Some Facts About Indie Publishing

I’m going to be doing a couple of presentations at local libraries in my area in November on Indie Publishing, and so I’ve been revisiting some information that is really quite incredible.  Some of it I already knew, but some of it is new.  The stigma typically associated with indie publishing is as follows:

  • It’s nothing more than vanity publishing
  • It’s lower quality work
  • They don’t sell their books except to their mom and college roommate
  • A viable career in writing isn’t possible without a publisher
  • Most of it is erotica anyway

The short answer to this is that it’s a load of bull.  Indie publishing is not only viable, but it’s considerably more viable than traditional publishing.  Before moving on to my longer answer to the typical stigma, let’s first revisit the common misconceptions about traditional publishing:

  • If I can get just get a publisher, I can quit my day job
  • If I get a publisher, they’ll do all of my marketing for me
  • Publishers are the only way to get to most readers

These are lies at worst, and misconceptions at best.  Here are the facts.  Unless you are Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, a big publisher will not do your marketing for you.  That’s almost never the case.  That’s a little bit different with smaller publishing houses, but big publishers (which is what most aspiring authors are hoping to eventually get) do little to none of your marketing for you unless you’re a big name author, which you can’t become without marketing, so they basically put you in a permanent catch-22.

The idea that you can suddenly quit your day job is also a bundle of self-contrived dreamy garbage.  The way most publishing contracts work is that the publisher pays you an advance of royalties, say $20,000, and once your book sells that many copies, then you get a set percentage of the royalties from there on out (which isn’t very much).  The good news is that if your book never meets that amount, you still get to keep the advance.  The bad news is that most books, especially from first-time authors, don’t meet that.  The idea that publishers are the only ways to get to readers is also a fallacy, but we’ll deal with that in a bit.

Looking comparatively at indie publishing, the first and most common negative thing attached with it is the accusation that these books are the dregs of literature, not good enough to be accepted by good editors, and shouldn’t be accepted by readers.  Let’s ignore the fact that these intelligent editors continually turned down the likes of Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, and numerous other brilliant writers before others picked them up, first of all.  Secondly, there’s an assumption inherent in this that indies don’t have any access to quality control of any kind, or that they can’t have professionals working with that to get proper editing, formatting, cover art, etc.

To be sure, this is probably the closest to well-deserved stigma on the indie community.  But it’s also not true.  There are some indies who bypass any editing process and are too cheap to pay for a good cover, but I wouldn’t even say that that’s the majority of us.  There’s a vast majority of editing services, cover artists, and other author services that not only serve indies, but that are marketed specifically to indie authors.  It’s expensive, but very doable.

In fact, I would say that the success (or lack thereof) itself would indicate the quality of the work.  And in that department, the indie community has more than enough to go around.  Which brings me to the Author Earnings Report.  If you want to read it yourself, the link is here.  This report follows more than 100,000 titles in the Amazon Kindle library (which, by the way, is the most vibrant book market.  Not only is it the heaviest market for indies, but it now makes up 40% of revenues for traditional publishers, too).  Here are some remarkable facts:

Indie authors earn more in royalties than all authors from all off the big five publishers combined.

The most popular genre on Kindle is romance.  In that category, indie authors make 2/3 of the earnings from the entire genre, as well as over half of the earnings in Science Fiction & Fantasy

In a previous report from the same source, it was revealed that more indie authors than traditionally published authors make a sustainable income from their writing.

Oh, and by the way, only 1.2% of gross Kindle sales are erotica.

Even as I’m writing, the number 2 best seller in the Kindle store is an indie book, which also happens to be a New York Time Best Seller.

Still think indie publishing isn’t viable?

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