Stay Independent or Sign on with a Publisher?

| Posted in E-publishing |


In the fourteen or fifteen months I’ve been involved with the self-publishing scene, I’ve heard of quite a few independent authors being picked up by major publishers. In some cases, they were noticed and in other cases, they decided to approach agents after proving that they’d developed a fan base and could sell books. Hearing about stories like that is what prompted me to write “Best Way to a Traditional Publishing Deal: Query Agents or Self-Publish?” a couple of months ago.

I have another data point to add to the mix: me.

Earlier this week, an acquisitions editor from Amazon’s new SF/F/H imprint, 47North, contacted me about my Emperor’s Edge series. I wasn’t expecting anything like that, because I’m not a huge seller, at least not by the standards of the indie authors I’ve seen get picked up, but the editor said that she (after seeing how many awesome reviews you guys have left for the books!) checked out the series and enjoyed it.

So, I find myself with a couple of new options to consider. I can stay independent, and continue to do things my way, or I can sign on with a publisher and have a chance at being discovered by a wider audience. If I were to decide I’m interested in the latter, there’d also be the question of whether to sign on with Amazon or to perhaps look for an agent. It’s possible that if one publisher is interested, others may be too, and even if that’s not the case I’d be a little leery about signing contracts without someone around to decipher the fine print.

As far as signing up with Amazon goes, the idea is intriguing and scary at the same time. I’ve heard Robin Sullivan talk about some of the old-school boilerplate contracts that the Big 6 publishers use, and they don’t sound author-friendly, especially to an author who might want to do the hybrid thing and continue to self-publish some titles. From what I’ve read from JA Konrath and other authors who have signed with Amazon, the company seems to be more progressive and flexible. A concern, though, is that there’s a lot of anti-Amazon sentiment out there right now, and, if I went through them, I wouldn’t necessarily be able to walk into a Barnes & Noble and find my book on the shelf.

One of my reasons for making a blog post out of this is that I’d love to hear what you guys think.

Right now, I’m leaning toward staying indie for the immediate future, but I want to keep an open mind too. I’ll get to see a contract in the next week or so, just to get an idea of what exactly is on the table. In the meantime, I’m mulling over pros and cons.

Pros of Going with a Publisher

  • Help with marketing and a chance to reach a larger audience — A traditional publisher could get print copies of my books in all the stores, and, while Amazon might not be able to guarantee that, I imagine the expose at Amazon alone could make a huge difference in sales. As a traditionally published author, it’d be easier to get reviewed on the big book blogs as well.
  • Not having to deal with the little things — Having cover art done, ebooks formatted, paperbacks formatted, etc. isn’t necessarily that time consuming if you’re just doing one book, but, when you’re publishing often, it does start to feel like these non-writing aspects eat up quite a bit of time each week.
  • More chance of recognition in the biz — This isn’t much of a motivating factor for me, but as a traditionally published author, I’d be able to join the SFWA, get onto panels at cons, and be eligible for awards and such (I’m trying not to snort my latte at the idea of someone giving my goofy characters a serious literary award… though Maldynado would be tickled). And, of course, you can say things like, “I had lunch with my agent/editor today…” in casual conversation with friends, and that’s guaranteed to make you sound extra cool.

Cons of Leaving the Indie Life

  • Earning less per book — It’s hard to know how things would balance out (maybe I’d sell many more books overall and end up doing better), but it’s tough to beat the 70% cut you take home as a self-published ebook author. At the end of the day, you can make a very nice living as an indie author when you’re selling 1,500-2,000 ebooks a month, so you don’t necessarily need to be a bestseller (for new indies who think those are huge out-of-read numbers, check out my post on “What Can We Learn from JA Konrath’s $140,000 Month?” where we peep at his sales numbers and point out how much being in the biz for a while and having a lot of titles out helps).
  • Less control on every level — Traditionally published authors don’t get much, if any, say on things like cover art, publication dates, and price points. Also, you’re working with an editor now. That could be a really good thing, if you agree with the changes your editor suggests, and the books are better overall, but I’d imagine it could mean making changes you’re not 100% behind at times as well.
  • Slower publishing process — Let’s face it: nothing is speedy about the traditional system. I wonder if I’d have even found an agent by now if, back in November of 2010, I’d chosen to start querying folks instead of jumping straight into self-publishing. Because I chose the indie route, I’ve managed to get four books out already (along with my short stories and novellas), and I’ve already made it to the point where I’m making enough to do this for a living, if a modest one.
  • Infrequent sales reports — One of the things that I love about e-publishing is that you can log into the Amazon or B&N digital platforms and check your sales stats any time you want. If you’re running some kind of promotion or advertising campaign, this lets you get real-time feedback on whether something is working. Traditionally published authors get royalty statements a couple of times a year, and that’s the only way they have any idea how many books they’re selling.

So, those are some of my thoughts at the moment. As I mentioned, I’d love to hear what you guys think.

UPDATE: My decision here (thanks for the feedback, all!).

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Comments (98)

Wow! Huge congrats on getting such an offer — if nothing else, it tells you the measure of your books’ quality and appeal. Feel proud of that accomplishment! ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s a tough call to make. Not that it’ll help any, but once you see the contract, you’ll hopefully have the bigger picture to make your choice. It would be hard for me to sort through my “They really like me!” excitement in this case… But I say you’re making a good start by creating a list of pros and cons for each side.

