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Dispelling the Indie Myths – Amy Rose Davis

Today I have a guest blogger – Amy Rose Davis. Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by 🙂

When I first decided to pursue publication as an independent author, I was met with some… interesting comments. Most of my family and friends thought it was a great plan.Many of my commercial writing cohorts encouraged me as well, seeing it as a natural extension of what I was already doing (freelance commercial writing).

But within the writing community, I got a lot of German Shepherd looks. You know—head tipped to one side, confused, with an ear cocked up, wondering what language I was speaking. “Don’t give up on publication—keep querying. You might be lucky. And what about editing? You need editing. Everyone does. And people don’t buy self-published books. There’s too much crap out there.”

Well…. I’m two months into my indie author journey (almost—my novella Silver Thaw went live on December 15, 2010), and people are… Buying my books. And giving them good reviews. And talking about me and recommending me to their friends.

Huh.

So, in keeping with Cassie’s ABC Challenge this year (I was the “D” on her list), I thought I’d take a moment to try to dispel some of the myths around indie authors.

Myth: Self-publishing is a last resort. Actually, although I made a very few brief attempts at querying last spring, I decided to go the independent route fairly early in my publication journey. I started reading about people like Joe Konrath, Karen McQuestion,Colleen Houck, Zoe Winters, Brian S. Pratt, and the like, and I thought if they could have some success, then I could, too.

Myth: People who self-publish are bitter about publishing in general. No, not really. I’m not bitter. I think the query system is outdated. I think the publishing industry as awhole operates on a largely inefficient and broken business model. I think traditional publishers are slow to adapt. But I’m not bitter. I just made a choice about what I thought was the best route for my own work. There are some bitter authors who self-publish, but there are bitter traditionally published authors, too.

Myth: Self-published authors can’t write. This one is tricky, but it’s a huge generalization based on the work churned out by vanity presses over the years. Yes, itis true that there is a LOT of self-published stuff out there that is very low quality, but that is changing rapidly. There are a lot of very competent writers out there who have chosen to go independent for a huge variety of reasons. Many of these folks have had short stories published in traditional publications. I did. Plus, I worked for several yearsas a freelance commercial writer. I know a lot of indies have experience as marketers, ghostwriters, and other such folk in the writing world.

Myth: Self-published authors just slap up the first piece of junk that exudes from their deluded minds. Let’s call this the corollary to the myth above. I know there is a lot of self-published junk out there, and it’s quite possible that much of that junk is first draft quality from people who have a lot to learn about writing. But, all of the independent authors I know take great pride and care in putting out the best stories they possibly can.They have beta readers, critique partners, and editors. Those folks may be unpaid—probably are—and they may also be unpracticed in craft, but it’s unfair to say that indie authors don’t bother to polish their work.

Myth: People who self-publish spend thousands of dollars to put out their own work. Not true. So far, with a block of 10 ISBNs, a couple of copyright registrations, a few stock images, and a little bit to a brilliant graphic designer, I’ve spent less than$1,000 in out-of-pocket dollars. Far less, in fact. Smashwords, Amazon, and Barnes &Noble make it really easy to upload your work. With a little time and a good guide, even the most technically ungifted (like me!) can upload a professional-quality manuscript and begin selling right away.

Myth: Self-publishing is the easy way out. Holy cow, I want this one to die a horrible and painful death! No, no, no—a thousand times, no! The concept that people who self-publish are just looking for an easy path or just want to skip all the “hard stuff” is so false it’s not even funny. The indie authors I know—the ones who are making it—spend huge amounts of time on things that aren’t even related to writing. They see this route as a business that requires marketing, accounting, advertising, branding, managing, sub-contracting, and on and on. Being a serious indie author who is dedicated to success is not for the faint of heart.

Two months into my journey, and I’m not getting rich (yet!). But, Ravenmarked is selling, and it is getting good reviews. So far, no one has said I can’t write and I need an editor. If I were querying, I’d not have sold a single book yet. And my novella? There are very few markets even willing to look at stories of that length anymore. Self-publishing is helping stories of unusual lengths find homes they might not have found otherwise.

Is being an indie author for everyone? Nope. I have a lot of friends who would rather pursue traditional routes to publication, and I’m fine with that. It’s a very personal decision, because going indie is not an easy road. For me, it was a natural fit. I have creative control, I get better royalties, and I feel like I’m driving my own destiny.

