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3 Reasons I’m Glad I Chose Self-Publishing

| Posted in E-publishing |

45

Camus QuotationLast December, I was about an hour from uploading The Emperor’s Edge (my first full-length ebook) on Smashwords when I received an email from a literary agent.

I hadn’t actually bothered with the querying process, but I’d won a critique from this agent through a charity auction about six months prior. The gist of the email was that she’d ask for some changes to the manuscript, but she’d probably be willing to represent me.

If I’d received that email three months earlier, I would have jumped at the opportunity. But, at that point, I’d already paid for cover art and editing, and I’d set my mind on e-publishing (it’d been more than six months since the auction, and I’d kind of forgotten about the critique). From the title of this blog post, you can probably guess I decided to go ahead with e-publishing on my own, but there were times in those first few weeks where I wondered if I’d regret that decision.

It’s seven months later, and…I don’t.

In fact, I’m relieved that email didn’t come earlier. My guess is that I wouldn’t even have a deal with a publisher yet if I’d gone with the agent (remember, I was going to have to make some revisions before I signed on).

But here, on my own, I’ve now published three novels, and some shorter works, and I’m up to 2,000 ebook sales a month. If things continue to go well, I’d guess I’m 6-12 months from being able to do this for a living (gotta get more books in my series out first!).

And that’s the dream, ya know? To tell stories for a living. To entertain people. To encourage them to laugh and forget their problems for a while. And if you can make your work affordable for everyone? Even better.

I’m not the type to try and push an ideology on someone else, so I’m not going to say everyone should be self-publishing these days, but I thought I’d list a couple (okay, three) of the reasons I’m glad I chose this route:

1. The Time Was Right

If anything, I wish I’d become aware of the e-publishing revolution earlier, but I’m glad I jumped on board when I did. Between the increasing popularity of ebook reading devices and the ease with which you can get your work into the major stories (Amazon, B&N, iTunes, etc.), it’s the perfect time to be an independent author.

Not only is it relatively easy to get your ebooks out there, but there are more and more readers who are openly supporting “indie” authors. Even nine months ago, when e-publishing first came on my radar, it was hard to find a book blogger willing to review a self-published title (ewwww, as if!). Now, there are more and more blogs cropping up that are dedicated to reviewing indie offerings.

While some readers continue to prefer the safety of buying from traditionally published authors (whose work has been vetted by teams of professionals), others love the idea of supporting authors rather than The System. When you buy from an indie, the author typically earns 60-70% of the cover price, as opposed to the 8-25% an author in a traditional deal will get. And, hey, it doesn’t hurt that many self-published ebooks are under $5. Indies can afford to sell their work less expensively since they’re making a higher percentage.

2. Freedom

There are obvious freedoms that come with self-publishing: you can tell your story, your way, and you don’t need to worry about pleasing agents or publishers (just your fans!). You aren’t bound by industry standards when it comes to word count either. You can write all short stories if you like, or all novellas, or all 300,000-word doorstopper epics. You have a great deal of freedom with your writing.

It doesn’t stop with words though. If you reach a modicum of success, you can turn this into your day job. Then you have the freedom to work your own hours from anywhere in the world. You needn’t be chained to a certain city because that’s where your job is. Want to go where the cost of living is less and your modest author income goes further? Then by all means, do so. I hear it’s trendy to live in Buenos Aires and Thailand these days. 😉

3. The Possibility of Earning a Living (without being a bestseller)

Not everybody’s going to make substantial money if they self-publish. In fact, most people won’t. They’ll give up too soon, or perhaps their writing won’t be quite there yet. They won’t put enough effort into learning to promote themselves, or perhaps they won’t be prolific enough to publish often and stay in people’s mind.

But, for those who are dedicated to learning the crafts of writing and marketing, the possibility of turning this into a career exists. What’s heartening to me is that you don’t have to be a bestseller to reach that point.