Stick with your writer’s intuition and always do what’s best for your stories in the end. It’s easy to lose sight of what’s most important in the middle of all this, especially when it comes down to contracts, money and trying to make a living.

Good luck!

And sorry I’ve been a lurker around here until now — I always look forward to your posts as they’re a huge inspiration for this fellow gal fantasy writer! Thanks always for your insights!

Thanks for taking the time to comment, Erin!

Good luck with your writing! Are you close to finishing anything?

Thanks for taking the time to reply!

I actually have a rough draft of a four-book series that I’m revising at the moment. It’s going to take a bit of time to ensure there’s no inconsistencies and that the writing it as tight as it can get. It’s always an adventure to tackle major revisions, especially when dealing with somewhat older writing, that’s for sure! ๐Ÿ™‚

Best of luck with your choice — seems like you have a lot of strong feedback here to mull over. Let us know what happens!

I would add a few questions: Where will your books be distributed, outside of Amazon? How much control will you retain over your intellectual property? What is the duration of the contract? What will your recourse be if you find yourself in disagreement with Amazon’s imprint? What is the timeline of publication, from finished draft to published book?

In general, I have come to believe an editor/publishing house makes a huge (positive) difference in the finished product. If you want this to be your lifelong career, I would think finding a publisher is a good thing … but that doesn’t mean Amazon is your best bet. If they think you’re good enough, chances are very good other publishers will, too.

Very cool, Lindsay!

Thanks, Sara. Lots of good questions. Maybe I should hire you to handle negotiations! ๐Ÿ˜‰

First, I agree-congratulations – well deserved recogntion as I think your books are as good as any of the others I’ve read- including big sellers such as illona andrews, charlaine harris or patricia briggs. As a reader my worries really revolve around two things 1) the delay in getting your books out. I have never had ANY issues with your editing and I don’t care about the cover so I don’t know what value your signing would have for me. The cons are I pay more money for your books and I have to wait longer for them.
2) at times i’ve been disappointed by authors that get “big.” It seems as though they are on a schedule to publish a book and participate in an anthology every 6 months. I am not sure if this is due to pressure from the publisher but at times the quality suffers. These are my lost authors – I used to eagerly await the next title out but now just don’t care. I would hate to see that happen to your books.
In short, I like things just the way they are, but I understand you need to look at the big picture for yourself.

Thanks for the compliments, Sue!

Yes, I’d hate to make folks wait for the final books in the series, and as an indie I can keep the prices lower and still do okay for myself. Definitely things to think about.

Wow, way to go! I love that you’re always so open with us about what goes on behind the scenes with your publishing.

I can’t really say for sure one way or another what I think you should choose. The thought of being able to focus more on writing and offloading all the publishing details is very tempting. The loss of control would be tough though (not to mention the lower royalty share).

If you do decide to negotiate a contract, I agree you should definitely find an agent to help you out. Either way, good luck! ๐Ÿ™‚

Thanks, Jacquelyn!

Hi, Lindsay.
Wonderful news – congratulations!
If I had to post a comment last year, I would have definitely said ‘publisher is better by a mile’. Now, 114 days of online activity later and having signed the most misleading contract in the history of mankind and lost nearly every useful feature of having a book on the market, I wouldn’t be so sanguine about it.
I think the best thing to do is take your time, read the contract and ask for clarification on every little issue you may have. Don’t assume something is as you imagine it, make sure. For example, there is a paragraph in my contract which mentions POD, but then this didn’t happen and my publisher said they are ‘delaying’ POD. On closer inspection, it turns out I could sue them for misrepresentation but still could not force them to POD my book, as the terms say they are only in breech of contract terms if they fail to publish my book in ANY form (they have distributed it widely online).
I give some more examples of different contract terms and compare them in my blog post (Marketing and small print ) and that one is important because usually publishers like to make a big fuss about how much they spend on marketing authors. I read a post just yesterday about someone who worked for a big publisher. The post says that the publisher chooses a handful of books to be strongly promoted, and the rest are ‘also published this year’, left to ride the waves the others make. Publishers have a lot of control, you have none. You can’t demand that they do things your way, to make you happy. As soon as you have a publisher, you lose the ability to make choices. You sign = you commit. Worse than a marriage (unless of course you’re deeply in love with your publisher).
So, I guess I would vote for staying indie, unless you can make absolutely dead sure you know what you’re letting yourself into. The mere fact that you have questioned whether you should sign up with them should be a warning sign. You’ve thought about this already.
Whatever your decision, good luck. I’ll be thinking of you. Ella

Sorry to hear about your contract troubles, Ella! Ick. Thank you for the words of warning and the link as well.

What I’ve gathered about the marketing is that it happens if the publishers had to shell out a big advance, heh. I’d imagine that with Amazon it’s a little different since they can do so much internally, marketing to their existing customers.

Lindsay, you should read what writer Jon Merz says about his experience with regard to print vs e-books:

I found it to be an absolutely fascinating blog post that shed a lot of light on the way the traditional print publishing industry works. You’ll see that states that he is very happy with the switch to self publishing e-books.

Thanks for the link, Will. I definitely see a lot of traditionally published authors switching to the independent scene, either completely or to publish back-list novels.

