Indie publishing used to hold a certain stigma, but that’s no longer so. It’s become more widely recognized as a legitimate publishing option, and rightly so, as there’s a lot of work that goes into it. An indie author doesn’t just throw words on the page and hit “publish.” Well, they shouldn’t anyway. Not if they want to truly respect the writing and reading community and want to attract a readership. Readers are smart and savvy. They will catch, in a heartbeat, a work of art that’s not art at all.
Writers who travel along either publishing road start out the same way—words on the page. After the initial draft, each must edit to make it the best they possibly can. It’s that simple and that hard. From there the road forks and each individual writer must decide which scenic drive they want to take.
Below are some of the pros and cons of each. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, so a little homework might be needed in order to make a fully informed decision.
Traditional Publishing Pros:
- You won’t have to pay for editing or cover art. That being said, it’s still a splendid idea to pay someone to edit your piece before submitting it to an agent. At least if you want a positive response.
- Validation—some writer’s may need (or simply want) someone to recognize their work and desire to represent them. Writers, in general, are an insecure group. We’re always looking at others’ successes and wonder if we will ever get there. “There” is something you will want to spend some time thinking about. Where is your “there” that you would like to eventually like to be? Search those authors who are at your “there” and find out how they got “there.”
- Some help marketing. I say some because these days even traditionally published authors are held responsible for their own marketing.
Traditional Publishing Cons:
- Much lower royalties—some authors get an advance and their royalties work against that advance. Once they’ve earned royalties that add up to the amount they received in said advance, they begin to earn additional royalties. If they reach that point. Many do not. It’s not uncommon for small presses not to pay their authors an advance.
- No Control—authors have little to no control over their cover art or even the manuscript itself.
- No rights—traditionally published authors sign away the rights to their work. It no longer belongs to the author, but to the publishing house.
- Lengthy process—Once it’s been acquired by a publisher, it could take several months, sometimes even years, to finally see your book on the shelves.
Indie Publishing Pros
- High royalties—by publishing your eBook on Amazon, you will net 70% royalties if your book is priced from $2.99 and up.
- You maintain all rights. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want, with your books. You can price them to your liking, give them away in contests if you wish, and anything else that strikes your fancy.
- Total control—your content and cover art are completely yours. You call the shots. It’s a great deal for those of us Type A’s who need control.
Once you hit publish, (after you’ve gone through the necessary editing, that is) it only takes hours to a few days for your book to be out there for the world to read.
Indie Publishing Cons
- Many contests will not accept indie submissions.
- Solo marketing—Marketing is yours. It’s a learning curve, as is the indie process in general. And once you think you’ve mastered it, there is something new that comes out. The bonus, however, is there are numerous sites out there to help you. My absolute favorite is thecreativepenn.com.
- You foot the cost for editing and cover art – Neither of these are things you want to skimp on. That being said, as I mentioned earlier, even if you aim for traditional publishing, you would do yourself a huge favor by paying for someone to edit your work before you submit to an agent.
If you’re on the fence about which road is right for you, take the time and make a list of the pros and cons. Not a mental list, but an actual written list. It helps to physically see it in front of you. Find as many pros and cons of each as you can. Then make a list of the top five of which are most appealing to you, those that define what success means to you. Still can’t decide? You don’t have to choose just one. There are many authors who have chosen the hybrid model, which is both traditional and indie.
I, personally, love the indie route. I love the team I work with, having control of my product, and maintaining my rights. Would I like the validation of being accepted by an agent and a publishing house? Of course. But that’s not at the top of my list. And at times when I do yearn for that validation, I remember a line from the movie Cool Runnings:
“Derice, a gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without one, you’ll never be enough with one.” -Irv (Cool Runnings)