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Independent Publishing
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There are different types of publishing processes. As promised, I’m back to discuss Independent Publishing, Independent Authors (Indie Authors) and Pure Self-publishing. I’m tying this in one post because Indie Authors and Self-published Authors are sometimes referred to as the same but I want to demystify that. I’m also attaching Independent Publishing as it serves Indie Authors. I aim to bring out the difference with pure self-publishing.

What is Publishing?

To publish is to make works available for the public. Publishing is the process of producing and distributing literature to the public.

What is an Indie Author?

Publishing as an indie author is an approach where the author is the creative director of their books, from concept to completion and beyond, while using experts at different stages.

What is an Independent Publisher?

An independent publishing company publishes the works of other authors, and may or may not publish the work of the owner. A good independent publisher helps guide authors through the entire process of publishing – from manuscript development and proofreading, to production and sales and marketing. They are there to support and give you ideas during the entire process.

What is Pure Self-publishing?

Authors may choose to publish their own work and become their own publishers. In Self-publishing, an author only publishes his/her own books and undertakes all of the other tasks involved with production. Self-published authors do everything on their own. I mentioned examples of Self-Publishing spaces in the previous article, What is Traditional Publishing?

The difference between Independent Authorship and Pure Self-publishing

Indie authorship and self-publishing are not quite synonymous but an Independent author will have self-published at their own expense while using expert services of either freelancers or Independent Publishers. An Independent Author’s approach to publishing is working with specialists in editing, proofreading, design and marketing, in order to produce a quality book.

Independent Authors can work with top freelance professionals to create a quality product. Where an Independent Publisher like Raincemba Publishing is used, the book may carry the Publisher’s name. Pure Self-publishing on the other hand involves doing everything by one self. Pure Self-publishers are strong subscribers of “Do It Yourself (DIY)”. They individually do everything, from writing, editing, design and layout to printing and distribution. This has also been made easier with e-publishing on the rise.

The difference between Independent Publishing and Pure Self-publishing

The terms self-publishing and indie/independent publishing are used somewhat interchangeably but they are not the same. Pure Self-publishing means that an author only publishes his/her own books and handles all of the publishing process tasks. An Independent publishing company publishes the works of other authors at a fee, and may or may not publish the work of the owner. An independent publisher helps guide authors through the entire process of publishing – from manuscript development, editing and proofreading to production (design and Printing); and sales and marketing. They serve to support the author during the entire publishing process.

The similarities between Independent Authorship and Pure Self-publishing

Here comes the part that can be a bit confusing. Even if you use a firm (Independent publisher) that helps you to publish your book, you are still considered a self-published author, as opposed to a traditionally published author. Both an indie and a pure self-publisher use their own funds to foot the publishing bills.

Advantages of Independent Publishing

Having identified the similarities between pure self-publishing and indie-authorship, which categorises them in the same bracket of self-published authors, I will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of indie authors and self-publishing in one go.

The pros of being an indie author

To help make an informed decision on which publishing path to take in your writing journey, here are some advantages of independent publishing and self-publishing to consider and help weigh the scale.

  1. More Profit

Independent publishing eliminates the traditional publisher as the rights holder hence you’re not sharing your profits with them. That means that once you’ve break-even, an Indie author will make more money by selling 500 books than a traditionally published author who manages to distribute 5,000 copies. So, if you’re writing for profit, Independent publishing can help you make lots of profits if you study the process carefully. You can’t guarantee that you will make as many sales as you would’ve done with a traditional publisher, or indeed, any sales but if fortune is on your side, the rewards are amazing. However, as with any business, running a business on luck is suicidal. A self-published author will need to invest in extensive marketing, this can be easier if one has garnered followers on social media and create an influencer effect to the community. Established Indie authors with a strong tribe can make a lot of sales through Indie-publishing.

2. Less Time

As was determined from our previous article, the Traditional Publishing timeline is long and slow. However, with Self-publishing, the process is faster. Even where an indie author implores the services of an independent publisher, the process is still quicker because the author comes in with a budget and timelines and the publisher will focus on delivering within the agreed timeframe. A committed indie author can publish and promote at least two titles in the same period that a traditional publisher may take to launch an author’s title. This is because traditional publishers have several commitments and authors to deal with. When you choose to self-publish (digitally) your ebook is usually up for sale within 4-72 hours on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Lulu, etc. If your money is ready and you want to print, the printer may also take roughly two weeks to get your books ready. If you’re doing print on demand, you can get that up within 24 hours from the online self-publishing platforms.

3. Total creative control

Signing a Traditional publishing contract means handing over all rights to the publisher. You basically surrender your work to the publisher. The book belongs to the publisher and you’re simple what you are – the author of the book. This is one thing that many authors who established their names through Traditional Publishing are running away from and opting to self-publish because as an indie author, all rights belong to you. You’re the director of your own work. You can work with freelancers of your choice and you can choose the ultimate look and feel of your product. You can also work with an independent publisher (Raincemba Publishing) with a pool of expertise but still suggest what you want and your input is valued. Where you’re missing it, they can always advise you but the good thing is that you’re not entirely a zombie in the whole process.