First of all, congratulations on getting an offer. If nothing else, it shows that you have enough impact for sales people to notice. ๐Ÿ™‚

Regarding your options:

From your perspective: I’d certainly have a good look (or better: a good lawyer look) at the offer regarding ownership of intellectual (and other) property, payment, their (and your!) responsibilities, etc. pp. and then decide if it’s a good offer, or just an offer limiting what you can do with your work, or what goes into your work (thinking of company policy demanding for certain content not to be mentioned, for example).
As somebody already pointed out: if it’s not a good offer, it means Amazon noticed you, somebody else will too and -hopefully- make a better one.

And from a reader’s perspective (who absolutely wants to know how EE continues and ends): A lot of authors getting publishing contracts started off with complete revisions of their books, making it several years before they continue with the series. While I can fully understand that a good publishing offer is an author’s dream-come-true, the treatment described above is a felt hell for the avid reader, eager to learn how it goes on and ends.
Whatever you do, as a reader, I selfishly hope you will be able to finish your series without going back to square one and having us on the edge of our seats until 2020 to learn how the conundrum with Sicarious, Amaranthe and Sespian is resolved.

In any case, all the best wishes & good luck in making the best choice for you. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thanks, Ann!

Yes, I’d like to get Books 4-6 out in a timely manner, so readers won’t have to wait too long. I think some folks think even six months is too long, hah!

Lindsay, many congratulations! That’s terrific. In my view, Amazon is the future, the Big Six the past.

Anti Amazon sentiment? Amazon’s customers love Amazon, and that’s what matters.

Thanks, Lexi. Heh, well, there’s something to be said for allying with the 800-pound gorilla, especially considering what the Independent Publishing Group authors are dealing with right now.

Awesome! Whatever you decide, it’s a big deal to be singled out like that. So, first of all, congratulations!

Personally, I think it’s good for writers to diversify. I’m all for a hybrid traditional/self publishing career. However, it seems that a lot of publishing contracts are becoming more and more restrictive, especially with the non-compete clauses. I would not sign a contact that would impede my ability to sell my not-under-contract work in other venues. Publishing contracts are, by their nature, more favorable to publishing houses than to authors. My suggestion would be to hire an IP lawyer to scrutinize any contract you’re offered for those sorts of pitfalls. And be prepared to walk away if need be.

So sayeth the not-at-all-published writer who reads too many blogposts about publishing, self or not. ๐Ÿ˜€

PUBLISHER! You will NEVER go wrong with Amazon’s 47 North imprint. Imagine if you will (with an apology to Mr. Lennon) your book going out as part of an E-mail promo to MILLIONS of Kindle readers/owners.

No New York publisher can offer you that same thing and you can’t get that on your own either.

Congrats. I hope you go with 47 North. That’s my dream job.


I’m new to your books and your website, but I’ve read everything in the EE series and hope to finish the rest of your books this month. I know you’ll evaluate the contract and make the best choice for you. I only hope you’ll be able to continue to take us along for the ride because it’s been very interesting to see your journey.

I’m surprised to hear you cannot participate in the SFWA. I’ve been reading John Scalzi’s books for a long time and I know he’s the current president. Although I’m sure he didn’t make the enrollment rules since he’s only served for two years, he did start as a non-traditional author and supports non-traditional means of distribution. Do you know if there’s a reason why self-published writers can’t join?

Congratulations, I’m really happy you got the offer, but concerned as well.

My biggest concern is not being able to read your work because I don’t own a Kindle, I own a Kobo. With TP, your book would be put in different bookstores.Will Amazon do the same? Wil they allow epub format for the rest of us?

Good luck and get a lawyer. ๐Ÿ™‚

Hooray!! Not that I’m certain about if signing is a good thing, but its super nifty that they contacted you!

Like a number of the others, I’d be a little worried about them limiting distribution of EE to other formats – especially since Amazon’s practices might make other distributors (iStore, whatever) do something retaliatory. I’d hate for you to be caught in the middle of something like that.

It would be interesting to see how much more reach they could provide. but I’m not sure if it would be worth it – you seem to be reaching a good number of people – and I don’t like the idea of books taking longer to come out! (but that’s me being selfish ๐Ÿ™‚ )


As it stands no decision can be made (I think) without a pile of contracts and offers in front of you. As you’ve said you are content with being an indie author so this decision is purely dependent upon agencies meeting your needs, instead of you relinquishing artistic integrity for the agencies. I think you should explore different publishing outlets to get a fairer idea of what opportunities may be available for you!

As it stands you are a wonderful author and your books are amazing.

Congratulations! I’d be thrilled to see your work reach a wider audience. And this corroborates what we here all knew already: your books are awesome!

Over time, I suspect the anti-Amazon noise will go away, but there’s going to be a lot of chest-thumping first.

Since this is early on, you may have more negotiation power than you would with a traditional or other indie publisher. Amazon is trying to build their reputation in this space–if they feel you can help them with this, they might be more flexible in terms.

Also, you are in the ideal negotiating space of being able to walk away at any time. (The Slate negotiating podcast on iTunes is awesome by the way, although I haven’t used it yet for money, I have used it for renegotiating project dates and it has done wonders.)

