Part Three of This Series…
First two parts were in my blogs the last three days.
I started this off by saying I feel bad for the young writers coming into fiction publishing today. They are torn between the myths of the old traditional publishing world and the myths of the new indie world.
Publishing is smack in the middle of a transition to electronic and indie publishing. Over the last two hundred years, these transitions have taken 25 years or so before publishing stabilizes for 40-50 years. We are around year 14 right now in this transition.
So in last part of this series I talked about how a new writer could pick the path of traditional publishing and I tried to explain how it would go. And the time and money involved.
Now let me explain the second road a new writer today could pick: Indie publishing.
Indie publishing favors prolific writers, just as the pulp era did.
Indie publishing has no gatekeepers at all besides the readers. No agents, editors, or critics.
Writers are free to publish what they want and when they want. This freedom horrifies the old generation for some reason or another, which I have found insulting to every indie writer working. Readers are the gatekeepers. Writers do not need opinionated editors two years out of Vassar to tell them what to do.
A new indie writer starts off like any other new writer. They finish a book and sell stories to the major magazine markets. The writing is the same up until the rewriting for others. Traditional you rewrite a lot to everyone else’s taste until you book is no longer yours. In indie, your book is your book and you leave it alone.
But then instead of learning how to get a book to an agent, the writer learns some basic programs like Vellum to format a book, InDesign to do covers, and how to find great art from great artists on royalty free sights for $5 to $20 that can be used on a commercial book cover.
Once they have a book done, they must set up accounts on Amazon, Kobo, and Draft2Digital and follow the directions to upload their books to get their work out to about 85% of the English reading world.
The myths make this sound very hard, but it is not. Your book from finish to publication can often take less than a week.
You do not need editors, but you do need someone to read your work and find typos. (A friend, spouse, or someone from your local library will do fine.) If you think you need a bunch of people to read over your book, you have a fear and confidence issue that you need to either get past or get therapy on.
Your book needs to be your book in the indie world, not something smashed down by a committee.
Needing beta readers is one of the most damaging and funny myths that have come about in Indie publishing. Grow a spine and trust your own writing.
The work comes in when you have to study genre art. What kind of covers are selling in your book’s genre? You need to imitate great covers that you like in your genre of choice.
You need an author web site and a publisher web site with a bookstore like Shopify on or linked to the publisher web site.
You then need to write the next book, whatever book you want. No rules, but here is also where massive myths come in about writing series or some such nonsense. Write what you want. Be an artist. Don’t let any market or sales or emails from anyone dictate what book you write next.
Will you make any sales with your first book out? Very few. You will tell your family about it and friends. No ads or promotion needed. Just put it out, write the next book. (If you care about sales on your first novel, you need to read my book “The Magic Bakery.” You will understand how silly that thinking is.)
If you are a writer, meaning a person who loves to write, this is the path for you. Four books a year is a good pace. Novels can be any length, from 35,000 words to the doorstops. Again, write what you want to write. No limits. No rules. No gatekeepers.
By the time a first book might come out in traditional publishing if the new writer is lucky, you could have over twenty novels and numbers of other books out like collections and such.
Keep in mind you do not need to promote any of those books. That is a massive myth put forward by people trying to make money off of you by telling you how to promote your book. Spend your money instead on learning how to be a better writer, learning publishing tricks.
Then learn things such as licensing and mailing lists and Kickstarters and Patreon and build your reader base one reader at a time. Keep writing and selling short fiction. Bookbub is a great promotion, Facebook ads are worthless, and a new writer will learn that going forward.
So in five years, a traditional new writer might have a first novel out. And maybe a second one after the sixth year.
An indie writer in those five years will have twenty books out and they will be selling and building.
An indie writer will also own all their own copyright and be able to learn how to license it. Traditional publishing companies have no idea even what that means.
Indie writers books never go out of print, and can be refreshed with new covers regularly over the years to keep them selling.
A traditional writer will have sold all copyright for the life of the contract for a small advance. Their book will be frozen in an electronic expensive edition that will have a cover that dates quickly and no one will care.
An indie writer gets 70% to 95% of every sale delivered to their checking account within a month or so.
A traditional writer gets 10-12% normally per sale to repay the advance, and then only if the book sells at full retail. If the book is discounted, the traditional writer gets less or nothing per sale. Traditional writers might see a royalty statement every six months starting a year or so after the book publishes, if the agent sends it along.
So, in other words, the new world that publishing is transitioning toward is a structure that is stunningly good for the writer who wants to tackle it. Will it keep changing? Of course, that is the nature of a transition.
And then indie publishing will level out and become the norm.
I tried to tell that in my short hour to the twelve young writers I talked to in Hollywood. Sadly, my worry is that they will become writers of the old and soon-to-be-dead ways, even though the book that held their first stories is edited and published by an indie press started by a writer to take care of his thousands of stories and books.
The myths are strong on both sides of this transition. One side has the weight of the last 50 years, the other is new and revolutionary, just as the paperbacks were to the pulps and the pulps were to the journals and Penny Dreadfuls.
It is changing now. If you really want to be a fiction writer in 2033, there is only one path to take that makes sense and that is into the future of publishing.