Goodbye Traditional, Hello Indie (Part I)

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en.wikimedia.org

I’ve begun the process of reclaiming my 6 traditionally published books and republishing them myself. I thought it might be useful to document my reasons, particularly for those writers dawdling at this fork in the publishing road, trying to decide which way to go.

I published through a small press, and I don’t want to give the impression that this was a bad deal or that the publisher did anything wrong. It was, in fact, a valuable learning experience, especially for a new author and one as clueless as I. A small press may be the perfect publishing solution for many authors, especially if the words “traditionally published” carry personal weight.

Before I dig in, it’s important to state that – with a few exceptions – this was my experience. It reflects my personality, expectations, and quirks. What worked for me might not work for you and visa-versa. In addition, each publishing house is a unique entity represented by a staff of individuals. It’s reasonable to assume that my comments don’t apply to every small press!

So what was great about my small press experience?

Hands-on relationships

I wrote a book without a blog and all the valuable online information available to authors. I did zero research on publishing, knew no published authors. Basically, I knew zip. Typical for me.

I can’t speak for mega-presses, but with my publisher, I received generous personal attention. I had tons of questions, sent daily emails, and received prompt replies. The process was laid out for me, contracts thorough and easily understood, my expectations set. It was comforting to know that my endless dumb questions and new-author anxiety were treated with respect and patience.

No Upfront Cost

When working with a traditional publisher, the professional services needed to bring a book to market come at no charge. This includes all facets of editing, proofing, cover design, formatting, obtaining ISBNs, and anything else you can think of. The publisher recoups the costs when the book goes on sale and they contractually take a portion of the revenue.  For a writer with few financial resources, upfront costs may be a factor. Besides not having any idea what I was doing, I also had a pitiful bank account. This way, all I had to do was write.

Professional Editing

When I “finished” my first book, I was part of a writer’s critique group. I applied all the suggestions of my cohorts, and my writing improved to the point that a publisher was interested. Yay for writers’ groups! Little did I know how much I still didn’t know.

The editing process commenced. The editor and I went back and forth for an entire year and made hundreds and hundreds of changes – literally. Working with a professional, I received invaluable lessons on the craft of writing. The process improved my book and armed me with a battery of tips to employ on future projects.

This process was highly collaborative, and I was grateful to be able to argue my case when I felt strongly about a point. I understand from a few colleagues that some publishers are less collaborative and some will exercise a contractual right to make the final call on changes.

Covers

As a clueless person, I had no resources for cover design. The publisher worked on the concept and sent me multiple drafts for comment. My contract allowed 3 changes at no charge though we made many small tweaks. I have heard that some publishing houses don’t request input on design and don’t allow changes. I know of one author who wrote a book about “coyotes” and the publisher put “wolves” on the cover. The author was stuck with the wolves.

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Contract Length

My contracts were for one year from the published date. This is a relatively short period when compared to contracts that span 3-5 years. The shorter contract is a boon in the event the relationship isn’t working, or the author or publisher wishes to terminate. My termination requires a 90-day notice and there is no cost associated with ending the agreement.

My contracts are on a per-book basis with no commitment tying up future books. This is particularly important when writing a series or serial where a contract may commit future books to that publisher for the agreement’s term. An author may end up making due with the publisher or leaving books unpublished until the contract can be terminated. Contracts are important and they aren’t all the same.

Paper Book Quality

Publishing houses will likely use printing services of a high quality. Personally, I’m satisfied with Createspace and the quality of their books. However, printing houses will often have more size, style and color options as well as better quality paper and bindings. Many professional print houses are not “print on demand” so there will be a sizable minimum order or set-up fee that may exceed what the author wants to invest. This was a significant challenge in my case.

So, Why Go Indie?

For someone who knew squat, my experience with a small press was highly instructive. The editing process improved my writing. The service was professional and respectful, the contracts fair.

Yet, publishing through a small press has significant pitfalls. As my knowledge and experience grew, it became evident to me that the challenges outpaced the advantages. Would I accept a contract with a big publishing house with a huge marketing department and a tasty advance? Um…yeah! But in the meantime, I’m going indie.

In Part II, I’ll explain why. Check it out HERE.