And I agree with everyone who mentioned a lawyer, especially one with IP contract experience.

Thanks, Kryce!

Oh, I’ll definitely check out that podcast. Even if I’m too much of a non-confrontational wuss to be a good negotiator (I avoid all shopping situations where price tags aren’t present), I can always have Amaranthe use their tips. ๐Ÿ˜‰

If it were up to me, frankly I’d say – don’t take the offer. What you have right now and what you are doing are both good things, so why spoil it?

If you join their imprint, I’m guessing their first order of business will be to re-edit and re-publish the works you already have out. That will take out a huge chunk of your time, when you could be continuing as you are and putting out more works for us to read. That’s happened with other indie-turned-traditional authors that I’ve seen, anyway. But I don’t know enough about Amazon’s specific imprint and how they work.

Also, if you are thinking about going for a different publisher instead, I’m not exactly sure this is the best time to do it. Contracts are a mess right now, and if you’re looking for less work and less stress and more exposure, well, it might actually be more convenient in a few years when everything is more settled down. By then you’ll probably have already finished the EE series.

Maybe you could shop Encrypted or another future-series to the traditional publishers? Leave what you already have done alone, rather than redoing it with them? If they like what you’ve done, it stands to reason that they will also like what you WILL do. That actually sounds like less work to me.

In any case, if you’re going to be dealing with publishing contracts of any sort, I agree with the above comments. Get an intellectual property lawyer or get an agent first.

Thanks for commenting, Laura, and good points about the time that would be involved in going back over the first books to re-release them. I’d definitely like to finish up the series in the next year, and get the books out to everyone to enjoy without delays!

Congrats!! It’s about time you were “discovered” ๐Ÿ˜‰

That said, I agree with Laura above who said:

“If it were up to me, frankly Iโ€™d say โ€“ donโ€™t take the offer. What you have right now and what you are doing are both good things, so why spoil it?”

Though I’m sure you know much more about all this than I do, I would also add that the whole trad-vs-self-pub scene is changing very quickly, and many of the pros you assign to trad pub may become available to self pubbed authors in the near future.

Personally I’m really big about having control over my creative projects, and I’d hate for something to happen like them picking out an ugly cover for your next book…!

Thanks for sharing your opinions, Keri. Yes, things certainly are changing fast, and there’s a lot to be said about keeping control!

So…it sounds like they want the EE books but not every single thing you’ve published? Great! Now you can have the best of both worlds, by continuing your other work (or starting a new series) while you see how Amazon handles EE. They aren’t so scary and they won’t own *you,* just one series. You will still be your wonderful self and keep publishing what you want, when you want.

If big Amazon publishing is as slow as they say, you’ll have plenty of time to keep publishing other things in the meantime. You’ll also have plenty of time to test drive being an Amazon author and see if you like it. It sounds like a win-win to me.

OK, so…I’m not a writer. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must feel like to receive such an offer. Wow probably doesn’t cover it.

I’m a reader. And I’ve got to say, I’ve seriously enjoyed being able to say to my friends “Oh, hey, I just finished this INDEPENDENTLY published book”. Probably I’ve enjoyed it all out of proportion, but I’m that kind of person. I’ve spent the last year and more feeling rather beseiged by the ‘powers that be’ (whoever has the gold makes the rules, etc. etc.) and I’ve loved the feeling that by purchasing your e-books and noising them about, I’m part of something small and growing.

That’s just the perspective of ONE reader though…and I freely admit that I’m rather an odd duck.

I agree, Amy. I love “discovering” a new author & telling all my friends about it, like finding a real treasure. I like to hear about their journey along the way as well. That’s why I also like this blog:)

Thanks, Amy. The “just one reader” perspective matters a lot! ๐Ÿ™‚

This is such cool news! Congrats! I actually just downloaded EE1 a few nights ago and am amount 100 pages in. I already adore Amaranthe.

A few thoughts that popped into my head as I read . . . if you can get an agent to help you broker a deal with Amazon (maybe Konrath’s agent), perhaps this agent can held you do other things, like option your books for film, sell foreign rights, etc. I think Konrath ran a guest post last week about an “e-stributing” agent — maybe they would be a good fit for your situation. I think there are still some things indie authors can’t do for themselves, and maybe this is an opportunity for you to explore some of those options.

Either way, good luck with this! I’m a fan, no matter what! ๐Ÿ™‚

Thanks for checking out the EE books, Camille! Yeah, foreign rights and such could be nice, though I’ve heard there are ways to do that as an independent (sounds like a headache though :P). I’ll see if I can find that guest post you mentioned!

Congrats! As far as making the decision, you have to decide what’s most important to you at this point in your writing career. More recognition from pros sounds nice, but is it worth the cons of traditional publishing? Only you can decide. I agree with Rabia about checking the contract carefully.

I’ve published academic work with traditional publishers, and even been approach by editors to write, but I’m new to fiction. Having said that, since looking at indie writing I’ve come across writers whose experiences match my own. The first pro you list is marketing, but unless you pen a best seller that will still be up to you (though Amazon’s web presence is high profile you will be competing with other authors for space). With respect to cover art etc, you would still want to liaise, and it is likely that cost will be deducted from future royalties. Look at the contract carefully for requirements regarding what publicity you will expected to carry out (I know one fiction writer who turned down a contract because they wanted him to do a reading tour at his own expense). Other thoughts, well you are doing really well in that you have a great following already (being new I’m still trying to work out how that is done) and a lot of innovative ideas about linking with your readers – you have already made the hard miles so why share your income with anyone else (and add an agent and that would be another 10%)? One thing that could tip the balance would be a decent sized advance – see if they offer you one. Of all the points above, I’d say the fact that you already have a fan base does raise the question over what you might gain from any deal.

