Monday, 7 June 2010

Independent Publishing - Is it NOW or the Wave of the Future?

Thank you to Lindsay for inviting me to be part of this special week at Lindsay’s Romantics. I’m Rebecca J. Vickery, an Independent Author of romance novels and speculative fiction short stories who turned to self-publishing in October of 2009. I recently jumped head-first into independently publishing romance anthologies by founding Victory Tales Press with the help of Laura Shinn and a wonderful cast of multi-talented authors.

I personally believe Independent Publishing is “NOW” and will continue as the “wave of the future”. Now is the time to get on board and learn the ins and outs while this sector of the industry is expanding, adapting, and growing. Then, as our world becomes even more eco-conscious and techno-dependent, Independent Publishing will be a widely accepted alternative for authors and readers due to the ease of publication, wide selection of books and formats available, and the lower cost of production which means savings for both authors and readers.   

Whenever huge names like Google, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Borders begin to concentrate heavily on a sector such as Digital and Self-Published books, it’s time to do some homework and check it out. Here are snips from a couple of recent articles on Self- and Indie-Publishing:  

June 3, 2010 Wall Street Journal
“ self-publishing is creating a powerful new niche in books that's threatening the traditional industry. Once derided as "vanity" titles by the publishing establishment, self-published books suddenly are able to thrive by circumventing the establishment.”

May 19, 2010, Publisher’s Weekly reported Barnes & Noble will be entering the self-publishing business with the summer launch of PubIt!

The decision to become an Independent Author was difficult for me. We were taught the “BIG” houses with traditional methods are the only “real” way to get published and be accepted as an author. Thankfully, that is changing. After creative and financial difficulties with two different publishers in 2009, on top of ten years of finding and losing an agent (due to his health), seeking a new agent, and subbing to “NY” publishers, I became so disturbed and upset I was ready to quit. But God had other plans for me and my work. I heard about a move by several authors I admire and respect (L.K. Hunsaker and Ruth Ann Nordin among them) toward Indie-Publishing. Like them, I needed a reasonable, fair alternative (or even an addition) to the “traditional” method of publishing. Also during this time, two new businesses, Smashwords and Amazon’s Digital Text Platform, started making headlines. I did my homework and jumped off the cliff into Indie-Publishing.

I say jumped off a cliff, because that’s exactly how it felt. I didn’t have a clue how (or if) my writing would survive, what to do to succeed, or if readers, friends, and fellow authors would support my decision. When leaving the “traditional” world of publishing, I left behind a support system. I gave up a publisher provided team of co-workers such as editors, cover artists, and advisors; the number one method of promotion through an established publisher’s name and Goodwill; and the confidence writers feel when a publisher says, “Yes, we want to contract your book.” I took on the expense of publishing my work and the total responsibility of success or failure. Scary stuff! But along with all the negatives came a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction I had not experienced in years of struggling within the constraints of “traditional” publishing.

In my case, I jumped off the cliff at a fortuitous time and the journey has been amazing so far. In giving up my ties to “traditional” publishing, I gained creative freedom. I’m not required to write to a formula, there is no specific number of sex scenes I have to include, and my story can be long or short, and as sweet, Inspirational, or sensual as I choose. I set the pricing for my books (within certain parameters for some distributors) and I choose my editors and cover artist. And, yes, self-published books do need editing and a great cover to make it.   

Some problems encountered at first included formatting the books for publication. It can be especially difficult as each self-publishing company has their own specifications. CreateSpace and Lulu want PDF files and Amazon DTP and Smashwords want Word.doc or Word rtf. Booklocker requests the original submission in Word.rtf and then, if approved, they want a PDF file. Cover Art must meet certain size and dpi requirements and for each different company the licensing paragraph has to be reworded. But by taking my time and learning the ropes on the first book, along with taking lots of notes, the rest zipped through much easier and faster. I’ve even mastered putting books onto Data-CD for sale. Next, perhaps we’ll tackle audio???  

Self-Publishing allows the author to determine their own deadlines, release dates, and as with the majority of traditional publishers the promos are an author’s responsibility. In return, the author keeps an average of 65% to 85% of the royalties from e-book sales and from 35% to 50% from the prints. (This varies by distributor and publishing company.)       

