Anyone who has known me for a length of time has heard me debate traditional publishing (getting my books printed with a New York publishing house with distribution to book stores across the nation) versus indie publishing (I become the publishing team for my books and distribute them through digital bookstores). It’s been a long, grueling journey of ambiguity.
Seriously, I’ve been agonizing over it since I started writing ten years ago.
The huge publishing deals we all think of when we hear “author” is as illusive as winning the lottery. I can go deep into this metaphor here, but I’ll save you the groan.
My dream has been to sign with an agent, get a huge deal on my book series, and have a team of people ensuring that the worlds I create, populated with characters very real to me, will be given the best possible package to sell to my raving fans. I could be the next J. K. Rowling (I have heard this more than once). Next to the dream, Indie publishing has always felt like choosing to fail.
But . . .
What happens when agents and publishers keep saying “no”? What happens when the genre I write in tanks in the traditional market? What happens when industry professionals tell me, “I love you and your writing, let me know if you decide to write for adults, or YA historical, or (fill in the blank)“?
I’ll tell you what happens. I start listening to indie author podcasts. I start asking my author friends who have published in both markets a gillion questions. And I find out some interesting facts.
Through this research I’ve heard an important question asked over and over again. Do you want accolades or do you want a viable career?
Great question. Over and over again, hybrid authors (those who publish in both the traditional and indie markets) have said they make three to five to ten times (plus) more on their indie published books than their traditionally published books. I can’t give you specific numbers, (mainly because these aren’t my financials and because I’d probably misquote. Anything that has to do with numbers refuses to stick in my brain), but one author told me her series made a few thousand dollars with a publishing house over years of time. But when she won her rights back to the series and put it up on Kindle she made a multiple five digit income in one year. Same exact series.
And I’ve heard this same scenario over and over and over again.
That kind of information doesn’t just go in one ear and out the other. That’s the kind of information that hits like a revelation from God.
Slowly, we’re talking over months, I started reworking my goals. Do I really care about the pat on the back? Does it matter if an agent or an editor deems my book publishable?
Or do I want to reach financial goals for my family? Do I want to live the life I’ve dreamed of? Do I want to have the financial freedom to travel?
This was actually a hard decision. The dream of winning the lottery was deeply entrenched in my heart and soul.
You might not know this, but I have a master’s degree in business. I love the game of it, creating the systems, the entrepreneurial dreaming.
As I listened to indie author podcasts and picked my friends’ brains, indie publishing started looking more and more like a game I could win. It looks like systems I can put in place and with a few tweaks here and there reuse them with each new book and each new series.
I’m not going to lie, a ton of elbow grease is required. I have to create (and be able to afford) that team of people the traditional publisher already has. And I’m at ground zero for the learning curve. But the indie author group is generous with information. I can model my business plan from so many successful “authorpreneurs” it’s almost ridiculous. (No, I didn’t coin that phrase, but it’s one I love and will use.)
I’m excited to see what I can accomplish, to see if I can win this game.
Sometimes brave acts lead me in opposite directions than I ever thought I’d go. The scary part is taking the leap, making up my mind, and then stepping out and doing it. I can think about this and plan all I want, but the bravery is rooted in the action.
If you want to follow more of my indie publishing journey, follow my Acts of Bravery page, where I post (almost) daily one brave act.