Thanks for the information, Alan! I’ll definitely take a good look at a contract before signing anything. Good luck with your fiction!

One way to increase your readership could be to spread your reputation thru reviewing fantasy books – each review leading throngs of people looking for new work back to you ….. You could even start with something of mine … happy to gift a copy thru Smashwords ๐Ÿ™‚

Haha, way to work it, Alan! I don’t have much time for extra reading right now, but if you ever want to do a guest post as part of a promotion, just let me know. I’m sure we can find something interesting for you to write about! ๐Ÿ™‚

I’d be more than happy to do a guest post! Do you want to suggest a topic or you could message me via my Facebook page, it’s linked from this post, and we could bounce some ideas around? Sounds like a great idea ๐Ÿ™‚

First, of course, let me add my congrats to copious others’!
Second, not having a Kindle device – or an android – I must say I would prefer you staying indie. My whole family of readers is completely enamored of your work; and, yes, we have all read everything you’ve got out there. Now, I know only five or eight of us won’t make that huge of a difference, but we’ve all got nook (Barne’s&Noble) devices, and have all purchased every tidbit we can find from you! Should you decide to go the Amazon route, we would suffer from withdrawl! Just thought we’d stop by with a quick imho. Thanks! ~I!

Thanks, I! Yes, I definitely don’t want to leave non-Kindle people hanging in the middle of the series. Especially since Book 4 might possibly end on a teeny, tiny bit of a cliffhanger… *innocent whistle*

Congrats! I would think about how many more books I would want to add to the series that they’re interested in. If you’re reaching the end and don’t mind giving up control of the last book, then I would consider going with Amazon. You’ll have more time to focus on a new series. I thought that writing and editing the book was a challenge, but marketing your own work is very difficult. I wouldn’t be too concerned with not being placed in B&N. You can be sold in indie bookstores and I see that as more of a win than B&N. Indies put more thought into book buying so if your book hits their shelves then lady, you have arrived!

Thanks, Indie Writer Chick. Yeah, I’d be more inclined to give up control of the EE books if I were closer to the end, but I have three books left to publish in it. I want to make sure all of the non-Kindle folks who are following along can read them all!

Lindsay, congratulations on this — you definitely deserve it! I picked up Emperor’s Edge a few weeks a go and loved it. I fully plan on reading the rest of the series. Of the self published novels I’ve read in this genre, your work has really been my favorite. As I chip away at my own fantasy novel with the hopes of someday self-publishing, I just want you to know how helpful, motivational, and enlightening your blog has been to me. No matter which direction you choose, I hope you will continue to share your experiences. Also, I hope you’ll keep on providing the world with a steady stream of Maldynado quotes, which never fail to make me lol. Keep up the good work, lady!!!

Thanks, Paola! Maldynado will be tickled to hear that you appreciate his wit. ๐Ÿ˜€ (He gets a little jealous–and perplexed–sometimes, because Sicarius gets so much attention from the ladies…)

But… but… Maldynado NAMED THE CHICKENS…

Congrats Lindsay.
I think that most authors, even those who prefer to stay independent, would at least like to have had an offer.
My opinion, I think is kind of one-sided. I used to dream of being picked up by a big publisher and “making it”, but in recent months, even though I’m not really make all that big a splash on my own, I find that the “indie-scene” is absolutely the best place to be. I say this for several reasons.
1. You control your art, your money and your limits.
2. The community is outrageously generous, and friendly. (I’m referring to you more than anyone, who has been the most approachable comrade yet!)
3. There is less chance of getting bogged down or cheated.

The thing is, Amazon approached you because you are good and because they would like to profit from your goodness. In a day when we can “do it ourselves” why shouldn’t you do just that? this makes me think of the old adage, slow and steady wins the race. Only you can be the judge, but you look like a winner to me.
No matter what you decide, I plan to keep reading for a long time to come.

Thanks for the encouraging words, Khaalidah! Yes, it’s nice to be noticed, heh heh, but you’re right in that the indie scene is pretty cool right now. It’s great to see how many folks are willing to give self-published authors a try!

Pretty sweet news.

I think, at the baseline, it depends on what you enjoy about the entire world of Indie publishing. Do you enjoy it? Are you happy? Do you feel like a success? Do you strive for a next step, or is the next step simply the excitement of writing the next book?

If it’s not about the exposure and it’s not about the possible money involved, then carry on doing what you love – being a great example of how an independent author/publisher can make it!

My 2 pennies (sterling, of course).

Thanks, Ryan! Those are definitely questions to consider.

Congrats on getting this sort of recognition, Lindsay! That is awesome (and reminds me to get on with reading your EE series). I don’t even know what I’d do in your situation. But, maybe like Konrath says, only hand over the keys to your personal kingdom if you’re getting LOADS of money in return, or it’s not worth it.

