Thursday, October 27, 2011

Going Indie?

Today, I'm off to the Emerald City Conference. I'm traveling light, since I couldn't find a convenient itinerary with "my" airline, so I'm flying without any of my usual perks, including that free checked bag. Plus, I'm flying out of Denver, which creates issues with parking and schlepping to the terminal. So, it's a 'cram everything into one carryon' trip. I decided I could live without my laptop for the relatively short time I'll be gone.

I hope everyone continues to follow the blog, sign up for my newsletter, and all the other contest-entering options. I just won't be able to respond to comments. But I'll love it if when I come back, I have lots of new followers, contest entries, and comments. I've had two readers offer recipes already.

Last weekend, I attended the monthly meeting of my RWA chapter. Their program was a panel of authors who had recently decided to take the indie publishing route. They shared their approaches, which ranged from "do everything myself" to "pay a company to be my publisher."

There are pros and cons, of course. The author who paid for the service spent several thousand dollars for editing, formatting, and cover art. The company charges a separate fee for print and e-book formatting. Doing it yourself, of course, means learning how to follow all the formatting directions, and spending a lot of time. Time, as we all know, is money, so it's something everyone has to decide on an individual basis.

My thoughts. With the rise in indie publishing, there are going to be a lot of people out there who will take advantage of an author looking for help. You have to do your homework and shop around, because prices vary wildly, and I fear there will be horror stories about ripoffs. I've been lucky finding a good designer with reasonable prices for my cover art—I know I don't have the skills. Likewise, for my two original projects, I also added the cost of an editor. Again, I've been fortunate with reasonable prices. And I do think if you're going to indie-publish, you need to have a professional editor go through your manuscript. It doesn't matter whether you've been published before, or your critique groups say it's great. You need fresh eyes.

Case in point:

One of my short stories is part of an anthology being put together by the Backlist eBook group. It had been published by one of my publishers, which meant professional editing. I re-edited it before sending it to the Backlist editor. She found a few places that could have been clearer, and caught an error or two. Then, when the book was in the proofing stage, I read it again. As a final check, everyone in the anthology read someone else's story. My reader found two typos. And when I went to correct them, I found a third.

And this is only line editing. You need someone who will look at your story. I read—or started reading—an indie published book and it was clear that the author didn't have an editor who could tell her to tighten her story. Because of the poor storytelling, I won't be reading anything else by that author.

As far as formatting, I haven't seen the need to pay someone else to do it. The Smashwords Style Guide gives step-by-step instructions, and since I'm comfortable with my word processor, nothing seemed beyond my comprehension. Again, that's me.

Thus, I haven't had to outlay any phenomenal amount of money when I average the cost over the 6 books I've indie-published. To publish with any of the e-tailers, there's no up front cost to authors unless they want to purchase an ISBN. For print, I went with Create Space for DANGER IN DEER RIDGE, which sells on The outlay there was $39 to have them take care of all aspect of sales. I don't expect to sell many print books, but they're there should someone want them. Consensus seems to be that print sales are a tiny fraction of e-book sales for indie authors.

What you shouldn't expect if you go the indie route is making lots of sales, either print or digital. Not unless you've got a good following. Joe Konrath had an interesting post the other day. He's suggesting that authors go no lower than the $2.99 price point (which is the lowest price Amazon allows for the 70% royalty.)

However, despite his arguments, I've decided to lower the price of WHAT'S IN A NAME? to 99 cents. Why? Because first, I'm not Joe Konrath. Or Barry Eisler, or any of the other authors whose names sell their books. People are more willing to pay 99 cents to take a chance on a new author. And that's what I am to most people.

We'll see what happens. I'll let you know. Tomorrow, while I'm in Washington, come back for a virtual trip to the pumpkin patch.

Like this post? Please share by clicking one of the links below.


Wynter said...

I've gone the indie route with several of my previously books and have been really pleased with my sales. But if I'd never been published, I don't think I'd have done that. And you're right. There's a lot to be said for that second and third set of eyes! Enjoy the conference.

Terry Odell said...

I agree -- I wouldn't have the confidence in my work had I not already had 7 books published.

Karen C said...

To be honest, I don't like to pay $2.99 for an author I don't know. But, when I do find an author I like, I am very likely to buy their complete backlist.

Terry Odell said...

Karen - that's why the free sample for e-books is such a great feature.