I’m Proud to be an Indie Author — No Matter What Anyone Says

by Karen Jonson

Self-Published Authors are Recreating the Publishing Rulebook — Let’s Work Together to Create Book Marketing Strategies that Sell Our Books

Book opens to starburst

Indie authors can create anything they want in today’s new self-publishing world. I’d like to create an Indie Book Marketing Community with you.

It’s not that long ago that self-publishing a book was the kiss of death for an author. A lot has changed in just a few years — but not enough to suit me.

I still find people who shrink back, curl up their noses, or outright say nasty things about self-publishing. For example, this week I read a distasteful comment in an article on Salon.com about the infamous author, Max Tucker, who is credited with inventing the “fratire” genre (so called fraternity satire).

The Salon article was written by Prachi Gupta in response to an article Tucker wrote for the Huffington Post, in which he describes his unique distribution-only deal with a Big Six publisher (he created a publishing company and did everything else himself to publish his book, such design and marketing). However, Tucker wanted a distribution component with a traditional publisher, so he could get his books into retail bookstores. While it was not a completely unique idea (although he claims he’s the first to do it), it’s also not something the typical author could accomplish. But because he’s sold millions of his first two books, he was able to wrangle this unconventional deal.

Self-Publishing By Any Other Name …

Despite the fact that Tucker’s process for publishing his third book clearly made him a self-published author, he vigorously denied this reality. At one point, he pens this disparaging remark about self-publishing in his HuffPost piece:

“Frankly, I wanted to keep more of the money my books made, and I wanted more control over the publishing process, but I didn’t want to deal with the problems that come from being in the ‘self-publishing ghetto.’”

Tucker may be among today’s publishing innovators, who are helping carve out new avenues for authors. But he is also the proverbial “a**hole” (a title he has already given himself, by the way, as part of his shtick). It’s great that he created a way to make more money on the sales of his books, but he doesn’t have to be a jerk and disparage other indie authors who are working hard to find their own way in the changing publishing landscape.

I’m all for every author thinking outside of the proverbial “box,” and helping to rethink and recreate the publishing world of tomorrow. In fact, as an indie author, I’m a active member of a very special group of authors willing to buck the status quo and find their own way in a brave new world.

But while I am out there working on my own to make book publishing work for me, I don’t appreciate the petty comments made by small-minded or uninformed people that in any way diminish the value that indie authors are bringing to the game.

Indie Authors are Here to Stay

While I would define Tucker as small-minded on, I would define some other people at ignorant. There are many people whose view of the book-publishing world has not advanced past the stone age. They have very little insight into the revolution that is taking place today.

Now that I’m nearly a year into my life as a self-published author (a year that has included extensive research into publishing and marketing my own books), I am also learning just how provincial some people really are.

Case in point, I am following a local author I met two years ago at a writers group. She was very nice and was working toward publishing a book on people with “kinky” sex lives. The book, like her others, is published through the traditional publishing route (she has an agent and a publisher).

A Case Study in Thinking Inside the Box

Recently, on her Facebook page, she complained when Amazon disable the Kindle links for the Big Six publishers (one of whom published her recent book). Many suspected this action is related to Amazon’s protest of the Big Six keeping the cost of Kindle ebooks on the high side ($12.99 +), whereas many indie authors are pricing theirs lower ($.99 to $4.99).

In her comment, she said: “Since the argument is price setting — the Big 6 wants ebooks to be priced at $9.99 and Amazon wants them lower so that they are loss leaders for big ticket items — I guess my question to readers is how much do you think a 350 page book that took 8 years to write and publish is worth? 99-cents? $2.99? $9.99?”

I wrote the following: “It’s not going to be about worth, it’s going to be about perception. People think ebooks should cost less. At last year’s SXSW an established author said she’s found $2.99 to be her sweet spot. But the book industry is not stable – it’s changing daily. So there are no sure answers now. This is one reason more authors, like me, are choosing self-publishing: we are taking out the middlemen/women.”

She wrote back: “@Karen, yes, ebooks cost less in that there is no paper, ink, printing, storing, inventory. However, the costs to research and write the book are the same. The costs to get it edited, to do rewrites, to get it copy edited, to get it vetted by a publishing industry attorney, to design the layout and typeface, to design the cover, to market it, to create websites, etc. are the same for print or ebook.

At this point, I gave up. I realized there was no way to explain the reality of selling books today to a person unwilling to expand her mind. Her thoughts were too entrenched in the old-school, traditional book publishing bubble.

