Putting out a book independently

During the mid nineties there was an explosion of independent films. Seemingly overnight, young filmmakers who were sick and tired of either waiting for their shot, being told how good their script was but it just couldn’t be made, having some studio exec take their work and turn into something they never wanted it to be or simply having doors shut in their faces, took matters into their own hands. With the ever evolving technology of  the digital cameras during those times, filmmakers everywhere were able to finance their own films, and make them the way they wanted them to be made without the big studios help or interference. Some of these film makers were able to use their films to rise to the ranks of their idols and now have the same studios, who wanted no part of them, begging them to make their films.

Now in the twenty-first century, there is another kind of indie revolution going on. In fact, it’s been happening for a while now. Writers, both new and established, are moving towards the independent route. Reasons for this happening are very similar to the reason there were during the indy film movement that overtook Hollywood twenty years prior. Many writers simply want to be able to publish something without the bigger publishing houses telling them their story isn’t the way THEY want it to be. Others simply want to be able to put their book out, and after being told over and over by other publishers, “Thanks but no thanks,” they’ve taken it upon themselves to put their book out.Whatever the reason, more and more writers are going the way of independency. Of course there are many pros to doing this, but there are also massive drawbacks.

Perhaps the biggest drawback is Promotion. Getting the word out about the work a writer who has slaved weeks, months, or even years on, is a lot easier to do if that book is put out through a well know publishing house. As opposed to an individual or even a smaller, indie publisher. The ad campaign for an independently published book, more times than not, will have to be up to the writer of that book. If you want people to know about your book, you better spread the word out as much as you can, because it’s basically you and JUST you.

Getting your book into major books stores is another advantage to having your book published the old fashioned way. It’s not impossible to get your book in a brick and mortar store, but it is harder if you’re going to go the indie route. And let’s not forget about advances. Publishing houses will pay you an advancement on your book. Meaning, before you write word one of it (sometimes anyway), you get some spending change. Independently, the only thing you get is some time to yourself while you’re writing your book.

If you’re not that creative, don’t worry, the mainstream publishing houses will take care of all that for you. Book cover design, don’t think twice about it. The only thing you have to focus on is the writing. Oh, and editing? Please. They have their own editors to look over what you’ve done to make sure you don’t embarrass yourself by putting out a typo filled, slow paced, boring book people will want to use for a coaster more than read.

So after all that, why would anyone even bother to try and do the indie thing? Well, speaking for myself, I knew I wasn’t going to have publishing houses knocking down my door for my first book. I also knew what I had in mind for that book, what I wanted it to be and how I wanted it to look. I started work on my first novel way back in 2001. I didn’t finish it until 2003…the FIRST draft of it anyway. After that, other things happened and I put it on the back burner, but never forgot about it. Then a few years later I saw an article on independent publishing, and for someone like me, who just wanted their work out there to be seen, this was like a Godsend.So I went back, dug up my old manuscript, and went through it again, touching it up and whatnot. After I had others go back and re-read it, I turned it in and like that, my work was out in the world.

I was a published author whose work was out for all to see if they wanted. For me it wasn’t about massive promotion, it wasn’t about making money or trying to gain critical success or making best seller lists. It was simply being able to take something I had worked on for years, what I wanted to see the light of day and actually making it happen. I just finished writing my second novel. Unlike with my first, I want more than to just have it out there. This time I’m having someone else do the editing. I’m having someone else design the cover for me. What hasn’t changed is me publishing it independently. I quite enjoyed writing my novel the way I wanted to without worry of someone saying my story shouldn’t be the way I had wanted it to be. Which brings me to the advantages of indie publishing.

While having editors of mainstream publishers go over your work for you may be nice, they’ll also tell you how this part of your story needs to be changed, or this doesn’t belong. Or maybe the publishing house itself will tell you outright to change something. It’s tantamount to a studio exec standing over a director’s shoulder telling them that a scene of the movie has to go, regardless of how the director feels. You lose a bit of freedom as a writer when it comes to the work you’ve turned over to them.

Another thing is the look of the book. You want bold lettering on your cover? An all black cover? Splashes of blood, a simple design with just the title? It’s all up to you if you’re putting the book out on your own. Mainstream publishers may humor you by letting you give some pointers on how you want that book to look, but odds are, unless you’re someone huge (like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling) they’re probably going to do their own thing. Which means you’ll have no idea of what the book is going to look like by the time it’s all said and done.

Then there’s the payment. Yes, you get an advancement on your books with mainstreams, but they get a good share of the profit from the finished product. Going independently, depending on where you go, you can get as much as 70% of the profits from each book you sale.

I’m not telling anyone to go one route over the other. If you think you can get a mainstream publisher to pick up your book, then by all means go for it. If you don’t want to deal with the waiting, and the frustration of being told no or that it’s good but the story needs to be tweaked at certain points, and just want to put your work out the way you want it to be seen, then you should go the indie way of doing things. I published my first book through amazon’s createspace, but  there are dozens of indie publishing houses out there for someone who wants to browse around.

Basically, it comes down to what the writer is willing to sacrifice, and go through when it comes to publishing their work, and both methods have their ups and downs. I’ve chosen my method, and good luck to all who have chosen theirs.

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