Monday, May 7, 2012

Indie Publishing: The New Author - Doing It All

It used to be so simple. Excruciating, depressing, and usually doomed to failure - but simple.

The writer wrote a book then tried to find a literary agent to sell it. IF s/he found one and IF the book sold to a traditional publisher, all was well; being published brought its own trials, but s/he had crossed over onto hallowed 'published' ground. For the ones who did not succeed in selling to a traditional publisher, there were options: stop writing, write on in the hope that one day a publisher would be interested in something, or go the self-publishing route, often referred to as vanity publishing.

Publishing oneself, just a few years ago, was the mark of 'failed writer'. Reviewers wouldn't touch the books. Bookstores wouldn't buy them. Few readers knew they existed and many regarded them as poorly written, unedited 'slush pile' rejects. These blighted books piled up in boxes in authors' garages and slowly mouldered along with the dreams of their creators while the owners of vanity presses laughed all the way to the bank.

Much has changed in the space of a few years, fuelled by digital technology, the print-on-demand model, Amazon, e-readers, Smashwords, tablets, smart phones, social media - revolutionizing the way books are marketed and read. Bestselling, traditionally published authors are 'going indie', the new label that attempts to circumvent the pejorative connotations of the term 'self-publishing'. Indie authors are appearing on bestseller lists, even brand new indie authors.

When my agent sold my first book in 2007 I believed I'd follow the same pattern for every book I ever wrote: submit to agent, who would submit to publishers, who would take control of the works from there on out. I never thought I'd publish a book myself; that meant 'failed author', remember? I never thought I'd become a New Author.

What is a New Author? He or she:

  • Has been traditionally published at some point, or
  • Has never been traditionally published, or
  • Is both traditionally and indie published, or
  • Is an established writer who indie publishes only his or her backlist.
  • Makes all crucial decisions regarding his or her books, from cover designs to release dates, pricing to promotion.
  • Is often a writer, publisher, cover designer, editor and publicist, among other  things.
  • Is savvy enough to hire experts to do the jobs he or she can't do effectively such as cover design and formatting for various digital platforms.
  • Knows the value of professional editing and never puts a self-edited, sub-standard book peppered with errors on the market.
  • Earns royalties of 35-85 percent of sales compared to the 2-15 percent that obtained previously.

Are you a New Author? Are you doing it all? How is this working for you? Please share your stories with us.

Liane Spicer is the author of two contemporary romance novels, Café au Lait (Dorchester 2008) and Café Noir (May 2012). She also writes mainstream, literary and speculative fiction under a variety of pen names. Find her on Facebook and Twitter (@Wordtryst Press).


Charles Gramlich said...

I'm not even an new author and I'm still doing it all. Sometimes I wonder why.

Liane Spicer said...

lol, Charles. So do I. :-/

Lynn Emery said...

I'm working with independent contractors to:

Design covers- I buy photos or
images, describe what I want

Proofreaders - second set of
eyes, very important

I haven't used a editor to give me input on plotting, etc. I had one for a book. Basically learned that after years of having editors (traditional publishing), I understand what works for me. So I won't be paying a development editor any time soon.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Even traditional publishers require that you do it all ... at least on the promotion front.

Liane Spicer said...

Lynn, I found images and designed covers for the first four releases from my micropress - a novella, two novelettes and a short story. One of the authors involved helped with choosing images but I put the covers together. Took me a long time because it's not my area of expertise.

For the next release, a novel, I chose the image, mocked up a cover and paid an artist for professional execution.

Agree re developmental editing. Don't want it, don't need it.

Liane Spicer said...

Jewel, at least the traditional houses handle the covers and editing and get the books into stores - very important if you're selling hard copies.

But the promo is a snowball that just keeps growing; whether you're indie or traditionally published you're pretty much on your own with that.

Katherine said...

I've gone self-pub with all four of my books (working on an ongoing series), and the first book was something I handled on my own. I did my own editing, asked a talented friend to draw a cover image, and went for it after three years of rewriting and revising. But that experience was exhausting, and since then I hired an editor for every book after the first. This way, while the onus of formatting, uploading, and distribution falls on my shoulders, the prep doesn't take the wind out of me. The learning experience, though, was invaluable.

Liane Spicer said...

Katherine, I'm in the middle of writing a post on how exhausting it has been doing it all for the first four books released by my new micropress. Even though one of the authors helped with searching for cover images it took a long time because some skills I had to learn (formatting) and others I was not expert at (cover design).

For the fifth book I found an image, did a sketch and paid an artist to execute the cover in the various sizes needed. It was such a relief I'll be going that way for all - or at least most - future covers. I do have some editing expertise so I'll continue to edit for all except my own future books.

Doing it all has indeed been a enjoyable learning experience, though.

bettye griffin said...

I'm a formerly trad published author (10 contemporary romances, 6 women's fiction titles), who for two years did both trad and indie (2009 and 2010) and since then has been strictly indie. My publishing outlet is called Bunderful Books.

I lay out my indie stories the same way I did the synopses I submitted to my publisher. Like Lynn and Liane, I think I've written enough books to have no need for developmental editing. I use basics like keeping the story moving, not starting threads that go nowhere, and tying up all loose ends at the end.

I do ruthless red pen edits and then turn my manuscripts over to my editor/proofreader, who finds a multitude of errors, everything from missing periods, open/close quotation marks, wrong character names, continuity errors, plot holes, ridiculously long sentences, etc.

My covers are designed by Young Creations. I also choose my pictures and give the designer an idea of what I want.

My question: How does an author get an 85% royalty?

bettye griffin said...

Oh, and I also maintain two websites (, my author site; and, my publisher site); write cover copy, and create my own book trailers (my YouTube channel is bundie702). I also design my own postcards (A lot of folks say these don't work, but I usually get a nice spike the weekend following a mailing).

bettye griffin said...

Did I mention formatting? I do so much I can't remember it all...

Liane Spicer said...

Bettye, thanks for dropping by! I didn't realize you were also doing it all after so many years of trad publishing. You were one of the original Arabesque authors from the 90s, weren't you?

I've never tried the postcards. Despite trying to do it all, I know that I can't do everything, and that's one of the things I decided from the start I wouldn't do. Nice to hear it works for someone.

Liane Spicer said...

Bettye, I haven't enrolled anything in Smashwords yet as I'm new at this and still testing the KDP waters, but I was under the impression Smashwords pays up to 85% royalties on sales. I might be wrong - it's been awhile since I read the literature. Even if I'm off by a few points, their rate is still a whole galaxy away from what the traditional houses pay.

Dorchester paid me 4% of the retail price of mass market AND digital sales. Minus what they hold back for returns. So after selling thousands of books the royalty was a few pennies - not even enough to earn out the minuscule advance.

I just read an article about Harlequin that was staggering; their rate on foreign sales and digital worked out to somewhere around 2%. The more I learn about traditional publishing, the more I support the indie movement.

bettye griffin said...

Amen, Liane! That is just pathetic.

I sell my books on Smashwords for those readers, like myself, who don't have Kindles or Nooks (I have a Sony). I don't think the royalty is that high, but I'll have to check!