Why You Should Consider Independent Publishing

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Happy Monday, folks! Today marks the third and final week of my blog tour and I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who participated! Today YA Author Dawn Brazil is sharing a book review along with author Melissa-Barker Simpson. And editor extraordinaire Christie Stratos is sharing a book spotlight. If you can, please hop over to each of their blogs and say hello!

But in the meanwhile, let’s get to the nitty gritty of today’s blog topic: indie pubbing.

Before I independently published my first novel, I had several unrealistic publishing expectations. For starters, I would get an agent for my first book right after my first query letter, that agent would land me a three book deal, and after the book was published, Hollywood would come a-knockn’, and I would be a bonafide, rock star author extraordinaire.

Well, as you can imagine, that didn’t happen. I spent a few years sending query letters into that black hole where query letters go but never return, and I spent even more time waiting for responses that never came before I started getting out and networking with other authors and attending writers panels and conferences and other such events and really getting an understanding of how the good folks in New York City (editors) make purchasing decisions:

  1. They hate your story. In fact, they think you’re such a terrible writer that you should be banned from writing anything, including grocery lists.
  2. They liked your story, but in order to buy it they need to love it.
  3. Your story is about cats and gosh darn it, they just purchased a cat story and can’t justify buying another one.
  4. Your story is about vampires, and though it has a new twist (vampires in Vegas! Woo-hoo!), the trend has been done to death and they can’t take a risk on it.
  5. Your story is about a philandering wife. The editor is secretly cheating on her husband and your book makes her feel guilty. She says, “No, bueno, dude,” and sends you a rejection letter.
  6. They like your novel but can’t possibly figure out how to market it. It has nothing to do with your talent: they just need to know how to categorize things in order to feel confident that they can sell it to the masses. They don’t tell you this in the form rejection letter, however, so you’re left thinking that you’re a terrible writer when really, that’s not the case.

There are a million and one reasons why agents and editors can’t take on every book that crosses their path. And if you’re a writer with publishing aspirations, you might find yourself a bit disenchanted after spending some time in the query burn house. You might find yourself asking the question: why don’t they like my novel? But it’s not about them not liking your novel. The question is: do you like your novel?

Traditional publishing: somebody else feels your novel is good enough to be published.

Independent publishing: you feel your novel is good enough to be published.

Now, indie pubbing isn’t for everybody. If you’re sitting there reading this and think that Createspace is a furniture moving company (or that Smashwords is something you do with a hammer), you probably have some more research to do. But if you’ve done your research, have a good product, and don’t mind doing some of the legwork yourself, then why not publish your own book?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are you a good writer who has spent years developing your writing craft?
  2. Do you have some hard-hitting critique partners who LOVE your book? (And these people aren’t close friends or family members who think that everything you write is plain ole superb. These are people who know their craft and can spot the big picture issues.)
  3. Do you trust your gut and know that your book is good?
  4. Do you believe in yourself?

If you’ve answered yes to the questions above, then why not publish your own book? Here’s what I think is most important: connecting with readers. And you don’t need an agent or an editor to do that! If you know your story is good, you’ve gotten some stellar feedback from readers, and you believe in yourself, I want you to hear me loud and clear: the good folks of New York City are not responsible for your writing career: you are. Write the best damn novel you can, market it with due diligence, and then write another novel. It’s up to you to build your career. Don’t leave it in anybody else’s hands. If you believe in your novel, you owe it to yourself and your potential fans to get your book out into the world and let your voice be heard.

Now having said that, please don’t slap your book together and show up at Createspace with a flash drive talkin’ ‘bout, “Quanie told me to come down here and publish my novel.” Please do your part and make sure that your novel is professionally edited and that it’s formatted correctly and has a nice cover. You spent months (or years!) writing your novel. Make sure that when you present it to the world, it’s the best product it can possibly be!

