Interview with author and blogger Joanna Penn on 'indie' publishing
Why is self-publishing being called ‘indie publishing' by some now?
There has been a stigma around the word self-publishing for many years, and although that is lessening, it's still out there. Indie or independent publishing is the kind of self-publishing where you organize everything yourself. You might engage freelancers but you don't use any of the assisted models that are out there. It's almost a badge of pride for authors who are treating publishing as an entrepreneurial business and making a success out of their books without using the more traditional models. Indie publishers will publish on the Kindle and ebook readers like the Nook and iPad. They will also use print on demand services for their print books and will sell and distribute online. Amazon.com is the biggest bookstore in the world and we can all publish there ourselves.
Can books published this way really compete with those from traditional publishers in today’s market?
Clearly indie publishers can't compete with the brand name authors like Stephen King or Lee Child. These are mainstream, big budget superstar writers. But indies are doing very well. Check out the top Kindle 100 and you'll find most of the books priced $2.99 or under are indie authors. Amanda Hocking currently has 6 in the top 100 and check out this article for the thousands of books authors like this are selling. If you could sell 10,000 or 100,000 books per month at that price - why would you want a publisher? Clearly not all indies are selling this well but you might be surprised how many are. The main aspects of success in ebook sales seems to be a good cover, lots of books, a great book so people want more and a low price i.e. under $2.99. Follow JA Konrath's blog for more of these success stories.
I'm counting on an author platform to get my sales kickstarted and then the Kindle sales seem to pick up anyway. So the competition is all online these days. Clearly indies are not competing in physical bookstores.
What are the advantages for authors to go the indie route?
Control and speed to market are two big reasons. As an indie you control how much the book will cost and that makes a huge difference to sales. You also control how you market, who you give the book away to. You can also have your book published on Kindle within 24 hours and as a print on demand book in under 3 weeks. Traditional publishing takes 18 months even after you have a book deal. As above, some indie authors are also making a lot more money going indie. It won't happen for all but ebooks are now 11% of the market and growing so it is now a viable business model.
Any advice on common mistakes and pitfalls, and how to avoid them?
It definitely suits a personality that likes to multi-task as well as write! So make sure you understand how you like to work. You also need to treat it like a business, so budget for professional editing and cover design. You receive income from sales, not an advance with this model. Really look at what you need to spend money on. You don't need all the packages that some vendors will sell you. You can publish on Kindle for free, and although you need to pay some setup costs for print on demand physical books, it shouldn't be too expensive. I think people shouldn't have stock of more than 15 books in their house for anything that comes up locally. Why hold stock when you can use print on demand!
Finally, tell us a bit about the road to publishing Pentecost...
I should say after the above that I still want a print book deal with a big name publisher! But I'd rather attract a deal with great sales and a fantastic author platform. I can't stand the negative energy of rejection and waiting. I like to act. So I'm going to write, indie publish, sell my books and make money and if a deal comes along, then I'll have a look at it. But for now, indie is great for me!
For Pentecost, I engaged a professional editor as well as a book designer in order to create a professional product so I worked with them through the process of cover design, interior layout and several rounds of editing. I only finished the book just before new year so it's brilliant to be launching it 7 Feb and then start the next one in the series. I'm very proud of the finished product.
Joanna Penn is the author of Pentecost, a thriller novel, out now on Amazon.com. Joanna is also a blogger at TheCreativePenn.com : Adventures in Writing, Publishing and Book Marketing. Connect on Twitter @thecreativepenn