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Debunking the Myths and Misconceptions of Independent (Indie) Authors

How many of you have refused to read a book, or even consider reading it, simply because it was written and published by an independent author? There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to authors who choose to publish their own work instead of through a literary agent and publishing house. Some seem to think that just because a book was published independently, that means the author just threw something together, called it a book, and put it on the market. While that might be true in some instances, it certainly isn’t factual to authors who take their work seriously. Those who do know that nothing screams unprofessional louder than a book with numerous typos, spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors. I have come across a few of those myself and scowled all the way through them. Others I have been tempted to simply toss aside and forget about it. The first thing that comes to mind whenever I see a book with these types of errors is that the author seriously needs to fire their current proofreader and editor and hire more professional ones. On the other hand, there are some authors who choose to do their own proofreading and editing, even if that means reading the manuscript repeatedly until they feel comfortable and satisfied with the outcome. Self-editing and proofreading is fine as long as they know what they’re doing and what types of errors to look for. i.e. Character strengths and/or weaknesses, plot flow, sentence structure, etc.

Now that you know what an independent author is and what they do, let’s take a look at some of the reasons authors choose and/or prefer to go with independently publishing their work.

Why Publish Independently?

Writing and completing a novel doesn’t happen overnight. Nor does it happen within a few days. For example, it took me more than a year to write A Requiem for Revenge, then another six months of constant editing, proofreading, and rewriting. I don’t consider my books suitable for publication until I’m completely satisfied with them. Why would I expect readers to suffer through a book that I wouldn’t read myself?

Okay, so the manuscript has been honed to perfection and is ready for submission and it’s time to secure a literary agent. Not to sound pessimistic, but good luck with that. While it’s true that there are thousands of literary agents out there in the literary world, they only accept a certain number of manuscripts per year. Some accept three, others five or more. With that in mind, consider now that your manuscript is literally swimming in a sea of thousands upon thousands of manuscripts waiting to be picked out. It might not ever be. So you have to wait another year to resubmit, only to face the same scrutiny. Personally speaking, I have received responses from literary agents informing me that my book was an excellent story idea, complimenting me on the preciseness of my query letters, and wishing me luck in finding a literary agent who’s looking for the type of story I’ve written.

Being rejected by literary agents does NOT necessarily mean that your story isn’t good or that you suck as an author. It simply means that amongst the millions of manuscripts they receive in a year’s time, yours simply didn’t make the cut.

It can become quite frustrating and disappointing, especially when you’ve worked so hard on penning what you deem to be an excellent story. The good news is…it probably is, so don’t beat yourself up over it or give up on your dream.

Independent publishing wasn’t available to authors ten years ago. Because of the reasons I listed above, more and more authors are turning to independently publishing their work. And not just because it doesn’t require a literary agent. There are many, many reasons. Let’s take a look at some of them.

The Responsibilities of an Independent Author

Make no mistake about this. An independent author (also known as Indies or Indie Author), must follow the same procedures and protocols as if a literary agent were handling the book. Let me explain.

If your written book is being represented by a licensed literary agent, they will make all the arrangements to provide a proofreader, editor, copy editor, and graphic design artist. But they’re not free. (I’ll explain all this in a different section).

An independent author is responsible for supplying all of the above on their own, in addition to marketing and publicizing the book. In the long run, independent publishing can prove to be much more profitable for the author. This is why it is so important for an independent author to have a personal website and set up social media accounts on multiple platforms. In addition to promoting the book themselves, word of mouth is also a huge help, as is sharing posts on social media and leaving book reviews on the platforms where the book(s) is/are available. More on this subject later.

What’s the Difference Between Self-Publishing and Independent Publishing?

In a nutshell, money, time, and hard work.

After you’ve typed your manuscript and chosen a self-publishing company to handle production, they will do the rest of the work for you. Proofreading, editing, cover design, and marketing, but at a very steep price. My philosophy is this – why pay a self-publishing company thousands of dollars to do work that I can do myself and not have to share the profits? The bottom line is that when your book is complete and ready to go on the market, a self-publishing company is going to list the book on platforms where you can put the book yourself, and most of them won’t cost you a dime.

I understand that there are authors who’d prefer to have someone else do the work for them, and for various reasons. Perhaps they work a full-time job, have small children, or other responsibilities that demand their attention and they simply don’t have the time or computer skills that are required for individual site formatting. I choose to do all this myself. In fact, when I published my first novel, I started a notebook that contains rules, regulations, and guidelines for every website that offers a platform for independent authors. Why? Because they all have different formatting requirements, such as trim size, book size, gutter size, bleeding size, etc. If just one of these doesn’t meet their requirements, the book will be rejected until the requirements are met. On one occasion, I spent more than six hours on ONE website struggling to get the formatting straight. I got so frustrated that I gave up and went to bed and went back to it the next day. Finally, after a couple more hours of trying, I succeeded.

Doing all your own work can be extremely tedious, time-consuming, and frustrating, but I think it’s worth it because it gives the author an insight into how the publishing world works. I believe that authors appreciate their work much more when they see it all the way through from conception to birth. At least I do.

Now, let’s take a look at costs.

Literary Agent VS Independent Publishing

Congratulations, you landed a literary agent! Now what? If it’s your first book, don’t expect a huge advance. First time authors are generally advanced approximately $10,000, but don’t deposit it all yet. Out of that advancement will come the agent’s commission, plus costs for the editor, proofreader, copy editor, and graphic design artist. If you’re lucky, you might have about $2,000 left over. On the positive side, the agent does all the marketing for his/her client, which includes placing the book in bookstores and major retail outlets. Hold up, not so fast…independent authors can do the same thing. In fact, Barnes and Noble encourages independent authors to place their books in their chain of stores. Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as it sounds, but it can be done. Kroger offers a program that allows independent authors to hold book signings in stores across the country. The more popular independent publishing becomes, the more retailers will want to jump on the band wagon.