What about others? Have you published independently? What’s been your experience? And if you haven’t, what’s stopping you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


38 thoughts on “Why You Should Consider Independent Publishing

  1. Pingback: Are Your Publishing Expectations Far-Fetched? | Quanie Talks Writing

  2. Great post!

    For me the idea of indie publishing really started to take hold after a writing conference. I had the pleasure of being invited out for drinks with several agents. There was a lot of talk about the industry and books (no pitching, just relaxed talk). After hearing what their job entailed, including how they often didn’t read past the first few lines, were tired of reading XYZ genre, or how often they passed on books because they “couldn’t sell it to a publisher,” I knew then that agents didn’t have all the answers.

    For me, I wasn’t willing to keep putting my work out there just to have it come back. Not because it wasn’t ready, but because a young agent didn’t have time to read it or was having a bad day. I wanted to write my story, polish it, and then move onto the next. For readers, you’re only as good as your next book.

    Marketing and networking is important for any writer. My Traditionally published friends are required to spend almost as much time promoting their book and are expected to work on their “platform.” Going traditional has it’s advantages, but it’s not like the old days. Unless you’re one of the top tier authors, you have to do just almost as much work as an indie published author, but you don’t get the creative control over you work!

    By the way, I also love your cover!
    Gina Drayer recently posted..NaNoWriMo: Advice for New Storytellers from Ira GlassMy Profile

  3. This is such an inspiring post! I really think indie publication is the way to go for me. It’s still a lot of work but at least I’m my own boss, so to speak. Your advice is right on point about having your book critiqued by objective minds and having your work edited. I’ve read some stuff out there that clearly neither of those happened.
    Mel Kinnel (@TizMellyMel) recently posted..New Release Spotlight: The New Mrs. Collins by Quanie MillerMy Profile

    • I felt the same way at first. But then again, I didn’t understand all that it entailed and there was also that stigma attached to it. The person who really changed my mind is Bella Andre. I’ve probably said this a million times already, but hearing her at The San Francisco Writers Conference last year really sold me on independent publishing. And she’s a hybrid author. I could totally see myself taking that route as well.
      Quanie recently posted..Why You Should Consider Independent PublishingMy Profile

  4. LOL. Oh boy, yes, do those rejections sound familiar. Querying is…challenging. To say the least.

    I’m not ready to give up on traditional publishing, though. I know, I know; your post is convincing, and I see the draw and pros of going indie. BUT, I’m not ready to shoulder all of the work that comes with self-publishing: the design, editing, marketing, etc. Nope. I know no matter what route, I’ll have to do some of it, but right now I’m still holding out hope for some help.

    For now, anyway.
    Liz Blocker (@lizblocker) recently posted..The New Mrs. Collins by Quanie MillerMy Profile

    • I totally understand that, Liz, because it’s a lot of work at first (because there’s so much information it can get overwhelming). I say no matter which route an author chooses, the most important thing is the book and that connection with readers. Wishing you much success with querying and I hope that you land your dream agent who will land you your dream deal. Fingers crossed!
      Quanie recently posted..Why You Should Consider Independent PublishingMy Profile

  5. Hi, Quanie. You made an excellent argument for indie publishing. I was rejected by agents using things like, “The book is too long and would need to be cut in half. No, not to make two books–the story isn’t worthy of that. Just remove half.” The worst ones simply said, “Sorry, not interested.” It was crushing to be turned down over and over. I put it all away for a long time. In 2011, I found Smashwords and the rest is history. Trying to get an agent had caused profound anxiety. So had indie publishing. The difference is that I’m in charge, not some faceless entity. I choose the publishing options and am responsible for securing quality editing services and a great book cover designer. I need to do my own marketing and platform building. It’s been a long learning curve and I’ve still got a long way to go. Would I change anything? Not a chance. I love being the captain of my own destiny. It’s wonderful that so many others are doing it, too.
    Gayle Mullen Pace recently posted..NaNoWriMo: Know Your Weapons! by By Piper Bayard & Jay HolmesMy Profile

