The Indie Files, Part 1 – Trad vs Self

There’s been what seems like a shit-ton of talk over the last year about self publishing. Success stories, some not-so-success stories, indie versus New York. I’ve thought about self publishing before and always dismissed it as a viable option for me for a variety of reasons (money being first and foremost).

But that hasn’t stopped me from thinking about it every so often. I wrote a story over the summer that once it was finished, I lacked the certainty I’ve had with my other projects that I’d eventually be able to find a home for it. I want so badly to share this story with the world (like, you have NO IDEA how much I want y’all to read this story) that for the first time, I found myself trying to figure out how I might be able to pull off self-publishing it.

I had to take a first step, though. Before I could start thinking about editors (both content and line), cover designs, cover designers, formatting, pricing, and marketing, I had to decide if I wanted to do this in the first place. So I did what any smart person would do: I asked around. And by asked around, I sent emails to people who I’ve never met (with the exception of one) and who don’t know me. That was pretty damn terrifying, even though the worst that could happen was they wouldn’t respond.

I started with Candace Blackburn, fellow VBC reviewer and author of Tristan’s Redemption. Her decision to self-publish rather than pursue an agent or submit directly to a publisher came about after querying agents like made and then talking to Shiloh Walker, who apparently built her fan base by self-publishing. At the encouragement of her husband, Candace decided to go for it.

Jen Frederick, author of the USA Today best selling Woodlands series, said she went the self-publishing route because she liked the idea of self-publishing, of the success or failure of her books being all on her and no one else. Frankly, I’d never looked at publishing that way, and it gave me something new to think about.

Then I moved on to authors I knew who had both traditionally published (and I’m making a gross generalization here, lumping digital-first and other small press in with the Big 5) and then self-published, either exclusively or certain projects.

Bree Bridges, of Moira Rogers and Kit Rocha, says their decision to self-publish some books had to do with control. There were different ideas and strategies they wanted to try and self-publishing gave them complete control – and freedom – to do so. Chuck Wendig said it’s a guessing game when it comes to self-publishing versus traditional publishing, but ultimately there would be some books that were too risky or ill-fitting for a publisher that might do well as a self-published book. Having an agent helps, he says, because he or she has a better barometer of what the market’s doing.

Anthea Lawson, who also writes as Anthea Sharp, turned to self-publishing after her last contract with her publisher ended and she loves the freedom and flexibility self-publishing offers her, and likes the control as well. She decides on the covers, the ad placements, the Amazon categories, et cetera. She also mentioned the flip side of that: a friend of hers has a contract with a digital-first publisher and, because of her demanding day job, having that contract works for her. Someone else handles the formatting, the cover, the editing, and the uploading and distribution. Which led to another point I hadn’t considered – time. Self-publishing would also require a large amount of time.

My last email went to Marko Kloos, author of Terms of Enlistment. Originally self-published, the book was picked up by 47North (an imprint of Amazon Publishing), and was re-released a few months later with a new cover. The second book in the series, Lines of Departure, will be released by 47North next month. He had success self-publishing Enlistment, so why go with a publisher? He says in addition to receiving a favorable contract, he wanted to see how much the Amazon marketing machine could do for his books. He’s been pleased with the results so far, but intends to keep self-publishing short stories and novellas.

Then about a week ago, I picked up Brenna Aubry’s debut At Any Price and stumbled upon her blog post, detailing her decision to self-publish the trilogy Gaming the System rather than taking the deal she was offered by a Big 5 publisher. She had three main reasons, but one stuck out to me: the non-compete clause. Look, I write quickly. I’ve finished the first draft of four different manuscripts this year and revised two of them into submission shape, and I’m halfway through the final round of revisions on a third, and will likely be able to submit it by the end of the year. I’m okay with a non-compete clause, to an extent. But the way Aubry describes the non-compete clauses offered by the two major publishers bidding on her book, I likely would not be okay with it. (Go click on the link to Aubry’s post. It ought to be required reading for anyone considering publishing a book, whether self or trad.)

Those responses gave me a lot more to chew over. It certainly hasn’t made the decision any easier. But forewarned is forearmed and all that shit. Next up – editing services, content versus line and do you really need both? (Short answer: yes.)

Many, MANY thanks to the authors for their responses.

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