The Appeal of Indie Publishing

This morning, I was interviewed by Matt Galloway on the CBC’s show Metro Morning. This was a result of the announcement on Friday that Newscorp is acquiring Harlequin. There’s been a suggestion in the media that Harlequin’s sales are down because of authors choosing to self-publish or go indie. I’d been interviewed on that show in 2009 when I was the writer-in-residence at the Toronto Public Library, so they called me again.

Matt asked me why I would leave traditional publishing to go indie. The answer is much longer than the format of a short radio interview could possibly allow, so I thought I’d elaborate here today.

There were several contributing factors to my decision, so let’s have a peek. It wasn’t an easy choice to make after 20 years in traditional publishing, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.

1. The way that books are promoted to readers has changed in the past decade.
This is mainly because of the internet and the popularity of social media. Increasingly, and particularly in genre fiction, publishers rely upon authors building connections to their readers. This makes sense as readers feel a bond with their favorite authors. Romance authors were early to establish blogs, websites, reader newsletters, and then later to engage in social media. This allows us to remain in contact with our readers. This takes time and carries some expense (website hosting, design and maintenance, for example). It also means, in an era of online marketing, that we can reach our readers directly.

2. The disappearance of bricks-and-mortar bookstores has decreased print distribution.
The physical distribution of books, particularly mass market titles, has been steadily eroding over the past decade. Not only have bricks-and-mortar bookstores been disappearing, but space for books (again, especially mass market) has decreased in other outlets. There are fewer books at the grocery store, for example, and other non-traditional portals. Sales of print books have migrated to digital portals—readers have been buying their print copies online, because they either don’t have a local bookstore anymore, or the one in their vicinity isn’t stocking every title. The impulse-buy is one of the big advantages of a print distribution, IMO, and something that only a big publisher can provide. If sales are going to be mostly made through an online portal, though, that advantage from traditional publishing is decreased. In fact, there’s no reason why online sales can’t be fulfilled by print-on-demand.

3. The introduction of self-publishing portals for digital content has made it easy to deliver content to readers.
Portals like Amazon KDP improve tremendously on the old options of vanity publishing: in making content available through this portal (and others subsequently introduced), an author immediately has international digital distribution. The upfront cost is comparatively small, even if the author hires service providers. Also, the algorithm used by the online portal to recommend books to customers (the algorithm is a mathematical means of trying to emulate the handselling done by booksellers) means that the portal itself can help to sell the author’s books. Most importantly, the financial model is radically different from traditional publishing. Let’s walk the math.

In traditional publishing with big publishing houses, an 8% royalty rate is common on genre fiction mass market paperbacks (which has been the format of choice for the romance genre). If the book is priced at $6.99US, the royalty due to the author on each unit sold is roughly 50 cents. (I’m rounding down because most authors have agents, whose compensation comes out of the monies paid by the publisher.) Note that a royalty from Harlequin, if the author was published in one of their series programs, would likely be lower, due to a lower royalty rate and a lower retail price point.

Digital royalty rates from traditional houses are in flux. They can range from pennies (see the Harlequin lawsuit) to 25% of gross sales. 15% of net sales is pretty common, but then there’s the question of defining “net”. Let’s ballpark at $1.50 paid to the author on a digital edition priced at $7.99US. (Digital editions from traditional publishers are often priced the same or slightly higher than the mass market edition of the same book.)

In contrast, the royalties paid by these digital portals range from 35% to 70% of the retail price. (The rate varies based on the territory where the sale occurs, and the royalty rate offered at that price point.) So, if we look at a digital book on Amazon.com, pricing it at $2.99 will earn the author a royalty of roughly $2 per unit for units sold to readers in the US. (The US is the major market for the romance genre.)

That price point is less than half of the traditional publisher’s price point, so it’s reasonable to expect that more people will buy at that price. In romance, which is distinctive in having so many avid readers, price becomes a consideration for many readers. I’ve noticed that my readers are more price sensitive in certain sub-genres, probably the result of the number of books they read per month or few year.

4. A rapidly changing market
Digital is emerging as a major (if not the major) format for genre fiction, and it’s changing very quickly. Pricing, for example, is settling down after several years of energetic variation. I had a number of concerns associated with this transition.

• Transparency
If sales are going to be driven by my promotional efforts, I need to see results to decide upon marketing strategies, and I need to see those results in a timely manner.

Traditional publishers tend to report in semi-annual royalty statements which are delivered to the author (or agent) four months after the end of the reporting period. Digital publishing portals, in contrast, display sales data in real time. I have been lucky to work with editors at traditional sales houses who shared weekly sales results, particularly in the first weeks of a book’s release, but that’s not at all the same level of detail.

