Goodbye Traditional, Hello Indie (Part I)

en.wikimedia.org

en.wikimedia.org

A few blog friends and authors have asked about my decision in 2015 to switch from traditional to indie publishing. I thought it might be interesting to share a trio of posts about the factors that informed my decision. These posts are five years old, but my opinion remains the same. If this post, Part I, captures your attention, you can follow the link below to the 2nd and 3rd in the series.

Part I: Pros of traditional publishing

Part II: Cons of traditional publishing (and how they compare to indie publishing).

Part III: Results

***

In 2016, I begun the process of reclaiming my 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 originally 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 unique 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 for 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.

enwikipediaorg2

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 required a 90-day notice and there was no cost associated with ending the agreement.

My contracts were 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 do 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 Amazon and the quality of their paperback 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.

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

  1. Jennie says:

    Excellent, Diana! This information in huge to so many writers.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. J.D. says:

    This is so helpful to me right now, as I recently decided to publish myself. My first novel was published by a micropress. The experience was both good and disappointing. Your posts are an excellent resource, Diana. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That reflects my experience too… good and disappointing. I’m glad this was helpful, Julie. Part II of these posts covers the challenges with trad publishing that indie publishing solved for me. I’ve never regretted the switch and hope it goes wonderfully for you too. Thanks for the visit. Be well, my friend.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I appreciated reading your publishing experiences, Diana. I belong to a writing group. We invited a couple local best selling authors to speak to us. One authors was not as fortunate as you. She said she spent her first 10 years trying to land on an agent without success. Finally she got one. The publisher who would take her didn’t accept her manuscript, instead, they gave her a subject on autism, the interest of the publisher. She did the research from scratch and wrote the book which got her foot in. Her contract was 5 years. She finally ended the contract and republished the books as indie publisher.
    I also went to a writers conference which had 95% of speakers and workshops on traditional publishing which was not too encouraging to me.
    Then I discovered a self-publishing group offered video training with supporting materials for $395. I purchased the package and learned the step-by-step from writing to publishing when Amazon used Create Space. I started blogging then. On blogger I followed published a series of three books and posted many writing resources and links. I studied the sources.
    I kind of learned about the process before getting myself into it. I write and publish as a leisure and only do it under a budget.

    I’ll head over to read your following parts of the posts. Thank you for your sharing and thoughts.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much for reading and sharing your experiences, Miriam. Even though I found traditional publishing very frustrating, I feel lucky that the publisher was honest and helpful. That author who was stuck for ten years in a bad situation is so disheartening. I’ve never regretted going indie. And good for you for doing so much learning and research prior to jumping in. I should have done that too. Saved myself some work and grief! Lol. But all’s well that ends well. 😀 Happy Writing, my friend. ❤ ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. cheriewhite says:

    I went Indie and it was the best thing I ever did. As you said, more control over your material and more profit. Many traditional publishing companies disparaged indie publishers and labeled them vanity publishing. Don’t get me wrong, there are vanity publishers out there, one being Dorrance. But indie publishers are different and I think the reason why traditional publishers frown on them is because they deem them a threat.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. dgkaye says:

    I remember when you first shared this with us and I appreciated it again. You managed to dodge all the gruel us other Indies had to learn as well as write the damn book, lol. But yes, looking back at my own journey, I had a plan – learn the biz, read lots of writing resource books, read numerous newsletters to learn from my predecessors, and like you, the most invaluable learning was from my editor. It helped me with all other books that would follow, and still, I learn more with every book I put out. So kudos to you my friend! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Clanmother says:

    I am fascinated by both your post and the follow-up discussion.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Chel Owens says:

    Well, you make it sound like the perfect marriage. I’m off to read how The Seven Year Itch worked out.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah. There were lots of good things about it, Chelsea, but lots of things that were terribly frustrating! Once I learned the ropes, it was a no-brainer to sever ties and do it myself. Part II is the meat of the journey. I hope it’s interesting and useful. 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Ann Coleman says:

    Thanks for explaining! I’ve never tried Independent publishers, so I really knew nothing about them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for stopping by to read, Ann. I have no regrets about the route I took – such a good learning experience. But I do prefer being the queen of my castle! At least when something goes wrong, I can fix it. 🙂 Have a safe and peaceful week, my friend. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Jan Sikes says:

    What an excellent series, Diana. I am looking forward to reading each segment. I started out indie with my first four books, then after I’d spent all I could from my savings began the search for a publisher for my fiction series. My first books are true stories, and I was compelled to publish them, no matter the cost. Working with a publisher is an entirely new experience for me and my biggest motivating factor in seeking this route was strictly money. I’m still in the red with my first books. I will say it’s nice to have a partner for a change. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for sharing your experience as a hybrid publisher, Jan. I hope your relationship works out well and is happily profitable. So much depends on the publisher’s collaboration when it comes to marketing and promotion. As I mentioned, we all need to find what works individually. Be sure to share your experience! Happy Writing!

      Liked by 2 people

  10. It’s something I have to think about. Do I want publishers to publish the two novels I have finished or do I try to publish them myself?

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s an important choice, Joanne, though it’s possible to change course if something isn’t working. That’s the good news.

      The best thing is to move forward armed with information. I’d encourage you to read Part II which has the meat of the comparison. Then make the choice that’s best for you! Happy Writing. 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here, Diana. I shied away from traditional publishers when I started writing for some of the very reasons you list above. I can’t imagine working so hard on MY book, only to have someone else make the decisions that matter most.
    That’s just me, though.
    As you say at the end, if a big publisher wants to offer me a six figure deal, I bet I can put a lid on my attitude, lol

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha ha. Me too! Give me access to a marketing department and my opinion will change instantly! But that was part of the point of the post – most of us will be on our own even with a publisher. Thanks for stopping by, Jacqui. Happy Writing!

