11.7.11

The case against indie publishing right now

When is the right time to go indie? What with fanfare over outlier successes, some people have been diving in without stopping to check if there's any water in the swimming pool. Myself included.  Persuaded by the "anyone will read anything if it's 99 cents!" argument, I neglected to consider the question of when is the best method and time to become an indie writer. The goal is not to point you away from indie, but to point you away from stumbling blocks.

So, friends, let's play a game of Epublishing Bingo as we go through the case against self-publishing. Make it a self-publish day or not: the choice is yours.

Self Publishing may not be for you, if:

  • You don't want to pay a cent of upfront cost.
  • As much as KDP and PubIt make it possible to launch a book without paying a cent, it might behoove you to throw money at certain issues: 
    • The reader judges the book by the cover. If you do not have art skills, it might be in your best interest to throw some money at a (reputable) artist to get some cover art that doesn't scream indie newbie. 
    • Editing. You will need editors, proof readers, and beta readers. It may be that you have enough English Major friends that you can cover this for free, but a paid (reputable) editor should be more invested in the project, and perhaps more prompt
    • You don't want to interact with fans or social network.
      • You're screwed.  
    • You are a spammer, and post a book a day to Amazon.
      • Please stop. That's a horrible idea. 
    • You are an Amazon book pirate, stealing other authors work to post on Amazon. 
      • See above.



    You should postpone your first release effort if: 

    • No one has heard of your writing ambitions except for your mother. 
      • It may be wise to first develop an online presence and build interest, because if you just throw up your book on Amazon, it will be greeted with a fanfare of exactly one.  
      • You should take the time to send some ARCs to those kind reviewers who accept that sort of thing. Be aware that they have 2-3 month wait lists of other people presently jumping into the selfpub pool.
      •  Publishing works best if people are excited about a release date and then all buy the book at the same time. But this is an uphill battle.
    • You have never tried social networking, and think that Twitter is for twits.  
      • There is a learning curve, and there may be some floundering as you struggle to develop your personal brand, and how you want to present yourself to your fans. 
      • If you only have one book, you are in danger of beginning the social networking journey and discovering that while you thought you had no free time before, you aren't writing a word of fiction right anymore. 
      • Warning: social networking is a psychological trap. It's a variable interval reward system, which makes it addictive in the same sense as gambling.
      • Make sure that you know how to use social networks. If you begin by thinking that Twitter is an advertising platform instead of a networking platform, you will commit a faux pas or two that can cost you.
      • Note, and this is the most important thing to know, that if you use Twitter to post consecutive links to your book, you will fill your followers with hate.
    • You have never spent any time on Goodreads, but assume it is just there for you to plug your book.
      • Definitely do check out the community on Goodreads. There are some friendly people, and you can learn a lot about books, but you need to be interested in being a member and part of the conversation, not just in promoting your books. 
      • Note: you also need to be prepared for snarky reviews. 
      • And if you need to make yourself feel better about a bad review, look at reviews of your favorite books and read bashing reviews that are even more unreasonable and vicious. 
      • That said, pay attention to the substantial comments in reviews of what readers loved/hated. You should let feedback help your writing.  
        • Unfortunately, since the Hocking phenomenon, self published writers have swarmed to the site. They are ready to tell anyone and everyone about their books at inappropriate times. While I love hearing about new books and seeing what other people are writing, this has become a problem to the Goodreads community, and there is a lot of backlash when the indie writer becomes associated with spam.

          #Writetip: you do not want your name/book associated with spam.

      Reasons to continue the traditional path of searching for agent/house:
      • Most authors who do well quickly in self publishing do so because they already have a fanbase.
        • See JA Konrath, who began with traditional means. 
        • Amanda Hocking is an outlier. 
      • It may be worth at least trying to publish traditionally while you write your second and third books
        • If you think "No! I want to start making money now!" you should realize that the ten dollars you will make will not really cover your car insurance. Maybe it would be better to put most of your energy into writing? 
      • Even if you publish traditionally and your book doesn't do well, there should bump up your fanbase.
          • Chances are if your agent/publisher likes it, someone will buy it and love you.
        • I have heard it repeated over and over that traditional publishing houses are putting less and less money into promoting books and especially first novels. And yet. Their budget will be more than the zero dollars you are attaching to your self publishing budget. 
        • If you get some fans with a first novel, they might be even happier to buy your low-priced ebooks.
      • You do want a fanbase. 
        • And if your books are in bookstores and libraries, people can stumble upon physical copies. 
        • Ebooks sitting on the Kindle store without an easy way to be found are pretty much in an invisible and intangible store room, buried under other books. 
      • Disclaimer: I am not sure that publishing houses are fond of their authors doing self-pub on the side. Or a publishing house ding-dong-ditch.

      So, am I missing some important arguments? Have you self published and found yourself crashing into any unexpected obstacles? 

      Up next on Fictician: The Case FOR Self Publishing. 
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