(In addition, most portals pay author-publishers in 60 to 90 days after sales revenue is earned. The key difference here is that they are dealing with end consumers not wholesalers and commercial accounts. Readers pay immediately for the book or else they can’t download it. This means online portals can not only report sales as they occur, but can pay authors more quickly.)

Last Wednesday, for example, I published a new book, Serpent’s Kiss. I was checking the sales figures on the online portals on Friday for that title when I received an email from one of my former publishing houses that my sales report for the second half of 2013 was available for download. The contrast made me laugh.

Flexibility
When a book is traditionally published, it has one kick at the can. It is packaged once; it is given copy once; it is launched once. In mass market format, promotion efforts are focused on the on-sale date because it’s believed that the majority of sales will be made in the first two weeks that the book is available. This is partly true because print books are stripped and removed from sale after two weeks, and again after 30 days, to make room for new incoming titles.

Digital can have a completely different sales model. There is no real cost in keeping the book available for a long period of time (if not indefinitely) so long tail marketing is a more typical marketing model. Authors who are indie-publishing often update their book files over time, maybe changing out a cover to give a book a second chance, revising the copy or adding an excerpt from a new book to the back. In an evolving market, I think it’s important to have the flexibility to respond to change.

For example, when I began to publish my backlist titles in 2010, it wasn’t common for digital books to include a clickable table of contents. That has become the standard, as it aids navigability for readers. I could update my book files with clickable TOC’s and did so. I’ve no idea whether my traditional publishers did that—I doubt it, because the books that were available in digital format had already been formatted once. I also doubt that they have clickable links in the end matter, so that readers can easily buy the next book in the series.

Control
As an author, I’ve learned that how important it is to be published with enthusiasm. In this market, I believe that the publisher that will publish my work with the most enthusiasm is me. That might change, but until it does (and unless it does), I’ll continue on this path. I do love that authors have choices in this new market.

Phew! See? That would take more than 4 minutes to say. Now I have a question for you: Matt also asked me the appeal of the romance genre to readers. That’s another complicated question! I said it was because of the emotional connection that readers feel with the characters and the authors, and the resonance of the stories for readers. That’s why I read romance. The stories feel pertinent to me.

How about you? Why do you read romance?

(Remember that if you haven’t commented on my blog before, your comment will go to moderation. It’s not gone, just is waiting on me.)

Chicken Little and the Digital Book Market

This is the first Wild West Thursday post on my new blog. The old ones are still over at Alive & Knitting if you want to catch up on the discussion.

Remember Chicken Little? He was the one who ran around, certain that the sky was falling. (Turns out that this is a very old story about mass hysteria and its effects. Twenty-five centuries!) There has been a lot of chatter on author loops lately (well, on one loop in particular) about 99-cent boxed sets and how their prevalence is affecting the market for books. The notion here is that 99-cent boxed sets are destroying the market, because readers will become so accustomed to getting books cheap that they’ll stop paying for them at all. This is clearly a trend with huge implications for authors.

Or it would be, if it were true.

Spending time in the publishing industry means becoming familiar with its tropes and patterns. The fact is that there is always something or someone destroying the book market, at least if you believe what you read in the industry trades – yet the book market keeps on keeping on. This year, the guilty party might be seen to be 99-cent digital boxed sets. Last year, it was free digital books. In the years before that, it was self-published authors flooding the marketplace with unedited books. Before that, it was Amazon, or maybe Wal-mart, or big box stores, or other retailers whose roots weren’t in the business of selling books. For as long as I’ve been a published author (and probably before that), there’s been a big bad wolf out there (there I go, mixing my metaphors and folk tales!) gobbling up all the opportunity for writers and publishers to make a decent living.

What people are responding to here is change. Change is frightening. Change makes us angry. Chicken Little had his claw on a fundamental human trait.

The thing that’s not changing here is that there are readers who want to read books for free. This has always been the case. It could be that they believe books should be free. It could be that they’re avid readers and price becomes a concern when you consume a lot of any product. It could just be that they’re frugal. My point is simply that these readers have always been around and that’s just fine. Some are librarians. Some are enthusiasts who press books on other people. It’s not by any means a one-sided transaction or a simple issue. In the old days of print books, those readers went to libraries, used book stores, church sales and bought stripped books at flea markets. Their presence isn’t new. They might have e-readers now, but their tendencies are exactly the same as ever.

What is changing is the digital book market. It’s evolving rapidly, which is interesting in itself, and this year, there have been some very big changes. I believe that the market is maturing, which means that the traits that have characterized the digital book market for the last few years weren’t new standards but anomalies. Any changes in the market for popular fiction will be felt first and most strongly by those of us who write genre fiction.

