Traditional Versus Indie Publishing

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It’s amazing how much spam builds up here when you’re not around for a bit. What the heck are raspberry ketones, and why so keen to spam me up with them? Anyway. Day two of my four day holiday, and my plan is to make a vat of chilli sauce and prune my petunias. I’m having way too much free time to ponder though, so I might just get back to work instead. I’ve been pondering my need to do everything myself all the time. I definitely have control issues. I don’t like being in any situation where someone other than me gets to decide what happens in my life these days. Sometimes these things are unavoidable, but I still don’t like them. That’s probably why I’m an Indie writer, and proud of it. I’ve never sent out a query letter, I never will send out a query letter, and I’ve never been tempted by the couple of offers I’ve had from small print publishers. Unless you get offered a fantastic deal, it doesn’t make sense to me to hand over any control at all.

I know that there are lots of authors around who are very happy to hand over the reins, and satisfied with the portion of revenue from the sales of their books that they get, but I’ve also read loads of horror stories, not only about authors not being paid their royalties at all, but also tales of books being priced so high that they have no sales at all, and editing disasters or books published with awful covers that the author has no ability to fix. Sometimes these authors fight for years, and sometimes they walk away from the book they worked so hard on, that only someone else has the power to edit, price, and sell. They don’t even know how much, if anything, that book has made in sales unless their publisher lets them know.

I remember when I first started writing, I was pretty green when it came to the internet, and I still believed in the fairy dust that would be me sending my manuscript to a top five publisher, getting accepted, being paid millions, and soon to be looking down my nose on red carpets at Kardashians everywhere. As I lurked around the peripheries of the scribbler’s world, I slowly came to realise that that was as likely to happen as J K Rowling popping over for tea and biscuits. I figured that apart from a couple of huge success stories for certain authors, the way publishing has always been is that the vast majority of books printed by publishers large and small never make it to the bestseller lists, languish in bookstores for a while, and then get forgotten. I also figured that the most successful authors – the ones that we know and love, like the oft mentioned Stephen King – did not send their first manuscript to a major publisher, get accepted, make piles of dosh, and – the end. No. They worked for years, and years, writing stories long and short, they accumulated piles of rejections, and then they worked and worked some more, before they made it to where they are today.

With the world of Indie publishing wide open for all to play in, I decided on a different game plan, one where I call all the shots. Obviously it makes no sense to expect your very first published book to be an instant success. In the old days you would have submitted it all over the place with your query letters, and very probably had it rejected all over the place too. Just because you can now publish it on Amazon and around and about without needing anyone’s approval still doesn’t mean that readers are going to love it. A lot of what’s published on Amazon is lurking in the self publishing equivalent of a traditional publishers slush pile, whether they are literary gems that just haven’t found the eyes of adoring fans yet, or whether they really are no good at all. They might lurk there forever, but then again they might not. It’s well known that agents and publishers have squizzes at self-published books, and as an Indie author you get to decide what to do with your book at any time. Self-publishing your book now doesn’t mean that you can’t sell it to a traditional publisher in the future, and the fact that you already have a readership could well be instrumental in you getting a good deal in times to come.

Amazon Indie publishing is the best way for me right now though. It’s huge – it’s the future. In fact on a couple of occasions when hunting down books I really wanted, I’ve not bought them because they weren’t available as ebooks on Amazon. Could that be because the author doesn’t want them there, or because their publishers don’t want them there? The way I see Amazon now is as a place where you get to build your backlist under your own steam. You get to earn your author stripes with every book you publish. Those who want to be gatekeepers for what should be allowed to published there are not likely to win. Amazon is what it is, and I for one love it. You’re allowed to make mistakes, and you will, and then you are allowed to fix them. People will buy your books, and read them, and they will be the equivalent of those readers who work for the traditional publishers, and send you form letters telling you that your book has been rejected. Only they’re so much better, because they didn’t receive it unsolicited in the mail – they bought it, they have no reason to accept or reject it other than whether they liked it or not.

So instead of rushing around yelling “Oy, buy my book!”, my plan has always been simply to write the stories that I write, and publish the stories that I write, zoom around the book worlds of the interweb, and know that as I grow as a writer, and as more eyeballs read my scribbles without hating them, I’m on the right track. It’s all about the love of writing, and the enjoyment or not of readers in the end, no matter whether you’re an Indie control freak like me, or whether you get published by someone else. They will either like your books and want to read more, or they won’t. Time and patience are what you need. Time to learn, grow, and publish more books, and patience to wait for the days when readers seek you out without you needing to hunt them down. I reckon, weave the tales that you like to read, and so will others when the time is right, and if they don’t, then weave another or two, and forget the stress and angst.


30 thoughts on “Traditional Versus Indie Publishing

    The Story Reading Ape said:
    June 19, 2014 at 9:56 am

    Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog….. An Author Promotions Enterprise! and commented:
    AUTHORS – Learn to CHILL and just ENJOY what you do – IF you become one of the few MILLIONAIRE AUTHORS – treat that as a BONUS 😀


    roughseasinthemed said:
    June 19, 2014 at 10:42 am

    Came to this via Chris’s reblog. There’s a lot of controversy around the indie v trad route And I thought you made a thoughtful and interesting case for the route you’ve chosen. A good post.


