Ever since I started on this “author journey” I’ve considered what I was doing to be more the “indie author” path than the traditional publishing path. But this year taught me the truth.
Taking manuscripts from idea to published book BY MYSELF, as I’ve done with the three books in the REFLECTIONS series was indie publishing.
And I didn’t like it.
These days, people write a story, use a free program to create a “cover” and throw it up on Amazon.
That is NOT publishing. These people might say they’ve published a book, but the process of publishing a “readable” book is lengthy. The indie and small press methods are generally NOT a long as New York publishing, but the good ones follow the same process.
What the Author does:
1. Comes up with a story idea
2. Drafts the story (some do an extensive outline first)
3. Rewrites the story
4. Asks test readers for input
5. Revises the story using the input
6. Edits the story
7. Sends the manuscript to the publisher
8. Signs a contract
9. Gives input into cover design
10. Markets the story using every possible outlet
11. Begins the process again with a new idea
What the Publisher does:
1. Vets manuscripts to find stories that will sell (or at least connect with readers)
2. Assigns an editor to work with authors on content (or developmental) edits
3. Hires a cover artist
4. Writes blurbs and marketing copy
5. Performs line edits once author and editor agree story is ready
6. Purchases ISBNs and applies for copyright
7. Sets up publicity (including Amazon advertising or book signings)
8. Formats the book for digital and print
9. Contracts producer to make audio book
10. Uploads the manuscript and graphics to book distributor websites
11. Sends press releases to appropriate newspapers/magazines
12. Distributes galley copies and does final proofing (netting some reviews)
The exception here is that my current small press does NOT do the developmental or line editing. They expect authors to pay for an independent editor to vet their manuscripts.
If you’re an indie author? Both of those lists become your responsibility.
Why Some People Like It
In a word: control.
For those of you who thought I was a person who liked being in control, I can assure you that in the case of book publishing, I don’t. I want to write the story and send it off for someone else to magically transform into a book.
If an author has a substantial following and can get traction on Amazon, they can earn more money as an indie author. Most small presses offer larger royalty percentages than New York. Without an agent, all the royalties go to the author.
For the author who is both writer and publisher, they get all the proceeds. But they also bear all the costs of hiring and paying contractors to handle everything they can do.
For me that includes cover design, editing and formatting. For the first book in the REFLECTIONS series, I’m into it for close to $1000. That means I have to sell a LOT of copies to even break even.
Why I Don’t Want to Do It
Writing used to light me up.
Notice the past tense here?
This year, I wrote solely in a different genre, and it was hard work. I couldn’t let my characters tell their story. I had an “outline” to follow and it wasn’t flexible.
I knew this. But it’s the Bible, and I felt compelled to tell these stories as a way to invite women to see the Bible in a new way. To see the people in the Bible as “real people” and hopefully gain hope in the process.
I’d like to think all my fiction offers hope to readers. After all, my characters face big problems but find a happy ending (guaranteed).
I don’t like having to find contractors. I don’t like making every decision about my book’s format and cover. Most of the joy and excitement I felt in the past when the publisher sent me my cover to reveal didn’t exist when I was working with the designer on the projects this year.
Every part of it feels like work, and writing the story can be hard enough. By the time I uploaded A Pondering Heart, I didn’t want to think about it or talk about it anymore.
Except then I needed to start marketing and promoting it so it would sell. Because I’m in the hole financially!
If you’re a reader of my books, maybe you’re wondering what this means for the future.
What it could mean is that you won’t see as many new stories from me published next year (or the year after that). In the midst of having the indie author experience this year, I also have been querying other small presses looking for a home for A VIRTUAL LOVE STORY and AFTER THE APOCALYPSE: UNKNOWN.
In 2020, I’ll be querying Sweet Promise Press about having my own series. I’ll apply to write in one of their existing series, and if the paranormal romance series they introduce isn’t vampires, werewolves or ghosts, I’ll apply to write for it, too.
I plan to attend the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference with some sort of completed manuscript to query. That will be my new thing: querying agents and publishers because that’s how authors get traditionally published.
What sort of stories would you like to read?