I’m certainly not. If you check out my books, you’ll see there’s nothing hugely impressive about my sales rankings — many indie authors are selling a lot more books (and at higher prices). At best, you could call me a mid-list author.

If you have enough ebooks out (say 5-10), you can do pretty well for yourself even if you only sell 250 copies of each a month (assuming $2.99 or higher price tags). Under the traditional model, only a small percentage of authors at the top get to write for a living. As it stands right now, the dream is far more attainable as an indie.

Those are three of the reasons I’m glad I chose to self-publish. Do you have any you’d add to the list?

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Comments (45)

Excellent post. 4) if someone hasn’t beaten me to the punch. You don’t have to play the waiting game. When your work is ready for publication, you can release it into the world and start seeing the benefits right away. In the traditional world, your wait with a big publisher can be 12-24 months AFTER you sign the deal. That doesn’t include your agent shopping for it. With Small press, the waiting usually is shorter, but you’re still out those months waiting.

5) No Query Letters. Okay… this is a HUGE one for me. I’m still not opposed to the traditional route, but I refuse to write another query letter. Writers spend months/years/decades writing query letters when they could be using that time to write a new novel. I have been SO productive since I stopped writing query letters.

Hey,

What a great post. I thank you for your honesty. I think the points you made are valid and something to consider.

Thanks for sharing.

I don’t have any to add, yet…but your story gives me inspiration to keep going.

I kinda like the sound of your life. I know you blog and tweet and write, and it’s hard work, but it seems to be at a much more leisurely pace…no that isn’t it either. I think what I’m trying to say is that you are in charge of your own destiny…and I like that.

I have author friends who might make more, but they have a lot of hoops to jump through. I’m not sure if that added pressure is worth the money.

Thank you for sharing Lindsay!

Thanks for the post! I am planning on e-publishing at the end of this year so it was really good to read this!

Following on twitter! =)

Excellent points Lindsay and Reena. That no query letter is a huge draw for me too, LOL.

At this point in my life I’m not out to become rich or even support myself with my writing but I also don’t want to waste my time either. I’m not ruling out traditional publishing but I just don’t see it fitting into my life. A small press and/or indie seems more in line with my vision.

Great post.

Building on the Freedom bit, you also have full control over your book’s price. If you want to put it on sale for 99 cents for a weekend, you can do that. If you want to make the first book in your series free to entice new readers, you can do that too.

Awesome story! I totally agree–the game has completely changed, and this is incredibly good news for writers. The old narrative of “I toiled for years in obscurity until such and such agent descended from the clouds and gave me my lucky break” is starting to fade into history, and frankly I’m not going to miss it. In the new world of publishing, the readers are the only ones that matter, and that’s exactly as it should be.

Another reason I love it is the community. The indie authors are simply wonderful people and I’m proud to be among them.

This is all so true, and I was so glad to hear you say about declining the agent offer and forging ahead with epublishing. I too have worried that I would have doubts (2 weeks in, I still worry I made the wrong choice) but i’m holding strong, am hopefuly for the future, and reminding myself of the reasons, like the ones mentioned above for why I chose to do this in the first place.

Oh and Bravo on soon being able to support yourself.

I really have to say I appreciate every post you write here and your willingness to share this information with new writers.

Lately, I am more inclined to buy books from indie writers.

@Reena Good reasons as well! I sat on EE for over a year, in part because I didn’t see many agents looking for high fantasy and in part because I dreaded that whole query-letter-and-synopsis-writing process!

@Ladonna Thanks!

@Syd Thanks! I do set my hours and work place and such for the day job, and it is definitely nice to have that kind of freedom. Some folks need more structure (and the camaraderie of having co-workers around), but it suits me fine. I’m planning to do some vagabonding-style traveling soon. Maybe I’ll rent that hovel on the beach in CA. 😛

@Bonnie Great, I hope it works well for you!