    Charles Yallowitz said:
    June 19, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Very well said. Honestly, I’ve come to wonder if there’s really a ‘Trad vs. Indie’ battle or if it’s something being perpetuated by a few authors on both sides. A battle could mean sales even though I don’t think the two groups run in the same circles. Feels more like a Major League Baseball team and their Minor League counterpart where members can jump between the groups.


    Jack Eason said:
    June 19, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    Back in 2010, I briefly went down the traditional route Jo. I soon came to bitterly regret it. Like their bigger brothers, the major publishing houses, small press are control freaks. The senior editor/partner of the outfit is a classic case in point. Just so long as I remained subserviant and agreed with maybe one book being published every two years, providing he thought it was good enough, he would tolerate me. Sod that!!!
    So in 2012 I cut ties and began self publishing via Kindle Direct Publishing. 😉


    Cynthia Reyes said:
    June 19, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    Well stated, Jo, and your post eloquently describes the reasons why some people actually CHOOSE to publish their books themselves. I often have to remind writers that publishing one’s own book is the way many of today’s “greats” got their books out. But there are other ways of getting published – in that space between trad and indie. And that, too, is not new.


    Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life. said:
    June 19, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Great piece as usual.


    Harliqueen said:
    June 19, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    A great post, very well thought out and written. Indie publishing still has stigma attached, but I just ignore those people who are too worried about the stigma to buy the book and focus on readers who want to enjoy a story no matter the publisher 🙂


    lucciagray said:
    June 19, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    Great post! I agree with everything you say. ‘Traditional’ publishing will have to adapt to new ways of writing, publishing, and reading… I love researching and writing my novels, blogging, and being in contact with other readers and writers, but I’m not too keen on marketing…


    pathaydenjones said:
    June 19, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    A calm but thought-provoking piece, Jo. I’ve finally come back to my novel project after many years and keep reading why indie makes more sense than trad. The posts I read about editors cutting characters especially gives me pause as I have threads in the work intended to tie in with future works, spinoffs if you will. Harder to write a spinoff if the character was never given life. I’m leaning towards building out the world on the website & using that as part of a marketing vehicle.


    theowllady said:
    June 19, 2014 at 3:58 pm
    M T McGuire said:
    June 19, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Wise words. I’ve come to a similar conclusion, myself, recently. Although I suppose the fact that I do now have an actual, whole, complete, finished story arc in the public domain helps.




    jenvose said:
    June 19, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    Reblogged this on Free Reader and commented:
    A great blog with thoughts on indie vs. traditional publishing, and one that I found to be very timely in regard to matters I’ve discussed on my blog – with the high cost of some books from traditional publishers. Unfortunately, going the traditional route removes the author’s ability to control pricing (and reduces their sales, if their works are priced out of the market). And it’s not likely that they’re seeing a better return on their works than an independently published author, although they do gain more promotional tools (although social media can really do wonders to step in and feel this gap, too). Hope my followers also find this take on independent publishing as interesting as I did!


    melanietoye said:
    June 19, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    I really enjoyed reading your post Jo. And this para “I also figured that the most successful authors – the ones that we know and love, like the oft mentioned Stephen King – did not send their first manuscript to a major publisher, get accepted, make piles of dosh, and – the end. No. They worked for years, and years, writing stories long and short, they accumulated piles of rejections, and then they worked and worked some more, before they made it to where they are today.” is a great reminder, that even the greats earned their living the tough way for many years even decades before their fan base grew for their specific talent. I love reading your writing, it’s very romantic and soft in a way. Shows your true inner being. Thank you for your honest words.


      jorobinson176 responded:
      June 24, 2014 at 12:24 pm

      Thank you so much for you lovely words Melanie – you always make me smile. 🙂 I’m pretty sure that we should all be patient for a while, and put ourselves out there as gently as we can. Every worthwhile thing will take time and with a bit of luck thrown in, who knows what’s waiting down the road. 🙂 XXXX


    Ali Isaac said:
    June 20, 2014 at 12:15 am

    Well said! Its an attitude Ive come across more and more lately… concentrate on writing good books, stop killing social media with ‘buy me’ messages, and get on with the business of being a great Indie author… I totally agree!


      jorobinson176 responded:
      June 24, 2014 at 12:20 pm

      Thanks Ali! Marketing gurus know that you have to see something a couple of times before you really notice it, and then maybe a couple of times more before you want to buy it, but I reckon too many buy me messages just become white noise – and irritate a lot of people enough to then totally not want to buy it. 🙂


    Bette A. Stevens said:
    June 20, 2014 at 12:28 am

    Hi, Jo. Another excellent post! 🙂


      jorobinson176 responded:
      June 24, 2014 at 12:18 pm

      Thank you Bette! I’ve been missing all my other spots on the old interweb lately, but I’ll be catching up soon with your Twitter zooming. 🙂


    Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life. said:
    June 21, 2014 at 9:05 am

    Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Another great piece from Jo Robinson who always manages to strike the right balance with her posts. For me having tried the traditional route over a year with my first book back in 2000, I have never regretted taking my own road. Thanks Jo.


