August 15, 2018, 01:48:59 AM

Author Topic: Are you a Trad or Indie?  (Read 1725 times)

Offline Not Lu

Re: Are you a Trad or Indie?
« Reply #15 on: May 13, 2018, 08:26:46 PM »
I think there's more to self-publishing than just running a business. It's possible to publish and just see what happens. Likely, very little will, but a person can build a mailing list and have a modest number of fans, generate enough money just to cover production costs, maybe even cover the cost of attending a convention or two, all without having to go full-on business. It's also possible to publish and do nothing whatsoever, being content to have one's story be more than a manuscript in a drawer.

Traditional publishing doesn't really offer the range of options. Yes, there's the old vanity press racket, which keeps trying to revive itself in various garbs. Maybe one could call being content being a mid-lister as analogous to the cost recovery model in indie, but they're more like quantum jumps than a continuum.

Another benefit of being self-published is I get to call myself Indy. :)

I totally agree. Everyone has their own reasons for self publishing. Many of them have nothing to do with making a lot of money. I know an author that couldn't care less about the money. All he cares about are the reviews.  :o

Offline tebakutis

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Re: Are you a Trad or Indie?
« Reply #16 on: May 13, 2018, 11:49:30 PM »
I'm clearly biased towards going with the trade/traditional publishers, but that's for a number of very good reasons:

Everything Cameron just said. I've been at this indie publishing thing for almost 6 years now (I've now done four books indie) and I can say his points about the advantages of traditional press are entirely accurate. I know a number of fellow authors who have gone traditional, and the baseline you start with in traditional press is just so much higher than indie. There's nothing *wrong* with indie, but turning down traditional press in favor of indie (when you're starting out) is simply not what I'd recommend.

I feel like my latest book is the best book I've written yet. Advance readers, reviewers, and even the editors and agents who rejected it all seemed to agree. Yet despite the positive press, it's hardly sold anything, and that's because no one has heard of it. There's just SO MANY indie books (and authors) out there that's it's extremely difficult to stand out from the pack. Every so often an indie author blows up, but the conditions are random (kind of like landing an agent, honestly) and this is like 1% of the total indie author group. As authors, we tend to have a rather overly optimistic perspective on how much we'll sell.

Traditional press gets you, as Cameron said, a built-in audience, and from talking to agents, editors, and fellow (traditional press) authors at conventions, I've pretty much consistently learned that even a poorly selling traditional press book still sells more copies than even well known indie books. I like to think of book publishing through the metaphor of a mountain - every author wants to get to the top of the mountain (where people like King, Scalzi, et all hang out) and most never make it. However, indie authors start at the very bottom of the mountain, and they have to claw and climb the entire way up. Traditional press authors still have to climb that mountain (and also might not make it to the top) but they start at a base camp a good way's up the slope.

Finally, the fact that indie publishing is available means striking out in traditional press (not earning out, essentially, and not getting another book deal) *still* leaves you the option to go indie after traditional, and authors who have gone traditional first usually obtain at least a small audience and some cred. By going traditional press you have made contacts and likely acquired an audience (and a starting point) far beyond that of the average indie author. Again, having done four books on my own (and seen the expected lack of sales/exposure, despite advertising and connections) there's always the chance something I do indie will take off ... but I'm not holding my breath.

Landing a book in traditional press, taking advantage of the signal booster/accelerator that results, and then either succeeding (if it goes well) or going back to indie (with some new momentum) are both far superior to going indie out of the gate (IMO). I'd never recommend going indie FIRST. Once your debut book has struck out everywhere, if you've got great feedback, absolutely go indie - but why turn down the chance to go traditional (and take advantage of all the things Cameron has pointed out) without even trying?

Offline cupiscent

Re: Are you a Trad or Indie?
« Reply #17 on: May 13, 2018, 11:53:46 PM »
Just curious, because there's an element I've heard a lot in other self-pub discussions, but not in this one: prolificness. Other times I've seen building an indie career discussed, people have talked about the need to put out books regularly and quickly - one every six months being touted as ideal, but one a year the minimum.

Aside from not really caring about the money (I'd like to make some; it's not why I write) and not wanting to run a business, that's the thing that seems the biggest sticking point, to me. I just can't write that fast and achieve the quality I want to achieve.

Thoughts? Is this still an important factor in an indie career?

Offline Not Lu

Re: Are you a Trad or Indie?
« Reply #18 on: May 14, 2018, 12:52:19 AM »
I'm clearly biased towards going with the trade/traditional publishers, but that's for a number of very good reasons:
Every so often an indie author blows up, but the conditions are random (kind of like landing an agent, honestly) and this is like 1% of the total indie author group. As authors, we tend to have a rather overly optimistic perspective on how much we'll sell.

