Adventures in Independent Publishing: Part 1

The New Punk Rock

Last month, I finally joined the swelling ranks of the independently published. I’d thought about it long and hard, but in the end it was a pretty easy decision to make. I was tired of greedy, clueless, often unethical publishers telling me what to do and how I should do it. Even calling them publishers is being kind in some cases. Too many are just wannabe entrepreneurs with no background or experience in the publishing industry, who simply want to jump on the bandwagon and make a few bucks. What they don’t realize is the bandwagon left years ago. In the modern world, publishers, like record companies, are becoming increasingly redundant. Both were only ever middlemen, reaping dividends from both sides hand over fist. As soon as musician and fan, or writer and reader, found ways to connect directly, their days were numbered.

I always found it difficult dealing with publishers. Most of them seem more intent on exploiting current trends rather than starting new ones, and were far too keen to jump in and tell me to make massive changes to my books seemingly on a whim. I often got the impression they were requesting changes just for the sake of it. Just because they could. I wanted complete control over the work I put out, from the editorial content, to the cover art and pricing. Under the traditional publishing model this would have been an impossible dream, unless you are a very rich writer who can afford to buy his own publishing company outright. But the power of the internet changed all that. Now writers can bypass publishers completely and make their work available directly to consumers. In 2012, a quarter of Amazon’s top 100 best-selling books were independently-published. At its core, this DIY attitude is the ethos of punk, when many bands spurned the advances of the major labels and chose to go it alone, sacrificing fame and riches in order to preserve creative control and perceived integrity.

Much Too Much

I decided the pricing issue was the main reason why most of the books I had with publishers weren’t exactly threatening the New York Times bestseller lists. At £6 or £7 each for 50-60 page novellas, they were woefully overpriced. I’m realistic enough to admit that my name isn’t that well known. As a reader, I wouldn’t part with that much money on a book by someone I’d never heard of. I raised concerns more than once with the publishers, but my protestations were quickly snuffed out. They said something about having to cover costs. Evidently, the notion that if the books were cheaper they would sell more copies, and therefore increase their profits, was completely lost on them.

The thing that held me back from ‘going indie’ for so long wasn’t a lack of self- confidence, as is no often the case. I’ve always thought that if you don’t believe in yourself, how can you expect anyone else to believe in you? It was more a lack of technical know-how. I knew millions of writers all over the world were forsaking the traditional publishing model and going independent. But how the fuck do you do it? I’m not particularly tech-savvy, and didn’t have much of an existing platform to work from. But other people were getting sales. A LOT of sales. So one day, I decided to bite the bullet and go for it. I would learn through trial and error. This series of blogs will document the experience. The good, the bad, the ugly, the stuff you probably know already, and the stuff you never wanted to know. I hope you enjoy the journey.

Nothing to Fear

As it happens, publishing an ebook turned out to be a lot easier than I thought. I just joined Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), filled out a few online forms, uploaded the content in a word document, added the cover and description, and hours later my first solo offering was online worldwide. I can set my own price, and get to keep 70% of the royalties on sales, much higher than any actual publisher has ever offered me. Most digital publishers offer 35-50%, while due to the increased costs, print publishers routinely pay as little as 10-15%. Amazon deduct their cut, then deposit the final sum, minus tax, directly into my bank account. Easy peasy. If you have a problem with Amazon, there are other options out there. Smashwords springs to mind. You don’t need one of those crowd-funding sites to help you. I always thought that route was a bit presumptuous, anyway.

Hey, I wanna be a writer, like, soooo bad. I have an idea for a book and everything. If you pledge $6000 I’ll write the book and it’ll be, like, totally AWESOME!

Nope. Don’t need it. If you are one of the people who dream about being a writer, then stop thinking about it, get off your ass, show some dedication to the craft, and write that fucking book. The art of creation should be all the incentive you need. Writers write, whether they get paid a load of money for it or not. If you are in it just for the pay day, you are probably in the wrong game, anyway.

Part 2 of Adventures in Independent Publishing looks at the importance of cover art, and priming a market.

My first indie offering, X: A Collection of Horror, is out now:

About cmsaunders

I write stuff. Pretty much any stuff. My fiction and non-fiction has appeared in over a hundred publications worldwide and my books have been both traditionally and independently published. My first book, Into the Dragon's Lair – A Supernatural History of Wales was published back in 2003, and I've worked extensively in the freelance journalism industry, contributing features to numerous international publications including Fortean Times, Bizarre, Urban Ink, Loaded, Record Collector, Maxim, and a regular column to the Western Mail newspaper. I lived in China for over nine years where I taught English at universities in Beijing, Changsha and Guangzhou during my search for enlightenment, before moving back to the UK in January 2013 to work as staff writer on Nuts magazine. Later, I was senior writer on Forever Sports magazine, associate editor at a shortlived title called Coach, and I currently write business news for a trade magazine about the plastics industry. It's far more satisfying than it sounds. My latest fiction releases have been Human Waste (on Deviant Dolls Publications) and X5, my fifth collection of short fiction. I also edit, proofread, ghost write, and drink far too much craft beer. View all posts by cmsaunders

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