Why Self-Publish When You Have a Chance to Go Traditional? (AKA Emperor’s Edge to Stay Indie)

| Posted in Ebook News |


printing press publisherA couple of weeks ago, in my Stay Independent or Sign with a Publisher post, I mentioned that I’d had an offer for publication on my Emperor’s Edge books. An awesome editor (awesome because she liked my books, of course πŸ˜‰ ) over at Amazon was interested in adding the entire series to their new 47North science fiction/fantasy/horror imprint.

As you might guess, this was a pretty cool moment. I never queried agents or pursued the traditional route (that takes so long!), but I’d always had it in the back of my head that maybe someday, if I did well enough self-publishing, I could get a “real” publisher. I wasn’t expecting an offer to come my way this soon though. My books sell decently, and my author income grew larger than my day-job income for the first time in November, but I’ve never been below 1,000 on the Amazon Best Sellers ranking, nor have I been at the top of a Top 100 category. In other words, I wasn’t expecting anyone to hunt me down and offer to publish my books. A year ago, I probably would have jumped at the opportunity, and I’ve since heard from quite a few other independent authors who said they would have too.

I ultimately decided to pass on the offer though. Here are some of the major reasons:

  • Being published by Amazon would have meant my to-be-written fifth and sixth ebooks in the series wouldn’t have been available in other stores, so my Smashwords/Nook/iTunes/etc. readers would have been left hanging. And, uh, I probably shouldn’t ‘fess up to this in advance, but Book 4 has a cliffhanger ending, so leaving people hanging would be mean. Yes, there are free Kindle apps for just about everything (I use one on my iPad), but not everyone wants to buy from Amazon. And for some international folks it’s cost prohibitive. (In a post I did on 99-cent steampunk ebooks, a reader from Denmark pointed out that he had to pay almost $3.50 for a “99-cent ebook” at Amazon).
  • You guys said you wanted the EE books to stay independent — I asked for opinions here, and on Facebook, and while some folks said they’d support either choice, a lot of people voted for me to stay indie for reasons that ranged from wanting the books to continue to come out quickly to wanting to say that an author they enjoyed was self-published. There were also quite a few Smashwords and B&N folks who chimed in to let me know they would like to continue to see my books in those stores. (Unlike some other indie authors I know, who get 99% of their sales through Amazon, I do sell moderately well in those places.)
  • I’m doing fine on my own — Though I’m curious as to what Amazon could bring to the table, one of the interesting new truths about self-publishing is that once you’re selling enough books to get on someone’s radar, you’re probably making $X,XXX a month. (Some people, not me, are making $XX,XXX a month or more!) When you’re doing that well on your own, you have to ask yourself if you really want to tinker with a formula that’s working for you. (I saw an income report of a traditionally published fantasy author who has a lot more books out and is a lot better known than I am, but he makes less than I do simply because that’s the nature of traditional publishing — there are many more middlemen to cut in.) So, though Amazon’s royalty offerings are better than industry standards on ebooks, there’s still that question of whether I’d really come out ahead (financially speaking) in the long run.
  • They’d want the rights to the audiobooks — While this is probably something you could get a lawyer and negotiate over, publishers generally want the right to create audio books of your work and sell them alongside the print and ebooks. I’m not against making money from audiobooks, but I also like giving them away for free to get new people into my world (in case you haven’t tried it yet, the first Emperor’s Edge novel is free on Podiobooks and iTunes with the second coming out shortly). You guys have even been chipping in, via my Kickstarter campaign, to help pay for the creation of future audiobooks in the series (thank you!).

Those are my major reasons for staying indie. Though I may look into a hybrid publishing model in the future (i.e. try one series with a traditional house while continuing to sell my other books independently), I’m looking to finish out the EE series before thinking along those lines.

As always, thank you for the support. The good reviews you guys left for EE and the following books are what prompted the Amazon editor to give them a try in the first place.

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Comments (28)

Glad to know readers won’t be left hanging! Sounds like you made the right call. That must have felt so weird to reject a publisher! πŸ˜›

I see that the notion of “prestige” doesn’t factor into it at all. Glad to see you’re above that nonsense.

You are an inspiration.

