Today (Saturday 10 June) marks the start of Indie Author Week UK and I've been reflecting on my own journey.
Back in the day, if you wanted to be a writer, your only option was to pitch your book to a literary agent and cross your fingers that you’d be in the 1-2% they said yes to. If you were, the agent would then sell your book to a publisher who would do all the marketing and promotion while you sat back to watch the royalties flood in. Hurrah!
If there was a cheery, happy ever after song playing in the background, the needle slid off the record for me in May 2019 when I attended a 101 on the publishing industry at Winchester Writers’ Conference.
Having half-heartedly pitched a handful of agents and spoken to some at the conference, I already knew the traditional route wasn’t for me. Even if I lucked out and got an agent (which I seriously doubted) the issue for me was control.
Readers are the ultimate validation
I had been hearing stories from authors with book deals who were being forced to change key elements of their stories to suit the market the publisher had in mind. Change the beginning, the middle, the end to the point where for some, they’d re-written most of their book. All new writers crave validation, but as my husband pointed out, wasn’t it for the readers to decide if the story was any good? He certainly had a point.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for experts. If you’ve studied something, worked in the industry, put in the hours and gained the t-shirt, then you’re way more expert than someone who hasn’t. Does a traditional publisher know how to produce and market a book better than I do? Hands down, yes.
There are easier ways to make a living
Maybe it’s because I’ve been running my own independent small business for the last decade, or because so much of the writing I do for clients is shaped and dictated by someone else, but when it came to my fiction, I was not willing to cede control. Stand or fall, I wanted the story to be mine.
The ‘tin lid’ as they say, came during the Publishing 101 workshop when I discovered that a traditionally published paperback sold in a bookshop for £7.99, earns the author just 0.60p. Let that sink in for a moment. Just 8% of the cover price goes to the person who spent months, maybe even years creating the story. Using the much-touted figure of the average book selling 300 copies in its lifetime and you’ll no doubt conclude that there are far easier ways of earning a living!
What’s more, the mythical marketing support is usually slim to non-existent. This was reinforced by a recent survey published in The Bookseller that reported that over half of debut authors struggle with a lack of support from their publisher.
Signing away your rights for a measly 8% royalty and the same mountain of marketing as an indie author was far from a compelling option. With that knowledge tucked securely in my belt, I plunged into the crazy but wonderful world of self-publishing.
Being an indie author is a nightmare (sometimes!)
Luckily, it’s a world is full of talented freelance editors, proof readers, cover designers and the like who can help you create high quality, professional books. Has it been easy? Hell no! It’s been a bloody nightmare! 😆 And I’m only half joking too.
What I do know, is that I’m enjoying the journey even with the all the wrong turns and dead ends I’ve discovered along the way. And that’s what matters.
Please support authors
Before I go, a quick ask. Whether traditionally published or indie, please support authors by buying their books, borrowing them from the library, leaving a review, signing up to their mailing list or just following them on social media. It all helps other people to discover their work.
If you’ve got a question about self-publishing, please head over to my Facebook page.