In an effort not to mislead, I must report sales are currently down at most of the distributors. But sales are also down for most traditional publishers with many cutting back, selling out, or even going under. I feel this is a testament to economics and not about Indie-Publishing versus traditional publishing. In six months, through various distributors I’ve published five books written by me personally and two books through Victory Tales Press, plus I’ve assisted several other authors with entering the world of self-publishing. My sales have been the best in ebook format through Smashwords and Amazon Kindle and with Amazon and CreateSpace in print. Surprisingly, Barnes & Noble has not been a great market for me as an Indie-Author. My books have only recently entered the International market through FlipKart and a few other distributors so it will be a few months before I know the results there.   

My favorite digital publishing company, Smashwords, currently lists over 12,000 books by Indie Authors and Indie-Publishers and is still growing. Amazon lists over 550,000 ebooks, many written by Independent Authors. Google plans to release its Google Editions this summer and carry a list of over four million books. Many will be re-prints from the public domain but a large share will be self-published by Indie-Authors. Apple iPad has reportedly sold over two million downloads since its debut this year. Even though that includes newspapers and magazines, a large portion were e-books written by Indie-Authors. If an author wants to 'strike while the iron is hot,' NOW is that time.

Borders is also turning to the digital side of distributorship in an effort to save their failing company. This provides yet another distributor for Indie-Authors. “Interim president Mike Edwards said that by the fourth quarter Borders could be selling as many as 10 e-reading devices. ...should also launch its e-bookstore..., Edwards added.”

Indie and Self-Publishing are not for every author, just as some ice cream eaters prefer "traditional" vanilla while others delight in Rocky Road. But I firmly believe the time to try Indie-Publishing is “NOW”. This sector of the industry will continue to grow and provide greater opportunities into the future as e-reader and computer technology improve and expand. I can’t wait to see what the new reading devices will evolve into as early as next year. 

Rebecca J. Vickery


Paris said...

Very interesting post!

Lindsay Townsend said...

Fascinating article and most informative, Rebecca. Thank you so much for sharing.

LK Hunsaker said...

Excellent post, Rebecca! I agree; now is the right time to jump in, as the indie swing is finally in full upward motion.

All the best to you and Victory Tales (and thanks for the mention)!

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Interesting read. I've toyed with the idea of self-publishing due to the same frustrations with the publishing world that you've experienced. My concern would be, as ever, promotion. How do you deal with that?

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Julia,
I deal with my promotions in much the same way as when I was with a traditional publisher. I maintain a website and several blogs. I accept invitations such as this one to share support and information and to keep my name out there. I post on Yahoo groups and send out for reviews as well as offer contests and sales. The great thing about self-publishing is I can offer contests, discounts, and sales without waiting for a publisher to give permission. I offer free samples of all my books and I buy ads when certain high traffic sites have specials. My major problem is finding time to keep up with all of it. LOL

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Paris and LK,
Thanks so much for taking time to drop in. It's always great to hear from both of you.

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Lindsay,
Thanks again for having me over. I love sharing and, as you can see, I have lots to say about Indie-Publishing. LOL

Mark Coker said...

Hi Rebecca, thanks for the Smashwords plug!

As you note, this is an exciting time to be an indie author. Despite all the doom and gloom people hear about the publishing industry, I think the opportunities for authors to connect with readers have never been greater. The tools for publishing and distribution are now fully democratized, and free and available to any indie author who wants to take the reigns and run with them.

Celia Yeary said...

REBECCA--you do know how to make a believer out of people. But I'm still a little weak in the knees whenever I even think about it. I absolutely love the idea--and getting rid of the term self-publishing is a great step--and I, too, admire Loraine, Lindsay, and others I barely know about. To me, going with a small ePress was an enormous step--but on to self-publishing? Not yet--those knees again. I love Victory Tales Press and believe the anthologies will really catch on. Good luck--if I could help you in any way, I would--but I can't imagine how. You seem to have all the bases covered. Good luck, I'm behind you. Celia

StephB said...

What an inspirating post. I know that self publishing is not easy. I admire you for going the route. There are a lot of benefits to self publishing because you really do set the time table. That was a bit appeal to me knowing my schedule. I do believe it's catching on, I'd be interested to see where it goes in 5 years - heck even 2. Thanks so much for sharing.


Savanna Kougar said...

Rebecca, fantastic post. If I had the time I'd jump on the Indie train, and try it out. Not only do I love the idea of it, but it would give me chance to experiment with writing in new ways.

Right now, with everything on my plate, as far as writing for a small print/epublisher and keeping up there, the learning curve for Indie is daunting.

