I have been asked several times in the last week alone about indie publishing. Before I talk about what I’m doing, and why, let me point out that I am relatively new to this. Vulcan’s Kittens is the first novel I have published, and that came out in 2013. I have been writing and studying the publishing industry for a decade, however, and that study led me first to not publish at all, and be rather depressed about my prospects as a writer, and then later on, to realize that I could do this. I found my wings, and I’m not taking them off!
First, a quick definition of terms, so I can keep them straight.
Self-Publishing: Often stigmatized due to its long association with vanity presses that preyed on those who were willing to buy into their scams to put out a book that could not find publication any other way, either due to quality or limited appeal.
Indie Publishing: This is the new form of publishing, where one person can independently write, publish, and promote their own work. Usually they hire out things like the editing and their cover designs, and often they will set up a micro-imprint as a publisher of record. This is what I do, although because I have the skills, I also do my own covers.
Small-Press: Also sometimes called Micro-Press. I’m sure there’s a difference, but for my purposes, this is a publisher who is a company, publishing either ebooks only (like Naked Reader Press) or more traditional paper editions. They usually do not offer their writers an advance, paying out as earnings come in, instead.
Traditional publishers: There are the Big Six that most people have heard of, the ones recently part of the whole price-fixing scandal that the DOJ became involved in. There are smaller houses, like Baen, who is honorable to its readers and writers, that have a better reputation. The big houses are falling into disrepute, and for good reason, as their contract terms and financial shenanigans come to light.
Read This First
Dean Wesley Smith says it all more thoroughly and with more authority than I ever could. Read his blog on why you shouldn’t traditionally publish, and ponder on it. My ramblings are based on my minimal experience thus far, and years of research. His is based on a ton of experience.
Why I Write Stories
Sometimes someone else says things better than I even can. Like Amanda Green over on Mad Genius Club, when she put into words and crystallized something I’d been thinking. “I’m a hack, and proud of it.” Red-headed hacks unite! We’re not exclusive, other hair colors welcome…. I write partly because I have a need to write, but that’s not my motivation in publishing. If all I needed was to write, I’d put all my stories on this blog or another like it for free, just for the ego-boo of having readers tell me they liked my work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t want that too…
I write stories because I won’t stoop to writing literature. Why would I want to make my readers struggle to understand what I was saying, or why I was saying it? I’d much rather write something people can enjoy. Sure, they won’t give me awards for that, or publish me in literary mags, but that’s not why I write.
Why I Publish
For money. Yep, that’s what makes me a hack. I have a long-term plan with my work, and I expect it to pay off in the long run. I’ve been self-employed most of my adult life, and even though I am going back to school for a more traditional career, I don’t expect to ever have a retirement fund that will support me in my old age. And I sure as shootin’ don’t expect that what I’ve paid into the government’s empty promises will still be there when I am old enough to be eligible to get it back. So I’ll write, and publish, and slowly build relationships with readers that will lead to word-of-mouth marketing (the best kind) and a very long tail of a backlist, by the time I’m ready to put my feet up and relenquish the daily grind. I come from a family of tough old ladies, so I expect to be active for another 60 years. I’m not kidding, and I’m not as young as I look.
If I write a novel a year – and I could do more, but I also know life can be a mother—– so I won’t plan on it – then I will slowly see a trickle of income turn into something I can work with. I don’t expect to get rich. I don’t expect to ever get ‘picked up’ by a traditional publisher. The only one I would court would be Baen, and that’s a whole different reason, and unrealistic. They are a small house with a limited number of title slots available. I do anticipate that I will work with small or micro presses. I’m already published (Voyageur’s Cap is coming out soon, and then sometime next month Warp Resonance will come out from them as well) with Naked Reader Press and last year, with Something Wicked. I’m contemplating shopping my mystery novella, Memories of the Abyss, out to a magazine or anthology. By doing things like that, my name gets out there.
What I will not do is be invasive with my marketing. Yes, I’m going to announce when I have a title out, usually a couple of times. But I won’t beg for people to buy my books. I’ll do give-aways, with free titles every so often, so readers can get to know my work, and I will set sample chapters up to freely download or appear on my blog as appetizers for readers. If it worked for Jim Baen with the Baen Free Library, I’m not too proud to try it. And I will always try to put out a quality product. Sure, I’ll miss a typo or a grammatical error from time to time. But you will find more in mass market products, these days. And as time goes by, I’ll hire people to help me produce an even better product.
I am also committed to helping others. It’s a world of shifting mudflats, as Dave Freer pointed out in another post on Mad Genius Club. Even if I find some solid ground to walk on today, it may be gone tomorrow. But while I know about it, I will tell you, the readers of my blog, about it. And if you have questions, ask in the comments, find me on Facebook, or email me. If I have a minute, I’ll talk to you about it. I might not have the answer, but I might have a direction to point you in.
Because not being alone is a good feeling. I have mentors, and I’m really proud they put up with my early efforts snd nudged me in the right directions, because that meant they saw something in me. Whether it was talent, or just sheer stubbornness time will tell. I’m part of a writing group, and hoping to help start another one, with all my spare time… You can always try that, if you can’t find one that is a good fit.
I think I’ll stop there. This is a *really* long blog post for me to write, and you to read. But I will revisit the topics later, and again, if you have questions, I’ll try to answer.