Amazon is an author-friendly publisher, but it still depends of whether or not being self-published is compatible for you. It is for some and isn’t for others. You have to go with your gut. What feels like the right path for you, personally?

Thanks, Cathy! Haha, yes, Konrath is making $100,000 a month or something crazy right now, so I can’t imagine he’s too tempted by traditional publishing, though even he has a title with an Amazon imprint. It’s nice that it doesn’t necessarily have to be an all-or-nothing deal; I think we’ll see more and more authors doing an indie/trad hybrid.

First off, congratulations!

Second, do you read the Passive Voice blog? It’s by an IP lawyer and a whole section of his blog is on contracts–scary stuff. My general impression is that Amazon is less horrific, but I will add my voice to the chorus saying that these days you need a lawyer before you sign anything at all with a publisher OR an agent–some agents now want to take out 15% even if they don’t find you a publisher and you self-publish! (Agents are generally doing badly these days, so their contracts are getting much more draconian. And you know, just because Joe Konrath gets treated well doesn’t mean you will be.) These are very sneaky clauses deliberately worded to confuse the layperson, so beware.

For more horror stories about agents and publishing contracts, read Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog. And get a lawyer.

Thanks, Mary! I’ve checked out Passive Guy’s blog, but should probably go back and read some of those posts on contracts. Thanks for the tips!

I think you should do it. Not because I’m smitten by the Cinderella story of big pub, but because of the Amazon marketing muscle.

They could make you a name, and, hell, you could do whatever you want after that.

Tough to give up the independence, I agree. Just nice being asked to the ball, eh?

Grats, Lindsay, that’s awesome!

It’s a really tough call there. The main thing that’d keep me on the indie side is maintaining 100% control of your work and keeping it true to your vision. But like you said, it’s possible that an outsider may improve your work.

Good luck with whichever way you choose!

First of all: Congrats! It’s great news that people are interested in signing you (even if you decide to pass in the end).

As for what I think. That’s a bit more complicated. It all really depends on what kind of a deal you would get. How much smalled the royalties would be and whether they would get calculated on list price or the actual sale price (if list price then it wouldn’t matter how big of a discount Amazon would give on the book, after all), how many books the contract would cover, what editions of the books, wether or not you could write other stuff and publish them independantly.

It sounds like an interesting experience to be had, and it will definitely help you make creative decisions farther down the road. But some of the commenters above are right. No matter what you decide, run that contract by a lawyer first.

Good luck!

Thanks, Jane. Hah, I wonder if Amazon discounts its own titles?

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Congrats Lindsay! Wonderful niche. Fun reads. Very flattering to have agents knocking at your door- no matter what you decide. You’ve worked hard. My only beef with the traditional route is that they take so darn long to put stuff out there. But the exposure would be good, hmmm..good luck with this decision. -But I’m confident your good work will continue no matter what:)

Lindsay, I’m one of your fans although I haven’t written a review. However, I do not buy from Amazon. The very last thing I want to do is encourage Amazon’s monopolistic hopes.

For me, if your books aren’t available in ePub, I’m no longer going to buy them. If your books are only available at Amazon, I will no longer recommend your books to anyone.

As for Amazon’s “generous” contract terms compared to traditional publishers, that will last only as long as Amazon has stiff competition. I’d suggest you go either the indie or agent route and avoid becoming ensnared in Amazon’s exclusivity.

Richard, the Big Six have had a monopoly of distribution for decades, meaning no one they chose not to publish could reach readers. You were only able to read Lindsay’s books because of the invention of ebooks.

Traditional publishers offer contracts which are all-encompassing, long lasting and far from generous to first time non-celebrity writers. Authors, without whom the publishing industry would not exist, are the only people involved who are mostly not paid a living wage.

Thank you for taking the time to share your feelings on the matter, Richard!

I have no words of wisdom, but I just wanted to extend my congratulations, being approached by Amazon is a validation for you. Go girl!


Congrats! I would ask if they have plans to get your paperback in stores. I’ve seen a lot of Indie stores saying they won’t carry Amazon imprint books. However, they aren’t carrying your books anyway. But what I would really find out is if they are going to save you a lot of time and trouble getting foreign publishing deals by being a one stop and doing the translation and publishing for you.

That would make it worthwhile for two reasons. The obvious one being youโ€™d have to do nothing but collect a check to have your book sold in x amount of languages. And more important in the new markets (as well as the old) they would no doubt position your books right next to the big names in the genre like Martin, Sanderson, Jordan etc. so in markets like China and India your books will be in front of billions who really canโ€™t afford the $14.99 for Big-Six big name author. And you sitting right nest o them will become the obvious choice.

Also, it depends on how much flexibility you have. Michael Sullivan said that in his contract he has to present each new project to Orbit and they have 45 days to make an offer that he can either accept or reject. So, if itโ€™s similar to that and you wanted to self-pub some things you still could.

Unfortunately, as with all things Amazon, they have a top secret clause so will probably never know what they actually offer.

Anyway, you deserve the success your having so keep at it.!


Thanks, Carlyle! I hadn’t thought too much about foreign language versions (though I’ve heard of some independent authors making foreign rights deals on their own), but it’s definitely something to consider going forward.

