Indie v Traditional – The Writer Must Decide

Indie V Traditional – The Writer Must Decide

There’s no doubt that the advent of E-book and print on demand publishing of books has turned the publishing world on its head. Writers who stood little chance of getting their books published by mainstream publishers are now seeing their works in print – not only that, but many are finding a readership and making money.

These notes detail my own experiences of this new publishing world – and I stress my own. Over the next few weeks I’ll be looking at the world of Independent Publishing. I hope this might be of help to writers thinking of producing their own books, so I’ll be taking the whole process a stage at a time. If you are an experienced publisher I do hope you’ll chip in with your own thoughts and suggestions.

I’ve been a professional writer for over forty years. I’ve been traditionally published. I’ve seen piles of my books stacked up in bookshops.

But now I think that Indie Publishing is the way to go – and I’ll tell you just why.

Traditional publishers are, mostly, screaming in protest at the world of Indie Publishing. They are bleating that books on Kindle, Kobo, print-on-demand CreateSpace and whatever are not proper books. Rubbish! A book on any of these platforms is just as valid as anything they produce. Publishers are not some specially selected breed. They are just business people who have gone into publishing to make money – the same as Indie writers.

The days when publishers – and I’ve met quite a few – have much interest in literature are over. The great publishers of the past, such as Billy Collins, Jonathan Cape and Victor Gollantz, who would take young writers out to lunch and virtually subsidise loss-making books for several years in the hope that those writers would build up a selling reputation are over. Now, if you’re are not a quick hit you are OUT!

The first time writer, traditionally published, really does have to sell lots of copies of their book or they are dismissed, their books rapidly withdrawn from bookshops and pulped. Publishers are even abandoning writers on their lists who have been moderately successful in favour of the latest celebrity memoir or cook-book. That’s why you’ll see quite well-known writers self-publishing on Amazon etc., their traditional publishing days behind them.

And let’s assume you are picked up by a traditional publisher and you get a contract. Do they, as they once did, give you help with marketing or make much of an effort to promote your book after the first day? You’ll be darned lucky to even find them sending out review copies, let alone paying for any advertising. They will tell you – and the blogs of very well-known writers confirm this – that you are on your own. Go and give talks in your local library, they say, or try and cut a deal with some nearby bookshop.

And the cost of all this you are supposed to pay for out of the meagre 10%, or more often these days 5% royalty, you will probably get – and forget about ever getting much of an advance. Given that the publisher and bookseller are keeping the other 90% plus you do wonder what they’re doing with the money, apart from lining the wallets of shareholders.

If you become an Indie Author you’ll certainly have to do the marketing yourself, but at least you’ll be getting a royalty of up to 70% per copy to encourage you on your way.

‘But I need to be published to prove to myself I’m any good’, says the aspiring author, who looks at getting into the hands of a publisher as an affirmation of quality. Getting past the gatekeeper becoming rather like jumping levels on a computer game.

Believe me, you don’t need a gatekeeper, pronouncing on the value of your work. And just who is this gatekeeper who gets the first glimpse of the novels on a publisher or literary agent’s slush pile? In all likelihood the first reader of a submitted novel is some youth who graduated last year and is working his way up from office boy. We all know the tales of the massively famous authors who were rejected dozens of times. .Not surprising when someone almost unqualified is making the initial decision

Now, to be blunt, a lot of self-published books are not very good. They would never have been traditionally published even in the good old days. But the same can be said for an awful lot of traditionally-published volumes. At the end of the day the readers will decide whether a book sinks or swims. And that’s how it should be. Books are written for readers and readers alone should control who is or isn’t successful in the market place. Not the publisher’s office boy.

And, even as mainstream publishers condemn Indie Publishers, they can’t wait to try and get a share of the market. Every major publisher puts their authors’ books on Amazon Kindle. They just diddle their writers by keeping most of the 70% royalty for themselves. These contracted authors are crazy to put up with it.

And, even worse, some mainstream publishers have launched off-shoots to try and lure in people who might go Indie. Offering bogus deals such as “three-book contracts”, when all they are doing is actually putting out your work as an E-book/print on demand copy – just the same as you could do for yourself.

I’ve seen on blogs some writers almost weeping for joy because a publishing house has offered them just such a three-book deal. If the publishers had a real belief in these authors that would offer a genuine three book contract. They won’t, of course. They’ll accept virtually anyone in the hope of getting their hands on a chunk of that 70% Kindle royalty – which those same writers could get for themselves in its entirety if only they would go Indie. These publishing offshoots, or certainly the ones I’ve looked at are little more than a scam. Please don’t put your cash in their pockets.

And some publishers are getting even tougher with their authors. One major publisher of factual self-help books is telling would-be authors that they will only be taken on if they are prepared to buy, and pay for out of their own pockets, hundreds of advance copies of their own book. Quite disgraceful!

After many years in the trade, I first came to Indie Publishing because I wanted to publish easily a couple of non-fiction books on walking in the countryside. I didn’t really put them out in the hope of making much cash. I just thought they’d be fun to have around. As it happens these titles have sold steadily, not making a great deal of money but more than I expected.

Encouraged by this, I decided to put on my novels and soon found that fiction is the real seller. I’m pleased with the sales I get, though always hoping they might increase (you can see a list of my books above).

True, I could have sent them out to a mainstream publisher, waited months for them to make up their mind and then a year of two for the books to actually appear and start earning money. But, frankly, I couldn’t be bothered waiting in the queue. I’d rather spend my time writing and Indie Publishing more books – and keeping a darned sight more of the money.

So, if you have a book already on the stocks or not, I intend to look at my own experiences as an Indie Publisher over the next few weeks, taking the whole process step by step. So if you are a beginner or experienced as an Indie Publisher yourself please do click follow and come along for the ride. I would love to hear your comments, experiences etc. which you can post below.

Indie Writers are in the vanguard of a whole new way of publishing and one of the wonderful things about Indie Publishing is the help and support we all share with each other. I’ve valued reading the blogs and opinions of others on how to progress. I hope my contribution might be as helpful, John


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