Author Bio:

Amy Rose Davis is an independent epic fantasy author. She lives in Oregon with her husband, Bryce, and their four children. Bryce provides comic relief, editing, and inspiration, and regularly talks her off the various ledges she climbs onto.

Amy is an unapologetic coffee addict, but her other vices include chocolate, margaritas, and whiskey. She prefers cats to dogs (but houses both), loves the color green, and enjoys the smell of new pencils and crayons. She has eclectic tastes in friends, music, and books, and is as likely to watch 300 as Becoming Jane.

Amy’s books are available in all major e-bookstores.

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28 thoughts on “Dispelling the Indie Myths – Amy Rose Davis”

  1. Traditional publishing is getting to be very bad for authors. Writers and their books are like the spaghetti that is thrown against the wall–see if it sticks. Tiny advances and royalties–and don’t get me started on the sorry state of editing, cover art, and general production values in traditional publishing these days. Spend a year writing a book, send it to ONE (We do not accept simultaneous submissions.) editor at a time, and they take their own sweet time in making a decision. Slow, slow, slow. Argh!
    Thanks for sharing the enlightenment, Amy Rose.
    Some day I’d like to see a breakdown of costs for becoming an indie author/publisher. But at least we won’t have to buy a printing press, the way Ben Franklin did. :)TX

    1. Texanne, somewhere not long ago, I read something of breakdown of costs, but for the life of me I can’t remember where. Really, the truth is that it depends. You can do it for nothing if you use ISBNs from Amazon and Smashwords.

      Here’s a rough breakdown of what I spent in US dollars:

      For my novella, “Silver Thaw,” I bought a block of 10 ISBNs for $250. I paid a friend about $25 for a photo for the cover, and I spent $35 for the copyright registration. Editing and proofing was done by a critique partner, my husband, and me.

      For “Ravenmarked,” I already had the ISBNs, so I didn’t need to buy those again. I spent about $150 on the cover (a bargain, if you asked me!). Another $35 for the copyright registration… And again, edits, proofing, etc. all done by me, my husband, and critique partners and beta readers.

      Now, I didn’t do anything in print yet. I will, but I’m trying to sell some e-books first. But I’ll do print-on-demand, so aside from set up costs, the consumer will be the one paying for the printing.

      You could spend more than I did. I know of one person who estimated that she spent $40,000 on publishing and marketing her book! Yikes! I refuse to spend that much up front. And honestly, most of the people who are making a living at this gig seem to be fairly frugal and cautious about their money. They are selling books by writing good stuff and promoting through social media.

      Hope that helps! Thanks for the comment! 🙂

      Amy

      1. Gosh, you really can do it for very little! And thankfully, spending less, doesn’t necessarily equate to doing worse than those who choose to spend more.

      2. I may be forgetting something, but I think that was about it. I used open source blogging software and such. I did pay for a few domain names, but you can get those for around $15 each, and I figure I would have to get those even as a traditional author. No publisher wants to look at an author who doesn’t have the Magical Platform, and websites are part of that. But, easily less than $1,000 can give you a very healthy start in indie publishing!

  2. Great post, Amy. And thank you, Cassie for inviting Amy.

    I have the support of family, friends, and even some writers in my venture into self-publishing, but I’ve also experienced a bit of snubbing by other writers, including a couple of published authors. I guess they feel I’m taking the easy way out or I’m betraying the author ethic or something.

    I don’t let it bother me. I’ve worked just as hard on my craft as they have.

    1. Linda, it’s funny, because one author who tried to talk me out of it has been watching me closely, and now she’s come over to the dark side herself. She even decided not to renew her contract with her agent! Her whole attitude has changed. Now instead of being reactive, she’s proactive. It’s great!

      Thanks for the commnt!

      1. Yeah, that would be me. You corrupter, you. 🙂

        To be honest, I shudder at what’s happening in traditional publishing right now, and I’m glad I never sold a book that way. It still freaks me out a little to say that, but it’s true. And, to add to your story, I actually contacted one small publisher who’d requested my manuscript and told them that they could pull me from their submission pile because I’d made other plans. Nothing like jumping in with both feet, eh?