    • Hi Gayle,

      Many authors, including ones who were traditionally published, are turning to independent publishing because of the freedom that it affords them. I think it’s great that you discovered Smashwords. I published there as well, but I’m still trying to learn it. Kudos to you for taking control of your own writing career. Rock on!
      Quanie recently posted..Why You Should Consider Independent PublishingMy Profile

  6. Hi Quanie,
    Don’t forget this one, “We’d like to thank you for sending your query. After careful consideration, XYZ doesn’t feel she is the right agent to represent your book. Please keep in mind that our business is a subjective one, and that another agent might feel differently.” I sent in a manuscript at night and this letter was in the inbox when I got up the next morning. Talk about “careful consideration.” 🙂 I used to think even self-publishing was a mystery, and something to be handled by “the professionals.” Not so, my book launch was a cautionary tale using an indie-publisher that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Due to your kindness and patience, I took your lead and used CreateSpace, Smashwords, and IngramSpark to get my book afloat. Id heard of them but didn’t have time to figure them out. Working with them is so intuitive, and there is something so satisfying about taking the extra time to get your hands dirty and handle your business and your book. I highly recommend those services. Thanks for the post. It was great.

    • “Careful consideration.” Ha! You talk about! And you’re totally right about not using one of those publishing services. Not sure how they work but I think authors would be much better off doing it all themselves like you eventually ended up doing. You have all the control and you decide when the book comes out, etc. You’re the boss! Those who don’t want that kind of responsibility are probably better off using one of those services. But I think with just a little research and organizational skills, it can be done (and it doesn’t have to be some arduous task).
      Quanie recently posted..Why You Should Consider Independent PublishingMy Profile

  7. Although I am looking for an agent…for I should say STILL looking for an agent for the first book in my series, I have not taken independent publishing completely off my list of future options. When the time comes, and if I still have not made any headway with my series, I will publish independently. I think having options is the best thing a writer can do for their career. 🙂
    Chrys Fey recently posted..Be Specific in Your Writing + CONTESTMy Profile

  8. Wow, so much good stuff in your post and in the comments! I was on the fence about whether to pursue independent or traditional publishing for at least a year. I sent out a few query emails, waited a month or two, and didn’t hear anything back. My heart really wasn’t in traditional publishing once I began to research the publishing industry and interact with other authors.
    My thinking is that in the not so distant future more and more traditional houses will begin to expect authors to have previously published indie work prior to signing on with their house. Meaning they won’t just want a query letter and synopsis of the novel you want to sell them, they’ll also expect indie published work, reviews and some sort of platform. I know that might sound REAL crazy to some, but think about it: publishing houses are always worried about losing money. It’s why they study market trends and reject so many amazing submissions. So why wouldn’t they try to stack the success deck in their favor by running analytics on authors that submit to them by looking at their indie publishing data? I’m not saying that traditional houses won’t still accept blind and agented queries, but that they’ll have to change with the times. Just a little theory I have.
    I’m going indie with my debut novel, and probably the next few after that one. In a perfect world this will lead to me being able to some day traditionally publish and take advantage of the connections, marketing power and broader exposure that traditional houses have to offer. Hopefully, I’ll also have the advantage of negotiating better royalties based upon comparison of the amount I would have made indie publishing.
    Now you’ve gone and inspired a blog post about my far fetched projections!
    Faith Simone recently posted..Somebody Pass the Zzzquil!My Profile

    • Faith, I think you really hit on something! Like, seriously. Now that you mention that, I can totally see agents and editors using independently published novels as a screening process to evaluate an author’s sales potential. Wouldn’t surprise me one bit! Looking forward to your post on this topic. And kudos to you for deciding to go indie. Can’t wait for your book to come out!
      Quanie recently posted..Why You Should Consider Independent PublishingMy Profile

  9. Hi Quanie,
    This is an absolutely fun post that made me crack up. I have two thick folders with my rejection letters. I think I have every single rejection letter (including the form letters!) ever sent to me. My personal favorite is that they liked my book but I need to take my writing to the next level. Ultimately, that was sound advice that I took and went Indie. 🙂

    But your post, and the great replies from Christina, Reese, Tanya and the others made me wonder about bestsellers. As writers — Indie, or otherwise — we want that additional tag added before our names “(Big Name Publication) Best-selling Author”. But how does one get onto those lists? The simple answer…through sales. The numbers are not hard and fast but there are those that say that you can get on the NY Times bestseller list with as few as 5K sales in a single week. Others say that you need a bit more, closer to 7K – 7.5K for a few weeks.

