Indie or Trad Publishing? The debate goes on…

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

I had to learn the hard way about indie publishing and traditional publishing. I had to learn about book covers and editing and a lot of other stuff as I learned about indie publishing, but somehow I muddled through. I also had a bad experience with an agent, and have read enough horror stories by traditionally published authors to almost never want one.

My friends and I still query, though, because

  1. Why not?
  2. Self pub means having to master a LOT of stuff that’s not all easy, namely promotions
  3. Doing promotions kinda sucks
  4. Doing ads can spend a lot and not make anything back – ask anyone or almost everyone
  5. The pretense that others like agents and publishers may know more – too many articles indicate otherwise, but still

I had a guy, a friend of a friend, who wanted to rep me and we started down that path. It was going to take, like, 18 months OR MORE to put out a book that was ready to go, so (after 3 months of dicking around with him and nothing AT ALL happening) I eventually said I think I’ll pass, apologized to the friend – and put out 6 titles in the time it’d have taken that guy to do one.

I’m impatient.

I got a #1 bestseller in those 18 months, too. Oh wait, no- I got two.

Look at what's best for you. It's not one-size-fits-all!
Look at what’s best for you. It’s not one-size-fits-all!

There are pros and cons to both routes, so I still look to diversify, but I’m still impatient. I shop my next book to agents for a while and if there are no bites, off it goes to indieland where it’ll do very well. (And they’ll miss out again.)

My friend has a book selling very well that she published as an indie, while her other book has languished – you won’t believe this – for TWO YEARS with a publisher.

Two years! And it’s still not out! While her other book is kicking ass!

Pardon my French, but that’s just fucking stupid. Her indie book sells more copies IN A DAY than many authors sell in a month! Capitalize on that success = easier job for everyone. Duh! Business 101.

You will read stuff like that all the time. There are plenty of articles by traditionally published authors telling you how bad it is, but there are benefits, too. Many trad authors also self pub now. It’s a growing trend. Other BIG TIME authors quit the trad route completely and never looked back.

I will be shopping this romantic comedy soon.
I will be shopping this romantic comedy soon.

So I can go either way with traditional publishing or independent publishing, but being able to do it myself gives me leverage. I get to keep most of my money (instead of the publisher keeping most of it) and I have learned a few things that keep me from being taken advantage of. I’m not desperate. That’s a big advantage.

Self-publishing is a great experience that will give you an amazing education that you don’t pay for and may make money from, but it will also show you reasons why you don’t want to do it. That can help you be a better client for an agent and publisher.

What has been YOUR experience, actual or what you’ve read, and who have you seen as a good example of each?

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15 thoughts on “Indie or Trad Publishing? The debate goes on…

  1. Interesting post. I have no experience in the publishing world at all, so this really serves as food for thought. I guess the real eye opening moment will be when we can see how well your friend’s book does after that publisher releases their book.
    Your “impatience” has obviously worked in your favour. I’d reword it slightly though, and call it “ambition.” As a new author, I feel lucky to live in a time where I can take publishing into my own hands. In a strange way, it’s comforting to know that to an extent, my future success (or crash landing) is entirely up to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jenny. Here’s a great example. I was beta reading an “agent query checklist” for Molli Nickell, former editor of 20 years at Time Life books – somebody in the know, okay? In the document she said to do a test of 12 queries to agents and then WAIT 6-8 WEEKS to see how the query does, as a test. That’s brilliant, doing a test, BUT! Theoretically, if the test went poorly, you’d try again and wait another 8 weeks. As querying can be difficult, you might take a few tries to get it right. Let’s say three. That means 6 months have gone by and jack squat has happened. Meanwhile, I have a friend whose indie book came out in February 2015 and its now (August 2015) ranked #4 in her genre, and is paying for her and her husband to go on a tropical cruise.

      Same six months.

      Do you wanna go on a tropical cruise? I do.

      Like

  2. I do wonder how a first-time author dares step a toe in the frigid, shark-infested waters of publishing either way. It is so much safer to stay on shore and look out at all those braver (foolhardy) types floundering in the waves.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kirizar, writers are a brave bunch by nature, even if it’snot obvious.

