Sal Terranova and Camden Templeton are cousins separated by upbringing, the Atlantic Ocean, and a common language. Then fate (with help from a run of bad luck and a dead uncle) throws them together in the least likely of places: Texas. Exiled in this strange land, they must band together in order to save the family bookstore from financial ruin, from its own insane employees, and probably from themselves. This is the story of what happens when The Sopranos meets Fawlty a bookstore.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Indie Publishing

Independent (or indie) publishing isn't a term you hear very often; usually the phrase that is attached to authors who don't go through one of the Big Six publishing houses or one of the many small presses is “self-published.” That term has a certain validity, but if we call self-starters in other fields indie filmmakers or indie bands or indie bookstores, then why shouldn't it be applied to authors as well? I believe it should, and in this post I will explain some of the reasons I have chosen this path for my novel, The Last Word. 

I could, of course, follow the standard practice and send out query letters to literary agents. Most would never get past the interns that cull through slush piles seeking gems for the agent. Perhaps one or two of these readers would recommend requesting the entire manuscript, but once the agent read it he would exclaim: “There are no zombie vampires seeking BDSM-love in a dystopian future society here! No one will buy this!” Even the best-case scenario would require paying said agent 15% of my earnings for the life of the book just for getting it accepted by a Big Six publisher. Pass. 

I am also (sadly) not getting any younger, and time matters. If and when a publishing house “buys” your book, it takes 18 to 24 months from that point before the thing sees the light of day. I have no clue why the traditional publishing industry remains so unbelievably slow; Gutenberg himself printed books faster than this, and he had to set the type by hand. I calculate that even with editing, cover design, file creation and upload, reviews, marketing, printing, and shipping (plus a 30-day Kickstarter project to pay for all of the aforementioned items) I can have The Last Word on store shelves no later than mid-September, and possibly much sooner. 

Part of the knock against indie authors/publishers is that the quality is low; this is very often true, but should not be. Low quality (typos, grammar issues, book covers that look like a kindergarten class drew them) is due completely to the laziness of the individual author. Far too many would-be writers are content to slap together a story and publish the first draft through Create Space for free, only to be shocked when they never sell a single copy. It takes a good deal more effort to publish the right way, but it’s worth it in the long run. After all, your name is on the thing. 

With the resources available, every indie author/publisher can and should have their manuscript reviewed by a freelance editor, the cover professionally designed (not made from some cookie-cutter template), and the final proof checked by a proofreader. And always have a group of “first readers” that will be completely honest with you about whether the thing is any good or not. Finally, if your goal is to see your book sold in bookstores (rather than just online), you cannot use one of the many Print-On-Demand services that offer neither wholesale discounts to booksellers nor the ability to return unsold books for credit. No store, from your local indie to Barnes and Noble. will touch your book if those two things aren’t in place. This is why I will be using Ingram: they offer wholesale discounts to booksellers, returns, worldwide distribution, and have the industry’s largest active book inventory. 

Finally, there is the issue of marketing. Whether you are traditionally published or indie published, unless your name is John Grisham or Janet Evanovich or Dan Brown (good lord, Dan Brown) you will be doing every bit of the marketing on your own. The margins are too thin for even the Big Six publishers to spend marketing dollars on a mid-list author, let alone a rookie. If I’m going to have to do this critical task on my own, I might as well do the rest as well. 

So after six long paragraphs, I can sum up why I am taking this route in a single word: control. I will have final say on everything from the title and the cover art (two things big publishers love to tinker with) to the marketing to what the final price will be. Having total control can be a little scary, but again, it’s my name on the thing.  

I predicted the likelihood of rants in this blog’s opening post…apparently this was the first. 

The Last Word is coming…stay tuned.

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