Indie Or Traditional, That Is The Question

writer

Ok so you’ve finally decided to pluck up the courage of your convictions to make your passion for writing a fulltime career. Before you even begin, the one question you have to seriously take into consideration is this. Do you become an independent author, or do you try to break into the world of traditional publishing?

If you decide on chancing your arm with the latter, after first avoiding the tempting adverts from vanity press and some of the other fly by night options out there, like the plague, bearing in mind that every one of them is waiting to fleece you while masquerading as legitimate traditional publishers, you will immediately be confronted by what the industry commonly refers to as gate-keepers. What are they? Simply put, they are the publishing houses’ often seemingly impenetrable lines of defence, designed to extract the occasional gem for serious consideration from among the monumental piles of utter rubbish that cross their desks on a daily basis. If by sheer good fortune they want to publish your work, depending on how it sells, either they will offer you a contract or end the partnership.

To begin with your manuscript will have to appeal to the first of the gate-keepers, otherwise known as a literary agent. Always providing of course that you find one prepared to take a chance on you in the first place, based on the fact that they like what you’ve written. Even so there is still no guarantee that they will be able to sell your story to any of the top publishing houses. When it comes to it, like any other business, traditional publishing’s raison d’Γͺtre is to make money. To that end they are extremely picky when it comes to choosing from the thousands of new manuscripts on offer. Cold hearted reality dictates that unless you have written an absolute blinder of a potential best seller, the product of all your hard work will wind up in the garbage bin along with all the others from hopefuls like you and me.

Then there is the question of the contract they will offer you if they decide they want to employ you. Are you up to the pressure that will be placed on your shoulders by signing a two, three of four book deal for the promise of a monetary advance? Many aren’t up to working within the confines of an often highly restrictive contract. I know I wasn’t. I was far too bloody minded for the traditional publisher I was contracted to.

Does all of this sound extremely tough and one sided to you? It should. By its very nature our business is a merciless one. There is no room for the starry-eyed day dreamer, or for that matter anyone foolishly labouring under the false assumption that having a book published, guarantees them instant fame and fortune. It rarely if ever does. Even choosing to follow the independent route is still no guarantee for success. In either case it always involves a lot of hard work on your part.

Out of the nine titles written by me so far since nineteen ninety-five, only one came close by Indie mid list standards to being considered a best seller at 100,000+ copies. I live in the vain hope that my latest offering might at the very least equal it. But only time and the vagaries of this business will ultimately determine its fate.

Being a true Indie requires a much higher degree of self discipline and bloody-mindedness on your part, more so than for an author in any traditional writing stable. Anyone who thinks it is the easier of the two publishing options, seriously needs to think again. Mind you there are no easy options…

While its true that any Tom, Dick or Harriette can come up with a story, that is only the first step in a long and often tortuous road to get it noticed in the first place.

If you are a true Indie, by the very definition of the word it means that you must go it alone, literally doing everything for yourself. Even the traditional publishing houses these days require their contracted writers to do far more than merely write a novel to justify their advance.

If you feel you are incapable, you can always take the easy way out, paying lip service to the notion of independance by opting instead to spend a lot of money to employ others to edit, format and market your book for you. Always bearing in mind of course that before you even begin to earn royalties, you first have to recoup your often expensive initial monetary outlay, a factor than many of today’s indie’s simply choose to ignore, let alone fail to grasp.

Like all true independents I choose to rely on no one other than myself, and a handful of individuals I consider to be competant beta readers of anything I write. To follow in my independent footsteps, you must become accomplished in a number of disciplines. The first of these involves every writer’s nighmare – editing. To make your story stand out among the millions already published, it has to appeal from the very first sentence. While there are a lot of competant people out there prepared to assist you at a price, there are also many charlatans. Like all things we encounter in our daily lives, shopping for an editor or publicist is always a case of buyer beware. Ask them for samples of their work along with the names and email addresses of those they profess to have helped before employing them.

