Friday, September 17, 2010

My Thoughts on Indie Publishing

As of... a few hours ago, I've sold over 20,000 books. This is all ebooks, of course, spread out over 5 different books sold in the last 5 months. I have sold a total of 101 paperbacks, though, which I've heard from the internet is pretty good for indie. I'm hoping this number goes up now that I was able to make the paperbacks more affordable (down from over $15 to under $10).

My books are also available for free on online sites like Scribd and wattpad, and a number of other sites. I didn't put them up on any of them, and the versions are old and not as well edited (yeah, they're even LESS edited than what's out now). Since I'm didn't upload them, I have no idea how many free downloads they've had.

The most I've sold for one title specifically is My Blood Approves, of which I've sold over 6,000 copies.

In my last blog about writing an epic tale of how it happened, I basically just explained my personal journey to get here. I didn't express my thoughts on what happened or why I thought it'd happened. And now I am. So be prepared for another long post, but I'm going to say all the things I want to say on it, so later when people ask my thoughts, I can just direct them back to this post.

I don't have anything bad to say about indie publishing. I also don't have anything bad to say about traditional publishing.

This might be crazy talk, but I don't think they're mutally exclusive. Traditional publishing has never hurt me, and in fact, without their urge to publish Stephanie Meyer, I'd have a whole different blog.

I've never thought of traditional publishers or agents as evil gatekeepers waiting for me to fail. I've thought of them as people, who have careers and families, and part of their jobs entails figuring out the bottom line.

I definitely think there are flaws in the system, and the market sucks right now. People don't have money and aren't spending as much as they used to. Being a salesmen is hard right now.

I do know that I've accomplished more in the past 5 months than I did in the past 9 years trying to get published. However, if I'd had the opportunity to publish my first manuscript at the age of 17 when I'd first finished it, I know I would've. And I know that this would a vastly different story.

I am sooooo grateful for the fact that Kindle didn't exist 9 years ago, or even 5 years ago. I would've put crap out there, and I know it.

On that note, here's what I think would've happened if I had the chance to publish my first book Dreams I Can't Remember on Kindle when I was 17-
-I would've sold very, very few copies
-I would've gotten almost entirely negative reviews
-I would've cried a lot and vowed to quit writing (which I probably wouldn't have done, but I would probably quit trying to write professionally)

So that is a definite downside to indie publishing. Writers - myself included - risk putting out stuff that just isn't ready yet, and the damage that can do to our precious egos is terrifying. Also, things about it polluting the indie market may or may not be true.

I do believe that people who publish to Kindle out of laziness will put out bad books, but they also won't do the work to promote their books, so they won't sell anyway, and it becomes a moot point.

I think if you care enough to market your book, you probably care enough to write a decent book. But I could be wrong about that.

This whole thing has afforded me opportunities I never even believed possible. The past five months have been surreal and amazing. They've also been hard work. I have to make a point of staying off the computer on weekends, and I rarely go to bed before 6 a.m. I spend a great deal of time stressing about covers, sales, blogs, editing, emails, etc.

Indie publishing is not the easy way out. I think, sometimes, even to me it feels like "easy way" because of the instant gratification of it. But I also forget that I've been working my ass on my writing for the past ten years - for free. And I sometimes spend 10-12 hours a day on the computer, writing and marketing. Because I enjoy what I'm doing and I'm getting paid for it, it makes it feel like the easy way, even when I'm exhausted by the end of the night.

Here's something else to consider though: I'm selling really well for an indie author. But how well am I selling for a traditionally published author? Using my same numbers, selling 6,000 of one title in 5 months. What is that? Is that midlist?

A best-seller indie is a midlist traditional.

On the same token, my understanding is that I'm making more money than a midlist author. I'm not going to talk about money because my mother said it's "gauche." But I do think I'm making more as an indie selling 20,0000 books than I would as a traditionally published author selling 20,000 books.

But if I could get a book in Wal-mart, selling paperbacks, that would be an entirely different story.

So, if you're asking me, should you go indie or traditional? My answer is: I have no idea.

I know a lot of you think the answer seems cut and dried, but it's not. Also, I'm unwilling to do advise anybody on major career decisions in their life, especially when I don't know them personally and haven't read their work. So I refuse to be proponant for one side or the other.

But beyond that, I don't actually think there is a "right" answer. Some paths work better for different people and different books at different times.

While I don't think my path has been that improbable or unlikely for any other indie authors out there, I also currently don't know many other indie authors having the same kind of response as I am. But I know that I'm not that the exception to the rule. I'm not the only one.

Going indie isn't a sure fire means to success anymore than going any other route. All require work, timing, and the right book.

I do think that if you're considering publishing, you should weigh the options. Crossing out indie just because of the stigma is silly, just the as silly as it is crossing out traditional because someone else is succeeding with indie.

So that's that. And you should check out the Zombieaplooza. I'm still looking for people to do guest blogs and what not.