However, I keep looking for a breath and a spot of time to try it out.

Anne Patrick said...

Interesting post, Rebecca.

Best of luck to you in all your endeavors, my friend!

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Mark,
So glad you had a minute to stop by. I'm always happy to talk about Smashwords. You provide so much help and support to your authors and publishers. And with you continually adding distributors and opening up the ISBN option for us, you've made an even bigger fan here.

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Celia, You help me everyday by being so supportive and positive about what we are doing. Celia has graciously agreed to write short stories for some of our anthologies. You know you are only one small step away from that Indie-publishing.
Get those knees under control and I'll gladly hold your hand whenever you're ready. LOL

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Steph,
Thanks so much for dropping in. I agree that self-publishing is changing by leaps and bounds. When I look at this time last year and see the giant steps we've taken, they seem unbelievable. Would you have believed even two years ago, you could read a book on your cell phone? No telling what the next year or two will offer us. And the trend toward Indie-Publishing is having a profound effect on the traditional publishing world as well. Can't wait to see all the changes there.

Molly Daniels said...

I'm self-pubbed through AuthorHouse, and only recently pubbed through an e-pubb. My only issue with the self-pubb route is the editing. If someone is going to self-pubb or upload directly to Kindle (as two friends of mine are planning), please find someone to help edit, or at least learn to self-edit well.

My second attempt was much better, but there are still mistakes I didn't catch; I loved my 1st editor and wish he had time to do my 2nd contracted one.

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Savanna,
Maybe you could start out small with a novella or a short and try it on for size. LOL When you're ready if you need a hand or more info, just yell.

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Anne,
So glad you took time from your vacation to read this. Hope you are having a great time! Thank you so much for all your support and inspiration.

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Molly,
You've hit on one of the reasons self-published authors have had such a bad reputation in the past and why many readers refuse to even look at self-published books. No editing and pitiful covers. Editing is a must. Spell check isn't enough. It won't catch errors such as deciding between the need for their, there, and they're in a manuscript. That takes a diligent human eye and some thought. A good way to get low-cost editing is to join a good critique group or swap out reading work with an author you trust. Great point and thanks for bringing it up.

EA said...

Very interesting and informative post. Loved the data you brought in. Is Borders not doing that well either. I only ask because of the word "failing"? Didn't know.

The image of the woman jumping off the cliff suits the scenario perfectly. How difficult it can be to start a new venture one knows little of. But you plunged into it and took off!

Congrats, Rebecca.

Miss Mae said...

Absolutely fantastic post, Becca! And I'm well aware of a lot of the angst you went through with "traditional" publishers, and I don't blame you in the least for taking this direction.

I must admit, after one of my books expired its contract with my pub, I had no desire to re-sign, so I "leaned" on Becca's shoulder and asked her for help to get my ms in print. I feel absolutely no shame whatsoever in telling anyone that this book is "now in print at Amazon as my self-pubbed book". And hey, guess what? I designed my own cover! That way, if I got angry at the designer, I could only blame me! LOL

Seriously, sometime next year, if not sooner, I will have another ms to go that way. My cover is already prepared. :)

Rebecca deserves the good stuff coming her way, she's already paid her dues, and more. Hats off, Becca! :)

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Evie,
With me it was a case of sink or swim and I don't give up easily. LOL
Thanks for being a friend and supporter all along.
Borders is fighting to survive like lots of other brick & mortar bookstores. They've closed several of their stores and are pinning their hopes on reorganizing with more digital offerings and an online e-store.
I hope they make it -- they have a lot to offer.

Lakisha Spletzer said...

Thank you for this awesome post. I too am a self-published author with this year being my first time out. I never could get "in" with a traditional house and after much frustration, did my own research and decided to go the self-published route.

Plus I like the freedom of having my concept for a cover being designed instead of someone else's idea and my own timetable for getting things published.

I promote using blogs, guest blogs, yahoo groups and ning groups. I also attend local conventions.

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Miss Mae, a dear friend and one of my successful students in the art of Indie-Publishing. LOL We had a time getting her book through some of the red tape, but it turned out gorgeous. My copy is on my "keeper shelf." And without lots of help and support from all of my friends like you, I would never have gotten this far.