    2. I think there is definitely a feel from those traditionally published authors (some of them, certainly not all), that those who choose to indie publish are cheating the system. But they are still trapped in that mind set which says that only by getting a trad pub deal are you deemed worthy of having a book out.

      Can’t wait for your release! I’ll get to blog about your book 🙂

  3. I really appreciate this article! I think it puts a positive spin on self-publishing, and it makes me think.
    I am not at the query stage just yet with my current wip, and I really didn’t want to even consider self-publishing for the sole reason that I find it an extremely scary option. I wouldn’t know how to even begin marketing, and all the effort to put into it (I am just not a sales person!!). But I think you’ve places a nugget in my brain…

    1. You know, Jennifer, I’m still figuring out what the best routes for marketing are, but for the most part, it’s not as scary as you’d think. It’s mostly about building relationships through social media, writing good content, and producing multiple titles. I’m glad I put a nugget in your head! 🙂

    2. Those nuggets are very hard to dislodge, Jennifer 😉 I’ve gone from wanting to be traditional, to being quite keen to give the whole Indie thing a shot! Once you start getting your head around the things required, begin to break it down, it’s actually not so scary 🙂 And the bits that are scary? I think the excitement of actually having your work out there, having readers, more than outweighs the fear.

  4. Okay, I got to thinking about this and decided I needed to add some traditional publishing myths. 🙂

    It’s no harder to sell a book now than it ever was. A lot of traditional authors are saying this in response to those of us who have been trying to sell a book lately with little success. They say they’ve been hearing the difficult marketplace excuse for years. Maybe they have, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. The market has changed. The number one factor in that is the economy. Paper books aren’t selling like they used to. The only sector that’s shown growth in the past couple of years is YA. Editors are being laid off, advances are lower, and both editors and agents are publicly announcing on their blogs that they can’t take the risks they once could. New authors face challenges that weren’t around as recently as five years ago.

    If you can’t sell your manuscript, it means it’s not ready and you haven’t paid your dues. First, this is incredibly condescending, second it seems to indicate that the speaker has some sort of omniscience that allows him or her to instinctively know the minute details of everyone’s manuscripts, and third, it doesn’t take into account the myth listed above. While many writers do need to work more to develop their skills, there are plenty out there who simply don’t have a product that’s in demand with the Big 6. And since the market is worse now than it was a few years ago, the gatekeepers aren’t willing to take a chance on something they might like but aren’t sure how to sell. If you’re hearing, “this is strong writing, but it’s just not my cup of tea,” you can rest assured that your writing is good enough to sell.

    New York knows the market, so if they tell you something can’t sell, they’re right. This simply isn’t true. Agents such as Mary Kole of Andrea Brown Literary Agency are saying that the vampire trend is over. Amanda Hocking disproved this by selling over 500,000 of her paranormal romance books in January ’11 alone. Obviously New York is guessing at what will sell. One of the saddest things I heard a traditionally published author say was that she was grateful to her agent and editor for not letting her put something out there that wasn’t ready for the marketplace. It pains me to think that authors are so brainwashed and disempowered that they’re thanking the New York Publishing Machine for its abuse.

    1. So true, Lisa. There is very little I can find to encourage me to want to go the traditional route at the moment.
      I think your last point, about authors being brainwashed and feeling dis-empowered is really important. So many people feel like they have to do it that way, because it’s the only evidence that they are good enough. I’m so pleased that many people are breaking out of that way of thinking, and taking a chance. The reader is the real judge of quality, and even then, different people have different preferences!

  5. Cookies and Brownies? Where?

    Great post Amy. And a great outline of some of the myths, Lisa.

    My expenses are similar to Amy’s for the eBook. I already have the POD in process and that was $75 for the set-up charges (I went with Lightning Source).

    Linda — I’ve had some snubbing by other authors, but what’s funny/interesting is that one traditionally published author has been mildly supportive while some who are not yet published (or agented) have been critical.

      1. In these specific cases, I don’t know, but I’m willing to guess. 😉

        My guess is that unless a writer has not only been seriously writing with the goal of publication, but also closely following the industry, she/he might not realize what’s happened. There is a lot in the mainstream press about eBooks, but until the US Today article the other day about Hocking, Mallory, and Konrath, I haven’t seen a lot in the general press. Because of the historical “stigma” (which I think is primarily related to vanity press), they probably don’t understand. If they are aware of the disruption, they might be scared.

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