Over at Write It Forward, dynamo Bob Mayer has a post about The Sustainability of an Indie Author–Will Self-Publishers Survive. It’s insightful (and rather depressing) and really syncs with a lot of conversations Susan and I have been having recently.
So much has changed in self-publishing since I started this in March 2009. I was one of the earlier adopters, but given my production limitations, that doesn’t count for as much as I’d like. There are others who started the same time I did who are further along. There are some who started AFTER me, who are further along. And there are some who started before me who aren’t as far along. I’ve done a lot of things right, some things wrong. And I’ve had a lot of real life stuff that did serious damage to what I’ve been able to put out in the last two years. I’m definitely not where I planned to be by now. The economy totally tanking hasn’t helped matters on that front.
Up to this point, I honestly think that there are two factors that have played the biggest role in the so-called indie success stories everybody keeps throwing around: backlist and/or fast production and luck.
I don’t have an extensive backlist.
I can’t produce more than 1 or 2 books a year.
And I feel like where I am is far more a result of hard work and savvy networking than luck.
As more and more authors flood the self-publishing market, authors who can produce more and faster than I can, I confess I feel the edges of panic. Mostly I try to keep my head down, eyes on my own paper, because I just can’t change the fact that I have all these real life responsibilities. I can’t produce faster than I already am. I can’t add anything else to my list of promotion, social media, blogging, etc.
So what’s a girl to do?
Joe Konrath often says that authors would be insane to take a traditional deal these days. I have always begged to differ. I think it depends on a lot of factors, and I have always believed that diversification was the smartest route when you don’t actually know what will happen in publishing. The possibility of a traditional deal is much more attractive to someone like me. In a best case scenario world, I’d write one traditional and one indie book a year (well, that’s best real world scenario–in my pipe dream world I can write more than 2 books a year). I have ideas for several series, and it’ll probably be another year before I know which one is likely to go traditional and which indie. But that will simplify my production schedule.
Will the terms of a traditional contract be what I really want? Probably not. It’s not like they’re gonna let me keep my e-rights. Can I conceivably make more on my own. Yep. But what I CAN’T do is generate huge income fast. Self publishing is a slow, long haul climb (unless you’re Amanda Hocking or John Locke). What a traditional deal (and I do mean one with a good advance) will allow me to do is, hopefully, DROP ONE OF MY JOBS, which is the only possible way I can up my production schedule. Plus there is the hope that ultimately the exposure and distribution I could attain via traditional publishing would eventually bleed over into my indie work.
What will happen? Who the heck knows. Red is still on submission being read by a bunch of editors at a bunch of houses. It’s a waiting game. Which I am actually okay with since the longer they take, the more I’m able to earn from the title. So I’m just trying to focus on my own stuff and try to finish the next book by the end of Feburary (because after the last two years, I totally beware the Ides of March, as that’s when life keeps blowing up).