a blog? Because agents are hurting right now. Why are they hurting? Because as an indie author, you don't need an agent. You don't even need a publisher.

These are the basic things you need and this is the stone cold truth.

1) A Written Manuscript 2) A Good Editor 3)Beta Readers 4)Cover Artist 5) Guts 6) The Desire to Learn the Indie Ropes of Formatting and Marketing

How do I know? Because I've been an indie author for the past 15 months and because I've signed contracts at three different publishers. I've received the rights back to all six of my books and re-released all but one of them at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The sixth is soon to re-release. I have also released three new titles as an indie author and I'm currently working on a brand new indie release.

Why would I do this when I have already been published at houses who paid for my cover art, my editor and plastered my book all over their website you ask? Because the cost to me is very, very low compared to the profit I NOW MAKE. I was making some sucky royalties at my publishers and they really didn't help market my book other than putting it up for sale on their websites. Even when I did author chats, book giveaways and book signings, I made a fraction of what I make now as an indie author. At my previous publishers, I made only 7% to 13% in royalties. As an indie author, I make anywhere from 35% to 70%, depending on how I price my books. Also, I have total creative control over my book and my cover art. Pretty cool, huh? And no more gatekeepers..the readers are the new gatekeepers, not the Big 6 publishers and certainly no agents. If the readers enjoy your book, they will buy it. Kinda like Field of Dreams...."Build it and they will come."

So, we've established that I make way more money as an indie author. That's a huge reason to take the indie plunge. I've mentioned creative freedom...something every artist wants, whether you're a painter, a songwriter, an author or a sculptor. Creative freedom is bliss!

Of course, like anything else, indie publishing requires patience and learning but this isn't rocket science, folks. The hardest thing I had to learn was how to format my books but Amazon and Barnes and Noble has made it pretty simple these days, besides, if you don't have the patience to format your own books, you can hire a formatter for under a hundred bucks to do it for you. There are many formatters who will do it for forty bucks, sometimes less.

So, you need to hire an editor too, right? If you're lucky like me, you have amazing writer friends, some with editing backgrounds who will trade services with you and edit your book for free. And even if you have to hire one, there are plenty who will edit a book for again, a hundred dollars or less depending on manscript length.

You can hire an affordable cover artist as well who will design you a VERY PROFESSIONAL cover. My recent cover art costs $45 bucks. Go look at Voodoo Moon on my website HERE and judge for yourself. There are many, many very talented cover artists out there who will give you a great deal. And if you're great at Photo Shop or want to take the time to buy the software and learn how to design cover art yourself, you'll be one step ahead of the game.

There are also some sharks out there who will charge you an arm and a leg. Watch out! A great place to find affordable cover artists, editors and formatters is on Kindle Boards where indie authors talk shop.

You can also find great Beta Readers who love to read and will read your book for free just so they can get a free book! Many will also review your book pre-release. These Beta Readers can be found on writers and readers groups on Facebook and there are many reader blogs with tons of willing readers.

Some of the anti-indie blogs out there are spouting inflated prices for editing, formatting and cover art services....prices that would scare any newbie author to death! Prices like $3,000 to release a book, plus the cost of marketing. I'm debunking that myth. TOTALLY FALSE. My recent release cost me $45 bucks for cover art. That's it. I've had a few releases that cost me nada! That's right...ZERO DOLLARS...because I worked out a trade with my fabulous cover artist and editor!

For promo, I tweet a little bit, blog a little bit and post on Facebook a little bit. I used to waste a ton of great writing time on marketing but have now learned that writing the next book is the best promo!! Don't waste your time like I did. Build your backlist and keep writing. The more books you have out there, the bigger your royalty checks.

Another thing about royalties. The great thing about publishing your books at Amazon and B&N is that you can log on anytime of the day and see your sales. Most all publishers in the world do not allow you do this if you sign a contract. Some do, but they are few and far between. So, how do you TRULY know how many books you sold? You don't. I'm not accusing anyone, just saying you need to be careful who you submit your baby to. Some of the small presses can be rather shady and yes, I've heard from many other authors who have experienced high sales rankings but their royalty checks didn't reflect it. You're in the dark when you sign a contract with someone else and you're giving them the biggest chunk of the pie. You worked the hardest! You wrote when your loved ones were sleeping so you could get your book out, yet you sign a contract that gives the publisher more mooolah than you? Are you insane? I was!

