An Indie Author Ready for the Future of Publishing

Literary agent Andrew Lownie in THIS article recently stated that he believes that nearly 75% of published books within then next 5-10 years will be self-published. This announcement has certainly turned the writing blog-o-sphere on its nose with both excitement and scorn. Of course, this is mere conjuncture, but even the pronouncement has some broad and interesting ramifications. First off, this is from a literary agent who understands the workings of the traditional publishing field, and, clearly, he sees it as in decline. Even if the claims are vastly overstated, it serves as an illustration that more and more traditional publishers are going to stick to tried and true formats with tried and true authors. It will be even more difficult for unknown authors to be discovered.

However, will being discovered even matter anymore? Self-published authors will need to build themselves up, establishing their own author brand and inching into the readers’ consciousness. There won’t be discoveries any more but rather breakthroughs, like what we see currently when an indie author finally finds a large audience. It’s happening more and more, and the squeeze on the traditional publishers must be troubling to those who still have large conference rooms with mahogany tables.

Recently, I was reading about an indie author has has broken-through and sold several hundred thousand books up to this point. He went on to say that, before he had a large following, he wasn’t interested in spending years trying to find a literary agent and then finally getting a poor advance on a publishing deal. In his mind, the hours and rewards of a traditional publishing deal just aren’t worth it anymore. He kept writing, went indie, and made it.

I can identify with that – except the ‘made it’ part – not yet! But there more and more compelling reasons not to put in a tremendous amount of time trying to find an agent and trying to break into traditional publishing. Perhaps serious self-published authors will find it to be more to their benefit to concentrate on their writing, write great books, meet readers on-line, network, write more great books, be available, build your platform, and strive forward in the work you love to do.

The market is moving in our favor, but nothing will ever be handed to us. And that’s a message I take personally. I am devoted to being the best writer I can, and to tell the very best stories that I have within me. I hope there are readers out there who enjoy coming along for the ride because this indie author is ready for the future of publishing.

Indie Authors: Take Control and Benefit More

I have a dear friend who a couple years back published her fascinating story about her family living as missionaries in South Vietnam during the war years. The book was published through one of the independent presses which require fees up front. They made a nice e-book for her and produced a very professional book in both hardcover and paper.

The book itself is an absolute fascinating read. My friend is a wonderful storyteller, and the stories of ministry and faith in the midst of the chaos of war and both eye-opening and inspirational. It should have a large appeal, even to those who are not Christian because it gives a view of war rarely seen.  (I’ll highlight the actual book with a later post.)

Since the time she published her book, I have become an author myself and have walked in indie author shoes for a while now. Earlier this year I contacted her to ask her if she still retained all the rights to her book (she did) and if she would be interested in re-publishing it as an independent author. She was interested, as I knew she would after I first noticed the e-book price for her work on Amazon: $9.49.

I told her I could help her republish it at a much lower price, she would keep more of the profits and reach more readers.

Let’s think about that $9.49 price point. When I told her she would get 70% royalty on Amazon for books priced from $2.99 to $9.99, she immediately acknowledged that by putting the re-published book at $3.99, she’ll make more money per sale than she does now.

Luckily she wasn’t stuck at that price point by having signed away any rights. She was selling an ebook at a high price with a publisher doing nothing to promote it, which is a fact I don’t understand. Doesn’t the publisher realize that if they sold more books, they, too, would make more money? Competitive pricing, more sales, more money for everyone. ??? Why is it hard for these companies to understand this basic tenant of a market economy? That’s why I side with Amazon on the Hachette dispute, but that’s another story.

Within the next few days, the book will be re-offered on Amazon for $3.99. Once her old publisher un-publishes the ebook from the different retailers then she’ll be joining KDP so she can offer it for free and reach thousands of readers which were previously unavailable to her.

I wish her all the success in the world, as I do with all indie authors. It’s great to be able to take control of our own destiny, and reach readers on our own terms.

Don’t you think so?

 

I am not chaff. I am a serious writer, thank you.

Elitism always frowns on democratization.

I was reading an article which quoted two well-known mainstream authors, who gave their thoughts on the changing face of the publishing industry. One of them said that the traditional publishing model – with all our familiar and well-loved gatekeepers including literary agents and publishing executives (wait, scratch that “well-loved” comment) – was necessary to, and I quote, “separate the wheat from the chaff”.

This smacks of elitism, does it not?

First, let me say that I am not offended or threatened by that comment at all. People can say whatever they want about indie writers who skirt around the traditional publishing model to fulfill their life-long dreams. I’ll just politely disagree.

Second, I am not chaff. Here are the reasons I am not chaff.

I’m not chaff because chaff flies away in the wind and is never heard from again. Well, sorry, super-talented-top-of-the-line author, but your metaphor fell flat on its face. Indie authors aren’t going away. In fact, you’ll be hearing a lot more from us. Smashwords has predicted that 50% of book sales by 2020 will be from indie authors. That’s sounding a lot like wheat, not chaff. Even if their numbers are a little skewed, the trend is undeniable.

