It’s David versus Goliath. Indie publishers versus the Big 5.
Before the dawn of independent publishing, the following process was really the only option authors had.
- Write the book. Publishers don’t want ideas. They want finished products.
- Pitch the book to agents. Most publishers don’t deal directly with the authors. Nabbing an agent with good relationships to major publishers is key.
- Most agents request the first couple chapters with the first query letter. If they like what they see, they may request the full book before making a decision. The time between all these steps can be months.
- Many agents require exclusivity, meaning if you’ve sent them a query, they’d prefer if you don’t send it to anyone else. This means you have to wait weeks and even months before you’re rejected and able to move onto the next agent. (Though I think you’d be stupid to sit and wait for that…)
- Agent pitches the book to publishers. Which again, takes as long as it takes. Maybe weeks, maybe months. There’s no guarantee an agent will be able to line up a publisher, in which case, you’re back to square one.
- Yippee!! Publishers accept. A contract is written up and you sign on the dotted line. Royalty rates, copyright details, and all other legal stuff is sorted out.
- Editing, rewriting, editing, rewriting. Maybe the publisher wants something with a strong female protagonist, so you go back and write one in. They feel the book might appeal to a younger audience, so much of the adult content is stripped out. This is when your book has become a bullet in their publishing arsenal. If they’re trying to dominate a specific genre or concept, your book may be altered to do just that, regardless of your original concept.
- Cover and final touches. Don’t like the finished product? Too bad. You signed away the rights to your story months ago. Your baby, the story you spent years crafting, is now another product for them to sell. You might have a little say, but it’s not really up to you.
But you’ve been published! Your book is on the shelf! It’s there, in the bookstore, with your name on the front and that photo you hate on the back, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s real. To get there, you had to give away your copyright, sometimes for the lifetime of the book, but it doesn’t matter because you’re gonna be huge! And how much money are you really earning per book?
This isn’t just about the money, although this is my livelihood. I LOVE writing, but I also treat it like the business it is. This is about supporting authors. By buying traditionally published books, you are supporting the publishers, not the creative work in your hands.
Publishers choose books that follow trends, meet their broader goals, not because of merit, but because of profit. But going to a publisher feels safer in so many ways. They’ll take care of the cover, the editing, the marketing… all the stuff I know nothing about. They have massive offices in New York City, London, San Francisco, Tokyo… obviously they know what they’re doing.
Self-publishing is a scary way to live. As the writer, I know I’ll always be the person who cares the most about my work. By being able to directly connect with you, the reader, this passion will come through, unadulterated and unfiltered by advertising and marketing research. A hundred different people won’t add their touches, people who see my work as a product and you as a potential revenue source. Self-publishing is terrifying, but I’m not willing to sacrifice so much of myself just to feel safe.
When you buy from an independent author, you’re voting with your dollars. When you show your support for them by leaving a review and sharing their work online, you’re showing support for a larger cause. When I say THANK YOU for supporting my work, I’m grateful for the support you’re showing me personally and the industry of self-publishing as a whole.
I know you simply want to read good books but I thought you might be interested in how those good books reach your hands! And with all that tucked away in our gray matter now, let’s get back to the fun stuff!!