Yes, the aforementioned Micahel Sullivan sold his foreign right well before he even considered signing with Orbit. All you have to do is get an agent that handles foreign rights. Apparently foreign rights are very lucrative.

Well, I’d hate if there were no epub versions available anymore.

I like buying at Smashwords, but as long as epub versions would be available at Kobo, that’d work, too, but I’m not going to start buying books from Amazon to convert them. :/

That’s definitely something I’m keeping in mind, Anke. I don’t want to strand anyone in the middle of the series!

Congratulations on your pending decision! What a choice: remain Indie and do all the work yourself, seek a mainstream publisher and work for a pittance, or go with Amazon and hope for the best.

As to Amazon: they definitely have the marketing muscle to help you promote your books if they so choose. Their business model to date, however, is to enslave – er, I mean seek exclusivity, with their authors. They may offer some flexibility, but in the end they’ll expect your best work to be pumped through them alone. That may work to your favor, it may not.

As to contracts, definitely have a legal-savvy person review any contract for hidden stumbling blocks. It usually doesn’t cost much as is well worth it for the avoided heartbreak should they choose to exercise some clause that abuses you.

What to do? Having someone else doing the heavy marketing work would free up a lot more time for you to write (or enjoy life), if they do a decent job of it. Some of Amazon’s practices make me cringe, but I buy a lot of books through them, so I can’t slam them for trying to run a profitable business. If they can offer you a good deal that checks out to be clean, it’d be worth looking at seriously. IMHO.

Thanks for stopping by to mull with me, Allan! Yes, the exclusivity thing is a hard pill to swallow, and it’s why I’ve avoided KDP Select. The idea is to be available in more places, not fewer!

Hi Lindsay, alas I have no words of wisdom to add to what has already been said in the comments above. I just wanted to say that your blog has been an inspiration and a valuable guide in my own quest to become an indie fantasy author.

After checking out a few of your posts, I quickly realized you had already done precisely what I wanted to do, in exactly the kind of laid back way I was hoping it could be done. In that regard, I still plan to follow in the footsteps you’ve detailed for us here.

I suppose I won’t have any idea what I would do in your current situation until I’m confronted with it myself. At this early stage of my journey, I’m still enamored of the creative control and flexibility of the indie, and repulsed by the predatory, exploitive history of the established industry. The one path seems to lead to a slow build toward guaranteed success (as you’ve demonstrated); The other appears to lead to year after year of begging and waiting for someone else to say “Yes, but…”, only to culminate in almost guaranteed failure.

Well, anyway, you’ve already done the hard part by proving your talents and your worth to readers directly. Whichever way you decide to go, please keep blazing a trail and leaving behind breadcrumbs for the rest of us to follow. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thanks for the comment, CJ! I’m glad you’ve found my posts useful. Good luck on your own journey!

It’s great that someone at Amazon noticed your books, as they are certainly as good as the regularly published fantasy I am picking up.

As to the publishing offer, I suggest waiting. You seem to be picking up fans with every new book in your series, and you’re doing all the right stuff in building an online platform, so if you wait another year or two you ought to be in a great position to take your pick of publishers (and large advances).

IIRC, Michael J Sullivan’s sales didn’t really take off until he published the fifth book in his six-book series (though he got a six-figure offer from Orbit even before his sales really took off).

Either way, best wishes.


Thanks, MJ! Yeah, I’ve listened to some of the interviews with Robin Sullivan. Inspiring stuff!

Where are you “listening” to Robin Sullivan’s interviews? Her blog has been a bit silent as of late.

She doesn’t have her own podcast, but she’s been interviewed on a number of them. After stumbling across one interview, I searched for “Robin Sullivan” on iTunes and found several more. Most are from 2010/2011, but there’s some good information in there.

Thanks! I’ll try that.

Way to go Lindsay. I think everyone has covered a great deal of ground. Here are a couple of things to remember. It will be one year out from the time the publisher agrees on the final manuscript. Yes, they like you to rewite even if it has been done 100 times. So your fans will have a bit of a wait. There is little promtion given to new authors unless you blow everyone out of the water. You will have to present a marketing plan to the publisher and possibly hire a publicist in your own best interest. It goes on and on, but to have your books in print in the major market could be a joy. Good luck whatever you decide.


Now, I prefer to have a publisher behind my work, cause I’m a big picture kinda guy, “Here’s the idea… make it happen.”

But, here is the big sell.

Amazon is supposedly more flexible, see if they will take publishing rights to Flash Gold, but let you keep EE. The promotion and exposure Amazon would help you get will help the exposure and sale of EE as well.

I am currently working with a game company on a project, but have another boiling on a back burner, once things with the publisher are all ironed out, the exposure will help me get my new idea off the ground.

It may see like a hard tight rope to walk, but if you can pull it off, it will be the best bet.

Thanks for the suggestion, Tim! Good luck with the new gaming project. I don’t know how that world works, but I imagine there are some similarities.

One other thought, more a reflection than a fully thought out opinion, but – well I’ve only been at this for about a month or so but I really am enjoying the process. Sure I want to sell lots of books, but I want it to be a fulfilling process too. I like being able to do the whole thing from writing, talking about writing, designing covers, marketing, getting involved with social media and a thousand other things. This way a book is more than a commodity to be negotiated over with others, the whole thing becomes a creative process. Not sure that this is helpful, except that being an indie writer is maybe about more than economics? (I have to add that this has to be thought about in the context of traditional publishing – I’ve just read Jon Merz’s post on ebooks being a game changer and even if I could, there’s no need to add more.) Anyway …. .

