Monday, January 23, 2017

Indie publishing: Is it still a trip worth taking?

     Every indie author knows that a book’s main marketing vehicle is a good cover. Whether it’s an ebook or print book, it’s the cover that sells the book and becomes its branding. As a book designer, author and publisher, I’m sure that is true, but what else is true about marketing indie books in this ever-changing publishing landscape. As I’m about to publish my first series of novels, I’m embarking on a journey to find out what is true and what is not true about indie publishing and marketing.

     One thing I know from personal experience is that exposing yourself as an artist is scary and it’s even scarier without the support system of a publishing house. I recently watched comedian Neal Brennan’s show on Netflix in which he talks honestly about how scary it was for him to begin a stand-up career after working behind the scenes as a writer for many years. I relate. It was scary for me to publish my books and start to put myself out there on social media. In fact, last year I had to take a break from social media because I was being stalked. There are real and imagined dangers for those of us who step out of the shadows and bare our souls without protection.

     Another thing I know is that it’s becoming more and more difficult to sell your own books and the process is becoming more complicated. A good friend of mine, a fellow author and publishing consultant, was the first person who delivered the bad news to me. She had published her first novel during the golden time for indies and the book was hugely successful. She didn’t make a fortune but the book was well received and made some real money. When she published her second novel several years later, things had changed, and even though her second novel garnered even better reviews than her first one, it was much more difficult to market.

     The golden time of indie published I refer to was four or five years ago when it was coming into its own and flourishing. Technology had made it possible and those who had discovered that were able to take advantage of the opportunity to publish online and market their own books through a number of available book marketing sites without shelling out their life savings. But, sadly, things have changed since then and it is much more difficult for indies such as myself to compete with the big publishing houses. Why? Because the big publishers don’t want to let go of their power. Of course, they don’t. We all know from watching politics how reluctantly people give up power.

     For hundreds of years, the decisions about whom and what would be published resided in New York City with the literary gatekeepers—the agents, editors and publishing executives. When they lost that power to indie publishers and authors, however briefly, they looked for and found ways to subvert them. They began to monopolize the most successful avenues for marketing books, pushing aside those who had less money and less clout than they have.

      Ebooks have been the backbone of indie publishing because they are so much easier to market and distribute than print books. Depending on whom you talk to and what articles you read, ebook sales either are or are not flourishing. The state of publishing is cloudier than ever and is complicated by indie ebooks not being fully counted, the closing of book stores, the rise of novelty print book sales, and many other factors. In fact, according to publishing guru Jane Friedman, sales are down even for the big publishing houses. One thing is clear, being an indie author requires even more knowledge and work than it did in the past. Things are changing so fast that those of us who want to remain independent have to study, study, study. We can’t rely on old methods for success (and by old, I mean what worked last year).

     I want to know what’s working right now, don’t you?

  • Besides writing novels, I also design my own and other authors’ books. I’m currently designing and formatting a book for humorist Bill Rodgers, to be published soon. Visit my book design website at
  • My novels, available on Amazon and other bookseller sites, are: The Legend of Juan Miguel, The Passion of Juan Miguel and The Return of Juan Miguel.