    In either case, the beauty of this information is getting on the hallowed NY Times list is not something mystical that is at the discretion of a set of secret members of a literati society. To get on that list, or The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, or any of the other bestseller lists is only a function of SALES. This is how John Locke got on the NY Times list (but he also has his books in brick & mortar stores; he did take a distribution deal from a large publisher — now I understand why!!). Locke sold a bunch of books online and in stores. Locke is an Indie author.

    Indie is not something you do; it is something you believe in and give voice to. Creating a life you want to lead as a writer means deciding who you truly are and expressing that through your characters and your publishing choices.

    Here’s to wishing us all tremendous success in continuing to forge a path that the early Indie authors began for us just a scant 4 – 5 years ago. #RockOn #IndieBooksBeSeen
    Rochelle recently posted..On Being an Indie Author…My Profile

    • OMG, yes! #Rockon #IndieBooksBeSeen #TwoSnapsinaZFormation! LOL! I think that any talented author, whether with luck, a huge marketing budget, or both, can have a stellar career as long as they keep writing quality books and don’t give up. Whether they chose they indie or traditional route, I don’t think it matters but thank God for indie pubbing for allowing many authors to let our voices be heard!
      Quanie recently posted..Why You Should Consider Independent PublishingMy Profile

  10. #2 is my life story!!! Actually, I had a great book series about tween ghost hunters that my agent loved. Not one but TWO major publishing houses were interested and one or more of the editors there were in love with it. But both times, it was shot down because it couldn’t get that across-the-board approval it needed to move forward. So the book series died. And now ghost hunting stuff is so last decade, so the series’ chance is pretty much over. Maybe someday it’ll come back around and I can get that book out there on my own!
    Stephanie Faris recently posted..First Review for 25 Roses…and a Giveaway!My Profile

    • You know what? I think that if your series is great, whether or not the trend is “in” or not, you should go ahead and publish it independently. People can say all they want that vampires, or witches, or ghosts, are “so yesterday,” but if you happen to write something fresh and unique, readers won’t give a damn. Like seriously! I have an idea for a vampire story and I am SO going to write it despite the fact that the trend has been done to death. My story hasn’t been seen, and that’s all that matters to me!
      Quanie recently posted..Why You Should Consider Independent PublishingMy Profile

  11. The thing that I’ve always loved the most about following you and your work, Quanie, is how professional you are about it. Your covers are fantastic and the blurbs are always professionally edited. I’ve got JAZZY on my kindle, waiting to be read next.

    As a traditionally-published author I also greatly respect your journey. You pursued all the channels but it was like talking to a void. I know that feeling. I think a lot of really good authors encounter it—but so do a lot of really mediocre ones.

    So I cringe a little bit at the bit about: “But it’s not about them not liking your novel. The question is: do you like your novel?” I cringe because I’ve encountered so many righteous indie authors on Goodreads who have written terrible books, but are so MADLY IN LOVE with themselves that they can’t possibly conceptualize that A) people might not like it, and B) it could have used more work/craft/editing before being published.

    I think it’s just a bad taste in my mouth from some of this author/book reviewer tension, but just loving your own book isn’t enough. You need critique partners who know what they’re doing and can provide honest feedback. You need to be realistic with yourself about your experience and your craft.