    Sherri said:
    June 23, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    It’s so good for someone like me to read this well informed and balanced post about the roles that different ways of publishing play. I am learning all the time about the process as I continue to write my first draft on my first book and also keep my blog going. There are days, lately, when I wonder what on earth I’m doing, but then I realise that I just need to keep doing what I set out to do originally and write because I love it, I’ve been given this opportunity to do so and not to feel pressured. This post helped me to understand the self-publishing route much better, so thank you my lovely friend!
    I hope you got to do all the nice, relaxing things you wanted to do and feel sooooo much better….love and BIG hugs to you Jo… ❤ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx ❤ 🙂


      jorobinson176 responded:
      June 24, 2014 at 12:15 pm

      It’s a pleasure gorgeous! You mustn’t ever feel pressurised – you’ll zoom right up to the top when you’re ready. Self publishing is a bit of hard work to start off with, but you can see those Indies who have a few books out – it gets easier, and they make more money eventually – just patience. And I wouldn’t give up my chats and interactions with my Indie buddies and bloggers for the world now. I think I’m totally better now *touches lots of wood* – it’s odd eating so much normally fattening stuff, and losing weight. Amazing the old human bod – really miss my corn chips though. LOTS OF MASSIVE HUGS AND LOVE TO YOU lovely Sherri. ❤ XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX :0 😉


        Sherri said:
        June 24, 2014 at 3:25 pm

        Wonderful this my friend. It all seems like an impossible dream for me right now, to actually have a book published. I can’t even imagine having one written! Still, I’m working on it…
        Soooo glad you are doing better. I wish I could eat all that fattening stuff and still lose weight, lol! Seriously though, it’s so good to know you are doing so much better.
        Keep strong and keep well and I’ll be over to catch up on your posts shortly…
        Even more massive Hugs and love right back to you gorgeous Jo …… ❤ 🙂 ❤ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 😀


          jorobinson176 responded:
          June 29, 2014 at 6:18 am

          Thank you for the loves my lovely! I reckon I’m almost at my usual zoom level now – just got masses of catching up to do. I would never have believed you could lose weight eating no sugar & hardly any carbs, but it really works – still – I REALLY want some chips! Never mind. 😀 It will be wonderful when we can all read your first published book – your blog posts all say that whatever you write will be beautiful, and if you do decide to go indie, you’ll end up having a ball with all the techie bits, and all the support and loves from the world of indie writers. They’re the most amazing bunch in the world – love them! MWAH and HUGS! ❤ XXXXXXXX 😀


            Sherri said:
            June 30, 2014 at 7:53 am

            You just gave me the biggest encouragement boost this Monday morning my friend…thank you a million times for that…and I think I need to try cutting out sugar and carbs…but don’t know if I’ve got the will power!
            Love, hugs and more hugs to you….and THANK YOU SO MUCH… ❤ ❤ ❤ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 😀


              jorobinson176 responded:
              June 30, 2014 at 11:27 am

              You totally deserve all the love and respect coming your way my friend. The sugar was REALLY hard for the first week, but then because I had a massive die back reaction I was pretty much too sick to care about eating anything at all for a couple of weeks. If you do it properly though, first buy some xylitol or stevia – I made some really nice coconut choccies with that and cocoa. If you stock up on stuff like coconut flour and brown rice first, then you won’t feel too much pain & the weight really just melts away. Now I must say that I’m feeling really good and fit – better than in years. Bloody glad it’s over though – that’s for sure! HUGS, LOVES, and MWAH! ❤ 🙂 😀 XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX


                Sherri said:
                June 30, 2014 at 4:06 pm

                So good to hear this Jo 🙂 My daughter has been on a diet for a while now and doing really well. Being an Aspie she gets into these habits of not going anywhere and ordering fast food so of course she gained a lot of weight but I’m really proud of how she is doing. We are all getting into better habits because of it but I would really like to do the sugar thing. Thanks so much for the advice! You are my inspiration in more ways than one 🙂 Love, Mwah’s and massive hugs my gorgeous, fit and slim friend 🙂 ❤ ❤ ❤ 😀 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


                  jorobinson176 responded:
                  July 3, 2014 at 12:31 pm

                  I wish! LOLOL! Your baby girl sounds wonderful – I’ve always hated dieting. I was just “lucky” when I found out I had celiac, I lost a lot quite fast because I hardly ate anything then out of just being a neurotic old tool. No meat, only salads, cheese & fish once a week, but PILES of choccies and chips instead of supper. Not too healthy although I did exercise a bit. You’re beautiful and slim – saw your pics – so if you do get slimmer your hubby will have to lock you away. 😀 ❤ 😀 XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX


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