Another reason I’m not chaff: I’m a serious writer. I approach my craft with as much dedication and care as anyone. I may have a day job, but writing is not a casual pursuit. I didn’t become a writer because, “Hey, now anyone can be a published author.” No. I write because I am compelled to write. I write because I am full of stories, and as long as I have stories, I’m going to write them down. Writing is not a vain pursuit. I, too, craft stories, and I wrestle with characters and fret over plots. I think of symbolism and foreshadowing. I have a voice. I have creative thoughts. I have a passion. I am an indie writer.

I can’t speak for every indie writer. I suppose there are all kinds of them who write for a million different purposes. I suppose some wish for fame and money. I would imagine some craft their stories better than others. For whatever reason people write, there is finally a leveling of the playing field that enables readers to have unprecedented choice. This is what is getting the traditional higher-ups all in an uproar.

When Miss Hot-Shot Writer goes to the store to buy something, does she prefer a limited selection or a wide variety? I think we know the answer to this. The book world is no different. Choice is a good thing. It’s the democratization of the book industry. It is putting power in the hands of the readers, and they are, more and more, choosing books which are quality reads at affordable prices. No longer are readers forced to buy $27 hardcover copies or wait a year for the “cheaper” paperback variety. The only people I see complaining about this are those who want you to buy that $27 hardcover.

You can call me ‘chaff’ if you want. I don’t mind. But I’m not the one bemoaning a change. That chaff just might miraculously grow roots and pull off the unexpected. Everyone will be better for it.

 

Indie Author: Vanity or Cutting Edge?

Early on in my college career, I paid to include my poem in some anthology which I believed (or at least pretended to believe) held some great significance.

OK. All college kids aren’t smart. If I have to pay to get my poem published, what does that say about my poem?  But I thought it was good and you can’t convince me otherwise.

I received a copy of that book in the mail, and I turned to the designated page and there was my poem by Mark W. Sasse. I was in print. I was a published author.

OK. OK. I understand. That, my friends, is what we call vanity press. Pay to publish. In the past, it was the only way for unsigned authors to get their books in print. (And then those books would sit in cardboard boxes in ones attic. After all, if you can’t buy someone’s book in your local bookstore, it must not be good.)

Vanity press carries such a negative connotation like the work is not good enough to be published by the mainstream publishers or not quality enough to be commercially successful.  And so for decades on end, the mainstream publishers have stood as the gatekeepers of the publishing industry – only letting in what they think will sell or what they think is good enough.

It doesn’t seem like it was long ago when the term “indie music” popped on the scene. Now I’ll admit that I am no expert on indie music, but I do know a whole generation and industry of musicians has popped on the scene – often times creating “non-pop” – the type of music that you wouldn’t necessarily hear on your Top 40 station.  It can be music that is daring, creative, and wildly experimental.  I never brushed off a band because they went “indie” – I merely listened to their music. That’s where the proof is. Now many previously signed bands have forsaken deals on the table and have gone independent themselves so they can have ultimate artistic freedom and and sometimes generate higher profits. Many bands have turned to their fans and have asked their fans to help them record their next record by using Kickstarter or other sites like that. I’m a fan of Seabird and can’t wait until their self-produced album – funded through Kickstarter – comes out.

So what about the writing industry? It seems to me, though I am still a new arrival in this arena, that the vanity press days are somewhat over and that a new generation of indie writers – both new and those who formerly had publishing deals – are writing their own way and marketing directly to the readers who will ultimately decide if their writing is good enough to put food on their table or not. No longer do writers have to wait until the gatekeepers say ‘yes’. No longer do writers have to conform to popular genres or formulaic fiction which the big publishers believe the public will buy.  No longer do writers have to bow to whims of fantasy, vampires, or werewolves if their heart isn’t in it. No longer do writers have to fork out large amounts of money to publish if groveling to the big six publishers didn’t work. Amazon and the Kindle format have a lot to do with this. Each month in their newsletter they give another example of an author who has found his or her niche as an indie author, able to publish their works when and how they see fit and able to find enough audience to forsake their day job for a new day job.

Does being an indie author have a negative connotation? I don’t think so. I think it just depends on the quality of the author’s work – and that all depends on whether readers enjoy it or not. It’s actually quite simple when you think of it that way. It also kind of takes the pressure off or at least for me it does. I just need to write what I’m passionate about, market it to the best of my ability, and let the readers tell me if I’ve done a good enough job or not. Then I need to learn from the lessons of the previous book and move on to the next, all the while keeping my day job! (which I love, by the way)

This is the age of the indie author. It’s pretty exciting to be writing now. I know I’m enjoying it.