4. Liberation

With self-publishing comes liberation and a feeling of self-satisfaction. The excitement that comes with achieving the process of unleashing a whole book to the world compares to none. It’s like giving birth – painful but worth every push. What more when you add a dash of I did it on my own. I didn’t beg any publisher for validation. I believed in myself and made it. That’s what self-publishing feels like.

I attended a workshop where the speaker was boasting gracefully about how he successfully published on Amazon, and is individually distributing his own book and still making considerable sales. When you can boldly talk about your self-publishing achievement, having it any other route is not an option.

5. Stepping stone 

You may want to ultimately land a book deal with a traditional publisher, for all its advantages but that process is not as easy so self-publishing can be a stepping stone for your journey. Once you self-publish and gain traction, with social media marketing and gaining followers, it becomes easier for the traditional publisher to spot you and want to get into business with you. This is obviously because the traditional publisher is in business and any business person is concerned about sales, hence they are attracted to where there’s potential, unlike starting off with a completely new author. Therefore, self-publishing can get a new author into the game.

6. Niche Target

Independent publishing makes it feasible for an author to target a specific niche. Traditional publishing focuses on mass production and mass distribution in order to balance their equilibrium. Remember the author only gets 10% royalties so if any real monies are to be made, mass distribution is what makes sense. Hence, niche markets may not be as ideal for them. On the other hand, independent publishing works best because an author can write on a special topic for a particular audience and make profit. I was recently working on a book on Sustainable Livelihoods which the author has targeted to a specialised audience. Another one is targeted on the handicapped people so as to give them hope. These are niche books that may not work with mass distribution.

In the end, there is still much to celebrate about receiving a book deal with a Traditional publisher. The added credibility can bring plenty of opportunities but it’s important to get a comparison and understand what you’re getting into before you pursue your publishing dream.

Disadvantages of Independent Publishing

There was a Twitter interview to with Pertina Gappa where she said that she prefers traditional publishing because she “only wants to write,”. This is the same with several other authors, because publishing is a specialised business. There is more to it than just writing. This is why you will see a lot of self-published books with no ISBN, because all they were told is that you write, convert into PDF and start distributing.

Let’s discuss some of the cons of independent-publishing.

The cons of being an indie author

  1. Doing it all yourself

I deliberately put this at the top of the list so that we can quickly delve into it and see why some authors say all they want to do is write. As with any new skill, publishing is a steep learning curve. Writing is a much difficult process that you’ve successfully conquered, now you have to dive into the publishing process. Just like the process of getting a book publishing deal is difficult, identifying the perfect Editor can be as daunting, coupled with the process of assessing their work and determining quality. You’re introduced into a whole lot of things, publishing language that you do not understand, freelancers that may take you for granted and book designers that may frustrate you. However, working with independent publishers like Raincemba Publishing may ease the frustrations as they will offer the professional advice and an experienced team. It is only when you’re dealing with random freelancers that it can be a challenge, but all the same doable if you assess them properly.

You will also need to carry out the dreaded marketing that even authors who sign a book deal complain about when they’re called in to perform that extra activity. Essentially, self-publishing means everything is centred on yourself. The success of the publishing venture lies with you.

2. Ready budget upfront

While we are still emphasising everything revolving around you, this also means that you need a ready budget to cater for all your expenses. This means before the independent publisher begins to work on your manuscript, they will need a part payment and balance upon completion. The same applies with the printers. If you need illustrations for your work, you will need to pay for them upfront as well. What it basically means is that your book project is your project and you’re the financier of it.

3. Limited Print distribution in bookstores 

Unless you’re a high-profile member of society who has decided to publish, getting visibility in bookstores is difficult for indie or self-published authors. Bookstores want to stock books that they’re confident in. Their shelf space is expensive and they don’t want to stock titles that will lie idle for months. This goes back to social media visibility and a personal marketing strength to ensure a strong following that will purchase your book.

4. No Prestige and Validation

Most readers check for the name of the Editor and the Publisher on your book before making the bold decision to buy it. Book buyers are hardly impulse buyers. They always take their time and decide. Now imagine if all that’s on your book is your name as the Author. Validation is lost. Your book is easily taken for granted and disregarded. This is where independent publishers take the trophy because their role is to endorse authors while helping them with their publishing journey. Whereas pure self-publishing authors simply do everything and receive the backlash from readers and critics. This is not to say traditional published books are not critiqued, they are.

4. Miss out on Literary prizes

Most literary prizes don’t accept self-published books and most literary critics for mainstream media won’t review them. To take part in these, contract an independent publisher for validation. However, the playing field seems to be changing, with more and more

Conclusion

“I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do – the actual act of writing – turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.”
― Anne Lamott

Best of luck with your book project. I hope this has helped and you’re in a better place to finally publish your book. The world is waiting for it!

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See you next week as we discuss Independent Publishing/ Indie Authors!

Patience.

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