Maybe you got your dream agent and everything is great and you’re willing to wait 1 1/2 – 2 years to see your book on shelves (really, that’s how long it takes with a traditional publisher!). You also realize that authors, on average, earn less than $10k a year! (Yes, that’s right. For the majority of authors, it will never be a full time job. Remember the the next time you borrow a book instead of buying it and supporting the author. 🙂 ) Everything is going just how you planned.
Or maybe it’s not.
Maybe you didn’t get that dream agent, and you are disheartened and feeling you can’t write, your story must be terrible, and you’ll never be published.
Then you take a deep breath and decide what to do from there. Your choice may be to write another manuscript and try the agent process again. This was my choice after each of my first two books weren’t picked up by an agent. However, after my third book wasn’t accepted — and this despite beta readers who loved it — I seriously considered publishing myself.
So…Independent Publishing. Self Publishing. Whatever you wan to call it. It’s definitely an option now a days for authors who are confident in their manuscript but for whom the traditional route doesn’t seem to be working. Even traditional authors have taken the indie publishing route at times because they get a higher percentage of each sale. If they already have a huge audience, they can often earn more money in the long run.
For those of us who don’t have an established name, indie publishing is a little overwhelming. You have to get a cover designed. You have to get your manuscript edited to perfection (whether you hire someone or not). You have to learn (or hire out) digital formatting for each site you want to publish on. You have to learn the ins and outs of each of the different sites. If you want a hard copy also, then your cover has to be the right formatting and you have to deal with yet another site to upload to. AND you have to do your own marketing.
That last one is, perhaps, the most daunting of all. No publisher to back you. No publisher’s catalog to be featured in. No publisher to buy you premium space in the bookstore (yes, those displays at the front and books featured on the ends of the aisle are all paid for). This idea of marketing is also where the “free” in self publishing kind of flies out the window. Sure, it’s free to upload to all the sites, but the rest isn’t free. You should ALWAYS (unless you’re a designer) pay for a cover design by someone who knows covers. And you have to spend a certain amount of money on marketing. You know all those blog tours you see on blogs all over the internet? Many times, the author has paid for those. Not paid each blogger, but paid someone to organize it all and make it easier for you. Authors will also pay for review tours, cover reveals, etc.
And then, after all that work, over 50% of self publishers earn less than $500. $500!!!! Yes, you hear about the exceptions where someone has sold millions of copies, but it is RARE. Many self publishers struggle with getting people to discover and then buy their book. Even if they can do that, you need reviews to assure new readers that your book is worth reading. And do you know how hard it is to get reviews?!? It’s kind of like pulling teeth.
With indie publishers, I kind of get the misunderstanding. With the success of books like Twilight or Harry Potter, and the sales numbers and book deals amounts floating around out there, everyone thinks they are going to publish a book “for free” online and then earn millions. Because of that, there are a lot of terrible self published books out there. There are also incredible self published books out there where the authors took everything seriously. They read in the genre they write. They got beta readers. They rewrote and rewrote and rewrote until it was perfect. They might have even gone to writers’ conferences and taken classes.
So when you’re looking at indie publishers, look at reviews, read a sample, find the good ones and support those authors. They have put hours and hours of work into what you will, hopefully, enjoy. And then BUY their book. Indie authors rarely price anything digital over $5.99, and most are $3.99 or less. That’s like two gallons of milk! Considering most earn less than $500 a year, the hourly rate would be very, very low (I don’t have the actual hours because I’ve lost count, but my book has 85k words, and I’ve spent at least 85 hours. That many hours divided by $500 just as an example is a mere $5.88 an hour. And that’s a conservative estimate on hours).
All that being said, indie authors would rather have you borrow their book than not read it at all. After all, you might tell someone else about it and they WILL buy it. Whatever you choose, support indie authors, tell people about the books of theirs you like, tweet about them, share them, post reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. Do anything to help them spread the word and maybe, just possibly, they’ll be one of the successes of indie publishing and get out of the $500 a year majority.