A part of me wanted you to try this so I could see how it goes… πŸ™‚ But I find all the reasons you didn’t sign, really compelling, especially “(I saw an income report of a traditionally published fantasy author who has a lot more books out and is a lot better known than I am, but he makes less than I do simply because that’s the nature of traditional publishing β€” there are many more middlemen to cut in.)”

I’m curios. Did you ask if they would be interested in doing a different series with you?

Erin, I don’t have anything else ready to go at this point, so I didn’t. I want to focus on finishing the EE series in this next year, and then I’ll be ready to move onto new projects (or perhaps do the sequel to Encrypted). Thanks for asking!

I can only imagine the choice was a difficult one. Thanks for sharing the reasoning behind your decsion, Lindsay. I’ll keep coming back here to scour your posts for all the practical indie advice – such as starting a newsletter – and doing my best to follow in your footsteps.

It’s great to hear your side of the story! And I’m glad to hear you’re doing so well. Keep it up Lindsay!

Woohoo! I have to say–good choice, good plan, and for all the right reasons. πŸ˜€

(Peacemaker was excellent, by the way!)

Thanks for giving Peacemaker a read, Laura!

Awesome!! Really excited to see these books stay indie. Best of luck!

Looks like you put a lot of thought into this — I don’t blame you at all! I think you made the right choice, especially when you’re doing so well on your own. Who’s to say where things might go down the line, though? At least you will always know there was interest in your series from the publishers. That in itself is pretty special!

Thanks for listening to reader input, and asking to begin with. It’s great that you want to tap into the reader pulse before making a choice like this!

Keep trucking! πŸ™‚

That is so amazing to hear! I buy from Amazon, they are great in some things but I have a Nook & would be very sad if I couldn’t get your books on my Nook any more. I love that you’ve come so far as an indie writer. I put glowing comments on both B&N & Amazon about all your books that I’ve read to help get the word out there. Good luck on your future endeavors!

Thank you for the reviews and for spreading the word, Martha!

I think you made the right decision! You’re definitely one of the reasons why I’m determined to self publish. Keep it up, Lindsay!

I would love to see the editor’s reaction to your turning down the offer. I’m guessing that doesn’t happen often. Hah.

On a more serious note, I want to offer a counter-argument to the cries for more Emperor’s Edge as fast as you can write it. As much as I love the frequency of the books – seriously, I often wait for series to end before I start them because I’m so impatient – the speed with which you release the books only matters while the series is being written. Which is, what, two more years? These books will be for sale for years to come. Readers who start them after Book Six is out won’t have any reason to be grateful you wrote/published them in short order.

I’d much prefer a longer wait between books if it assured a higher quality in the finished products. I’m not saying your books HAVEN’T been of high quality, of course, but any flaws in overall story arc/plotting/character development will be more pronounced to anyone who reads them one after another.

Just thought I’d toss that out there.

Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Sara.

My speed (how long it takes to write the book and get it to a point where I’m happy with it) wouldn’t change one way or another. The difference with a publishing house is that you’re looking at six months to a year (or more) from the time you turn in the manuscript to the time when people can buy the book. As an indie, I can send it off to my editor and get it back, formatted, and ready to publish in a couple of weeks.

To Amazon’s credit, they do sound like they’re quite a bit faster than most publishers, so this actually wouldn’t have been a huge issue. I also miss out on the opportunity to work with a developmental editor (though, honestly, that might have be a little weird for me since it would have started mid-way through the series — it’s something I’d like to try someday, but probably starting with Book 1 in a new series).

Yes, I can see how that would have been weird. I would wonder, too, whether it would have disrupted the feel of the series? That might have been especially noticeable to people reading the books five, ten years down the line.

You have some compelling reasons for staying indie. And, honestly, you’ll probably strengthen your bargaining position if you have an entire series under your belt, garnering positive reviews and strong sales.

[…] I’ve been reading up on self-publishing. Lindsay Buroker has done a fantastic job (as an author as well as sharing info about self-publishing) at her blog: Lindsay Buroker […]

I am sorry to hear you turned them down (yes, I know I was one of the nay sayers), but I agree with you, if you’re making enough sales to warrant their attention (or an agent/publishers attention for that matter), why mess with a working formula. Your books are as good as any TP book out there.

BTW, I found all your books in the Kobo library. Now I can buy and download them directly to my reader.

Good for you, Lindsay. I can totally understand the reasoning behind your decision but it must feel great just knowing that you have options like that. Keep up the good work!

