The Real Deal of Indie Publishing

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.

I wasn’t.

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.

The Process

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!

Looking Forward

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?

6 comments

    • Even if you’re a traditional author, it is that way. You write, revise, edit, proof, market, network and so forth, but you don’t make the master schedule or pay for editing (after vetting editors to find the best one) or worry about cover designers being flaky or pay $100 to have someone make 80 proofreading “recommendations” only to reject most of them. All I needed you to do was find the typos and it cost me HOW much? Yeah. Just a ton of expenses to make sure the best product gets out there (and I haven’t even mentioned the advertising which is in progress with Amazon Ads for A PONDERING HEART right now). All the “author” stuff is enough for me without doing the publisher tasks too.

  1. There’s no denying it’s tough. My first indie novel (published Jan 2018) was a steep learning curve, and there will no doubt still be some more things to learn with this second one (tentative pub. date March 2020).

    But the important thing is to find what kind of publishing works for you. There’s no One Right Way For Everyone! And even finding “x doesn’t work for me” is valuable knowledge, albeit painfully gained as often as not.

      • Deborah- I admire those of you who can do it all ad self-publish book after book. It really zapped my joy. I’m not sure if it was the combination of writing a genre that isn’t my forte with stories that were already outlined (by scripture) or if it was wrangling designers, editors, formatters and proofreaders and shelling out so much cash along the way. Writing is not about the money for me but I don’t think it’s wise to go into debt either (although I don’t since my sub teaching and FIverr paychecks have covered the outlay).

        • It’s an interesting thought: how many aspects of the process can be not to your preference before it kills the joy?

          I’d never thought before about what bit of the process is my favourite, but I think I’d shy away from having to write to a pre-existing outline. I don’t think I’d mind someone else handling the publishing, as long as I didn’t have to pay them! For my first book I only had two contractors (editing and cover typography) and for the second one it’ll be just the typography. (Publishing ain’t cheap!) Mind you, if I didn’t have such a talented and supportive husband I doubt I’d ever have tried self-publishing.

          As for publishing “book after book” – well, this will be my second book in about twelve years. I’m hoping the average time per book will drop as the years go on!

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.