Independent publishing – the way forward?
I am what could be termed as a ‘hybrid’ writer. I am lucky enough to have three books printed and produced by a well established ‘traditional’ publisher, plus I also have another four titles independently published via Amazon KDP and Creatspace. I guess this experience puts me in a decent position to give my opinion on the various merits of each path to getting your book into the hands of prospective readers. You want my humble opinion? It may surprise you to know that I think that independent publishing is definitely the way forward, and here are a few reasons why…
The speed of the process
My last independent release – D-Day: A Layman’s Guide – took three months to get from writing the first sentence to seeing it live and selling on Amazon. In contrast, in September 2012 I submitted a final and complete manuscript for a book I was commissioned to write and it still hasn’t been published yet… that’s eighteen months and counting. The other books I have published traditionally have taken a minimum of six months after delivery of the final manuscript. Publishing on Amazon or any other similar platform takes just a day or two. Therefore, if you want to get your book out into the big wide world and available for sale quickly, the independent route wins hands down.
It’s your book. You have worked your a*se off night and day to get it finished, you have a definite view on how it should be laid out, how the cover should look, the type of font etc etc. If you go down the traditional route you are often at the mercy of the publisher’s design team – and I guarantee you they will have different creative ideas to you. I also guarantee you that, unless you are a top level author, your ideas will be largely ignored. This I know due to personal experience. The cover of one of my books is nothing how I wanted it and despite expressing my disappointment at the design several times, it did no good and they went with their design. Conversely, if you publish yourself you have no one to answer to but yourself, you have complete editorial, design and creative control. Even if you are not a graphic designer, there are many companies or freelancers that can help you with cover design and layout. It is easy and relatively inexpensive for anyone to produce their book in exactly the way they want.
Not just e-books anymore
The realm of the independent author is not restricted to just e-books anymore. With services such as Createspace (www.createspace.com), independent authors now have the option to offer their readers professionally produced paperbacks too, and the best thing is they don’t cost the author a copper-coin to print. With new technology such as print-on-demand, paperbacks can be produced and shipped out as orders come in. This is huge for the independent author as they can now be ‘in print’ as well as in electronic format.
As well as giving up almost complete creative control over your baby, you will also not have a say in the price of the book. Again, I speak from experience here. I have had more than one ‘energetic’ conversation with my publisher over the price of one of my books, but I was never going to win. If you go out on your own you have much more flexibility on pricing. Not only can you price your book however you like, you can experiment with different price points to see how higher or lower prices effect sales. You can also run price promotions or even offer your book for free for a limited time.
Ok, so you won’t get any kind of advance for signing the contract, but these days, unless you are JK Rowling or Stephen King, advance payments are not likely to be life changing. On going royalties are not earth shattering either. Writer contracts are normally around the 10%-15% mark, this means that if a book sells for £10 retail, the author will pocket something like £1.00 – £1.50 before tax. If you sell an e-book on Amazon (via their KDP system), they (Amazon) will take 30% leaving the remaining 70% for the author. This means you can have an e-book retailing at £3 and actually earn more money per sale than that £10 book via a ‘proper’ publisher. Also if you use Createspace, a paperback priced at £5.99 will still net the author over £1 per copy – which isn’t too shabby at all.
As well as getting significantly more money per sale, with independently published books (both e-books and paperbacks) the author will also get paid quicker and more regularly. Let’s take Amazon as an example once more – they pay royalties on a monthly basis, 60 days after the end of that month. For example, if you sell 1,000 books in January with a £2 per book profit, you will receive your £2,000 royalty payment at the beginning of April, and then every month thereafter, as long as your book(s) continue to sell. Royalty payments from a traditional publisher take a bit longer to come through. If you are lucky you might get quarterly payments, or you may get a royalty payment every six months, and depending on when your book goes live, you might actually end up waiting eight or nine months for the first payment (like me!). Which isn’t ideal.
Real time reporting
This depends on your publisher I guess, but with Amazon, Createspace and the other outlets for independent authors you can get practically real-time reporting on how many you have sold, where you have sold them and for how much. Want that kind of visibility and transparency with your traditional publisher? Good luck with that.
Time to find your audience
As with any physical retail operation, stock rotation is key to maximising profits. This means that if your book manages to make its way onto the shelves of Waterstones or another book store it will have a matter of weeks to prove itself. If after a few weeks the sales are not great, there will always be a new book from another writer waiting in the wings to take your book’s shelf space. This means that actually your book only has a tiny ‘shelf life’ to get some sales. This is a problem that self published authors don’t have to worry about as their books will rarely if ever have a ‘shelf life’ or go out of print. The independent author therefore have plenty of time to find their readership.
Who does the marketing and promotion anyway?
These days unless you are a top level author the likelihood that your publisher will put any time/effort/money into a specific book launch and/or marketing campaign is minimal. It is down to the author to drum up interest in their book, regardless of whether you are going down the traditional publishing route or doing your own thing… so if you have to put all the hard work in anyhow, you might as well put that time and effort in to a book that reads how you want it to read, is designed how you want it to look, and priced how you want it to be priced.
When you sign on the dotted line with a traditional publisher you maybe signing away the rights to your work. Will they re-print after the initial run has been sold? What if that first run isn’t all sold? Will they allow you to update your work for a 2nd edition? Then there is the issue of foreign language rights. Sometimes you need to be a lawyer to understand all the contracts. If you go it alone you don’t have to worry about any of that and you get to run your book for as long as you desire – it will never die.
So, there are a quick ten reasons why I think the publishing world is undergoing a revolution infront of our very eyes, there are many more I am sure. The bottom line is that independent publishing no longer has the stigma attached to it as it used to, it is a legitimate proposition for any writer. Indeed in a recent report, independent authors took up 35% of the best selling e-books on Amazon. 35%!!
The bottom line is this: If you have a good story to tell, there really is nothing stopping you jumping on the wave of independent publishing. Good luck if you do – enjoy the ride!