Becoming An Independent Author

March 21, 2016

 

 D. Wallace Peach

 

     I have blogged often on indie authors and dtheir books. I have a soft spot for indie authors, being one. There are numerous considerations an author makes when it comes time to publish their work. Before the era of digital printing, or POD Print On Demand. a time when brick and mortar publishing houses were the only path to publication, outside the more unsavory side of the industry referred to as “Vanity Press” outlets. Just saying that sort of rings like “Camp Town Ladies”, when you say it out loud.

 

One of the authors I have blogged on was D. Wallace Peach, fantasy author of a list of books. What makes her more unique for my blogging is that this author's first half dozen books were published by Mockingbird Lane Press; a brick and mortar 'small press' publisher. When Diana Peach published “The Bone Wall”, she did so as an independent author. An avenue for which I profess becomes an addictive activity, once practiced. “The Bone Wall” is outside Diana's normal genre of writing, by her words, a dark tale she needed to get out. That explanation, and a list of other questions make for a fine interview, one which is forthcoming.

 

Before such an interview I want to post Diana's explanation for why she decided to switch from traditional publishing to independent publishing. That fuller explanation is lengthy enough to be split into two sections. The first half will cover her experience with traditional publishing. The second half will explain why she chose independent publishing, using a POD platform. An interview will follow soon after.

 

Brother Coyote Publications:

 

I recently chatted with Grant on social media about my decision to reclaim my 6 traditionally published books and republish them myself. He thought it might be interesting to share my reasons, particularly for those writers dawdling at this fork in the publishing road, trying to decide which way to go.

 

I published through a small press, and I don’t want to give the impression that the publisher did anything wrong. It was, in fact, a valuable learning experience, especially for a new author. A small press may be the perfect publishing solution for many authors, especially if the words "traditionally published" carry personal weight.

 

Before I dig in, it’s important to state that — with a few exceptions — this was my experience. It reflects my personality and expectations. What worked for me might not work for you and visa-versa. In addition, each publishing house is a unique entity. It's reasonable to assume that my comments don't apply to every small press!

 

So what was great about my small press experience?

Hands-on relationships

 

I wrote a book without a blog and all the valuable online information available to authors. I did zero research on publishing, knew no published authors. Basically, I knew zip.

 

I received generous personal attention from my publisher. I had tons of questions, sent daily emails, and received prompt replies. The process was laid out for me, contracts easily understood, my expectations set. It was comforting to know that my endless dumb questions and new-author anxiety were treated with respect and patience.

 

No Upfront Cost

 

When working with a traditional publisher, the professional services needed to bring a book to market come at no charge. This includes all facets of editing, proofing, cover design, formatting, obtaining ISBNs, etc. The publisher recoups the costs when the book goes on sale and they contractually take a portion of the revenue. For a writer with few financial resources, upfront costs may be a factor. Besides not having any idea what I was doing, I also had a pitiful bank account. This way, all I had to do was write.

 

Professional Editing

 

When I "finished" my first book, I was part of a writer’s critique group. I applied all the suggestions of my cohorts, and my writing improved to the point that a publisher was interested. Yay for writers' groups! Little did I know how much I still didn't know.

 

The editing process commenced. The editor and I went back and forth for an entire year and made hundreds of changes. Working with a professional, I received invaluable lessons on craft. The process improved my book and armed me with a battery of tips to employ on future projects.

This process was highly collaborative, and I was grateful to be able to argue my case when I felt strongly about a point. I understand from a few colleagues that some publishers are less collaborative and some will exercise a contractual right to make the final call on changes.

 

Covers

 

As a clueless person, I had no resources for cover design. The publisher worked on the concept and sent me multiple drafts for comment. My contract allowed 3 changes at no charge though we made many small tweaks. I have heard that some publishing houses don't request input on design and don't allow changes.

 

Contract Length

 

My contracts were for one year from the published date. This is a relatively short period when compared to contracts that span 3-5 years. The shorter contract is a boon in the event the author or publisher wishes to terminate. My termination requires a 90-day notice and there is no cost associated with ending the agreement.

My contracts are on a per-book basis with no commitment tying up future books. This is particularly important when writing a series or serial where a contract may commit future books to that publisher for the agreement's term. An author may end up making do with the publisher or leaving books unpublished until the contract can be terminated. Contracts are important and they aren’t all the same.

 

Paper Book Quality

 

Publishing houses will likely use printing services of a high quality. Personally, I’m satisfied with Createspace and the quality of their books. However, printing houses will often have more size, style and color options as well as better quality paper and bindings. Many professional print houses are not “print on demand” so there will be a sizable minimum order or set-up fee that may exceed what the author wants to invest. This was a significant challenge in my case.

 

To Follow; Why Independent Publishing

 

 

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