This entry is a follow-up to last week’s post, which you can find here. Hopefully this entry is more Empire Strikes Back than Matrix Reloaded.
As promised, the second part of this feature will focus on what I believe are the three core benefits for writers taking the ‘indie’ route right now. There are already hundreds, probably thousands, of blog entries and articles weighing up the positive and negative factors of each, but this will instead be an attempt to show to you a more personal reasoning behind my decision. Before we start, if you aren’t familiar with the recent rise of indie publishing, @aliventures has recorded a brilliant series of debates on the matter, outlining the perspectives of both camps:
‘Should I Self-Publish or Get a Book Deal?’ with Scott Stratten and Jim Kukral via aliventures.com
Oh, and a word on the ‘stigma’ of self-publishing. Sadly, there will probably always be stigma attached, in the same way that people stop eating at a restaurant because they find one of their own hairs in the food. You know what I say? Screw the stigma. Anybody with half an hour and a Google Search bar at their disposal has the tools to realise that not only is the internet changing the publishing landscape, but also the music and film industries too. It has been well documented time and time again, so I won’t go there.
Without further ado, here are the three primary reasons behind my decision to independently publish What We Saw:
1. Creative freedom – I have an active imagination. Ask anybody close to me about my dreams, and they’ll probably tell you I’m a madman. I interpret this as, ‘visionary’. However, when I’m not dreaming about armies of birds or laughing mud, I am coming up with ideas, sometimes consciously, often unconsciously. I would love to be able to commit these tales to paper one day, but sadly, traditional publishing restricts my potential output. I am a mystery/thriller writer, sure, but chances are, if I were signed, I’d be either, a.) forced to write two more very similar books to What We Saw, b.) forced to write What We See: The Sequel, c.) forced to write What We Saw: Now With Vampires! Self-publishing keeps my options open, albeit within the broad genre I love.
2. Audience engagement – I love you. Yes, you, a lovely fan who has taken the time to read this entry. Engaging with you all via Facebook, Twitter, and the blog, gives me a real buzz. Planning which content I will run in the future, gives me a buzz. Commenting, sharing, the whole lot: it gives me a buzz. Three buzzes might not be healthy, but what is these days? The level of freedom provided by taking the ‘indie’ route is unmatched. I believe that the basis of a good business, or authorial entrepreneur, is active engagement. Building trust with the audience. Not spamming links to purchase the book endlessly, or twiddling thumbs and waiting for the publishers to do all the hard work. Get involved! You might just find you enjoy it.
3. Royalties – I know that money shouldn’t be the primary motivation to write, but it should be a motivation nevertheless. Writing is our career; what makes it any less legitimate than a 9-5 job? I for one can truly say that I have often exceeded those hours, so we deserve a little something for following our gut and doing what we truly want to be doing, rather than what society wants us to do. Royalties, I believe, are better for self-published authors, because it cuts out the middle-man. They aren’t fantastic, but with the traditional route, once the publisher, the agent, and the cleaner have had their hands in the pot, you have very little to live on, especially if you are a debut author with minimal marketing support. Self-publishing offers the author the freedom of pricing their book, a key factor for me. Let’s face it: nobody pays £7.99 for a eBook, right? So why would you spend that amount on an unknown author, with only a publishing house to sing their praises? The answer is, you probably wouldn’t. Until the publishers find a way to price more competitively, this will long be a stumbling block.
Once again, I must reiterate that I have no real personal issues with the publishing industry. I’ve never had a rejection letter from them. I want them to succeed, because a balance between their commercial power and expertise, and the freedom of ‘indie’ publishing, means more good books for all.
Until that day, though, I know where my loyalties lie.
Hey Ryan. My brother recommended me this blog today, and I’m glad he did because this is an excellent piece of work. I’m currently in the process of writing a book of my own, which I’m hoping to self-publish for all the reasons you list.
Anyway, if it’s not a rude question (which I’m guessing it isn’t, given the nature of this blog), how much has the self-publishing process for What We Saw cost? And are there any continuous costs to self-publishing (like SEO, royalties, reprinting – although I’m guessing you get a lot printed at once, so reprints haven’t been an issue yet.)
Hey James. Just checked out your site — good stuff. Cheers for the comment.
As for the costs, actually lower than you might think! They certainly were lower than I imagined. I’ll try to break it all down below:
The beauty of self-publishing is that it is a series of different processes. Sure, you hear about these big companies like Author Solutions ripping the shit out of people and charging ridiculous amounts, but they are dinosaurs who won’t be around for much longer the way they are going, so leave them be.
TECHNICALLY, you could self-publish a book and never pay a penny. Like, seriously, £0.00.
However, of course, it is better if you shell out for a few things.
1. Editing – professional editing is kind of a big deal no matter how well we think we write. I used to think I was a pretty good writer, but I realise how much I had to learn in going through the editing process. My editor is Brenda Errichiello – she talks about the entire selection process and what to expect in a guest post she did a few weeks back here: https://ryancaseybooks.com/editing-process-1/
2. Cover design – if you are good at design, this can be skipped, but if not, I’d recommend it. Books are judged by their covers, even in this ebook age. If you are interested in cover design, I work with a great designer called Lloyd Lelina – I’ll forward you his email later.
3. Formatting – I skip on this because I’ve learned how to format ebooks though this amazing guide (http://guidohenkel.com/2010/12/take-pride-in-your-ebook-formatting/) but if you fancy saving some time, expect to pay around £50-£100 for formatting.
I’ll do a full blog post about the costs of self-publishing in the coming weeks (cheers for the inspiration!)
About printing – check out CreateSpace. Print on demand service that only prints copies when they are ordered, bypassing the whole ‘backlog’ thing.
As for continuous costs – I pay a few quid a month to keep this website afloat, and $50-ish quid every 90 days for promotional opportunities.
All the best,
Another thing I was wondering is: do you know much about the legal side of self-publishing? I’m currently writing a compendium of screenwriting techniques, based on the kind of stuff I’ve been blogging about. I want the book to have a very ‘magazine’ aesthetic, so there should be a lot of screencaps and graphics. Do you know much about where self-publishers stand with respect to using copyrighted photos? One feeling is that I might be able to get away with just using the pictures without telling anybody, becoming successful enough to prove to publishers that the book is worth publishing as it is – and then letting them sort out the legal aspects of it. Obviously, this is quite a premature idea though, and I’d rather not have to pay a publisher commission.
I’m also wondering whether companies like Warner Bros. really care if somebody uses screenshots from their films. It could be that it’s technically illegal, but they’re not going to waste the money pursuing you – and they like the publicity you’re giving their films anyway. Do you know much about these topics?