      You take your thoughts and ideas and your very soul and put it out there on display for others to read, admire – or laugh at and trample upon. And yet we believe within us that we won’t be laughed at. We stand alone from the crowd because we put ourselves out there. That takes guts. And like an actress who’s asked to do a nude scene, it’s just you out there naked for the world to see, but the thrill of the applause is worth it, and the feeling of BY GOD AT LEAST I DID IT.

      Why after all, did the man climb the mountain? Because it was there so he just kinda had to.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. See, there you go. That’s brave. I’d never even think of climbing a mountain naked.

    Meanwhile, why deny the world of your stories? They may love them. And you can always use a pen name. They get a tiny taste with every blog post you publish!

    Like

  4. Love hearing success stories by indie-published authors.

    That said, as a book buyer I can’t begin to tell you how many poorly-written self-published books authors submit to me every week, to the point where I groan when I see another one. Sad, but true. It’s a relief when I receive one that has a title on the binding (important, folks!), is appropriate for the store (also important!), well-written and grammatically correct (not that I’m perfect in this regard). A good editor is a must!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Guilty! I did that!

      Well, not to you, Diane, per se…

      People think they can’t afford an editor, or worse they think they don’t need one – but we do. Even if you really, really, REALLY can’t afford even the least expensive of editors, then find an anal retentive friend because you CANNOT find your own mistakes.

      I have a friend who once told me she loved my blog but if she didn’t know me she wouldn’t read it because as good as the information was, I always had a typo or two – and that diminishes the message.

      I, of course, said that I’d take good information for any source, but being the Type A personality I am, I couldn’t stand the thought of people moving on because of a stupid typo!!! What’s WRONG with them? I caved. I took my efforts more seriously. And I worked hard to improve.

      Typos down, readership up. COINCIDENCE???

      A good editor is a friend and confidant and a necessary evil that will improve your work, no doubt.

      (And yes my first editor was named Dianne but this is a different Diane. Not a typo.)

      Like

  5. Hi, Dan. What an interesting post – and blog, in general. I’m an indie author, with two books of a trilogy published and the third being written at the moment. I’ve seen some increase in sales over the last couple of months, but I know that what I need is better promotion. Reviews have been very good – but very slow to come in and I’m sure I’ll find some great advice about getting more along the way. I need ways of finding ‘exposure’ and promotions for my books, too, which, as you’ve said, costs money!
    I had hoped to find a traditional publisher once all three books were finished, but unless sales look impressive on Amazon, I don’t think I’ll stand a chance.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You can find a few tips by using the search feature and typing in promotions and review, etc., but yes it’s hard work. Sometimes we make it harder than it has to be, though. Usually we don’t ask fans to leave reviews, and we don’t make it easy to leave them; other times we are bad about our approach.

      One time I was on Facebook and an author was lamenting that her book had gotten very few reviews after six months – like 3 or 4 I think. So I decided to be magnanimous and offer to review it.

      It was poetry – I’m not big on poetry.

      She was asking like $12 for it and it apparently didn’t cross her mind that maybe she might make a deal here and there for a reviewer.

      But I opened my big mouth and said I’d do it so I did it, and gave her a nice review because even though I don’t care for poetry I can appreciate good poetry.

      I don’t think she even even said thank you, not on Facebook or anywhere else, but she did ask me to copy the review onto Amazon, GoodReads and someplace else.

      Can’t say I appreciated her approach, you know?

      One author friend is constantly thanking her fans for reviewing her book AND gushes bout each nice review she gets. She makes a little image of the review like an ad, with the reviewer’s name, and posts it on Twitter and thanks the person – thereby saying thank you very publicly AND simultaneously advertising, but the she’ll ask, “If you didn’t leave a review yet, please do!”

      Which method do you think works better?

      Liked by 1 person

      • The second author sounds like she knows what’s what. My problem is that I don’t like asking for reviews. I’ve had several WP bloggers reading and reviewing my books without being asked, and I’ve always contacted them and thanked them personally. Perhaps I should make a point of including the thanks in a post. Would it be a good idea to offer free copies of my books in exchange for honest reviews? I’ve seen that on other blogs.
        Thank you for taking the time to reply. Much appreciated.

        Liked by 1 person

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