    You hit on this at the end (I’m also laughing about someone showing up at CreateSpace with a flash drive and yelling your name), but I think it’s also really important for ANYONE publishing, whether traditional or independent, to get criticism, to take it, and to learn how to deal with it. Because EVERYONE in publishing gets criticism (from agents, editors, friends) and you’re going to be really butthurt if you think you are the absolute greatest and then get your first Amazon review. (Like the time I was tormented by an indie pub author for writing a negative, but kind review, of her truly abysmal book.)
    Kiersi recently posted..A Crazy True Story About My Basque FamilyMy Profile

    • I think it’s a combination of things: knowing how to receive criticism (I blogged about that last week), honing your craft, and believing in yourself. I get what you’re saying about the authors who think they’re so great and can’t imagine that other people won’t like their work, but I think that’s a maturity and inflated ego issue. Because as much as I’ve honed my craft and believe in myself, I am fully aware that there are people out there who may not like what I write, but I am totally okay with that because at the end of the day, I understand that not every book is for everybody. Different strokes, different folks. People who attack reviewers are just assholes. Sorry if you’ve had to deal with that. And I do appreciate you buying my book and certainly hope you enjoy Jazzy and her crazy family!
      Quanie recently posted..Why You Should Consider Independent PublishingMy Profile

  12. so happy to see so many turning to indie–honestly it is SO HARD to get noticed. I am agented but we are having one hell of a time getting a deal–editors seem so excited but then either have something too similar, or aren’t loving something my agent and I adore. It’s exhausting!

    • I’m sure it’s hard all around. My thing is this: you have to get the love wherever you can. Whether you’re traditionally published or independently published and manage to find and connect with an audience, at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. Good luck to you and your agent finding a home for your manuscript. Fingers crossed!
      Quanie recently posted..Why You Should Consider Independent PublishingMy Profile

  13. I think one of the most important pieces of advice about self-publishing is doing the research, which you already are well aware of!=)
    I was laughing when you mentioned Createspace being a furniture company. Before I used them to publish my children’s book, this is exactly what I thought! But after attending a couple of publishing seminars and children’s book writing classes, I realized there were other options out there other than waiting for a traditional house to tell you whether or not your work is good. And this is when I discovered Createspace was created by Amazon and self-published books for writers. I have had my ups and downs with Createspace but in the end, I have a wonderful product with tons of 5STAR reviews.
    Would I self publish again? Probably. I love being in control of my sales and have built a brand from the ground up. Schools and libraries love my children’s book which has inevitably helped spread word and an increase in sales.
    But like you said, Quanie, self-publishing is a lot of work… I mean, A LOT! We are our own marketers, promoters, social media slaves, and most importantly, writers. No one is going to get our books into stores other than ourselves. We have to really put our work out there or else no one will ever hear about our books.
    Would I go the traditional route someday? Yes, I would like to. The beautiful thing about being a writer now versus six years ago is we have more options. And if we love and truly are passionate about our stories, no one should have the right to tell us NO.

    • Yes, it is TONS of work! Especially the brand building but, heck. It’s the same for traditionally published authors because unless you’re Terry McMillan or J.K. Rowling, they sure ain’t coughin’ up them marketing dollars! No, ma’am! So many “regular” traditionally published authors have to do the marketing themselves anyway. I actually wouldn’t mind being a hybrid author some day. I just love having control over my work and when it gets published and my cover and all that. But it’s a lot of work. And LOL @ you thinking Createspace was actually a furniture company! Bwa! 🙂
      Quanie recently posted..Why You Should Consider Independent PublishingMy Profile

  14. What a very encouraging post. I’m sharing this everywhere. I tried going the agent route with my romance novel, A Selfish Moment, and I got a few requests for the manuscript all to be rejected later. At least each agent provided a specific reason, though I thought it was more personal to the agent’s taste than the industry. One agent told me it didn’t have enough sex for her to represent it as a romance novel…. ugh… and another agent said she didn’t like the guy/gal dual perspective. The two conflicting perspectives is the best part! It’s the reason the book exists – to tell each person’s story!

    So, I decided to go indie and it’s been doing well. But I will say this… its a balancing act between marketing and writing. That’s a skill I’m still learning….