169 thoughts on “Goodbye Traditional, Hello Indie (Part I)

  1. […] There were a host of factors that compelled me to cancel all my contracts and go indie. The most significant of them was marketing control. As a traditionally published author, I had no control over pricing and I couldn’t discount, which made promotion almost impossible.  My sales were abysmal. After the switch, which included new covers, my sales and profits increased overnight. It was the right choice, and I haven’t regretted it for a moment. It anyone is interested, I wrote a series of posts about the decision starting with: https://mythsofthemirror.com/2016/01/15/goodbye-traditional-hello-indie-part-i/ […]

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  2. […] she posts interesting articles about writing fantasy (need to design a magic system, anyone?). Her series of posts about deciding to terminate her contract with her previous publisher and self-publish her novels […]

    Liked by 1 person

  3. […] indie author. My reasons for the switch were detailed in two posts Goodbye Traditional, Hello Indie (Part I) and (Part […]

    Liked by 1 person

  4. confabler says:

    wow! Your blog is a real gem. I’ll have to explore more. Thanks for sharing this.
    I though we had to get professional editing ourselves even before traditional publishing.
    Where can I find critique groups? (On the net or in person)
    Thanks😁 I’m sorry if I’m being a bit annoying. I feel like a child with a new toy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. jademwong says:

    I really appreciate you sharing your experience. I’ve been researching pros and cons of both traditional and indie publishing for the future when I’m ready to make that plunge, and I find few things as valuable as personal accounts from writers who have been through the process. So thank you!! I’m curious to read Part 2 and find out why you went the indie route.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. […] indie author. My reasons for the switch were detailed in two posts Goodbye Traditional, Hello Indie (Part I) and (Part […]

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  7. This is great information, D. I’m glad to know about your experience, the plus and minus of it. Thanks for posting it. Hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. reocochran says:

    Diana, this is a whole lot of valuable information for people just now facing publishing their books. It is a wonderful and generous gift to share your experience and knowledge of both types of publishing. Thank you, since someday I may work on my murder mystery or my children’s books, too. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Awesome, Robin. Keep writing if it’s something you enjoy. It sounds like you are from a family with some writing talent. This part provided some ideas on contracts which I think are worth considering, since all publishers will be different 🙂

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  9. Diana, this is very, very interesting! I kind of want to book mark this in case I ever write enough of something and want to try to publish it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Reblogged this on Ace Sales & Authors News and commented:
    Really useful to other readers over your experiences of publishers personally as Kev my mate who did all the interviews with indie authors found its the best route – Wish you best of luck l will also promote your work through my network it’s free of course regards Ian

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi. We’ve sort of met before. Good question in your posts: what should a writer do?

    I was sure from the very beginning, all those years ago, that I wouldn’t be able to get my book past agents and publishers – because of the subject matter (one of my main characters, a reclusive writer (!), is disabled, and knows how ‘the world’ views disabilities). So I dug into the writing, figuring I’d cross that bridge when I needed to get to the other side.

    And I lucked out. Self-publishing ‘happened’ during the time I was writing. I started ready the SP blogs four years ago, and pretty soon decided it was for me: no limits except those I set myself, and I would decide what and when. I think it has worked out exactly the way I thought it would, as far as the writing and publishing: Pride’s Children is a good book (IMHO).

    The marketing, well, I haven’t learned enough of that yet – but people like you have been saying for years that you’re on your own there, mostly, anyway – unless you’re one of the big guns. I will learn. I AM learning. And the one thing that seems to be very clear is that you have to keep on writing, and produce more at the same time you’re selling what you have.

    I like the control, and I like the possibilities, and I like being in charge.

    Alicia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing your journey, Alicia. This self-publishing route is a blessing for all those talented authors and their books that would have been overlooked by the legacy presses. I have my fair share of rejections, believe me.

      It sounds like you did lots of things right in terms of learning all you could about self-publishing before jumping in. And marketing? That is a bear… and changing all the time. My hope is that self-publishing will continue to establish and expand its framework in support of indie authors. I expect we will see many changes in the near future 🙂
      Have a great weekend. Happy Writing!

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  12. Reblogged this on Writer's Treasure Chest and commented:
    I think sharing experiences like this is important to many writers, not only to new, hopeful ones like me. Thank you very much, D. Wallace Peach for telling us your story.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. franklparker says:

    Just popped by to thank you for liking all 3 episodes of my little serial based around The Writing Reader’s prompt.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. […] Part I of this blog summary focused on my personal experience contracting with a small press. On the whole, it was a valuable learning experience, especially for a new author who knew nothing about anything. My publisher treated me fairly and respectfully, I improved my craft and happily published 6 books. For many authors, this approach may be the perfect publishing route. […]

    Liked by 1 person

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