Considering Indie Publishing

Ever since Holly Lisle announced that she was leaving traditional publishing and going indie, I’ve been looking at the possibility of it for me.  Like when I decided to go with omniscient viewpoint, I weighed in on the pros and cons of what might be best for me.


A huge con is that one aspect of the promotion would be completely gone.  The publishers have better resources for this, just with things like catalogs to bookstores, ARCs to reviewers, and libraries buying copies (though if it’s my library and a book is in paperback, they aren’t buying it).  However, many publishers are also looking for the writer to do publicity.  Some agents are asking for platform from novelists.

From the indie side, I’d have to do all the publicity and marketing and find a way that would draw people to the book.  A lot of the writers don’t sell anything at all.  But a lot of the writers don’t know how to market either. I’ve been following some writers who are good examples of how not to do it:

  1. Buy My Book:  Honestly, receiving multiple tweets every single day advertising a book is just plain annoying.
  2. Hit and Runs:  This was something I noticed when I did some maintenance on my Twitter account.  I ran a check on who was following me and discovered that about 30 writers were no longer following me.  Several of them had unfollowed me almost immediately after I followed them.  Evidently, they were only subscribing to get followers so they could do #1 but really weren’t interested.

It’s obviously difficult to figure out how to draw people in and be interested in what you’re writing.   I have been doing some experimentation with Miasma, though I’ll admit I’m still figuring out what works for me.  Others have talked about their characters tweeting, but that’s not for me, so I’m trying something different.  I’m using the hashtag #MiasmaNovel — would have liked #Miasma, but that was being used for a video game.

Word Count and Deadlines

A number of years ago, the publishing industry went to longer books to justify a cost increase.  The result is the a book today pretty much has to be in the 90K range.  I always run significantly short, and it’s very hard for me to get the word count to 90K.  It’s one thing to add 5K to a story, but to add 30K, it’s take the book apart and do a major revision and even then, it still may run too short.  If I’m trying to meet a deadline, and I’m too short — well, you get the problem.  On the other hand, indie books don’t have word count requirements.  I might actually be able to produce a lot more books if I didn’t have to spend so much time revising upwards for word count.

On the timelines, publishers are now requiring writers produce a book a year.  As a reader, I’ve seen the problems with this.  I have a number of authors that I used to like to read, but as the pressure to produce annually built up, the stories started not being worth the money I was paying for them.  On the indie side, I’d need to set a deadline for producing a book so I get it done.  My personal deadline is in December for Miasma — no matter what direction I go.

Safety and Risk

Publishers, frankly, don’t like to take risks.  They want a book to stand out and be different, but not something too different.  They want a little risk but not too much — they want to safe.  I’m not a safe writer.  I’d be the one the marketing department would reject because they wouldn’t be able to figure out how to market it.  How do I know this?  From several rounds with the agents and occasional personal comments.  From a market who freaked out because I was taking too much risk — and I didn’t think I was taking all that much risk.  But when the dollar controls what gets selected, the field starts narrowing a lot.  It’s likely we’ll see more of this narrowing in the publishing industry in the future.  It’s already happened with TV, with shows being cancelled after two episodes because the ratings aren’t there.

A change is being forced on the industry.  The question is what will be the outcome?

6 thoughts on “Considering Indie Publishing

  1. My children tell me that in the music world “no one” (which is to say no one within ten years of their age) sells albums any more, that the musicians make their living through performances and merchandising.
    It may be time for writers to think laterally, on the music industry example.
    With EBooks as the least expensive distribution system available to us, do you see authors supplementing their composition habit with paid public appearances?


    1. I’m not sure novelists are, but the entrepreneurs publishing non-fiction probably are. It’s a natural fit as part of their business. But things may change over time.


  2. I write short on word count too. Then I have to go back and think of new scenes that I can add in that will also add to the story. My current book is going to be shorter than I wanted it to be, but since I’m publishing it on Amazon myself, perhaps that is not the crisis that it would be with a traditional publisher.


    1. Adding scenes is the worst part. It requires so much revision and takes so much time. One of the things I always worry about is that when I add too many scenes I might veer into overplotting the story.


  3. Just read this today.

    On the promotion side, from what I’ve heard from published writers (who are not bestselling authors) most of the marketing falls to the writers themselves anyway. They’ll get ARCs, but be asked to find who to send them to themselves. They’re told to create a web site, blog, Facebook, and Tweet all on their own dime. They’re asked for a marketing plan. So the marketing from a traditional publisher, especially for a new author, isn’t all that much more than the writer can do themselves.

    One thing you didn’t mention directly with word count is the fact that ebooks encourage shorter word counts. After all, people are reading them on phones as well as ereaders, in spare moments while waiting for a bus or a doctor’s appointment. Novellas are experiencing a resurgence in ebook form. A story is the length that it takes to tell it. Adding scenes or an entire subplot just to make the story fit a “standard” book length seems to be counterproductive to me.


    1. The sure explains why my last ARC was mailed by the writer! I think the publishers are going down the wrong road with requiring writers to do all the promotion. If writers have to absorb all the risk so the publishers can make a profit, more and more people will start looking at Indie. It’ll force a big change in the industry, though how it will change I can’t imagine.


Comments are closed.