    • Hi Tanya, so glad you decided to take the plunge! What matters is that you connect with readers. Just because a particular agent didn’t think they could sell your novel for whatever reason doesn’t mean that the novel won’t do perfectly fine with its intended audience! And I’d bet you that many traditionally published books don’t do exceptionally well. And for that royalty rate they get, they probably make next to nothing. So, heck. We might as well do it ourselves and at least get something, right? Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts:)
      Quanie recently posted..Why You Should Consider Independent PublishingMy Profile

  15. I’m so glad that you published this post, Quanie. I’ve been eager to go indie for well over a year, but to be honest, being in charge of everything feels HUGE, overwhelming and downright terrifying sometimes. As Dee mentioned, even with a traditional publisher, much of the promo falls on the author. I’ve already experienced that. So I know that indie is the way I need to go, but I’ve sabotaged my efforts, paralyzed by my own fear. I’m determined to change that in 2015, so this post was perfect timing.

    BTW, this post had me cracking up about the reasons agents won’t buy your book. 🙂
    Reese Ryan recently posted..May I Feel Said He by E.E. CummingsMy Profile

    • Go for it, Reese! You can totally do it! Authors are already a supportive bunch (both indie and traditionally published authors) so we’ll be ready to help you spread the word for any upcoming project. I think once you get over that initial hesitation/fear and take the plunge, you will NEVER look back. Do it, do it, do it!
      Quanie recently posted..Why You Should Consider Independent PublishingMy Profile

  16. So, I am crying at the visual of someone showing up at Createspace with a flashdrive, lmbo!
    Anyway, I do the indie-publishing thing, and I couldn’t agree more with your post. I’m not a very patient person (this is absolutely NOT a strength, but eh) so I don’t know that I would have had the emotional fortitude to handle rejection letters and the like. I’m practically dying now waiting to hear simple feedback on something from a publisher, and just *that* is taking months.
    I’ve been at this for just about a year now, and although I’m positive that I have a long way to go, I’m very excited about the trajectory of my writing career. And as you said, it’s because I’ve taken it into my own hands. I make the decisions, I do the marketing, I design the covers (because I’m a professional graphic designer), etc.
    No one is going to make it happen for me — I have to do the work. But, I prefer that over wishing/hoping/thinking/praying for months just to get a response to an email. I LOVE indie-publishing!
    Christina Jones recently posted..Sample Sunday : from Didn’t Mean To Love YouMy Profile

    • @ the Createspace visual: now you know somebody’s gonna try it, LOL! And I think you’ve got the right attitude. You’ve taken your career in your own hands with great results because I’m a fan of your writing and you have some STELLAR reviews for your books, so indie pubbing seems to definitely be working out for you and many others. I’m so glad that I took the plunge because the response to my writing has been great, and if I had waited and waited and waited in the query burn house, who knows if my work would have ever seen the light of day and I would have never known just how much support I’m actually getting from other authors and readers and the like. Indie all day!
      Quanie recently posted..Why You Should Consider Independent PublishingMy Profile

  17. For sure, self publishing is the way to go for a lot of people. As long as you take the time to market your own book–which, these days, you have to do even if you publish traditionally –you can be successful in your own right. I believe within 5 years most authors will be self publishers or hybrid authors, and within 10 perhaps the stigma of self-publishing will be completely done away with. I believe the stigma will die off when self-published books are standing next to traditionally published books in libraries and bookstores (if those are still around in 10 years)… OH! And a big thing: Your books needs to look like they’re worth buying. We do judge books by their covers, and a lot of self-published books are just thrown together. I absolutely love your covers, Quanie.

    • Dee, totally agree with you! I think that the stigma is already wearing off and most authors are opting for the indie route for various reasons, including having to do their own marketing anyway. I mean, unless you’re an author who is already a house hold name, you aren’t going to get the marketing machine behind you and sure as heck aren’t going to get a good royalty rate, so why not just go indie? And so glad you like my covers! Both Ravven and Victoria were great to work with:)
      Quanie recently posted..Why You Should Consider Independent PublishingMy Profile

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