I've met a lot of authors over the years and a lot of bestselling authors. Even bestselling authors don't always make the most money. I know one author who wrote for Dorchester and made 7 cents a book because of her crappy contract and she was and is still a bestselling author. I've heard tons of sob stories from underpaid hard working authors. The indie world is changing all that. Many readers have no clue, but right now, the publishing world is turned upside down. So upside down that some are calling Traditional Publishing the new vanity press! What other reason would you sign an unfair contract than for the simple fact that you want to see that book for sale at Wal-Mart when you buy your groceries or you want to see a big fat display at Barnes and Noble in the window? Pretty tempting for any author, huh?

Some writers tell me that it isn't about the money for them. They just want their book released. They don't care about the money. Hmmm...well, okay. I guess I care a little too much about the money but like it not, this is the book business and I AM here to make money but I also do it because I love to write and I love my readers. If you don't care about the money, you might not want to indie publish but if you're sick of sending out queries and synopsis and getting snarky letters from agents and publishers or no response at all, you might want to take the indie plunge. Kinda refreshing to see your indie book really take off when it was rejected by many agents and publishers.

But make no mistake, readers expect the best! Write the best book you can, hire a professional editor, a professional formatter and a professional cover artist and like the NIKE ad says...JUST DO IT!! Free yourself from the chains of the antiquated Dinosaur called Traditional Publishing.

And I'd like to say something else as well. I'm not against all traditional publishing. There are some great contracts to be signed out there. They are just few and far betweeen. They are some great publishers out there and some great agents and there is nothing wrong with writing for those houses if you're getting a fair deal. This blog post is for those who are not getting a fair deal on their author contracts but it is mostly about debunking the crazy myths floating around out there about the ridiculously over inflated prices to indie pub a book. That's all a load of crapola. You can do it for next to nothing if you have the heart and the desire and a great book! Also, indie pubbing is a terrific way to get noticed if you're wanting to catch the eye of a big publisher or agent. And when your book climbs the charts, believe me, they will be emailing you, coming to you, asking you to sign a sweet contract. I have seen it happen many times with great indie authors! Just make sure you have a lawyer read your contract to make sure it is a better deal for you.

These are interesting times in the writing world and exciting times to be an author!! I'll never look back and never regret taking the indie plunge. I have many more readers and make real income now. Kinda cool when your hobby becomes "a living".

If anyone has any more questions about indie pubbbing, please post a comment or feel free to email me personally at alishapaigewilson@yahoo.com.

Proud to be a Princess,
Alisha

30 comments:

VICKI BATMAN, said...

Hi, Alisha: thanks so much for sharing today. You are a goddess.

I have a question: what are your thoughts on diversification? Some published traditionally. Some indie. Some with several publishers.

Thanks again and again.

Pamela Stone said...

Hi, Alisha. Great information. Along the same line as Vicki's question, what if you are publishing with a traditional publisher and decide to also go indie with other books? Do the traditional publishers take issue?

Alisha said...

There are many traditionally published authors who have written a certain book that for some reason just won't sell to a publisher or their agent tells them that it is a dead genre, etc. These are the books that are great "test books" if you're wanting to dip your toes in the indie water. Diversification is fine if your contracts are fair but yes, some traditional pubs DO take issue with it and will even include it in the contract. Some will not allow you to indie pub or even pub with another publishing house so it is very important to have a lawyer look over your contract with a fine toothed comb before you sign your life away. And now many small presses are requiring you sign a 5 year contract instead of a 3 year contract because so many authors are pulling their books after 3 years and indie pubbing them, making more money. This are desperate times for small presses and even traditional publishers are hurting. Do your homework on every publishing house before you sign a contract these days. I know some authors who are anxious to indie publish but their traditional contracts will not allow them.

angelynschmid.com said...

What a great blog post--it's almost put me over the edge and given me a lot to think about. Thank you so much.

Angi Morgan said...

Looking forward to more debunking!
~Angi

Karilyn Bentley said...

Hi Alisha,
Great post! I'm so glad you got on here and debunked a post that came out a couple of weeks ago. I thought those numbers seemed a bit high and am glad to know you can indie pub a book without spending your life savings. :) Looking forward to your other 2 posts over the next couple of weeks.

Loretta said...

Alisha,
Great information:) I always find it encouraging to hear a few more guidelines regarding indie:)
I previously published with a small press, and when my rights returned, decided to launch my backlist. There are several parts to this I've enjoyed, 1)making more money (not tons yet, but still more) and 2) the freedom.
Most of my initial pieces were short stories placed in anthologies, so Amazon and B&N made it a natural choice when my rights returned, because they accepted short stories. And, since I write under two names, I was able to publish them as stand-alone's rather than figuring out how to compile them into a private anthology.
It's always encouraging to hear that the more you produce, the better your sales, because like you, I don't spend a lot of time blogging, tweeting, or on Facebook.
As for editing, I have some great Beta's who have taken numerous editing courses, (some of them published) so I'm not out an editing fee, and my husband is talented with graphics, so cover design is also free:) (Lots of angst in the office when we're putting one together, but it's FREE!:)
Loved your post, and thanks for the morning "uplift"!
Lo

Liz Lipperman said...