I felt happier than ever that, unlike her and I’m sure many other authors, I was keeping up with the changing world of book publishing — and working to find a way to make it work for me.

Would You Like to Join my Indie Book Marketing Community?

I have a book marketing business plan written and detailed plans for marketing my books in 2013. My goal is to explore a wide range of indie book marketing opportunities, see what works, and what doesn’t.

The only thing missing from my plan is a support group of indie authors. I would love to create one — so that together we have the knowledge, support, and motivation we need to compete in the ever-evolving world of selling books.

Would you like to join me?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Joel D Canfield November 21, 2012 at 10:26 am

Nowadays, I only preach to the choir. If someone disparages self-publishing, I don’t have time to waste trying in vain to educate them. There are so very many aspiring authors out there who, with a little information, can make the right choice for themselves.

And those (like the handful in our Linked In conversations who make me nuts) who think self-publishing = garbage from lazy people, I just don’t have time for them.

The common argument, that the flood of dreck in self-publishing (*that* I don’t deny) is the end of civilization as we know it? Nonsense. Poppycock. Balderdash.

When Gutenberg invented movable type, there was an explosion of vanity-published dreck. Eventually, market forces culled the junk.

Ten years ago, when musicians discovered they could record and distribute without a contract, there was a flood of poorly recorded noise. Already, in just 10 years, market forces have culled a huge portion of the junk. Oddly, top-end musicians have few derogatory remarks about indie musicians. They seem to take a more gracious stance than the snooty whiny advocates of the traditional-or-die school of thinking.

We’re easily 5 years into the explosion of independent publishing. In another 5 years, what will be left will be, primarily, real writers who stayed the course.

We’re not seeing the end of civilization, or even of great books. We’re just entering another phase.

I, for one, am giddy with joy.

Reply

Karen Jonson November 21, 2012 at 10:50 am

Hi Joel,

Thanks for that perspective. I agree completely. I’ll add indie movie producers in there as well — I’ve seen more great indie movies than mainstream movies in my life.

Indie authors are here to stay, no matter what the legacy publishing snobs have to say about it.

Best,
Karen

Reply

Sharyn Abbott November 25, 2012 at 1:51 am

Karen – it is a long time over due when authors take control of their own business of being an author. They have relied on the printing of a publisher (having worked int he printing industry for 20 years) I was appalled at how authors were treated as second class citizens.

Indie authors or Independently Published authors have much to be proud of and should never shy away from those on the inside pointing their finger at those who choose to control their destiny.

I was on Oprah in 1991 with an author, Pat Evans, who has sold 700,000 books in 21 years and has never made more than $50k/yr while her publisher rakes in $340k/yr. She is so attached to the publisher she can’t see the disparity in their agreement.

There are so many methods of taking non-fiction to a 6+ figure income without a publisher and I am thrilled authors all over the world are discovering their independence!

As far as the doomsayers . . . I’ve never had anyone deny me a speaking engagement or refuse to buy my book because it is published by my Indie publishing firm.

And yes Joel, the next 5 years will be very revealing . . . we know it will only get better for authors and I am also giddy so many are waking up!

Reply

Karen Jonson November 26, 2012 at 9:49 am

Hello Sharyn,

Thank you so much for sharing your publishing industry perspective. It is so valuable to indie authors. The real-world facts are eye-openers (such as the author’s actual income), even when they sell a lot of books. Also, the encouragement is wonderful.

I don’t fully understand why so many authors are still attached to the old publishing model with it’s low (and getting lower) advances, the non-existent royalties (I’ve heard many authors say: “Don’t expect to get paid much more than your royalty check), and it’s lack of marketing support. Authors are supposed to do their own marketing now — and if they are successful at marketing, they get a dollar or two a book!!

I hope you’ll share more insights over time.

Best,
Karen

Reply

Mark Fennell December 5, 2012 at 12:06 pm

These comments are good. I am glad to hear that people are willing to read books and hear lectures from self-published authors. I also like the idea that those of us who stay the course will be considered quality writers. I have been self-publishing for years, and have many more books to write. I continue to stay the course, and I hope that I will see the rewards.

Also, regarding the price of e-books the article makes a good point: the same amount of research and editing goes into the product regardless of format. And yes, buyers expect ebooks to cost less, but I am not going to undercut the worth of my products. I decided to break down my chapters so that each e-book is only a fraction of the full book. Plus, some special items are reserved only for the print version (as an extra incentive to pay the full price for the printed book).

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