During the last 3 quarters of 2017 the Amazon imprints and indie authors sold more ebooks than traditional publishers did. Trade pub had more revenue because they sold at a higher price (but the author probably didn't make as much as the indie author due to indies getting a 70% cut of revenue). So, there are a lot of indie authors out there making a living and a ton of them making mid-list money.

http://authorearnings.com/report/january-2018-report-us-online-book-sales-q2-q4-2017/

Offline Not Lu

Re: Are you a Trad or Indie?
« Reply #19 on: May 14, 2018, 01:09:41 AM »
Just curious, because there's an element I've heard a lot in other self-pub discussions, but not in this one: prolificness. Other times I've seen building an indie career discussed, people have talked about the need to put out books regularly and quickly - one every six months being touted as ideal, but one a year the minimum.

Aside from not really caring about the money (I'd like to make some; it's not why I write) and not wanting to run a business, that's the thing that seems the biggest sticking point, to me. I just can't write that fast and achieve the quality I want to achieve.

Thoughts? Is this still an important factor in an indie career?

There are a couple of schools of thought in the indie community. One is as you mentioned, write as fast as you can and let Amazon boost you due to the hot new release list. The more you write the more often you get in the list and the more often your backlist gets seen (and bought). Some of these writers try to publish 6 to 12 books a year.

A way slower writers do it is to write the first three books in the series before they publish. Then they publish book 1 immediately, book 2 on a 30 day pre order, and book 3 on a 60 day pre order (some space it 14 or 21 days between each book). By doing this they get extra visibility in the Amazon store for 45 to 90 days. They also put some advertising on book one for extra visibility. By the end of the first 90 days they're profitable enough to continue advertising until their next book is out.

It is also possible to be successful only writing a book a year or two, but it takes a lot more money. These authors slowly build their audience and true fans by consistent small advertising, mailing lists, promo sites, etc. After they've written the 3rd book (say 3 or 4 years into their career) they usually have a large enough following that they can do a big ad spend and be profitable.

It really depends on your goals and what you're willing to do as a writer to decide which strategy is best. But, as everyone has mentioned above, visibility is what's important whether you're trade published or indie. As an indie, you can't expect to publish on Amazon then have the book sell itself. You have to put some ad spend behind it to reach readers.

Offline NedMarcus

Re: Are you a Trad or Indie?
« Reply #20 on: May 14, 2018, 02:05:06 AM »
Just curious, because there's an element I've heard a lot in other self-pub discussions, but not in this one: prolificness. Other times I've seen building an indie career discussed, people have talked about the need to put out books regularly and quickly - one every six months being touted as ideal, but one a year the minimum.

...I just can't write that fast and achieve the quality I want to achieve.

Some do, some don't. Not Lu gives a longer version. Personally, I can't write so fast, but I don't write the same sort of stories that the truly high-speed writers do. Often their stories are formulaic—not saying they're necessarily bad, but they clearly follow a formula. See this article where a writer talks about writing 12 books in 6 months. She explains how she does it, but for me, this just wouldn't work.

https://insights.bookbub.com/write-12-books-6-months-grow-sales-populate-backlist/

Offline Skip

Re: Are you a Trad or Indie?
« Reply #21 on: May 14, 2018, 03:44:08 AM »
I do not dispute (it would be folly to dispute) the higher starting point for traditional publishing. My problem lies not with the starting point but with the extraordinary amount of time it takes to get to that point in the first place. I said it before but it bears repeating: it's not at all unusual to shop your book for *years* before you get an agent. That's not a publisher, mind you, that's just an agent. That doesn't get you in the ballpark, that just gets you to the town where the ballpark is located.

Especially in our field, it used to be quite different. There were a number of fantasy magazines, even more SF mags, where the aspiring writer could break in. He could shop his first novel by pointing to the two or five short stories he'd had published. That world has very nearly vanished. Alongside that, the corporate takeover of so many publishing houses gave the boot to countless agents and editors, many of who are out freelancing now. This does not translate to more opportunities, it translates to more people knocking on the same doors.

If you succeed, a whole new set of issues open up, but yes it does mean that you are relieved have having to find editors and artists (a tedious, time-consuming, and chancy project itself). It emphatically does not mean you are relieved of marketing time.

I would never say don't bother trying. Keep trying. Try everything. Try anything. All I'm saying is that I'm sixty-six years old, I have a good dozen novels in me (or is that a dozen good novels?), and I do not have time to spend sending out query letters (a whole topic in itself), then waiting months for replies only to repeat the process again and again. Not when I can just click Publish.

No path is an easy one. Not for any artist in any business. The more one hopes to live off the income from art, the more difficult, even treacherous, the path becomes. Sometimes I pine for the days of having an aristocratic patron.

Offline Ryan Mueller

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Re: Are you a Trad or Indie?
« Reply #22 on: May 21, 2018, 05:04:26 AM »
I'm going with indie at this point. I like the control I have over my writing career. The marketing and promotion is a steep learning curve, but I do enjoy taking on new challenges.

One of the big things for me is that I feel most trade publishing schedules are too slow. A lot of times, you're limited to one book per year. I have so many books I want to write that one book a year simply wouldn't do it.

If I do get a trade deal at some point, I'd want to have the option to remain a hybrid so that I can publish other series on my own.