Great post, GF. And if anyone is qualified to debunk the myths about indie publishing, it's you. My own personal story is that I'm published with one of the big six and currently working on book 4 of the series (contracted but not signed by me yet.) We are waiting for NY to change the language that allows me to publish for other houses and to self publish. I am prepared to walk away if that doesn't happen. I am also waiting on a contract (agent working out details to make it more author friendly) with another house and dealing with book series/titles issues. I have yet to sign that contract, either. Let's just say I'm waiting and watching. And I have one self pubbed RS on Amazon and two stories sitting on an editor's desk at Montlake right now. Your post gives me a lot to think about.

Karen Cote said...

Alisha, thank you so much for your post. I am in a situation where this information is uber-valuable. My current wip is one people are asking me for but I haven't committed. I also have three appointments set up at RWA with two publishers and an agent and my heart is torn about submitting it where rejection is a downer but acceptance is more scary...LOL for all the reasons you mentioned. My first book is selling well under an epublisher so I'm pretty sure my wip has a home there but self-pubbing has an allure... anyway - thank you so much. Your blog is timely indeed.

Trish said...

Hi Alisha,

Excellent post, it's great to see indie authors debunking all the crazy myths out there.

On costs associated with self-publishing. I actually hired professionals for everything. The highest costs were the editing. Copy editing was $600.00, Proofing was $115, cover was $105, formatting was $35. (for that fee I got files to upload to every distribution channel)Total costs came in at $855 and I made that back in the first 5 weeks of sales.

Another rampant myth that desperately needs debunking is that only traditional authors with established fan bases are successful. This is completely and absolutely untrue. While there are alot of traditional authors now self-publishing very successfully, there are just as many previously unknown authors. Only half of the names on the 100 most successful Indie authors list have traditional backgrounds.

So don't be afraid to step into the ring if you are unknown, with no fan base. Readers are looking for good books, if you've written a book that excites them, they talk about it and word of mouth spreads. It makes no difference if you come from a traditional background or are completely unknown, all they care about is the book.

Bella Street said...

Yeah, and amen!

Alisha said...

Thanks for stopping by, Angelyn. Let me know if you have any more questions about indie publishing.

Thanks, Angi! More debunking coming your way! LOL!

Karilyn, so true...indie pubbing can be accomplished successfully with very little funds.

Good morning, Lo! You are so welcome! Keep up the great work! You're definitely on the right path!

Liz, I know you have so much to think about with both feet in the fire and so many great books to release. You're the pefect example of a smart author who can do both very successfully!

Karen, thanks for stopping by. Wow..you have a lot of decisions ahead of you too! Make sure you really look over those contracts. And REALLY look at the royalty amount. It is usually so much less than indie pubbing pays. Think about it carefully before you sign.

Hello, Trish! Glad you stopped by today. You are SO right!! You don't have a readership AT ALL to take the indie leap. Just look at Amanda Hocking. Talk about overnight success. There are so many authors who have been so very successful without an agent or traditional author. Good luck with your indie career!

Alisha said...

Hi, Bella!! Amen, indeed!!!! :)

Chicki said...

You said it all, girl! Great post.

Phyllis said...

Great job Alisha!

This is valuable information. The other question I have is there a solid listing of some of these people who are available? Such as Editors, formaters, etc?

Can't wait for next weeks installment!

Alisha said...

Hi, Chicki!!! So happy to see you here! Thanks for stopping by.

Phyllis, there are soooo many great formatters, editors and cover artists out there. I don't have a list but you can go to Kindle Boards and ask around. You will get a huge response. There are also a lot of cover artists on http://romancenovelcovers.com/ who will create custom covers or have tons of pre-made covers to choose from. Most start at $45. Also, just ask your writer friends who they use as editors, formatters and cover artists. I know two fantastic cover artists who have designed my books and I have a fabulous editor if you need some names.

Eoghan Odinsson said...

Great article. I've been self- published for 2 years now, and book sales are sufficient to allow me to quit my day job and write full time :)

A dream come true to be sure!

Kathy Ivan said...

Alish such a wealth of information. I'm trying to soak it all up like a sponge! One question--how long does it normally take for a book (once it's back from the editor of course) to have the cover art, formating, etc. done and actually be ready to start selling?

