Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Indie vs self-published: is there a difference CLARIFIED Part 2


I was talking about hats.  About Indie Publishing hats, to be precise.  If you haven't read Part 1 of this post, you'll find it here.  

Anyway, hats.

I'm not trying to steal the Indie Author hat from anyone.  There are a lot of great Indie Authors out there.  A whole community of them, and if I or any one of them wants to make it big we have to support each other.  This support, this community spirit, is what we can have that NY publishers can't. 

United we stand...

Alan Baxter started Blade Red Press to self-publish his own work.  He now also publishes anthologies of other people's work.  He's a sound guy and when we've emailed he's always given me good advice.  He has a couple of books out, and if you haven't given them a look you really should.

Zoe Winters I already mentioned in the last piece.  She has a 10 year plan, and I think she'll go really far.

These are just two of the awesome Indie writers out there.  There are hundreds, possibly thousands, more.  And the cool thing about being Indie is the freedom; the freedom to blur genres, to challenge the traditional (and quite often boring) mainstream fiction streams, the I-can-do-whatever-I-want (as long as it's good) mentality. 

We need to network.  We need to support each other.  That is exactly what I'm trying to do with The Guild and I really, really hope it takes off.  Zoe was writing the other day that Indie Readers (people who love Indie writers work but don't write themselves) are looking for more writers to read.

The bottom line for big publishers is £££££ or $$$$$.  For the Indies it's more about the creation, the joy of bringing something to life.  I can't wait until my book is released and some comments how much they liked it.  I'll be like "OhhhhhmyyyyyyyygooooodddddddssssssI'msquuueeeeeaaaammeeeeeeeeeeeee!"


So, if you're an Indie and you think I insulted you, I am truly sorry.  I never wanted to do that.  I want us all to become a community, to support each other.  To link to each other's blogs, and point readers in each others direction.  Because they can read faster than we can write, and there's more of them than there is of us, and sharing is nice.

Big businesses, like NY Publishers, aren't interested in nice, and they aren't interested in customers.  They only care about the money, and that's why Indie Authors are threatening them.

PS, join The Guild.  It's free and I hope, hope, hope it will become the awesome resource that it could, easily, become. 


  1. If Alan Baxter started his own publishing company to put out his own work, does that make him Indie or Self-Published?

    If someone signs up with Amazon CreateSpace and sells one copy, they've made more money than they put in, which defines them an Indie author according to the criteria you posted a while back.

    Another question:

    Is it better to sell 4000 ebooks at $1 each, or 1000 print books at a profit of $10 each (plus a few hundred ebooks at $5 profit each)?

    More readers is always better, I'll readily agree; but if someone buys a book for a buck, the expectation will be pretty low, and I'd be pretty willing to bet a $1 book has a far worse stigma than a "self-published" one at standard retail (that is, assuming they're both written worth a damn). I don't buy books listed for $1 because I assume that even the author doesn't think they're worth any more than that.

    In the end, I think authors are authors, and we try to get our work in front of readers any way we can. Success and failure both come from the most unexpected of places.

  2. Alan Baxter, in my opinion, is indie.

    I said if they made more than they spent, you're right. But I also said self-publishing was small scale, so I'd put your create space person down as being self-pubbed.

    Indie movie makers have been putting out movies the same quality as the big budget TV companies (sometimes better) for years. Now Indie authors are doing the same thing.

    And yes, there has been self-publishing for years, too. But the technology is now getting to a point where it is accessible. However, public opinion about indie or self-published work is often swayed by the massive amount of crap that has already flooded into the system.

    Everyone compares indie film makers to big budget TV companies. They understand that the indies might make less $ or £, but it's about the art.

    No one compares home made movies hosted on youtube to the big budget TV companies. There is no similarity.

    It's the same with self-publishing. If your work is of the same quality or higher than NY would publish, I say you're indie. If your work is lower quality but your marketing skills are awesome and you sell thousands, I say you're indie. But if you have a local niche (no matter the quality) or if your quality is just poor or you spend thousands and lose it all, I'm going to say you're self-pubbed.

    At the end of the day, like you said, we all just want to get our books out there. But if our readers start seeing a difference between indie and self-pubbed, if self-pubbed becomes the youtube home movies of the publishing world, then indies might get some of the attention given to indie movies.

    I think it could happen. I think that when the kindle (and all the rest) are more established, an indie book could walk away with an award (a Booker, perhaps?) and it will leave the publishing world reeling. I think I went slightly off the topic there, but hey, never mind.

  3. With Smashwords you can read excerpts, and see if the book is any good at the start. Personally, I've bought books for a £1 and loved some. I've bought books at £7.99 and hated them.

    When I see a book at £! I'm (personally) more likely to buy it because if it's crap I've only lost a £1. When I see books at £7.99 I'm more likely to look for special offers or money off.

    And I don't think e-books should be as expensive as print books; they are missing so much of the overheads that they can be massively underpriced and still make more profit per issue.

    And $1 for a novella is a fair price, I think. It is a novella after all. I spent £1 on a book by Neil Gaiman, called Odd and the Frost Giants. It was a very slim novella released for World Book Day. A book that small, I wouldn't have paid any more than 1 dollar.

