So the debate rages on.
Marc Aplin over at Fantasy Faction recently posted why he doesn’t think first time author’s should indie publish.
Now, I’ve posted my position on more than one occasion that I think indie publishing is the clear cut choice for most first time authors. You can jump over to my post, Why Indie Publishing, here if you haven’t had a chance to read it.
I wanted to take a closer look at what overlord Aplin’s reasoning because he makes some fair points that every author, (first time or otherwise) needs to consider.
He argues that a large percentage of indie authors publish this way because they were turned down by an editor or agent. Indie publishing is “easy” or so goes the thought, and is hence a great back up plan for if traditional publishing falls through.
Aplin infers from this that indie authors aren’t forced to make their book amazing, because the gatekeepers of agent and publisher have been swept away by the ease of Amazon publishing. And, you know what, he’s right, or at least he’s right that this is a potential and real problem for indie publishing. I’m sure that there are authors out there who have gone down the once rejected and then indie publish route. This is not a true proof in and of itself. Agents and publishers are flawed, opinion driven individuals just like the rest of the human race. They can reject a great book that will grip thousands of readers if shown the light of day.
At the same time, we indie authors have to be doubly and triply sure that the stories and books which we bring to market are of the highest quality. A many time published author gave me the following advice years ago, “You need to be ready to write a novel just to stick it in a drawer. You need to write a book in order to learn how to write a book.” I thought this sounded good, but wasn’t all that interested in doing it. The investment of hours to write, edit, and rewrite a book is massive when the ending place is a desk drawer (or a hard drive). To tell you the truth, though, this is exactly what I did.
This may not be the route for everyone. You may well be able to write a fantastic book with your first story. My point, however, is that an author needs to write a fantastic story. You owe it to the market. You owe it to your readers. You owe it to yourself and the artwork that is your craft. Write a great book. If it’s not great, be willing to rewrite it until it is, or write another book altogether. It’s easy to become enthralled with one’s work in progress, easy not to see the long game, but an author has more than one story in them. Make the one you publish a fantastic one.
Aplin also inserts the belief that there is no way for an author to do all the work of producing a quality book. This includes things like editing, layout, cover design, and marketing. Again, he makes a fair point, and this really wraps back to the need to produce a fantastic, professional final product. You do need an editor in some respect. Unless you are a graphic designer, skilled in the art, you need to hire someone for a book cover design and to do your formatting. You may need to be willing to spend a few dollars in marketing, though, you can do a lot by participating in Twitter and other social media outlets if you do it well and sincerely.
The high costs that Aplin gives for these services aren’t an absolute and he offers an incredibly low number of sales/return on investment. Still, he makes a fair point that an author needs to know there are costs to creating a professional publication. If your publishing, you’re not just an artist anymore, you are a business, and businesses have operating costs.
So up to this point, I’ve agreed with a good number of Aplin’s assertions about the challenges facing a new author. In truth, as indie authors, we need to take these kind of criticisms seriously because they have a point, even if a flawed one.
The rub comes in the fact that I don’t think, traditionally publishing fixes all these problems that Aplin presents. As I’ve mentioned before, a brand new author doesn’t get the full backing of a publisher with their debut, unproven novel. More than that, an author has to give up a lot in terms of royalties and rights to their own books. In essence, any book deal with a publisher is an agreement between a large company (the publishing house) and a small company (the author). The large company has all the power and in less things go really well in the first six months of publication, the author may well find themselves sitting with an out of print book that never out earned its advance and missing the rights to the book they created in the first place.
I cover a lot more of this in detail in my earlier article; so, feel free to jump there to read it.
The long and short of it, is that Aplin is only looking short term when he tells an author to seek publication traditionally. He’s talking about one book, a single publication. Indie authors don’t have to get “discovered” with their first or second book. They can get discovered with their third, twelfth, or twentieth. They hold onto all of their book rights, slowly growing their readership, and making money along the way. When they are discovered, when the masses come, they will have a huge backlog of titles to offer them.
If an author is willing to commit to making a writing career go, understands that writing is not a get-rich-quick game, and will give their books the professional consideration they need, the indie route offers so much freedom and runway to success.
Ryan J. Doughan