Kindle Direct Publishing and Barnes and Noble Press both offer 70% royalties to independent authors. So, how does that work? Once the price of your book is set, pie chart graphics show you how much profit you will make minus the cost of printing. These are excellent deals for paperbacks and hard covers. E-Books offer the same royalties, but since there’s no printing involved, a majority of the profits are clear. For instance, if an E-book price is set at $2.99, the royalty per book should be around $1.78. If an E-book results in hundreds of sales, that adds up. All of the royalties earned go straight to the author with no middle man in between. No literary agent getting 10-15% from the author’s hard work, no payments to editors, proofreaders, copy editors and graphic designers because these are all steps you’ve taken prior to publishing the book; therefore, there is no additional costs to pay. The money belongs to the author. To keep.

Do you know the old adage that sometimes you need to invest money to make money? When it comes to independent publishing, that couldn’t be truer. But that doesn’t mean you have to fork out thousands and thousands of dollars. A couple of hundred a month is how I started. To this day, I still take a percentage of what I earn from book sales and reinvest it into advertising, not only on new releases, but also on older books that new readers may not be aware of.

How You Can Support Independent Authors

Independent publishing is an excellent tool for authors who have committed so much of their time, energy, and hard work into their writing. It gives them the opportunity to share their work with the world that might not have otherwise ever seen a printing press. There are a lot of wonderful independent authors in the field who are masters at their craft and write in the same genres as any other author. I’ve read their books. I can attest to their talent.

Don’t be discouraged or turned away by the terms “independent author” or “unagented writer.” Independent authors who take their work seriously are no different from successful and well-known authors, other than not having representation from a literary agent. Even some of the most successful authors in the world today have received rejections from agents and publishers at some point in their careers. Some to the point that they were ready to throw in the towel and give up on their dream.

My best advice to you is this…don’t expect to be an overnight success. Becoming a successful independent author takes time, devotion, dedication, perseverance, willpower, and lots of challenging work. I’ll admit that there have been times when I came close to giving up myself for various reasons, but NEVER about monetary profits. If I wrote with dollar signs in my eyes and was solely focused on how much money I could make, I would’ve given up writing a long, long time ago. I will continue to tell stories and publish my work even if I never sell a single copy of a published novel. I’m sure I don’t need to tell any of you authors out there that once an idea is in your head, it isn’t going to go away until you put it on paper.

Why Book Reviews Are So Important

I’m sure that successful authors like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and James Patterson don’t give two hoots about receiving book reviews, but to independent authors, they’re our bread and butter.

While some might think that we only request reviews because we have big egos, that’s simply not true.

Independent authors depend on honest reviews of their books to boost their readership and attract more potential readers, not because we view our self-worths in comparison with the size of the Chrysler Building. How many times have you considered buying or reading a book from an established author and read the reviews to help you decide if it was the right read for you, even if you’ve previously read their work? How many times have you turned away from a book because it had too many low ratings? It’s no different for independent authors. Book ratings help other readers to decide whether or not the book is right for them, because sometimes, the synopsis that’s provided with the book just isn’t enough to convince them that it’s worth their time or money. What does convince them? Advice from those who have read the book.

Speaking from an author’s perspective, I can tell you that I don’t want a reader to give me a positive review based on things like knowing me personally, not wanting to hurt my feelings, etc. I’m a big girl. I can handle the truth. In fact, I prefer it. The worst thing anyone can do for any author is give a positive review when you know that the book was absolutely awful. That doesn’t help us at all. Honest reviews, positive or negative, helps us to improve our skills and work on areas that need improvement, so keep that in mind before you give your next review.

Don’t get discouraged if you receive a bad review, and don’t take it personally. If everyone had the same tastes in books, we’d all be writing in the same genre and competing for readers. Fortunately, there’s enough room for all of us, regardless of your writing style and preferences. Everyone’s taste is different. My writing mantra is simply this. There isn’t a writer on earth who can please every reader every time, but there will always be at least one person that a writer can always please, so you keep writing with that one person in mind.

I received a 1-star review for my novel, Apollyon’s War. The reader totally misunderstood the concept of the book and believed that I’d written it with a certain, real person in mind, although that person’s name is never mentioned anywhere in the book and I wrote an introduction explaining that the book was a work of fiction based solely on Biblical prophecy. When I first read his hateful words, I was upset, mostly because he refused to believe the book had nothing to do with the person he envisioned the book to be about. After a couple of days of brooding over it, I went back and reread his comments, then started laughing about it. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions and he clearly stated his. Just from that one experience, I’ve learned not to let disparaging comments get under my skin. No matter how good a book is or how many rave reviews it receives, there will always be that one person in every crowd who feels it’s their responsibility to bite down on the sour apple and try to spoil the whole bunch for everyone.

Like established authors, independent authors need support, too. In all truthfulness, I’d say they need the support even more so than established authors do. Afterall, we work hard to bring you, the reader, enjoyable stories that help take your mind off everyday life, if only for a few hours. Additionally, independent authors not only need the support of their readers, they need the support of each other. I follow many independent authors to show them that I support them, even if I haven’t read any of their books yet.

If you haven’t read any books from independent authors, I encourage you to try one today. Test the waters. Dip your toe in. Before you know it, you’ll be diving into the author pool. Trust me when I tell you this…your readership and continuous support means the world to us and is always greatly appreciated. Afterall, no author could possibly be successful without you, the reader. That includes those who publish independently.