Thanks for dubunking and demystifying the whole process for us. Cannot wait for next Wednesday's blog post.

Alisha said...

Congrats, Eoghan!! That is fantastic news!!! Wow!! That's the kind of indie stories I love to hear!

Kathy, once your book is written and edited, you can have it formatted and cover art ready in one day. Just depends on how long it takes for your cover artist and your formatter. Takes me a day and my cover artist might take a day or two depending on design but she can even have one ready in a couple of hours. It only takes about 10 minutes to upload a new book to Amazon or B&N and then it will usually be available for sale that same day or the next day. Amazon is usually a little faster. Nook usually takes about 12 hours or so.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Alisha, I so agree with you! As an indie author, I am making more money than I ever dreamed I would. Yay for Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Nobel Nook and Apple iPad! 16 bitarte

Kathleen Baldwin said...

Brilliant as always Alisha!

We appreciate your experience and wisdom.

I see my prices are a bit higher than some of these quotes for covers and conversion. But I include a lot of bells and whistles. I'm trying to make mine compete with what comes out of NY. Consequently, it takes me a lot more time than some of the less sophisticated conversions.

Indy publishing is still in it's infancy. We are all learning.

I appreciate you letting people know it doesn't need to cost anywhere near as much as the estimates on some other blogs - who shall remain nameless. ;-)

AnneMarie Novark said...

Great post, Alisha. Excellent information. Those myths certainly need to be debunked, and you do it very eloquently.

I'm glad you emphasized being vigilant about signing those contracts. I've heard so many horror stories, it's not even funny.

I think many writers tend to forget for whom they're writing. (Who? shrug)

I don't write for one agent or one editor. I write first for myself, then for all those thousands and millions of readers out there.

It's awesome to touch so many readers' lives. That's all the validation I need.

Very interesting and rewarding time to be a writer!!!

Cara Marsi said...

Loved this. Thank you for "telling it like it is." I've indie published two backlists and and three totally indie books and I've never looked back. Unless you get a really big contract with a trad publisher, you'll make more indie pubbing. I hire an editor and she's pricey(but not exorbitant) and worth every cent. Two of the books she's edited for me have gone onto final in prestigious contests. My cover artist charges $75 which I think is a deal. The person who does my formatting doesn't charge me. We have a barter agreement. I line edit her books and she formats mine. What readers like isn't necessarily what the Big 6 think they like. We're writing for ourselves and our readers, not for some marketing department. Thanks so much for your post.

Sylvia said...

Loved this post Alisha. Very true. I never made this kind of money with my big six publisher. I wish them the very best, but don't come calling. Phyllis, I am compiling a list of editors, cover artists and formatters. I have a spreadsheet that I am compiling. Send me an email and I'll send you what I have.
Sylvia

Sylvia said...

I also have to vouch for Kat. I've had two formaters and she does an outstanding job. Those bells and whistles make me look great. The other guy was plain jane and I didn't have any returns on the kindle version. I'm pulling a Trump...You're fired.

Cassandra L Shaw said...

As someone who is about to send out two of her manuscripts out to agents and publishers, I've been considering indie publishinng if it all fails. Refreshing to see how really cheap it is.

Alisha said...

So happy you stopped by, Caroline. I'm so happy you're making good money now! Makes all that hard work worth it!

Kat, you are so right! We are still in the baby stages and there are going to be so many changes as we all learn the ropes.

AnneMarie! I'm so honored you stopped by! After all, you're the reason I went indie in the first place! I've learned so much from your blogs and watching your books take off! You've blazed that trail for so many romance authors! I too have heard horror stories about unfair contracts so I really wanted to shout that from the roof tops. It IS a very exciting time to be an author. I wake up every day excited to go to work now.

Hi, Cara! Isn't it refreshing to write for ourselves and our readers and not "the market"? Thanks for stopping by! :)

Sylvia, sorry you had a bad experience with a shady formatter but I've heard fabulous things about Kat!! Now I know who to recommend when other indies ask for a great formatter! I love that you pulled the Trump card...lol!

Alisha said...

Thank you for stopping by, Cassandra! Good luck with your submissions. Please read those contracts carefully and know that you can always indie publish your books and talk to other indie authors who have taken the indie plunge.

Elizabeth Essex said...

Great, informative post, Alisha. Thank you.

I'm traditionally published at the moment, but everyone in this business can see that the landscape of publishing is shifting dramatically, and it behooves us all to understand how and where it's changing. Thanks for helping us understand the tools we are all going to need in the near future. :)

Alisha said...

Thanks for your comment, Elizabeth. These are indeed changing times. So much to learn about this ever evolving new landscape.