@Raelyn Good luck no matter which route you go. :)

@Nicholas Another good point. It’s nice to have the freedom to experiment with price and to be able to use coupons and such to giveaway free copies.

@Joe It’s definitely an inspiring time to be a writer. Even if you don’t want to stay indie, a lot of authors are finding e-publishing to be a viable alternative to the slush pile (once you prove you can sell, it seems it’s much easier to land an agent and get a deal).

@margaret Yes, indeed! Now, when are you going to add a blog to your site, so I can come over and comment? :) Or do you have one at another address?

@TM Thanks! I think it’s important to remember that even if the first book doesn’t take off and you do find yourself wishing you’d sought an agent, self-publishing isn’t necessarily a forever thing. You can always send the second novel off to agents, and any work you put into promoting the first book will only help you later on, because you’ll already have a “platform,” as they say.

@Tonja Glad to hear it! Thanks for taking the time to comment too. :)

Wow – that is amazing. I’d be thrilled to sell anywhere near that. Thanks for telling your story and for the inspiration!

@Nicholas ~ I agree. Indie does offer so much flexibility and freedom. I love that I get to change my mind whenever. I’m not stuck in the box a publishing house has built for me.

I couldn’t agree more with your article. I still have people asking why I didn’t decide to pursue the more traditional route of publishing, but I haven’t regretted my decision to go indie for a single second. My novel, Blood and Guitars, hasn’t been out very long in e-book formats, and it won’t be available in print for another week or two, but it feels great to accomplish this on my own.

Freedom is the biggest part of it all for me. Freedom to have a cover designed the I actually like. Freedom to write when I want and as much as I want. I feel I’m writing at my best because I am competing with myself, not an agent or editor’s idea of what my writing should be.

At this point, I can’t afford an editor for my full-length novels, so I’m hoping the shorter works will pave the way. Just sent my novelette to my crit partners, then will hire an editor and get a book cover in order.

Doing it yourself was the big thing that has me pursuing indie publishing (*crosses fingers* next month first book. I am terrified/excited) The idea of not being able to control my cover, title, blurb just didn’t sit well with me. Maybe I’m a control freak. lol

Also, as you’ve stated, revisions. It seems to me when you have an agent/editor and they tell you to change something, it gets changed. People say “I don’t have to change this but I know my editor/agent is right so I change it.” That didn’t sit well with me either. At least with indie, I can have beta readers help me out and go on gut instinct for their suggestions.

In self publishing you don’t have to conform to someone else’s view of what your book should be. Instead, your self-published book will reveal your vision, which is the only one that counts.

Someday, I hope to write well enough to self-publish my own short stories and novels. I’m already learning now what I’m supposed to do and keeping up with the changes, since they come so fast. It’s much more encouraging to follow the indie route, instead.

Before, when I only considered traditional publication, it was hugely depressing. But, once a lot of indie authors started posting their sales numbers, and I saw how many of them were doing so well, I perked up right away. I still feel hopeful and encouraged. It’s probably not for everyone, but I’m glad it’s the answer for a lot of would-be authors who would have no other foray into publishing.

Don’t forget why us readers are happy too! We can read great books at affordable prices and it’s easier for us to snap up an author’s backlist… I can’t do the same for legacy-pubbed stuff, not when it’s priced at $8.00 or more.

Interesting post. I’ve read a couple other sites with other opinions on self-publishing.
One problem that a lot of people talk about is the Quality Control issues. This isn’t to say that there aren’t some really poor books out there that aren’t self-published because there are. It’s just that if someone’s self publishing then there’s no one thinking, is this good enough to put on a shelf? And everyone thinks their baby is good enough. On the other hand, with so many people online in very serious writing-groups, there’s no reason that community can’t fill that position. Still, the thought lingers. I admit when I see a book that’s self-published, I’m pretty leery. I’m really enjoying your book though.
I think it will take some time. Comics went through this awhile ago, with comic artists finding out that they could make a living in the age of the internet in the new media. I remember there were tons of hubs out there for finding pay-to-read and free comics(donations wanted/merchandise offered). It took some time for people to work out a community that would help people find great content in the new media without having to slog through thousands of posts a day. I hope that E-book publishing and self-publishing will lead to the same explosion of creativity.
I think that places like Amazon and Goodreads are already starting to fill this void, but it will still take some time for the bad reputation to wear off.