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Lakisha,
I agree about the covers. While I'm working on my story, I often use pics to help me visualize and keep my characters consistent. It always irked me when I pictured and described a dark haired tough guy as the hero and a blond-haired skinny male model was used on the cover. GRRR!!! Infuriating. LOL The Big pubs do that all the time and it's very misleading. Welcome to Indie Publishing and I wish you much success.

Linda Acaster said...

Another great post. This series is coming on a bundle. I'm having a laugh about 3 versions of cover for my indie ebook this week - 2 professional and my own - so do return for that so I need the help.

Thanks for sharing, Rebecca; it's very informative.

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Linda,
Glad you enjoyed it and can't wait to see those covers. LOL Choices, choices. Sometimes finding just the right one is not easy. I have a super talented cover artist, Laura Shinn, who seems to read my mind and produce just what I want time after time.

Lakisha Spletzer said...

Thanks Rebecca! Yeah, book covers, once I learned the truth of how they were picked, turned out to be my number one gripe with using a publishing house.

Linda Banche said...

I had no idea. I'd heard about Smashwords, and I know at least one author who's pulled her books from an e-pub and put them on Smashwords. I also know of traditionally published authors who've had their rights reutrned on certain books are starting author co-ops to re-release these books.

I'm not sure if I want to go the indie route yet, but I am afraid my stuff is a little too original for mass-market. I'll certainly keep your Victory Tales Press in mind. Good luck with it, and good for you!

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Linda B,
A lot of people are only now finding out how extensive Indie-Publishing is becoming and how much better royalties and creative freedom it offers.
A good way to get into self-publishing is to start with a novella or even by offering a free story. You can learn all the formatting rules and see if you like the process - sort of like dipping your toes into the lake to decide if its too cold to dive in. LOL

Linda Swift said...

What a world of information you have packed into this blog, Rebecca. Like Celia, I'm not quite brave enough to try that route yet. I'm still getting acclimated to the ebook world and "traditional" epubs. But it does sound enticing, especially having the creative control of your work. Thanks for your time and effort to present this in an easily understandable format.

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Linda S,
Wasn't it a huge change when we went from print books to so many e-books and e-publishers? Now here we are facing something new again. But I am having fun with it (after the initial trauma LOL). I'm making new friends and meeting new readers plus adding to my life experience. A huge plus all the way around. On top of that I get to write what I enjoy writing. I'm glad you found the blog informative. There's so much info out there it was tough limiting it.

Laurean Brooks said...

Wow, Rebecca! I've always admired you. But now...I'm in awe of your publishing knowledge and abilities.

Also I feel humbled and proud at the same time to be a part of your first romance anthology, "A Summer Collection."

Humbled that you asked me to submit, and overjoyed that I did.

Thank you for the opportunity.

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Laurean,
So glad you made it by. I loved working with you on both Jonquils in The Snow and your story, Over the Coals, for the anthology. Research and gathering info are some of my specialties. Limiting what to share was the really hard part. LOL
But thanks for the boost to my confidence.

Diane Craver said...

Hi Rebecca,

Great post - thanks for sharing what you've learned. I wanted to email my novella (to self-publish) to you after the LF reader/author weekend and give you more time since you've been busy with your mother - now my laptop is gone. I have my nonfiction self-published with Booklocker.

Bekki Lynn said...

Wonderful post, Rebecca.

I've been leaning this way, researching, watching the market and listening to what others have to say, but your post gave me more than all put together.

Thanks sharing it with us.

Rebecca J Vickery said...

HI Diane,
Whenever you are back up (hopefully soon) send it on over. (Hopefully your files can be rescued.)
So far Booklocker (my newest distributor) has been easy to work with on the ebooks. I'm sticking with CreateSpace for prints, though, as I have received such excellent service from them thus far.

Rebecca J Vickery said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebecca J Vickery said...

I was the deleted comment everyone. LOL I made a big goof!
Hi Bekki Lynn,
As I tried to type before my fingers got all scrambled,
I'm glad you found some useful info in my post. If I can be of help or you would like to ask questions contact me at

Kimm said...

Thanks for an inspiring post Rebecca! You've lit a fire under me to pursue the ebook line. I'm really impressed that Mark from Smashwords took the time to post. I think I'll start with them.

Is your new indie publishing venture purely romance based or will you consider other genres?

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Kimm,
My new venture, Victory Tales Press is purely for romance based anthologies and at this point is by invitation only. However I do offer editing and formatting assistance for a small fee and free advice on Indie Publishing. So give me a yell whenever you need help.