Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Reflections of a First Year Indie

It hardly seems possible. A year ago, I published my debut novel, The Soulkeepers.  That novel became the first in a series and as of today, I have three young adult novels on the market and more on the way.  I consider the series a success because:

  • Every book in the series has hit one or more best-seller lists
  • Over 225,000 of my books have been downloaded or sold
  • My royalties would have earned out a traditional advance
  • My royalties are equal to or greater than what I would have earned working full time in a traditional job
  • I've received fan mail from all over the world
  • My also bought section looks like this  (Do you recognize any of these names?):

Going indie has worked for me but I would be remiss if I didn't mention the growing pains and hardships that came with the indie package.
  • Indie means entrepreneur.  I work 50-80 hours per week writing, editing, formatting and doing all of the things involved in running a small business.
  • It's difficult to find reliable help. I did finally find an editor that was worth what she was charging. I would like to find a reliable person to format for me who doesn't take 30-60 days to do it and guarantees their work.
  • When I was approached regarding subsidiary rights, I could not find an agent to represent my interests despite my success.  I now have an entertainment lawyer instead.  It's amazing to me how hard it is to convince someone to take a chunk of your money.
  • The environment is filled with non-stop change in policies and procedures.  Things can pop up overnight that challenge the way you do business. Luckily, indie authors are nimble and I've been able to adjust reasonably.
  • Brick and mortar bookstores don't like indies.  Weaving Destiny spent December and January in the top 200.  I remember walking into my local Barnes and Noble and holding my iPhone up to the shelf where they display the best-sellers.  All of the books on the chart next to mine were up there, but no Weaving Destiny.  It was a sad moment to have accomplished so much with so little and not be recognized by the industry.
What have I learned from this experience?  Well, first off, I didn't need an agent or publisher to be successful.  I did it by networking with other writers, significantly Karly Kirkpatrick, Megg Jensen, Angela Carlie, Magan Vernon and The Indelibles. Despite my success, it is clear indies are not given the same opportunities or respect as traditionally published authors.  There is still a stigma.  Some bloggers won't even read indie work.  Most bookstores won't carry indie paperbacks. I couldn't find an agent to represent me for subsidiary rights. I don't qualify for benefits from the Author's Guild, or professional author status from SCBWI or RWA. 

While I am aware that the industry has erected these barriers to keep me out (I am obviously indie riff raff!), in an ironic twist I can understand why.  My background, after all, is in the business world and I understand how industries resist change.  I also understand how a person can say and do some short-sighted things when their career is threatened by a changing environment.  But, perhaps, if the traditional publishing industry was run by more business majors than english majors they would come up with more innovative and profitable ways to deal with someone like me besides simply making it more difficult for customers who already want my books to get them.  

For example, instead of offering huge six and seven figure advances to a select few writers who will likely never earn them out, perhaps spread some of those dollars to successful indie authors in the form of print only deals.  A successful indie doesn't require a large advance because they know they'll make up the royalties in sales.  They already have reviews, buzz, and a following. When I was growing up, we used to call this "like shooting fish in a barrel".

Bookstores, why net let indies who meet certain sales targets in?  Take a deeper discount.  Charge more for hosting book tours. Make it easier for my customers to use you to reach me (and give you a percentage of their dollars). What you are doing now is training readers to go around you to get the books they want.

Same goes for professional organizations.  How about a special professional membership for self-pubbed authors who, for example, sell more that 10,000 copies at $2.99 or above with an average rating over 3 stars.  I'm making that criteria up on the fly but you get the picture.  If the organization was truly worried about quality and professionalism, there are measurable indicators that could be used without issuing a blanket "no" to an entire population of authors.

Anyway, I'm always available to talk to progressive thinkers about the opportunities.  Meanwhile, I'll keep doing what I do. I love every minute of it! 

Happy Birthday, Soulkeepers!  Three books in one year.  Who would have thought?  


  1. Congrats on your success GP! I am so proud to be part of the Indelibles with you! You're an inspiration. :)

  2. What an inspiring and, albeit at moments, depressing post. I mean that with respect, though. I embarked on the Indie journey last month. It is sooo much work. Yet I love it. I not only like writing, but the business end of things. But it's so sad that Indie writers are not recognized as traditionally-published writers are. I mean, you can't even get benefits through the Author's Guild. How sad is that. I, for one, love reading Indie work and traveling the Indie path. Thank you so much for this post and kuddos to you for your well-earned success!

  3. Congratulations on your amazing success GP! I'm so honored to be a part of the Indelibles with you!

    This post is right on the money, too. I understand not wanting to just let anyone who can upload a book be labeled a "professional author" or take up space in a bookstore. But why are there not standards/minimum goals we can reach to be included? I just shrug them off and keep my focus on the next book in my series. While the Big Six and big book stores are trying to figure out ways to shut us out, we are the ones really looking at the business aspect of this and we are the ones reaching out to readers. I have no doubt the landscape will look very different just a few years down the road.

    Thanks for a great post, and congrats on a successful first year as Indie!

  4. You've done an amazing job this year. Congrats on the success you have achieved thus far.

  5. Congrats! I just started on my journey. The stigma for indies is lifting. There is a higher caliber of indie out there. Finding an editor worth what they charge is something.

  6. So thought provoking and a little disturbing, but congratulations on your success! It's an inspiration to us all!!

  7. Congrats on your phenomenal success!

  8. This post made my day :) Congrats on your success!

  9. It's so heart warming to read of your success Gen - Congratulations it's well deserved. ^_^

  10. Fabulous Gen. I think the key here is your hard work, your determination and your talent. Your rewards are all completely deserved. Keep it up!


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