Independent Publishing: Pros and Cons

by | November 22, 2016 |

As all writers know at this point, the great changes in the publishing industry in the past 10 – 15 years have made it possible for authors, like artists in the music world, to become their own producers. Independent publishing has its pros and cons.

The pros of independent publishing are obvious:

first, as an indie author you have greater freedom over what you create; and

second, as an indie author you have greater control over your career.

The cons of independent publishing are perhaps just as obvious:

first, as an indie author you now have to take responsibility for every aspect of your career. There’s no more sitting at your desk, writing your story then sending it off to an editor in New York and waiting to get the revision letter after which you respond to questions from the publicity department;

second, there’s no more receiving an advance from the publisher and then getting royalty checks down the line. As an indie author you now put your money upfront with only the hope of recouping the investment.

Being an indie author does not mean that you are freed of the constraints of the publishing industry. It does mean that the relationships among the people you work with have changed. Instead of you working for a publisher – which provides you editing, copyediting, graphic design and publicity services – it is now the case that editors, copyeditors, graphic designers and publicists work for you.

If you’re thinking of going indie, you have to be as serious about the product you put on the market as any big-time publisher. You are going to have to invest in yourself and your work.

And you need to assemble your team.

Editor. An editor attends to the big picture: the narrative arc, character development, thematic development and pacing.

A good editor is the single most important person on your team, and you need an editor who knows your narrative form. No matter how many books you’ve written, you will always need an editor.

Toni Morrison began her career as an editor, and she said something once to the effect that a good editor makes a story better without leaving her fingerprints. This is the point: skillful editing is an art in and of itself. It is a different set of skills than what the author brings to the table. Sure Toni Morrison was an editor and then turned out to be an awesome storyteller, but she can’t also be her own editor.

An 80,000 word story will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $2000 to be edited. If you don’t want to fork over that kind of money, reconsider being an indie author or simply recognize that the work you put out will be less than professional. Maybe you’ll do just fine with it – or maybe not.

Copyeditor. A copyeditor works on the line-by-line level with whatever their version of ‘house style’ is (punctuation, quoting practices, etc).

The importance of good copyediting can be seen in the massive number of reviews on Amazon commenting on typos, grammatical mistakes and other kinds of inconsistencies. Often copyediting is included in an editorial fee.

At the very least you need another set of eyes besides your own on your manuscript.

Graphic designer. A professionally designed cover is going to cost you anywhere from $200 – $800.

You have figure out how to position yourself visually with respect to your narrative form. I self-identify as a romance writer but I don’t do the covers with torsos of naked men and/or massive boobage. (Exception: the covers on my Forest Breeze Series.) My covers tend not to have people on them at all.

Publicity team. Many indie authors do their own publicity. I’ve read of authors who spend half of each and every day devoted to social media. You have to do it, and if you’re not going to do it yourself, you have to hire someone. A good team is likely to cost in the neighborhood of $65-$75/hour – and I think the expense is totally worth it. But remember: if you don’t have a professional product to begin with, your publicity efforts can only do so much.

Indie authors have a lot of decisions to make. One I’ve made is not to buy five-star reviews. Other indie authors have made a different choice. Independent publishing has its pros and cons.

For an excellent romance editor see: Five Questions with Selina McLemore

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This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen

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