Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Indie or traditional?

This is a highly debated topic these days.  With the changes in the publishing industry, many authors previously published traditionally are moving to publishing independent to earn a higher royalty. But these are the previously traditionally published authors who are cleaning up. They already have the fan base. Which is not to say that other independent authors aren't also doing well.

For the record, authors do not make a ton of money in royalties (unless you're JK Rowling, or Stephen King, or John Grisham). The majority of us can't make a living on what we earn by selling our books. We write because we love to do it, and in addition to sharing our work, we hope to make a little pocket change as well (or become the next JK Rowling, or Stephen King, or Danielle Steel, etc.).

As I "close the book" on my latest project (sorry for the pun), I'm faced with the decision once again as to whether I take it to market, or bypass the query letters, the synopsis writing, the rejection (this is ultimately part of the process - not everyone likes the same thing), the tedium involved in selling my work to the traditional market and publish independently. My previous books were all published independently so that I could "get them off my plate." After dozens-no, HUNDREDS-of rejection letters, I had enough faith in the books to make them available to the general public. It's like writing "the end" all over again. By independently publishing them, I'm able to move on to the next project. So for people weighing their options, this is my take on it.

Mist on the Meadow was submitted to a professional editor so that I knew I had a quality product to sell. That's step one. Once her comments were addressed, the decision had to be made. On the one hand, going with a traditional publisher is validation, in my mind. That was the foremost motivation for my next step, writing query letters and a synopsis. And writing a synopsis is like chewing on nails.  You have to take your 300 page novel and condense it down to 3 pages, while still making it fun to read. And yet I've been trying to do just that. Putting myself through the torture. Then the waiting game begins. Most of the agents/publishers you query take three months (and sometimes more) to respond. Torture. Yes. Self-inflicted.

Option two: publishing independently. In my case, I do have a small following (and hopefully growing!), so to go directly to indie isn't so bad. There are people looking for my next release, people who will buy it. The only response time involved is how long it takes for the websites to approve it for sale (usually only a couple of days). Instant gratification. I am responsible for formatting it, for ensuring that it is a quality product, for designing (or having someone design) my cover art and for promotion. After three books, I've got this process down. And while I wait for those agents to reply to me, I can prepare my product in the event I don't strike their fancy. IF I go indie, you will see this cover (or some reasonable facsimile thereof).

Another misconception:  Traditional publishers have a big promotion budget. They will advertise and send me on book tours, etc. Yep. Not so much. Sure, after I've sold a million copies and earned them enough to invest back into my brand. But initially, I still have to do my own promotion. They'll do the cover art, they'll do the formatting, but that's about the extent of it.

The last thing to consider is media. E-books are outselling print books. That makes indie publishing more attractive. It is still a fairly simple process to produce a print book, but the price is less flexible. A traditional publisher can sell a paperback for $5.99 (for instance). Independently, you're locked into a minimum price, which returns minimum royalties, and that minimum is almost always going to be closer to $10 than to $6.

So, all those things considered, I am sending out query letters. Mist on the Meadow is ready for market, but I would still like the validation of a traditional publisher, even if I don't get the same percentage in royalties. And if the agents/publishers that I've targeted don't connect with my book (they're very particular, you know. It's not a lucrative business for them, either), then you'll see this book for sale in the near future, published by yours truly. I'll keep you up to date on my journey right here.

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