@Sarah: You do have a point, and the community that sifts through indie books is growing everyday. There are several indie book bloggers growing in influence on the Simon Royle blog listing (http://www.simon-royle.com/indie-reviewers), and there are more and more genre-specific review sites that are accepting self-published work. I maintain a list of the SF/F sites of all sizes that will review indies, and that list is slowly but steadily getting longer (http://indiesfreviewers.wordpress.com/)

Freedom is one of my main motivations. In addition to my jaw-droppingly-cool zombie epic I’m working on an experimental novel that I don’t think could find a market with one of the “Big 6″ publishers.

Using CreateSpace I can write the book, format it the way it needs to be formatted in the fonts and style that I want and then publish it without having to worry about anyone telling me that there isn’t a market for it. I’m assuming that they are right, there isn’t a market for it and I’m able to write, edit, format and sell it anyway all without having someone tell me it can’t be done.

Points 1 and 2 are the reasons I decided going the Indie route as well. I absolutely love the freedom to do what I want for my books without being forced into a mold. I have a buddy who is a legit artist, (yes he actually went to art college too). I told him I wanted to advertise his work through my books and that’s something I couldn’t do if I went traditionally. So you could say Freedom was the main thing. That said, I also want my books to be of the quality of a traditionally published book because I come from a family of traditionally published authors. None were best sellers, but they did have some really good material. They have been real supportive even though they aren’t real sure about Indie Publishing.

I’m 3/4 done with Emperor’s Edge and I have to say, I like it just the way it is and I’m eager to start read more of your books. Good luck on your career as a published Author!

@Anna You’re welcome, and thanks for reading!

@Heather Good luck with the new novel!

@Mary Sounds like a plan. You can start charging for some of the shorter works so you can pay for that editor one day. :)

@Patricia This definitely seems like the right road for a “control freak.” I always feel badly for the SF/F authors doing book signings at conventions and wincing at their own cover art. At least we can have ours redone if we don’t like how it comes out the first time (which always seems to be the case for me, hah).

@Eama Yes, true. :)

@Sarah Yes, there’s always going to be a lot of unpolished (that’s a polite word to use, right?) stuff out there self-published realm. Even reviews can lead you awry, so I love that with ebooks you can download samples before buying. While they’re no guarantee that the story will come together well, you can see right away if the writing is clunky.

@Frida Thanks for the links and for supporting the indies!

@Evil Yup, it’s great that we can let the readers decide whether or not there’s a market for something. There often is, and editors just pass because said market isn’t big enough (or so they think) to make it worthwhile for them. That doesn’t mean it can’t work out for us though.

@TL That must be a little intimidating having all those authors in the family! I’m glad they are supportive though.

That reminds me, I have Albert’s last book to read, yet. Beautiful article, very incouraging. Thanks for sharing. :)

Thank you for writing such a helpful and inspirational article. While I am editing my novel, I have been looking into the different publishing options. E-pubbing seems like it is at once easier than traditional publishing (freedom) and more difficult (promotion). There are enough good points about self-publishing, though, that I have decided to go that route, and I appreciate the community of indie authors that are so willing to help each other out.

Good luck making your writing full time!

Always glad to inspire. :) Thanks, Robin, and good luck!

Fascinating article and blog, Lindsay. Been writing for years but I’m quite new to Indie publishing so I’m reading everything I can on the topic. So glad to have found your blog.

After some amazing conversations (and eavesdropping) at RWA National I came back wondering if this might be the right course for me to follow. Long family conversations followed until my youngest son gave me a “no choice” pep talk.

