I asked a question and … POW!

Last Wednesday, I asked if you had given any thought to INDIE publishing. I expected I might get a few comments. What happened? Despite NaNoWriMo, despite Thanksgiving, we had the best discussion this blog has ever seen!

Surprisingly, there were more yeas than nays. (I don’t know how to count the many who read the post, but remained silent.) And several comments, on this blog and in private, revealed that I’m not the only one who has considered that option. At least one person definitely changed sides. The number of responses amazed me. And I loved that!

I also dreamed about it. Not the post, or the comments, but the two choices. Whether ‘tis nobler to publish traditionally or go Indie. I can’t quit thinking about it, weighing the options. Since this is my blog, I’m going to let you in on some of my thoughts, pro and con. This is a pro Indie day.

Going Indie assures publication. I could seek trad-pub for years—and years—without success. Then again, I could write the perfect query letter, send it to the perfect agent, who sends it to the perfect publisher, who will say, “Yes! We want it because this is a book that will SELL.” Because, of course, only the big name publishers know what readers want.

Or do they?

If the major NY houses truly know what sells, how could any book they publish ever fail to earn out? Surely they’ve never paid a ginormous advance to a celebrity and then seen the sales of that book fall embarrassingly short of expectations. Surely it’s just a myth that twelve publishers rejected the first Harry Potter book.

And they know good writing when they see it, right? You’d never read the latest, hottest, bestest seller and think, Really?! You’d never be disappointed by a boring plot, or bland characters, and definitely not by poorly crafted sentences because these books have been vetted by those powers that be.

Traditional publishers are the standard bearers, the gatekeepers of literary quality. They have declared it so. And that makes it true.


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27 thoughts on “I asked a question and … POW!

  1. I think of Quentin Tarantino. He once mentioned that which weekend a movie opens or how much success/failure it endures that weekend really doesn’t matter. A film, like a book, will take on a life of its own..eventually.

    To self-publish or seek traditional help is similar to asking whether a Mid-wife should deliver your baby or whether you should go to a Doctor. As long as the baby comes out healthy, will it really matter to the Child’s life?


    1. Your book publishers/ movie studios analogy is apt, John. I’d agree with Quentin as a movie goer, but the movie studios care only about the ticket sales.

      Your mid-wife/ hospital analogy illustrates something I want to discuss in a future post. Does it really matter?


  2. I think what happens sometimes is that people mget hung up on the “traditional” way of doing things. I also thnik that some people get so focused on a National Basis of getting something they want done they forget one small fact. Most things start on a local or regional basis and not a National one.


  3. As you know from my recent post on going Indie, my decision was the result of realizing that the route to market is irrelevant. Readers responding to my voice is what will make a “successful” novel.

    The only question that lingered was: Can I reach those readers without a publishing house? I think I can.

    I could write at least 2 essays on your question about disappointment in traditionally published novels, but I’ll restrain myself. 😉


    1. Good point, Cathryn. Connecting with readers is the goal. I’ve just not convinced myself I can reach as many as I could with trad-pub. Then again, while I wait for the trad-pub market to turn in my favor, I’m reaching NO readers, and that’s getting old.


  4. I do not believe that traditional publishers are the last word on the quality or the marketability of a novel. They wish they were, of course. As you point out, there would never be a disappointment for them if they were always right. Yet, if they publish, they take the risk. If the author publishes, he/she takes the risk. If the traditional publisher cashes in, the author does so also but receives far less than if the author had made the initial investment. So, I think the indie idea is very attractive for those writers able to absorb a possible loss. Once the investment is covered by sales, it’s all win win for the successful author.


    1. The monetary risks depend on which method of self-pub you choose. You can publish an ebook for nothing, unless you pay someone to edit, format, and design the cover. Even POD, through CreateSpace, can cost as little as $39, if you do the format and design yourself. (I believe the $39 gets your book listed in the catalogs so brick and mortar stores could special order it.)

      If you want hardback copies, or go with a printer that requires you to buy a certain print run, say 500 or 1,000 copies, and use professional services for your editing, layout, and design, you would have to invest a bit of money.

      Still, even if your trad-book doesn’t sell much, you didn’t pay anything and you have your advance. Does it come down to a bird in the hand decision?


      1. I think it also depends on your long-term goals. If you only plan to publish one novel, the bird in the hand might be better.

        If you want to develop a career, an advance that doesn’t earn out due to weak sales will make it that much more difficult to get the publisher’s support for your 2nd book.


