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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.

10 comments:

  1. Nicely said. There are pros and cons to everything, and to dismiss an opportunity out of hand without considering both is just silly. Your books are on my wish list, and they've moved to the top just on the basis of the correct usage of the term "moot point." I can't tell you how many times I've seen or heard it referred to as a "mute" point. If the point was mute, why did I waste my time listening to it? But I digress. Anyway, well said and bravo on cracking 20K!

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  2. Congrats on your success. I'm new to your blog and honestly have no idea how I found it. I can tell you this page has been sitting in my browser window for at least 24 hours, waiting on me to read this post. :) I get easily distracted so don't always read a post when I pull it up.

    I skipped to your journey and read that first, which is amazing. I do have a question though, because you mentioned editing and such. Did you have a critique partner before you decided to go indie?

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  3. I've yet to understand the seemingly constant cat-fighting over traditional vs. digital and/or indie publishing. Different but related beasts, with quite different business models. For some, the traditional route is the best way to go. For others, the indie route. I myself do both, working with print publishers while also doing my own indie thing. I feel I get the best of both worlds. It's a matter of choice, really, not a matter of "oh my god the world is going to end."

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  4. I don't think readers really care that much. I think it is people already in the industry, or the ones mad that they couldn't break in, that really get worked up. Most people just want a good story!

    LC

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  5. As a veteran indie software developer who lived through (and maybe helped grow, just a little bit) the indie game development market of the early 2K's, I can't help but see the similarities between that and the new indie author surge.

    I'm excited as all hell to be able to "go indie" with fiction. I don't think it was feasible until only the past year or so. I've been doing things "indie" for over a decade now, and the prospect of being able to connect directly to readers and help provide content for new devices like the Kindle...it gives me goosebumps. =)

    But, yeah, it's not an either-or choice. It's not Indies Good vs Publishers Bad--which is a mindset that indies often adopt. It's just another (kinda new) way to do business.

    I'd love to have a book published by Tor or Daw or Bantam or anyone else really. But I also love being able to write stories and make them available immediately.

    One of the best things about being an indie software developer is that I constantly get feedback from my users: the good, the bad, and the why-is-this-broken. I'm not insulated from the users by a corporate bureaucracy or even by salesmen. I'm looking forward, as I progress along the indie author curve, to the same kind of interaction with readers.

    -David

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  6. Consuelo Saah BaehrOctober 11, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    Okay. Your comments have brought me down to earth. I was swimming in a sea of overstimulation - good god, can this e publishing be real? It takes the scariness out of writing. It takes the "what if" out of writing. I can proceed as "if it's impossible to fail," because I can't fail. I can publish. For someone who published several books with traditional publishers, received excellent reviews and saw those books lose their young lives in a matter of weeks, indie publishing was like answered prayers.

    Now that I've been up for about six weeks and realize the work involved in marketing and keeping current and all the auxilliary work (blogs, forums, etc.) the realization is: yes, work but my work and my effort for my books. It's up to me to decide.

    Bottom line: I am happier as a writer than I have been in a long time. This new development has energized me to continue writing rather to put it away. That said, I still like your even handed approach. Yes, that is the mature approach. Consuelo Saah Baehr

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  7. I love that I can feed rainbow-colored fish on your blog. Congratulations on all your success!

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  8. Oh Amanda, did you know you are my hero? You're inspiring an entire generation of indie authors and you'e so chill about it. We can only hope for some of the success you have been given. I started a blog "desperately selling books; my one year marketing plan" to document the marketing of my YA book just to see what kind of progress it would garner within a year of marketing 101. I'll try just about anything. One of the most frustrating things is going to the Kindle or Createspace members page and seeing "no sales". Ahhhhhh, shoot me! But then, I"ll start writing and get into this whacky zone where I feel like I'm destined for literary greatness that makes me remember why I'm putting myself through this madness. And the fact that you did it is kick ass! Keep on inspiring your subjects sister. And now;my shameless plug. http://www.vicihoward.blogspot.com

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  9. Completely agree with Vici Howard. You are such an inspiration for the indie writers, and still, have the right balance to don't dismiss the traditional way.
    Best of the Best for you Amanda.

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