Tuesday, May 21, 2013

10 Myths of Indie-Publishing

I indie-publish because I like the control and speed. Traditional publishing is far too controlling and works at a glacial pace. I know because I've been traditionally published. Still am. The large print and audio versions of my books are traditionally published with advances. Which brings up a third reason I like indie-publishing—control over the various rights to my work. (Anyone interested in a musical?)

There is a lot of misinformation about indie-publishing, so here is my feeble attempt at myth-busting.

1.    Indie-publishing is a path to wealth

Walt Disney

I once owned a tee shirt illustrated with a bum holding a sign that read, “Please help, employed writer.” Except for a select few, writing has never been a lucrative profession. In recent years, there has been a wave of books about how you can sell a gazillion eBooks and soon be doing a Scrooge McDuck dive into a money pool. Not likely … unless you write a book about eBooks being an easy path to wealth. It’s difficult to produce a book thousands want to read, and real wealth won't come until you find hundreds of thousands of fans. However, if you are creative and hardworking, writing can provide a nice supplement to a day job.

2.    Publishing an e-book is free

You can electronically post a book for free, but it would not be published in a professional sense of the word. You need editing and probably professional formatting. The good news is that formatting is relatively inexpensive. The bad news is that editing costs about two cents a word, and proofreading another penny. Do the math. If you choose to proceed without editing and formatting, myth #1 comes into play.

3.    Price your book at 99 cents and you’ll sell a million

The primary marketing task for an indie-author is to stand out from the crowd … and right now the crowd looks bigger than the population of Cairo. For one brief moment you could stand on the shoulders of all the other indie-authors by promoting your book for 99¢ or free. Not anymore. Now low cost books have to figure out how to stand out from the low cost crowd … and if they succeed, they still won’t make serious money. For the most part, this is a yesteryear strategy.

4.    Giving a book away will build a sustaining platform

A free book promotion can generate immediate downloads, but it does not build a sustaining platform. The book will fall back into historic sales patterns soon after the free promotion ends. Free promotions must be done over and over again with each promotion having less impact. And there is no long term advantage. Free book groupies are fans of free books, not specific authors. There is money to be made with free book promotions, but they do not build author platforms.

facebook, twitter, youtube
5.    You can easily use social media to build huge sales

The words easily and huge ruin #5. Promoting a book with social media is hard work, and more important, it must be thoughtful. There is so much hype flying around that whatever you post is quickly dismissed unless the content provides useful information or has an element of cleverness. Huge sales may result from working social media, but only after an extended period of consistent and thoughtful postings. Social media is great, but it is not an easy path to sales.

6.    Amazon needs meAmazon owes me

Amazon is not your servant. Amazon is a marketplace.

In the Amazon marketplace, Amazon makes the rules. Whenever you chafe at the rules, ask yourself where you would sell your book without Amazon. There are a number of alternatives, but all of them combined do not approach the clout of Amazon. Besides, without Amazon, those alternatives would be less accommodating to indie-authors. Amazon is the single biggest reason there is an indie-publishing revolution.

7.    E-book formatting is a piece of cake

Narrative books can be uploaded with very little special handling. It’s still not a good idea. Any little format glitch distracts the reader from being transported to another place and time. It ruins the magic. If your book is worth hours upon hours of someone’s time, it is worth careful formatting for each brand of eReader. Do it right, or have it done by a professional.

8.    Print Books are Dead


Many indie-authors were drawn to eBooks because they grew up in a digital age and believe the physical world is unreal. Not true. Most readers prefer a physical book or read both formats. Even eBook enthusiasts often check to see if there is a print format before buying. Why? Because it means the author is serious and believes in his work. Like it or not, printed books lend credibility to eBooks.

9.    Networking with other indie-publishers will help build sales

There are many reasons to network with indie-authors, but sales is not one of them. Other indie-authors may share tips, but they’re not great buyers of other indie-author books. When you social network, don’t get sucked into spending all of your precious time chatting it up with other writers. Go find readers.

10.  Everyone has a book in them

Most people don’t. Not even one. Every successful writer writes. They don’t think about it, they do it. Just because indie-publishing has become feasible for the masses doesn’t mean everyone should be pounding away on a keyboard. Some people are better off expressing their creativity in another venue. Here is an easy test to see if you’re a writer. Do you enjoy writing? Is it something you can’t wait to get back to? If you think of writing as work, you’re probably not a writer. Writers love to write. 


  1. Very sensible advice. Seth Godin (a marketer who seems to understand the digital playing field) has said that what buyers are looking for today is something remarkable, that is, worthy of remarking to others about. The market to target is not the big middle of the curve but the long tail of the enthusiasts and early adopters. Word of mouth from that sector will reach buyers most likely to buy.

    He would commend you for your blog, as well. He counters the argument for turning oneself into a brand by saying that today's consumers are looking not for brand names but actual people who deliver their product/service with a genuine personal touch and a spirit of generosity. A thoughtful well designed blog like yours can do that.

    Godin's TED talks and interviews are on youtube. His daily blog is usually food for thought.

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