Since your current arrangement is working well enough that you’re hesitant to change, it seems like waiting and thinking is mostly all to your advantage. The traditional publishing world will either get more interested, in which case it’s all to your good, or they’ll become less interested in time, which could potentially spare you a less than positive experience. Considering that the potential downsides include going from “I’m making a living at this” to “I’m not making a living at this”, caution seems wise.

The main thing to consider IMHO, is : By going with a publisher how will it change your style and creativity. You do so much with such excellent form I would hate for you to loose ultimate control over that. If that is not a concern, go with what you think will be better for you in the long run. We fans will read what ever you put out at any time.

Exciting news! I would consider waiting and shopping around if you decide you want to publish with a house. Orbit has Gail Carriger and seems to be doing great things for her and I could see you two sharing a fan base. I think I first found your books in the also-boughts for one of hers.

I’m coming to the party late but this is amazing! I like to dream that one day I’ll have this conundrum ๐Ÿ™‚ (but I need to finish formatting my book and get it up first.) Much as it is tempting, I’ve wondered if it would be better to turn down an offer like this. What this does mean is that you are about to take a new step in making some business decisions for your writing! And I look forward to learning from it. ๐Ÿ™‚

As I am late, I don’t have a lot to add, but I’ll mention this experience. I’ve read about new authors that I want to check out, only to find that they’ve signed and so they’ve had to pull everything they’ve written until their publisher wants to put them out again. Why can’t they leave their own versions out until they put up the publisher’s version? It seems like they lose some momentum.

I think a route to seriously consider would be that they sign you for a new series that you pitch or possibly Encrypted. (Disclaimer: maybe I think that because I haven’t read Encrypted yet and so it would thus not delay my getting to read new ones!)

And definitely get a lawyer. I think if you go through a possible contract with a lawyer you will learn a lot. Then think about talking to agents. Even if you turn this down it sounds like you should start educating yourself about more business opportunities!

Thanks for taking the time to chime in, Erin! Yes, the timing is a bit of a hitch, since I’m still in the middle of publishing the series. Lots to think about!


Congratulations as many others have said.

Selfishly, as I’m really looking forward to reading EE4 as soon as possible I hope you choose to stay as an independent publisher at least in regards to the Emperor’s Edge series.


Hey Lindsay, great breakdown of the scenario. I’m approaching the same situation. I queried a publisher (not a big one by any means- they’re actually brand new) and they expressed interest in publishing my book, “The Adventures of Riley Raccoon.” This would be a wonderful opportunity for me, as I have not had screaming success on the market so far. I feel this would do much the same for me like you addressed in your article; get publicity, let someone else handle the busywork, and, hopefully, have some stability in the sales department.

I am rather scared of the restrictions, though… I don’t want them to basically “steal” my book from me, change it and give it an entirely different feel than I aimed for. Granted, I think the publisher I’m dealing with, Diamond Heart Press, doesn’t seem like bad people- they’ve been very helpful to me and colloquial in our correspondence.

I just wish there was a way to know which route is definitely better than the other! Good luck!

Hi William,

Congratulations on the offer. I don’t think any publisher will steal the book from you, and I believe you can part ways if the editor suggests changes that aren’t to your taste (something to check for). I’d be more concerned about non-compete clauses (can you continue to publish independently while they’re working on publishing your book?) and right-of-first-refusal clauses (meaning you *have* to give them a chance to make an offer on your next project). Some of that stuff con be restrictive if you want to follow a hybrid (self and trad) publishing model.

Good luck!

Hey Lindsay- thanks for the heads-up! I’d rather not dish out the dinero to an agent to read me my contract; I’d like to be able to read it and decide myself. And I definitely want to take a hybrid approach to publishing. I just want to get the Riley Raccoon series on its feet (or paws, hah!), and I think a trad publisher would make that happen, right?

I read your decision post, and, since I don’t have a huge loyal following like you, and am certainly not making $X,XXX a month, I feel it’s ok for me to experiment.

And who knows? Maybe I’ll ditch the Riley Raccoon series (at least for a while) and write a Action/Adventure/Thriller novel under a pen name or something! Wouldn’t that be something!


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I’d consider only signing part of your book stable with the publisher types. Keep some of your books indie and let them try their magic with others. You can compare results later.

You’re are an extremely talented, highly gifted author. Your character development and creativity are amazing. Take your time to make the decision, publishers aren’t going anywhere, if you keep writing this well, there’ll be many more of them in your future with great offers.

I for one like to have both e-versions and print books of my favorite books. I have already categorized your books as such and look forward to more from you in the future. I have spent the last 3 months wading through free versions of books on amazon and when i find something I like, I then go buy the rest of the books the author has available. I know its old fashioned, but I would love to have print versions available because I like the feel of them. I like to see the art selected for the cover. And I like to lend them out to encourage further reading. I even have audio versions of some my favorites so I have these books in triplicate! I just wanted to put my own thoughts in real quick and extend my congratulations at the same time. Regardless of what choice you make, it is very exciting and I want to wish you luck ๐Ÿ™‚

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