      Liked by 2 people

  12. What a great interview Diana and such great information you have imparted. You have waded through the maze and it’s good to know how you havegotten here, sooo awesome! Thanks for sharing your story here! ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I am avidly reading, Diana. Glad you added the comment that your opinions haven’t changed!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. mistermuse says:

    After years of having hundreds of poems published in litmags and a few large-market magazines, I decided to do a book and found an excellent small press publisher (I was under no illusion that there was a mass market for the kind of witty verse which is my forté). The publisher was everything I could have hoped for, and although the book only sold a few hundred copies, several of its poems were anthologized or found their way into prestige publications, including THE RANDOM HOUSE TREASURY OF LIGHT VERSE.

    As you indicate, what worked best for me wouldn’t necessarily be the way other writers want to go. My advice is to have realistic expectations for the kind of writing you do, and then go for it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Mr. M. It sounds like you found just the right publishing avenue for your work. And congrats for landing a few poems in the The Random House Treasury! Very prestigious. Yes, realistic expectations are essential, and good information helps make that happen. 🙂 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Hi Diana, I started writing with a view to self-publishing, then, through blogging and attending the annual London Book Fair, I realised how tough it was to get sales and recoup the costs – I reckoned an optimistic outlay of at least 500 to a 1000 (pound Sterling, US dollar, Euro, all much the same value nowadays!) to get something professional looking out there and I simply couldn’t take the risk – a truth born out on getting a contract with an indie publisher (who did a great job, let me be me, and I’d submit to again) – 8 months from publication about 30 e-books and a handful of paperbacks sold and we’d done a fair bit to get noticed. To be honest I feel, in part, uncomfortable that I’ve not (as yet) given the publisher a return on their faith in me, and relief that I hadn’t racked up costs that my conscience would have labelled self-indulgence. I don’t know any blogging-writers who let on what their sales are – and only one small indie UK publisher who through tweets shows how damn tough it is out there trying, quite literally, to balance her books! So, as I finish off my second book of poetry it has to be ‘send out on submission’ for me – unless I win the lottery! All the best. Eric.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Hobbo says:

    Thank you for this very informative post. I’m merely writing poems on WP at the moment and have never had anything published since I was a kid. Having got to 400+ poems already, I recognise that at some stage I am going to have to make decisions about what to do with them all. I’m not at that point yet, but will re-visit this post once I feel that I am at those particular crossroads. So, thanks again for a highly interesting post.🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad this was helpful. I feel like I was lucky to land an ethical publisher even though I found the experience frustrating in the long run. I hope this post-series will give writers some things to think about as well as questions to ask. The good news is that it’s possible to switch! Thanks for reading and be well. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  17. Mae Clair says:

    Great post, Diana. I’m currently editing a novel I want to shop for traditional publication. I’ve done small press and a bigger house, and the marketing team from the bigger house was a huge plus. Unfortunately, that isn’t an option for the future. I also have a second book I will probably indie publish, so this series of articles is very timely for me.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks for reading, Mae. I think there’s a giant difference between the big houses and small presses when it comes to marketing assistance. That support would be a huge plus. But without that, I found indie publishing within my capabilities and I like being mistress of my domain. I noticed in your goals that you’re mixing things up this year. I’m glad this series felt timely. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 2 people

  18. Very valuable and valid information for a writer who is starting his or her way of publishing their books and Diana when I too published my first Poetry Book, Poet’s Touch I too have faced the same problems like you. We have to join a group of writers who can really help us and someone who is adept at publishing and editing books. Thank you so much for your wonderful share.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. Great post, Diana. I admire those who self-publish. Working a full-time day job doesn’t allow the extra time involved in handling everything on my own. For now, I’m thankful for my publisher, and for a hobby that pays me pretty well. But like Teri said above, no one is getting rich. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Jill. Yeah, for most of us, writing will never pay the rent. But that’s not why we write anyway. I’m so glad that you have a publishing relationship that works for you. That’s wonderful! I wish I’d been better informed when I started out. Perhaps it would have been less frustrating. I hope these posts will help a few new authors ask the right questions as they start their publishing journey. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  20. Meg says:

    All of your posts are so thorough and helpful – I will keep all of this in mind as I navigate my writing journey. Thank you Diana!

    Liked by 3 people

    • The good news is that you can go one way, the other, or both! And it’s possible to switch gears if your chose path isn’t working for you. The most important thing is to know what questions to ask. 🙂 Thanks for the visit, Meg, and I’m glad you found this helpful. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  21. Teri Polen says:

    Like you, when I started writing I was clueless about the ISBN, formatting, etc. and my publisher handles everything and I’m glad. Splitting the profits isn’t as fun – not that anyone is getting rich from them, lol.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Ha. I was such a dumb bunny when I started out. Teri. And I would have stayed with trad publishing if it was only about profits (which aren’t anything to retire on either way), but I hated the inability to promote and increase readership. I’m glad that you’re having a good experience with your publisher. That’s the best of both worlds. 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  22. […] 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/ […]

    Liked by 1 person

  23. […] 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 2 people

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

    Liked by 2 people

  25. 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 3 people

  26. 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 3 people

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

    Liked by 1 person

  28. 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 3 people

    • Thanks for the visit, Teagan. Part II is a bit more about the minuses. I’m happy with my decision, but I think each writer needs to find what works for them. There are many options – thankfully. Have a great week 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  29. 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 3 people

    • 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 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  30. 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 2 people

  31. 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 2 people

  32. 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 3 people

    • 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!

      Liked by 1 person

  33. 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 3 people

  34. 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 4 people

  35. […] 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 2 people

Comments are warmly welcomed. Don't be shy .

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s