Offline Toby Frost

Re: Are you a Trad or Indie?
« Reply #23 on: July 17, 2018, 09:41:15 AM »
I think this is a really interesting thread. Up till now, I've been trad published, but I've come to a natural break in things and I'm considering self-publishing a trilogy of older work, newly edited and, where necessary, re-written. I think the books are exciting, and that the genre has become more suited to them as time's moved on, thanks to the rise of grimdark.

However, publicity is daunting stuff. It's interesting how very different skills are required of an author: the introspective, almost scholarly ability to write a book, and then the very outgoing personality needed to sell it. I think this is going to be a strange experience and the learning curve will be steep, but hopefully the outcome will be good.

Offline Skip

Re: Are you a Trad or Indie?
« Reply #24 on: July 17, 2018, 03:52:00 PM »
Toby, do you have a specific goal for your indie project? Is it number of sales? A certain amount of money? Newsletter subscribers?

Offline Not Lu

Re: Are you a Trad or Indie?
« Reply #25 on: July 17, 2018, 04:54:06 PM »
I think this is a really interesting thread. Up till now, I've been trad published, but I've come to a natural break in things and I'm considering self-publishing a trilogy of older work, newly edited and, where necessary, re-written. I think the books are exciting, and that the genre has become more suited to them as time's moved on, thanks to the rise of grimdark.

However, publicity is daunting stuff. It's interesting how very different skills are required of an author: the introspective, almost scholarly ability to write a book, and then the very outgoing personality needed to sell it. I think this is going to be a strange experience and the learning curve will be steep, but hopefully the outcome will be good.

Today's book marketing has evolved past the need to be outgoing or even meet people. You can do it from the comfort of your living room with promotion sites (Bookbub), Amazon advertising, Facebook advertising, etc. That's one of the big differences between an indie author and traditionally published. Indies go direct to the customer with a pitch to buy the book. Publishers focus on distributors and PR to make the pitch to readers. So, being an indie you shouldn't focus on "publicity". Instead, build advertising campaigns that appeal to the readers of your genre.

Offline Skip

Re: Are you a Trad or Indie?
« Reply #26 on: July 17, 2018, 10:29:36 PM »
You can try to do traditional marketing, of course, but as Not Lu indicated, that's not the only path.

I look at it through a different lens. I'm here in Fantasy Faction. I frequent two other forums and three FB groups. I have a website where I post lots of stuff about Altearth that doesn't make it into my books. I have a (small) subscriber list.

That's my community. I very much enjoy visiting and participating. They sing the song of my people. I do tell folks when I've finished a new book; in fact, in a couple of places I even talk about how things are going with the current book. Other authors do the same. We're just talking about what we've done, what we're doing, what we're planning to do.

Now, I make almost no money at this, so the above is not the route to $uccess, but I left that illusion a long time ago. I'd like to make enough money to cover my costs, but even if I don't, this is a pretty cheap hobby. Costs less than a boat, and I'll leave behind something more than an oil slick.

Your ambition may vary. I offer this as a path, one of many.

Offline NedMarcus

Re: Are you a Trad or Indie?
« Reply #27 on: July 18, 2018, 12:39:38 AM »
...this is a pretty cheap hobby. Costs less than a boat, and I'll leave behind something more than an oil slick.
:D The oil slick comment made me laugh. I often tell people the same. I've met people who spend much more than me (even after I've paid for an editor) on paragliding, sailing, or expensive cars.

Offline Toby Frost

Re: Are you a Trad or Indie?
« Reply #28 on: July 24, 2018, 12:31:20 PM »
Today's book marketing has evolved past the need to be outgoing or even meet people. You can do it from the comfort of your living room with promotion sites (Bookbub), Amazon advertising, Facebook advertising, etc. That's one of the big differences between an indie author and traditionally published. Indies go direct to the customer with a pitch to buy the book. Publishers focus on distributors and PR to make the pitch to readers. So, being an indie you shouldn't focus on "publicity". Instead, build advertising campaigns that appeal to the readers of your genre.

Thanks, that's an interesting point. I suppose it's the idea of getting out there (virtually or not) and doing it myself. But then I've done conventions and events, so I don't suppose it will be very different, just more frequent and perhaps less intense.

Toby, do you have a specific goal for your indie project? Is it number of sales? A certain amount of money? Newsletter subscribers?

Another good question! I've not thought about this terribly hard. Ideally, I would like to make some sort of profit - not that I expect vast sums by any means, but I think they're good books and I would be disappointed if they pretty much sank without trace. And of course I'll inevitably end up putting money into the project (again, not huge sums) and it would be disappointing to end up with a loss. I suppose at the moment I am thinking about it in that financial sense, but I really don't know what to expect, and I am trying to be pretty realistic about it all.

Offline Magnus Hedén

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Re: Are you a Trad or Indie?
« Reply #29 on: July 24, 2018, 01:06:48 PM »
I think my dream is to start by building enough of a following on Patreon to be able to do the writing I want, then eventually start poking traditional publishers when I already have an established fanbase. This is all far in the future; first of all, I need to step up my productivity several notches.

But I'm already laying the groundwork for spreading the word, albeit slowly. I tried quick and dirty and that just wasn't me at all. Now I'm picking up supporters pretty much one at the time. I love it because I have a personal relationship with them.  :D
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