  5. If I had a nickel for every time an editor or agent said “oh, but you NEED our professional opinion and editing services and marketing machine…” and then had to gulp and say “well, yes, there is a lot of stuff traditionally published that isn’t very good. But you still NEED us…”

    Well, if I had a nickel for all those I wouldn’t need to write for money.

    The publishing world, with rare exception, sounds a lot like GM sounded right around November of 2008. “You NEED us. We’re too big to fail.” Uh… You sure about that?



    1. Some agents and editors sound a bit desperate lately, don’t they? Their “you need us” smacks of scare tactics. Especially with the editing line because it seems if your book isn’t print ready, or almost, they’re not interesting in taking it on anyway. Some of them claim they “don’t have time to edit” anymore.

      Your GM analogy … 😀


  6. As you know, after reading your post and comments I’m going to self-pub my novella, and potentially other novellas. I’ve been doing some reading and really, unless you’re going the agent/publisher route, there seems to be little to gain from going with small presses! I have found some small e-publishers (considering I’m thinking only of the e-pub route, not paperbacks) which pay a measly 20% royalties with no advance, where you have to do the bulk of the marketing yourself, the ‘editing’ is somewhat questionable and you may or may not be provided with cover art which may or may not be professional looking.
    I’d much rather self-pub than that. I’m not afraid to be accountable for the outcome regardless of whether it’s positive or negative.


  7. Technology will change the publishing industry whether they like it or not. It happened in the music industry. The musician, finally has more power now than ever before. There is no longer need for middlemen. Of course the “traditional” routes still have much more power…here’s hoping for a revolution.
    You’ve also inspired to write a small post about all this so thank you again 🙂


    1. Technology has and will continue to change the publishing industry. I can’t imagine that really took them by surprise, but maybe they were too arrogant.

      I saw your pingback. Thank you. I’ll go read your post now.


  8. I agree with those who have said it really just depends on what you want. I would also venture to say that it depends on what you have tried and how long you’ve been trying. I’m not saying this should be the route for everyone, but for me personally, I’m not ready to just take the easy way out. Is getting traditionally published hard? Absolutely. Is it almost impossible? Probably. And you also have to consider that if you do self-publish, you’re going to be doing a lot of work b/c you have to do ALL of your own marketing (social media has made this a lot easier, but it’s still a lot of work). Taking that into consideration, there is no easy route to getting published. But for me, I’m not ready to give up on traditional publishing until I’ve tried. Many now-famous writers were overlooked and rejected. They perservered and eventually were published. I don’t see anything wrong with self/indie publishing (for some people, it’s the better option depending on what you want and how long you’ve been trying other options. You have to decide that for yourself, which is hard. I’m not decisive either, btw), but I’m not ready to go that route until I’ve at least tried the traditional route.


    1. But you are decisive, Ruth; you’ve decided to exhaust your try for traditional publishing before you consider any other option. I respect that and wish you success.

      I’m not new to querying. Now, I’m taking a hard look at my agent search and thinking I may have exhausted that route.


      1. You don’t know how many times I’ve gone back and forth in the last month. There’s still a little voice in the back of my head that says, “Oh just go ahead and get this published through your friend’s small publishing company.” To be decisive, I just have to wake up every morning and say, “This is the way we’re doing this right now. So work towards the goal.” There may be a day when I’ve exhausted the traditional route, too. I’m just not there yet. I don’t want to abandon it without a good try.


        1. Oh, Anna, indecision is my curse. I discussed the publishing thing with my husband this afternoon. At the end of the conversation he said, “You’ve already made up your mind. It will just take you awhile to realize it.” I asked him what I decided, but he just laughed.


  9. …and I wanted to add that whatever you attempt, even if you don’t succeed, it can all be an amazing learning experience. That goes for self/indy publishing AND traditional publishing.


  10. wow – what a topic to jump into after being absentee for a while. Honestly, I have never considered self-publication for the sole reason that I do not think I have it in me to do the work required to market. I cannot self myself. I am no good at it. I feel this alone would be a full time job. Maybe in ten years when kids are older. That said – I wish I had the time and resources to self-publish. I have no idea what my future holds. I think success can come from many routes.


    1. Yes, Jennifer, you kind of dropped right into a hot pot. 🙂 I read about marketing and tremble, but then I think, I’m doing most of that anyway. I already have a blog, and Twitter and Facebook accounts. I’m online every day, often most of the day. I just don’t have a book to sell yet. I don’t know, decisions, decisions.

      Just keep writing, then you’ll be ready to take either path.


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