A Facebook friend of mine drew my attention to an “Opening Day Party” at Awesome Indies that posted independent authors’ responses to the question of why they chose indie publishing over traditional publishing. My novel, Angel, is listed and reviewed on the site so I gave some thought to the question “Why did you choose to go indie?”
If I were to answer honestly I would have to say that I did not choose to go indie. I sold my novel to a very small publisher because I was not having much luck convincing larger publishers that my book was commercial enough to warrant their investment in it. I hasten to add that I do not mean to imply anything negative about Itineris Press because they were not the first publisher I thought of. I am grateful to them for having the vision to take a chance on Angel and they did a great job with editing, cover design and everything you could want in a publisher.
I suspect this is the case with most indie authors, at least as they start out. If they are not overwhelmed to begin with by not knowing where to start to query publishers, they send out their proposals and wait for feedback. Depending on how invested they are in finding a traditional publisher, an on how they respond to rejection and criticism and so on, they circulate the book for a longer or shorter time and then decide that they don’t want to A. wait B. change something C. have to deal with these publishing idiots any more.
To me there is not a great deal of difference between indie and traditional publishing. They are simply two different ways to make your material available. In one method someone else is the publisher, in the other you are the publisher. I prefer working with traditional publishers because I like having a team. (I’ve always found the reasoning a little strange when people say they don’t want to go with traditional publishers because they don’t offer enough promotional support, instead they want to go indie which guarantees they will have no support at all.)
I also know that there are times when the best way to make a work available is to go it alone. Experience and experimentation will tell you which will work best for your particular writing. In either case, what you are trying to do is to find an audience for your work. In neither case is this easy.
The key to building an audience, I find, is the same regardless of how you put the work out there. You need to do a lot of marketing and you need to have a consistent voice and style that carries over from one book to another so people who like one will stay with you through the next.
Indie success stories are extremely rare. The ones who do make real money tend to write in a recognizable genre and have a consistent voice. Big publishers want to hire people based on their past work and how it performed.
The type of writer who has the worst time of it is the one who is terribly eclectic. I am one of these unfortunate creatures. I know that the audience for my novel Angel is entirely different from the audience for my next book with Reader’s Digest, Don’t Screw It Up. It is hard to use one to build on the other.
The answer to this problem does not lie in indie publishing or non-indie publishing. It is a marketing challenge. Even so, as an artist, if I may use this word, it is important to me to keep exploring all of my literary interests and to try to get the things I write to the people who would respond most to them.
So why I chose to go “indie” is that on some titles I am the best publisher for my work and for others I can get better results with someone else. It depends on which “Laura Lee” is writing and whether or not I’ve found a champion for a particular project.