As a proud writer of independently published books, I should be telling you that indies are better in all ways. But it’s not true.
Indie books rock. Independent publishing has enabled authors to reach out directly to readers. Instead of the flow of literature being determined by the publishing houses, readers are now able to explore their way through the catalogs of Amazon and Smashwords. Almost anything you might want to read is out there somewhere. If you are looking for a romance between a vampire and an alien set in rural Utah in the early eighteen century written only in verse, in a few clicks you’re likely to find it.
Independent publishing gives writers the freedom to be true to themselves, and readers unprecedented choice.
Many of my favorite books were written by indie writers. Most of my favorite writers I discovered first on Amazon’s top 100 free books list. Unfortunately, I also found all the books that made me want to throw my Kindle across the room on there too. This is the first downside to independent publishing, it requires readers to sift the wheat from the chaff. A traditionally published novel had to pass through many levels of assessment before it makes it onto the market. Indie publishing has no such selection process. It’s up to the reader to decide whether to read on or delete and move to the next book.
Independent publishing is the Wild West of literature, where gold can be found but it’s in between the rocks.
Like the Wild West, indie publishing doesn’t come with any rules. There are guidelines but anyone can do anything. It’s much harder to control. A traditionally published book is carefully groomed. It goes through multiple edits and rounds of proofreading before it goes on sale. It takes much longer for the story to go from the author’s laptop to your Kindle. But that controlled process means that the next installment in the series is ready on the date the publisher promised, and almost completely free from typos.
Tradition publishing is a well-oiled machine while indie publishing is often a squeaky bicycle.
By definition indie writers are doing it themselves. With only one person on staff (even if you outsource parts of the project,) there is a lot of room for human error. Many indie writers can’t afford more than one round of copy editing, which makes it much more likely that some errors will slip through the cracks. Also, life happens to people and when there’s no one else around to pick up the slack, it can be hard to stick to deadlines.
In indie publishing, readers make the journey up the learning curve together with the authors.
Indie publishing is more intimate. Authors can respond quickly to reader’s comments. Whole storylines can be changed to match reader’s expectations. But the price of that intimacy is sometimes the loss of polish. You get to read the book at a third the price of a traditionally published novel but you put up with a few more typos and the occasional missed deadline.
What does this mean for me as an indie writer?
Right now, it means that Camp in the Shadow, Book 3 of the Palace Saga is two months behind the publication date I had set for it. There’s a long convoluted story that involves people moving house, flying to LA suddenly, sick children, family crises, elderly relatives and broken computers to explain exactly what happened, but the short answer is I am a person, the copy editor I use is a person, the proofread I use is a person and things happen to people. In a large publishing house, someone else would have been able to step in. In my small home office, it’s just me… hanging my head in shame and hoping that my readers will understand.