Why I’m Publishing Independently
When I first started to get serious about publishing I had a lot of misconceptions about the process and the pitfalls. I had delusions of sitting beside an artist while they crafted my cover, and always wondered why some covers didn’t match the contents. The answer is because in traditional publishing you, the author, are sent an email along the lines of “Here’s your cover, see attached .jpg! Hope you like it.” As an artistic, visual person who has a clear vision, it crushed me to be totally excluded from such a meaningful part of the process.
More revelations from there on out made me doubt that traditional publishing was the best match for me. A traditional publisher pays the average first-time author an advance of about $5,000-8,000 for the entirety of their creative rights.This is before royalties, but most authors don’t earn out their advances, meaning that $5-8k is all the author tends to see from it.
This means that the publisher:
- Can buy the series, publish the first book, and decline to publish the rest of the series if they’re not happy with the returns. The publisher retains rights to that entire series and the characters, so those other books won’t be published until the rights revert to the author, potentially decades later, if ever.
- Can change the title of the book, something I also felt very strongly about
- Puts you on their timeline / release schedule. In real terms this means they take as long as they need on a manuscript, hand it back to the author and say “we need your edits back in three weeks.” With the current constraints on my time (writing, editing, NightBlooming, a full-time job), there is no way I could meet that deadline and do my best work.
- Expects authors, especially fledgling ones, to do almost all their own marketing.
In light of all that, I didn’t feel traditional publishing was a good fit for me, but I also knew that there pitfalls to self-publishing too, namely the lack of access to a wide distribution network.
By publishing independently I am:
- Retaining full creative control and intellectual rights to my work. That means the cover will match the contents of my book, that the titles I choose stay, and I serve the story and my readers before anything else.
- Able to do tie-ins and tangential projects like perfume blends to match the characters, an Illustrated Iyarri book (it’s in the Goals section of my Patreon page), and other things I could not do if I sold my rights.
- Working with professional editors, cover artists, to create amazing, quality books and have access to a distribution network that can get them into bookstores and libraries.
- Paying for all of this, including the cost of printing all those books out of my own pocket.
I don’t think there’s a universal best fit for everyone when it comes to how to publish their work and bring it to readers, but I do feel I made the right decision for me.