In order to understand the process, over about a week I pulled together a number of related blog essays, updated/enriched them, created a cover, formatted and uploaded. Stringing Beads – Musings of a Romance Writer is now on Amazon and Smashwords. Don’t really expect it to sell much. BUT, I learned and that was my goal. AND I have a plan leading to publication of some of my manuscripts.

Looking forward to following your blog. I’m making a link to it on Stringing Beads. Best of luck – to all of us!

Congratulations on making the decision and getting your work out there! Thank you, too, for the link. It’s appreciated!

Your style is impeccable and your covers are enticing, I can not wait to delve into your series. I was trying to figure out what e-publisher you use. I only know of one and checking out another. Thanks!

Thanks, Robb! I hope you enjoy the stories. :)

It’s cool that indie ebook authors are letting people know the real figures. 2,000 a month seems pretty good to me, given the high commissions on ebooks!

We’re on the same page (so to speak)! My experience is very similar to yours. Self-publishing is really undergoing a revolution–very exciting to be part if it!

I hope you sell a million copies!

Brian January
http://amzn.com/B005WM0HN6

I just found you and I am delighted that you took this independent route, so did I 16 years ago and I’ve sold print books easily. I’m now into ebooks for cchildren and hope it will work out for me.
Thanks for your positive outlook.
Jane

Thanks, Jane! I hope your ebook endeavors go well! :)

I just found you and I am delighted that you took this independent route, so did I 16 years ago and I’ve sold print books easily. I’m now into ebooks for children and hope it will work out for me.
Thanks for your positive outlook.
Jane

What you’ve done is both encouraging and inspiring. I’ve read 8 of your books, plus several short stories, and your writing has made me revise my opinion of self-published books. Beyond that, what you’ve shared about your journey has made me realize that maybe, just maybe, this is something I could do, too. Thank you for your honesty and your willingness to help others reach their goals!

What a great website! I appreciate all your resources.

In addition to all the fabulous reasons listed above, I have another reason I went Indie: control over my own time. I’ve recently released my fantasy adventure and I love that I can work on publicity and marketing on my own schedule. I have a young family and I want to be here for them. Going the traditional route, you have deadlines set by the publishing house, which can be stressful at times.

I write on my schedule. I do the business side of things on my schedule. I spend time with my family on my schedule. It’s a huge blessing.

So encouraging to read this. I had a similar situation, only I DID do quite a lot of querying before deciding to “Go Indie!” I had one positive response and then waited a couple of months (insert crickets). It’s very encouraging to read of your success and I greatly appreciate all the great posts/resources you include here. Thank you!

So glad to stumble onto this post! I think the universe had a hand in leading me to it, because I just had a very similar experience with an agent last week who’d expressed interest in my book and wanted to get the full manuscript–however, I’ve already begun the road to self-publishing it and am quite a ways down the road. There was a little voice inside me that whispered, “What if??” But the larger voice drowned it out and said, “There’s a reason this email came today instead of last month, when you made your call to go indie.”

I’m still not ruling out going the traditional route for a different book, but for this particular one, the indie route felt like the right one. I knew it when I made the decision, and I’m more certain of it now. It’s been a fantastic ride so far. Scary and uncertain and overwhelming at times, but always fun and exciting, too :).

[…] Reasons to Love Self Publishing […]

as first i thought i would love to know more about Lindsay since i live in Nottingham and i would certainly want to publish my mixture of historical novels, true life novels and novels for entertainment and Zulu stories. already i have written a 56000 word history novel but am confused on how to publish it on self publishing, please get back to me Lindie.

Very insightful post! Some of us are doing this the other way around: self-publishing first as ebooks, and then a publisher picks up on the book and publishes the print editions. I think self-publishing has a lot to offer new authors and the established ones in terms of vision and options.

Well the most important reason for me was to dedicate my book to my mother who passed on quite some time ago. I wanted her memory to live on through something, and why not a book?

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