Publishing: Indie vs. Traditional – My Road Traveled

Posted by on Mar 29, 2012 in Author, Author Advice, Random, Story Time | 8 comments

Don’t let the title fool you, I’m not about to compare the two for you. If you’re planning on publishing, but you’re not sure which route to take, this blog post does not hold the answer for you.
Lately I’ve been getting a lot of comments and questions about myself, my writing, and my choice to self-publish. I’m going to go over why I chose this path, my likes and dislikes of the journey so far, and what I hope for in the future. 
I did try to make this post as short as possible, but it’s still pretty lengthy. I didn’t want to split it up into three posts, so if you really don’t care, turn back now!

First the why?
I truly hated the query process. Don’t get me wrong, I respect literary agents and the process, but I put a lot of pressure on myself and I’m naturally impatient, so the process didn’t work for me. I had passion for the story I was telling. I didn’t want to hear no -which was the response I was getting- and I didn’t have the patience to persevere until I found an agent that wanted to take a chance on me. I knew I had what it took, but thanks to research, I also knew everyone thought they had what it took. 
I couldn’t make an educated decision without information, so for two years I researched. I read agents and editors blogs, talked to published and unpublished authors, and I weighed it all out. Did I follow all of their advice? No. But I read it, took it into account, and made a decision based on what I wanted.
All I’ve wanted since the beginning was for readers to enjoy the stories I had to tell, and hopefully one day, make a full-time career of it. For the most part, I think I’m slowly making my way with the former. The latter however, I hope to achieve one day.
For me, self-publishing was the way to start. Not because it was the future of publishing. Not because traditional publishing is evil. It was just the right decision for me at the time.

What do I like/dislike about self-publishing.
I love having full control over my manuscript, the cover art, the editing, and price. I love being a part of it from beginning to end. It’s amazing to see words turn into a story, a stack of papers turn into a book, and a glossy cover wrap the pages. There is something to be said about having 100% control over everything, and you get a new level of respect for the process. Plus, the rewarding feeling at the end, knowing you made all this happen, well, that’s incredible. 
Of course there are downsides too. Learning to format for paperback and eBooks can be frustrating. For me, once I got the hang of it, it took no time at all. For others, it’s a process they dread. Getting and organizing ISBN’s is a long process to get approval for in Canada, but once you have it, is wonderful. The biggest nightmare if you’re Canadian is probably getting your US Tax ID number. Without this, the IRS takes 30% of your income and then the Canadian Revenue Agency takes 24% – 30% on top of that. It’s a lot of paperwork and e-mails, getting legitimate documentation, filling out forms, etc. Overall, for me, it was painful. I am happy to report however, that as of last week, after months of work, I officially have it!
There is so much that goes into a book that you would never see when working with a publisher. Choosing the self-publishing route, even after all my research, was an eye opener. I had no idea the amount of work involved, or the level of stress it all carried. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy it, but sometimes I think it’d be nice to have help. Which leads me to my last point.

What are my hopes for the future?
Although eBooks may be the future, physical copies will always have a place in the world. I would love to see my books in stores. I want to walk into a book store and see my books on a table, or have them recommended to me by one of the many wonderful staff members. Sometimes I just want to be able to write and not have to stress about editors and cover artists, formatting, organizing my own publishing schedule, finding finished copy proof readers for error checking, the heart breaking discovery of errors after publication, doing all the marketing and promotion myself, reviewing and prepping for paperbacks, organizing reviews and tours, and generally being the only person involved.
The indie circuit is amazing. The support you can garner from some really incredible writers is an experience you have to have for yourself. It truly is heartwarming. But, when push comes to shove, it’s all on you. No sales? You aren’t working hard enough. Your cover isn’t any good. Your back cover copy needs work. Pick one, you only have yourself to blame. Copious amounts of errors? Your editor didn’t do a good enough job, but you hired them, so that falls on you. Book looks funny on the Kindle? You didn’t format properly. Nobody is reviewing your book? Did you remember to set up a blog tour, or contact reviewers to see if they’re interested? We could go on forever here. I’m not saying traditional publishing excuses you from the above, but the point is; you have help.  In the end, there’s something to be said for having a solid team working alongside you.
All that aside, I don’t mind the pressure of doing everything. It pushes me to write better, promote smarter, and produce higher quality products. But sometimes, I would love to have that pressure AND a team of professionals.
With each book I write, I want it to be better than the last. Sometimes though, I want more than just my own experience on the table. I want a team pushing my stories, helping to grow my readership, fighting to get me front store/website placement, working with me to reach a wider audience.  
I absolutely love being a self-published author, but there’s a lot of positive’s when going the traditional route too. That doesn’t necessary mean I need or want to be with a Big 6 publisher, or a small press, either. Amazon is creating imprints, entrepreneurs are entering the field and coming up with potentially game changing ideas for independent authors, and to be honest, I have a few ideas of my own, but I’d be lying if I said I never dreamed of being traditionally published. Self-publishing has been incredible to me, but there are many days I feel like this might just be the entry point to the publishing world for me.
In the end, this is all just icing on the cake. To make a short answer long, what do I really want from the future?
I would like the opportunity to combine the freedom of self-publishing, with the support and knowledge a team of professionals from traditional publishing brings to the table. And I want to one day wake up, and know my day job has become my passion.
I know that no matter what happens, I’ll keep writing, because it’s what I love to do. What I want more than anything is to have people continue to read and enjoy my work. I want them cursing at the antagonists, routing for the underdogs, and sad there isn’t more when they reach the final pages. I know, without a doubt, that I’ll keep writing and if it’s good enough, publishing what I create. If any of the rest comes to pass, that’s just a bonus.  

    8 Comments

  1. Great perspective! And it's nice to see your story without feeling like you're pushing one method over another, honestly. But seriously, kudos to you for doing all of it yourself. The idea of self-publishing still honestly daunts me. I applaud you!

  2. Andrea – Working with amazing bloggers and meeting great people has definitely helped.

    Elise – Thanks Elise. I really respect both methods. I really believe there is something beneficial and of value in both of them.

  3. I love your books, and reading your why makes perfect sense to me too.

  4. Thank you Charla! It's comments like that that make everything worth while. 🙂

  5. I hope you opt to try the traditional publishing route. Because that feeling of seeing your books on shelves at a store is an experience you just can't beat. It is an absolutely wonderful thing to be a published author – self or traditional – but to have both boxes checked I think would be even better. You can have that well-rounded experience of having done both. Even if you decide to stick with Indie/self-publshing in the end.

    And the amount of hard work you have to put in does take away from the time you could be spending writing, thinking about new ideas for new stories, etc. If you had a team behind you rather than feeling guilty for taking a day off from marketing your work you could be doing it stress free.

    Whichever way you go, I wish you the best of success! Your books are wonderful, but if you go through the traditional avenues your stories will get wider exposure and can be read and loved by more readers. In the end, that's the point, right? 🙂

  6. You're absolutely right. The sight of my stores on shelves in bookstores would be surreal, amazing, and mind blowing all at once. It would bring a much wider audience, and the experience that literary agents, editors, and publishing houses have is nothing to be doubted.

    It's definitely something that could happen in the future!

  7. Great post, dude…very cool to see inside your brain and find out what drives you as an indie and beyond. You have talent, you have determination, and you have a smart, sound perspective on what publishing means to you – you're destined for continued and prolonged success in whatever opportunities come your way – indie, traditional or otherwise. The more I think about, the more I tend to recognize that the difference between a man who's dream becomes full-blown real-world passion and a man who's dream stands still is really a matter of drive more than anything else. And you've definitely got that. Only more good things to come from you and for you, I have no doubt.

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