I’ve been reading magazines, blogs, and books on publishing since 2005, and over the years I used to think the self-published or independent authors had some control issues. It wasn’t hard to arrive at that solution.
Almost every author or publishing expert who wrote about independent publishing or self-publishing listed CONTROL as either the main reason for choosing that path or at least one of the most attractive reasons to choose that path.
I imagined these controlling folks as the sorts of people who didn’t want someone to tell them to stop working on terrible books like The Wrath of Moragina the Sexy Sword Sorceress or The Jerusalem End Times Code Prophecy. And even if the books they wrote looked somewhat professional and the authors appeared somewhat competent, I still imagined that they were just outliers who refused to play by the accepted rules of publishing.
I used to think to myself, “Come on, get over yourself. You don’t need to control everything in publishing.”
Don’t you trust the people working at the publisher?
Don’t you want to work as part of a team at a publisher?
Aren’t you missing out on all of the good things publishers offer?
Now that I’ve worked in commercial and independent publishing for a good stretch of time, I can see why control is actually far more important for authors than I would have ever guessed. [Note: for the sake of clarity, I’m assuming Joanna Penn’s terminology here where self-publishing describes book publishing on your own as a hobby and independent (or Indie) publishing as book publishing on your own as a professional endeavor.]
While I’ve had lots of good experiences with my colleagues involved in traditional publishing and I’m deeply proud of the books I’ve produced, I also know first hand how independent authors miss out on the downsides of working with a traditional, commercial publisher. In fact, independent authors who play their cards right can essentially find work-arounds that help them reap most of the benefits of traditional publishing while gaining all of the benefits of publishing independently.
Did I mention that the control is great?
Sorry. Moving on…
While I didn’t enjoy independent publishing when I first tried it out in 2010, the changes in the tools available and distribution opportunities have made it far more feasible. In fact, I’m now prepared to defend the independent book publishing control freaks. I’m now one of them. Control is great. Have I mentioned that yet? In fact, once you gain control over your publishing career, you may never let go of it.
When control is good for independent book publishing:
- I can jump on opportunities with price promotions or giveaways.
- I can work with fellow authors easily and share my content with them immediately.
- I can get immediate results on promotions and find out what works and keep doing it. [I have to wait until next January to learn how many sales the BookBub promotion for one of my traditionally published books got from this past January. Also? I split the cost of the promotion with the publisher.]
- I can change mistakes in my books easily and even change titles and book covers if they haven’t performed well.
- I can update previous books to include new links to my new books.
- I can direct readers right to my own website and mailing list at the beginning and end of my books.
That isn’t to say that independent publishing is for everyone. There are some popular authors who are doing quite well and have no need to read this post.
On the other hand, there are many talented writers and bloggers who are languishing over book proposals and waiting for months to hear back from editors and agents who have inboxes flooded with projects they hardly have time to review. I can identify with the desire to publish commercially. I also wouldn’t give up that experience for anything.
However, if you want to write books, just start writing books today. Work with professional editors and designers, build your email list, and find fulfilling ways to connect with readers. Just resolve to write books no matter what if that’s what you really want to do.
Stop waiting for someone to give you the green light.
There are so many simple ways to create professional eBooks and print on demand books. There are plenty of editors (**raises hand**) who can help improve your books. There are more than enough competent designers.
Take risks. Make mistakes. Learn lessons. Ask for advice. Read reliable blogs. Keep working no matter what. No one can stop you from opening your computer or notebook in order to write—unless that person has stolen them from you and is running down the street with them.
Best yet? If you manage to publish independently, you’ll have complete control…