  4. 1 last point. I was wrong about the 4000 copies. I'm pretty sure I saw that on her blog at one point, but maybe not. She has posted today saying that she has earned $1,572 from Kindle sales.

    However, including all her free downloads, she has had her novella downloaded nearly 25,000 times.

    And that is a lot of exposure. It being FREE people are more likely to read it and (if it's crap) just delete it.

    Honestly, I do wish that I had something free to release before my novel comes out, just to give people a taste of my writing. As it stands, mine will retail at either $3.99 or $4.99, haven't made the final decision yet.

  5. I don't have an email address for you. Mine is Chriskelly82*AT*aol.com

    If you email me, I'll send you the first 2 chapters

  6. It's possible she's still sold 4000 copies, because at $1 retail on Kindle she's only making about .35 or .40 cents profit per copy. Amazon takes about 60%, give or take (mostly take).

    I disagree wholeheartedly about the free ebook issue. Although it's nice to say you have ten thousand downloads, very little of that will translate into actual readership. I download free stuff all the time, just because, hell, it's free! 90% of the time I never do any more with it. I have literally thousands of ebooks on my computer. When the hell am I going to find time to read them all? But heck, it only took a free click to download them, so why not?

    My point being, unless it translates directly into sales of another work you've written, there's no way to measure the effectiveness of free ebooks as a marketing strategy. More readers is good, but a kazillion free downloads still won't pay the electric bill.

    I do think you're probably (hopefully) right about where Indie publishing is going, or at least the potential for it, and I've commented on it often on my blog. But again, unless it produces authors who can make a living doing what they love, it's all still just a hobby - Indie, S/P or otherwise (a vast majority of NY published authors still have day jobs for that reason). To use your comparison, Indie filmmakers may or may not go on to become major feature producers, but if they can't turn their Indie into a profitable venture, chances are they'll never make a second one.

    Also, it may be more about the art for Independents (though even that's debatable, as art is in the eye of the beholder), but it's a business too, for all that. Fortunately for authors, it doesn't cost much to write a book. And that's why Indie films have always been of higher calibre than most self-published books.

    I think the distinction you're really trying to make is one of quality, and that's a tougher nut to crack, since quality is not so easy to measure. I think Harry Potter is a joke as far as quality is concerned (not to mention almost anything that has ever won a Grammy). I've read million-selling books that could have been written better by a six year old, and masterpieces that never saw the light of day.

    By the way, if your spouse is also a professional writer, their crit can be considered a serious one, not based on your relationship, but because one presumes they can approach the task professionally, and have the necessary skills to do so.

  7. Hey Chris, I joined the Guild cause it makes me think of Felicia Day and her web series "The Guild" Yes, I'm a big geek.

    And thanks for the shout out!

    R., Speaking as someone who HAS a book out for a dollar on Kindle, or more specifically a novella, it has NOTHING to do with how I value the work and everything to do with allowing people to try me out for low cost (or free off my website). I'm an unknown to them. Why should they sink a lot of money into me when they don't know they can trust me?

    You may not buy dollar reads, but I buy a lot of dollar reads.

    And in ebook, except for as inflation creeps up, I probably won't charge more than $2.99 for an ebook. An inflated view over what an individual e-copy of a book is worth is a point of pride that won't sell you many copies, IMO.

    Considering that my Amazon royalty off a $2.99 ebook will be more than I would make from the royalties off a hardback book with a large publisher, why would I charge more and have fewer readers when I can charge less, have more readers (and consequently more money), and MAKE more money.

    I mean crap, even at 99 cents a copy my novella, KEPT has now sold enough copies that I've surpassed what I would have been paid for it by a major print publisher as a first time author.

  8. Also just read the first of this post. So is your viewpoint that anyone can call themselves a self-published author but you have to be something a little more to call yourself an indie?

    From my perspective I often use both terms, but I think that "indie author" more clearly expresses an idea. Like indie musicians and filmmakers and indie comics creators etc.

    I guess it's to shine the light on the fact that book publishing, and more specifically fiction book publishing is the only creative area where the DIY ethic is considered shameful. And that's just weird.

    I guess I do kind of hold the view that all indies are self-published but not all self-published people are indies.

    Though for me the line isn't necessarily their sales success. Like for example I considered myself an indie starting out and at the end of my first month I had 540 total downloads and 105 of them were Kindle sales.

    When I published it there were less books in the kindle store and it was only 99 cents.

    To me whether or not you are indie is all about attitude. It's about the DIY ethic and being proud, rather than ashamed of what you're doing. Not seeing it as a "last resort" but as an adventure and something you chose for whatever personal reason.

    Yes, many indies have been rejected in the trad world, but I think there is just this inherent pride in an indie. Pride of ownership, pride in what they're doing. A desire to really learn about publishing and how to do it right and to produce a good quality product.

    Lots of self-published authors put out unedited crap with ugly covers. No one is stopping them, but without the desire to do better, I don't see them as indie.

    However someone could have sold five copies and I'll still consider them an indie as long as they have the "attitude" and work ethic that is part of being indie.

  9. I love Felicity Day, she's awesome. Yeah, okay, I stole the name from there (well, there and Discworld).

    It's great being a geek.

    Maybe basing my definition off of sales isn't such a hot idea considering my book isn't out yet. ;p

    But I think if you do have that DIY attitude you will sell more, so it's kind of a catch 22.