Great post, and thanks for being honest with your reasons for rejecting the offer, Lindsay. I’m a romance author who has signed with Amazon’s Montlake Romance imprint. Like you, my self-pubbed titles aren’t mega-sellers but they do sell nicely, so it’s great to know that the Amazon editors are going after books they LIKE, not just those who’ve had tons of sales.

It may interest readers to know that they don’t have to buy Amazon books just through Amazon. B&N’s online store stock the print books, although their physical bookstores don’t. OK, so it doesn’t help those who want to read it on their Nook unless they convert the Kindle file to an pub, but this is a myth that I think needs to be dispelled. You can see Connie Brockway’s Montlake title in paperback at B&N here, for example:

Good luck, Lindsay, and I wish you all the best.

Thanks for stopping by, CJ! It’s good to know that B&N has the paperback titles. I wondered about that. Have any of your books with the Montlake imprint come out yet? I hope they do well for you!

April 24th is release day for both books. Thanks for asking.

Thanks for sharing all this. Congrats, and keep up the great work!

Hi Lindsay,

It was very interesting reading the reasons you turned Amazon down. I went through the same thought process when Montlake Publishing, Amazon’s romance imprint offered on my self-published series.

I ended up accepting the offer, but my circumstances are vastly different than yours. For one thing, 99.999 percent of my sales have been through Amazon, I’ve never been able to get traction on B&N, or any of the Smashwords distributors even though the book has been selling like a demon on Amazon. When they offered the Prime Select program I opted in, and made 100x more money on the borrows than I ever made through the other places. I’ve been enrolled in the Select program since December and in all those months only two people have approached me asking for a Nook copy. So as you can see I just don’t have that following.

I’m one of the people making $X,000 to $XX,000 per month on my book. (one book, although its the first in a series) It’s been on the top selling RS list since October and got all the way down to #35 at one point in the Kindle store. So I am making a very good living on this book by myself. Such a good living I was able to quit my day job to write full time.

But I have also been watching the Montlake titles since they released them last fall, and I have witnessed first hand the power of Amazon’s marketing ability. Take for example In Her Sights, by fellow Montlake author Robin Perini. Her book was the Kindle Daily Deal yesterday. Dropped all the way down to #4, and was still down in the top ten of the Kindle Store this afternoon. (or was, the last time I checked)I can’t even come close to matching the kind of promo and marketing that Amazon puts behind their book. No NY traditional house can match what Amazon can do. There is no doubt in my mind that Amazon will be able to sell tens of thousands more copies of my book than I can sell myself.

I wouldn’t have signed with any other house. Amazon is the only one who can do better with this title than I can do myself, and they are the only digital publisher that understands the value of reasonably priced ebook so my readers will not get ripped off by a NY house trying to force them to buy print.

Print distribution, was another point in Amazon’s favor since they will be doing a mass market print run of the title and I will finally have a print outlet to send readers too. My book’s wordcount is so high the Creatspace price was far to high for the average reader. Amazon’s mass market pricing is much more reasonable. Since I get dozens of emails a month asking for a cheap print copy, that was a big draw for me. Not to mention when they get their distribution sorted out, there is an excellent chance my titles will end up in Walmart, Target, Hastings and multiple other physical stores, which will expose my books to a whole new set of readers.

We all have to make our own choices and follow our own paths. So far my Montlake path has exceeded my expectations. Working with them on the developmental edits has taken my book to an entirely new level. While I will still continue to self-publish some titles, I’m certain in my heart I made the right choice for this particular series.

But my best wishes go out to you, in the path you have chosen. I hope you find yourself as blessed!

Congratulations on your success, Trish, and thank you for taking the time to share your experience thus far with Amazon. I’m only ruling them (and other publishers) out for the time being, and I’ll be watching to see how things go. πŸ™‚

Good luck with future sales!

Hi. Congratulations on your success.

Have you reach the 50,000+ mark yet?

I would love to add you to the list when you do. There are 105 authors right now that I have found who sold more than 50,000 self-published ebooks.

Good job and congratulations to you. Thanks for sharing this success story. Truly inspiring.

Good call! I believe self-publishing is the way to go. For me, I like the control involved, if my book thrives or fails it’s based on me and my story. I’m leaning towards A Book’s Mind Publishing, I like their cover designs and they let me put my feedback into the creation of my book.

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