With the emergence of the Kindle and subsequently, the rise of self-publishing, a new niche of independent or indie authors has emerged. As the term implies, indie authors produce pieces of literature across the various genres as an autonomous effort, freed from the bureaucracy and limits of the publishing house channel. Without the assistance of service companies, one might wonder if self-publishing has a broad scope. That question merits a discussion.
One of the most obvious benefits of self-publishing as an indie author is the control over the design, content and style of the book. Service companies and publishers are often on the hunt for substance that is temporarily popular in the market. The idea is to feed the demand. That may be a viable model financially, but it inhibits the flow of literature and concentrates the power in the hands of the publishing hierarchy. J.K. Rowling was famously turned away by many publishers when she wrote the first book of the Harry Potter series. It’s almost scary to think what may have been the case if a few more had said no and Rowling had packed her legacy away. As an indie author, one is not confronted by the editorial butchering that can take away from an original idea. You can choose the feel of the final product and test out your concept in the market. You’re also free to change the title and design of your book should it not bond as expected with the viewing public. Basically, any changes your little heart so desires are at your discretion.
The second important aspect is the empowerment self-publishing affords. A lot of potential authors are beaten away by the cynicism of the traditional publishing model. Indie writing provides a cohesion of fulfilment and autonomy. Indies are able to discuss their ideas with editors and professionals in the industry and remain in complete control of all aspects of their work. Whether it’s the pricing, title, design or marketing of your book – you hold all the cards!
Thirdly, there is the question of high royalties. Through the traditional model, authors earn between 7%-25% of the royalties from their book sales (on average it usually borders a mere 10%). Comparatively, the self-publishing model offers a royalty of 70%. That is not to suggest that indie authors enjoy lucrative success. Reaching a level of high dividends is a tedious and trying process which requires key marketing insights and what not. However, the point is, at the end of the day when the hard work begins to pay off, indie authors get to deposit a majority of their earnings into their own bank account.
I guess it wouldn’t be a “discussion” if I didn’t make mention of some of the drawbacks to self-publishing. For one, it requires a high degree of entrepreneurial ability and know-how to develop and market a book. To be able to succeed and benefit from the knowledge and experience of people in the industry, you also need to reach out to professional editors and work with them to produce a refined product. Being lazy or rigid can result in a death sentence for your book fairly quickly – your success is in your hands and your hands alone. Secondly, there is not as much prestige or validation from the literary industry yet for indie authors. The landscape is changing but even now indie authors struggle to get their print material up on the shelves in a bookstore. A print on demand model is feasible and helpful, but at the same time, if you’ve harbored a dream for getting famous with a magnum opus, the odds are slim.
There are pros and cons to everything, and self-publishing is not exempt from this unwritten concept. It’s up to you to decide whether the pros outweigh the cons. Once you decide which path to take, go for it and give it all you’ve got!