Traditional vs. Indie Publishing: why not do both?
This time last year I had just signed my third contract with a traditional (small press) publisher for EDUCATING ETHAN, a sensual romance. I had also completed the first two novellas in an erotic fantasy romance series featuring non-mainstream characters – an older married couple in a bisexual menage a trois with a Greek god, and a post-surgery transsexual heroine searching for identity who meets an ancient god on the edge of burnout.
These unusual heroes and heroines didn’t seem to fit easily into a traditional market. So, what to do with them? It was around this time that I joined a Yahoo group called Indie Romance Ink, a chat/support group for romance writers either independently published or considering heading down that path. I realised my characters were crying out to be independently published, and I made the somewhat scary decision to dip a toe into indie waters with PLATINUM PASSION (GODS OF LOVE #1) and then APHRODITE CALLING, the second in the series.
If I had known then what I know now, I may not have made that decision. Not because it hasn’t been an incredible and satisfying journey. It has! But there has also been a learning curve so steep that it would have given me pause, had I known about it in advance.
Why go indie?
The steep learning curve is the reason I would encourage anyone who is contemplating indie publishing to give it a go – at least once. It might be scary steep, but getting hands-on, behind-the-scenes access as a publisher rather than an author is the quickest way I know to build detailed inside knowledge of the publishing industry.
From the most basic skills such as working with a designer to create a great book cover; how to format and upload an ebook to Amazon; how best to tag and categorise your books; how to set up a wordpress website or blog; right through to more complex things such as which distribution channels work well and which ones don’t – and why; what to do (and how to do it) if you want to produce a print publication in addition to an ebook; which promotional sites do (and do not) support indie authors/books; and how best to use social media, author interviews, blog appearances, book review sites, virtual book tours and media releases among many other marketing tools to build and maintain a reader following.
I knew none of this stuff a year ago. I was naive in the sense that I thought the book would upload to Amazon and I could sit back and watch the sales roll in. Well, I wasn’t that naive, but I didn’t have a clue how hard I would have to work to get my author name and the book titles out there in the market, and how important it is to build and maintain a reader following.
When you’re indie, you’re doing it alone, and without a following the sales do not simply roll in!
I was also unfamiliar with just how many decisions – about every aspect of the publishing process – need to be made at each step along the way to publication.
Therein, for me, lies a key advantage of going the traditional route.
Traditional publishing advantages
As an author, all of those decisions around the publishing process are made for you, so in that respect it is easier time-wise to manage the rest (the rest being marketing, followed by more writing!).
The support from a publisher “family”, and the authors in that family, also can be just as encouraging as that of any indie network.
Another thing that going traditional offers is an outside validation of your work as truly “publishable”. You’re not going simply on gut instinct. Instead you have someone trained and experienced in publishing telling you that, yes, they do believe readers will like your work. There is definitely a small part of me that enjoys that part of traditional publishing.
Advantages of indie publishing
In addition to what I’ve listed above for indie, this arena has thus far been more lucrative for me than trad-pub. Beyond the financial rewards, though, it is the act of doing it yourself – all of it – that brings a real sense of personal and professional achievement. Control over your own work from start to finish is a wonderful feeling! Tapping in to indie support groups and websites/blogs that encourage indie authors provides a wealth of information, knowledge and has brought many new online friends my way.
Why not do both?
In my view, there is significant benefit to keeping a foot in both camps, for all of the reasons listed above. We work damn hard to create our little masterpieces – why limit our publishing options? I do intend to sub some – but not all – of my work to traditional publishers in future, but I am excited for now to continue on the rollercoaster journey of indie pubbing and see where the next 12 months takes me!
Basic advice for anyone considering indie publishing
- Join online indie chat/support groups for your genre, such as Indie Romance Ink for romance writers
- Follow the blogs of successful indie authors, such as JA Konrath, Lindsay Buroker and Joan Reeves
- Get your finished work professionally edited
- If you are not great with formatting documents, get your work professionally formatted
- Work with a professional designer to get a top quality book cover
- Create an author website/blog, a Twitter account and a Facebook author page as a minimum social media presence
- Keep writing!