Today seems a great time to post about how happy I am to be indie or independently published.
Of course, I hadn't always felt this way. In the past, I, like many other aspiring writers, used to equate self-publishing or indie pubbing with vanity publishing. But I know better now. I also used to think that traditional publishing was the only way to go and that I would never survive or have a successful, income-earning full-time career in writing if I didn't have a publisher to back me up. Or if I did, it would most likely because I was doing freelance article writing and NOT because I was writing books that sold. BUT I know better now, too.
Probably the first time I found myself grateful for being indie was when I found out that most trad pubbed authors (keep in mind I'm talking about those contracted by US publishing houses and not ones based in the Philippines, the latter of which I know little about) had no say over the prices of their books. Maybe five years ago, a debut author could still do well with an ebook priced at 7.99 or 8.99. But now that so many authors, known and not-so-known, selling their books below 4.99? That kind of price point can kill your career before it has a chance of taking off.
I had also been quite naive when it came to cover design. I had this idea that all covers of trad pubbed books used original photos or used photos from live shoots. You can then understand how appalled I was when I saw a #1 NYT bestselling author release a book whose cover used a stock photo used by so many other authors for their books as well. I also heard horror stories of trad pubbed authors given covers that not only sucked but did not reflect their genre at all, and this left me bewildered (and eventually thankful about being indie).
Then I learned about the advances and royalties. I kinda thought that once you get an offer, that's it. You'd be raking in the dough and can write and earn happily ever after. But no. Advances now rarely go beyond $10k for debut authors. That may seem like a huge amount, but keep in mind that you also don't get paid the entirety right away. It's usually 1/3 upon acceptance, 1/3 upon MS turnover and 1/3 upon publication (which can take years!!!).
On the other hand,Amazon makes me wait two months initially then it's monthly payment after that. Trad publishers only pay you twice a year and it's not even for the first year you earned out your advance.
Then the royalties. I get 70% for books priced 2.99 to 8.99 from Amazon and 35% for ebooks priced more cheaply. Trad pub authors get a lot less than that.
The fine print of most contracts is also horrible - to authors. Most insist on non-compete clauses, which in most cases mean you can't write in the same genre as your trad pubbed books. They're basically asking you to rely only on them as a source of writing income and I feel that's not just unfair but pointless, too. I honestly think that your self-pubbed titles can help sell your trad-pubbed titles and vice versa and I know authors who have seen this happen when they became hybrid authors.
I also naively believed in the past that you'd get a decent marketing campaign if you're trad pubbed but nope. I've seen a lot of new trad pubbed books that came out with more a whimper than a bang and it's just sad. I used to wonder why a lot of agents preferred to work with market-savvy authors. I thought it was because they wanted to see how they conducted themselves online but now I realize it's because nowadays even trad pubbed authors need to promote their own books (which makes sense, considering that not a lot of them will get huge marketing support from their houses).
Finally, the editing and proofreading. I kinda thought this would be the biggest perk, getting to work with a great editor who'd help make you a better writer. But nope - a lot of trad pubbed authors ended up with editors who didn't make ANY comments AT ALL about their work.
So yeah, when I learned about those things, I was crushed. When I first started self-pubbing I was still hoping I could get a deal with a trad publisher but after learning all those things, I felt like I'd be doing myself a disfavor if I focused on getting trad pubbed rather than spending my time writing books that readers are already anticipating. It's not that I wouldn't want a trad-pubbed deal. I'm just being realistic. Right now, I can't afford to go after a trad-pubbed deal if I have to set aside my self-pubbed work.
When I think about all those things, I find myself thankful that I'm indie / self-pubbed. While it means donning the hat of a publisher and even a publicist at the same time, it also means I have the freedom and right to---
- Write what I want and experiment with different genres.
- Listen to my readers and write what they want to read.
- Choose my own covers and change them when I have to.
- Hire the editor I want and not be afraid to speak my mind when discussing my work with my editor.
- Price my book and change it if and when I want to.
- Enter into contracts with small publishers or partners for publishing and distribution.
- Collaborate with other authors.
And most importantly of all, being indie has allowed me to be free of all the stress that comes with working on a job I don't love. It allowed me to be free to work where and when I want and spend more time with my family and friends. It allowed me to be free from financial stress, too, because now that I have a job I love, I don't mind putting all the long hours needed to make it work. There are even days when I can't wait to work, when I miss work, and that's just got to be one of the best feelings to have in the world.
So really, I'm beyond happy to be indie and I hope that this post would inspire writers who'd like to give self-pubbing a try. It's not for everyone, but I can definitely say going indie will prove to be an immensely satisfying and liberating experience if it turns out to be the best choice for you.