This is the next post in continuation of the weekly Indie Author Life series, posted a day early due to Friday being July 4th.
I’ve known my entire life that I was meant to be a writer. I’d write blog posts and columns for my campus newspaper, but the idea of publishing a book seemed too lofty a goal, too “out there” for a nobody like me.
It wasn’t until I saw a woman hanging up a flyer for her book signing at the Panera where I worked that I found out about self-publishing. I asked her how she published, and she made it sound so easy. I had a manuscript written already, and I was very impatient to birth it into the world.
There are many benefits to self-publishing over traditional publishing. One is higher royalties: indie authors can set their own prices and earn up to 70% when publishing through CreateSpace, Amazon’s independent publishing platform. Self-publishing happens at the author’s discretion: it can take well over a year for an agent to pitch a book to a publisher, but indies can hit the “publish” button at any time (this is both a blessing and a curse, which I’ll address later).
For me, the decision to self-publish was more about creative freedom. The kind of books I am interested in writing don’t easily fit into existing genres, which can be a turnoff to some publishers. The audience is too mixed. Over time, cross-blending of genres can become more popular (“paranormal romance” did not exist until the soaring popularity of the Twilight series), but it’s uncommon because it’s risky. From an agent’s perspective, a book that combines genres not previously combined before may not be as popular (ie: lower sales).
Publishers are interested in books that are highly marketable, but these are not always genres I think I can write well. Fantasy is huge right now, but I’ve never been interested in that. Erotica is also huge, but I get squeamish just writing kissing scenes with my characters, so that’s out.
My most recent book, for example, is young adult with religious themes – but it’s not Christian fiction. Therefore, it would be difficult to place among mainstream YA. My first novel, also YA fiction, dealt with rape: not a highly marketable subject, either.
Of course you never know what agents and publishers will think of your work until you try querying, something I have yet to do. It could work out well, or result in a pile of rejection letters. However, I had – and continue to have – specific visions in mind for each of my books, from plot to cover design. I write stories that are meaningful to me, with very specific take-home messages I do not want lost simply because such ideas have yet to become “mainstream.”
When a book is well written, edited, and has an eye-grabbing cover, it can sell at the same ranks as traditionally published books. The only difference is self-published authors have to work harder at establishing connections that agents have, so the process of selling in droves can take much longer. Then again, not all self-published authors publish with a goal of topping the bestseller lists. Some people publish for themselves, or an otherwise narrow audience.
Come back next Friday for more on Indie Author Life: the myths, the realities, and why it’s worth it.