I’m still amazed by the number of Indies out there who have convinced themselves that an eye-catching cover is guaranteed to sell their book. It doesn’t! Yes it’s true it will help. But on its own its nothing more than the literary equivalent of eye candy. Ever since the first printed book rolled off a hand operated press hundreds of years ago, what has always sold the book to the reader is its content, never its cover!

Still want to become a published author? If the answer is still yes, good luck. Just remember that you must be prepared for a hell of a lot of hard work, harsh criticism from your fellows, competition, jealousy, envy and heartache.

Do I regret becoming an Indie? Not for one moment. Remember this, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well…

πŸ˜‰

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22 thoughts on “Indie Or Traditional, That Is The Question

  1. It’s good to get the low down, Jack. I think there’s a big difference between landing one of the big traditional publishers versus signing up with one of the many small presses. As a new author, my experience with a small press was great. I learned a lot. But the marketing time and energy was equivalent to what I put in since turning indie. And as an indie, I have pricing and promotional control – though nothing to brag about, my sales are better and my royalties higher. I’m delighted to have turned indie. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good article but I fundamentally disagree with this: “If you are a true Indie, by the very definition of the word it means that you must go it alone, literally doing everything for yourself.”

    Self-publishing is not at all doing-it-yourself. 99.99% that leads to self-delusional publishing.

    You can’t pretend to be able to master all that is required in publishing a book yourself. You will end upβ€”at bestβ€”with an average (and I’m generous) book. Amazon is an ocean of ‘average’ who do all themselves and live in this limbo state of dreaming to hit it big one day: Reality check, that day will never come.

    Of course you will edit and proofread manuscript until you drop dead, but then your manuscript is NOT ready for publishing, it’s ready to be worked upon with a professional editor.

    Of course you will have your ideas for a great cover, but then you will discuss those with a professional graphic artist to make those idea become a real cover.

    Of course you will be publishing yourself (pagination and formatting) but unless your end product looks exactly like any other traditionally published ebook, you will work with a professional formatter that will make that transition for you.

    Telling aspiring writers that self-publishing is do-it-yourself is condemning them to a never ending nightmare, the self-delusional publishing world.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Jack, you come with a baggage and an experience in publishing that is not accessible to the aspiring droves that fill Amazon with published slushed pile because they believe in the “do-it-yourself” πŸ˜‰

        And I didn’t say 100%, that covers the “not necessarily”, Jack πŸ™‚

        PS
        I went from Indie to Trad. Let’s see what happens. So far I like it a lot. I would have already had to have over a $10,000 budget for what is coming to me for free (if I had done it the Indie way I had walked these past years).

        Coming from the other side of the fence, and having worked with professional freelancers to push my novels beyond the ubiquitous average, for once, I love the idea that certain aspects are taken care and paid for by others πŸ™‚

        PPS
        I have a voice in the overall publishing process, which is amazing. I thought I would have been cut loose and instead…

        Liked by 1 person

      • What newcomers to our world of words need to understand is that there is no such thing as an all ecompassing panacea when it comes to writing Massimo. Like you and I, to survive let alone gain a reputation as a storyteller, requires years of hard work and experience. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi, Jack! Please forgive me if this question is too forward. You can choose to ignore it and I won’t be offended! Your book that sold 100,000 copies…was it traditionally published or indie? And do those copies also include any free copies that were given away or downloaded? Sorry. Just trying to sort it all out…thanks for the post. This was a great one.

    Like

  4. Reblogged this on mira prabhu and commented:
    “I’m still amazed by the number of Indies out there who have convinced themselves that an eye-catching cover is guaranteed to sell their book. It doesn’t! Yes it’s true it will help. But on its own its nothing more than the literary equivalent of eye candy. Ever since the first printed book rolled off a hand operated press hundreds of years ago, what has always sold the book to the reader is its content, never its cover!

    Still want to become a published author? If the answer is still yes, good luck. Just remember that you must be prepared for a hell of a lot of hard work, harsh criticism from your fellows, competition, jealousy, envy and heartache.”

    Read on for more on making the choice between going Indie or Traditional…and thank you, Jack Eason!

    Liked by 1 person

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