Let’s look at a few big recent trends:
• a diminished market power of backlist
One very strange trait of the digital book market has been that backlist titles have dominated book sales so emphatically. It wasn’t uncommon for an author to have a backlist title that sold at consistently high levels for a long period of time. This isn’t characteristic of the book market as a whole. There are two big contributing factors here, one from supply and one from demand. On the supply side, many authors held reverted book rights and entered the digital book market themselves by creating new editions of those backlist titles. On the demand side, many readers were buying e-readers for the first time. What we tend to do when we commit to new technology is that we acquire our favorite content in the new format. It happened when music became available on CD’s. It happened when books became digital. That’s a finite curve, though – everyone has a list of older titles they want to have on the new device, and once they’ve bought that list, they will turn to new content. I suspect that the 99-cent digital boxed set (many of which are compiled of backlist titles) is the last hurrah of backlist books.

• more controls and filters by digital book portals
As algorithms become more sophisticated – which they do day by day – and digital portals filter against explicit content, it becomes less easy for authors to “game the system” – that’s Mark LeFebvre’s phase – or to use little tricks to propel a book into prominence. Not only is there a lot of more content available, but loopholes are being closed. This shifts the format to success back to the old combination of good content at a good price published on a consistent schedule.

• sexually explicit content is no longer an easy sell
There was a time – oh, until about March of 2013 – that it was comparatively easy to make a lot of money writing erotic romance and erotica. There was no need for promotion or advertising. Making the content available was enough. In a way, it seemed that digital book readers were hungry for this kind of content. Maybe that was the case, as much of it was edgy and might not have been published in a traditional market. But a lot of sorting has been added this year by digital book portals, particularly to niche sexually explicit content, probably to ensure that they aren’t found to be trafficking in pornography. It might also be because they want to ensure that such content is visible only to adults, not minors. This filtering echoes the decisions that used to be made by traditional publishers. It’s a lot harder to make big money selling explicit content online than it was even 10 months ago. It can still be done, but just the fact that it’s not simple will compel a number of authors to stop publishing.

• big publishers are learning better how to sell digital books
Finally! This not only provides more competition for books on a title by title basis, but it influences the options for self-published authors at a higher level. Big publishers make better partners in many cases for digital portals than individual authors ever could—such publishers control larger lists of titles and have more budget to spend on promotion. This means that the portals will likely skew their algorithms to be more favorable to digital books from traditional publishers – which means less visibility for indie-published books.

In the end, the digital book market looks more and more like the traditional book market every day. Earlier this year, I compared the sales patterns for two digital boxed sets of my medieval romances: one published by me and the other published by Random House. The sales curves were radically different, but given the lag in reporting times, I used sales numbers for the second half of 2012. By the time I wrote those posts in May 2013, the patterns were already changing. My next royalty report showed sales for the first half of 2013 as being very similar: the self-published boxed set was selling in a pattern very similar to the traditionally published boxed set.

What we’re seeing is that the sales anomalies that indie-published writers came to believe were typical of the digital market are disappearing. Just as in traditional publishing, a single book is increasingly unlikely to sell at the same high volume for a sustained period of time. Just as in traditional publishing, many many books will see a sales spike at or around their on sale date, then a drop in sales, and smaller spikes with the release of new frontlist titles by the same author. As indie authors are given the option of setting books up for pre-orders, this pattern is going to become even more pronounced.

There remain some differences, however, and they’re important ones. Digital publishing does still offer the opportunity for books to be “discovered” long after their on sale date and be catapulted into visibility. In such a crowded market, that may be a less frequent occurrence than was once the case. One excellent trait of the digital book market is that backlist is readily available for readers to discover a linked series that is already in progress. Another thing I really like about the digital book market is the immediacy of publication – it would be hard for me to go back to a one year production cycle, after the writing of a book is complete. In a changing market, I like the ability to make my work available sooner.

What do you think about the changes in the digital book market? Do you see 99-cent boxed sets as a sign of the end of the world? Did I miss any trends or changes that you see as influential? How about any advantages of the digital book market?

Visit from Mark LeFebvre

Yesterday, I told you about the Stratford Authors blog that I established last fall with a local librarian, Melanie Kindrachuk, to focus on local authors. I mentioned that we’d started to co-host some events with the local library. At the beginning of March, our monthly event featured Mark LeFebvre, the Director of Author Relations at Kobo Writing Life and a published author himself, talking about digitally publishing a book. Here’s the interview Mark did for the SA blog in advance of his appearance.

I met Mark last fall at the World Fantasy Conference in Toronto, after I’d seen him participate in a panel discussion on digital publishing for indie authors there. We subsequently emailed back and forth over some questions I had about the books I’d published directly on KOBO and I invited him to come down here to speak to our group. I halfway expected him to decline (it’s a bit of a drive from Toronto) but he enthusiastically agreed and we booked a date.

Mark’s initial comments were about preparing to digitally publish a book. He made some cautionary remarks about people diving in to digital publishing too soon. He reminded us all that a book needs to be ready to be published, no matter how it’s published: it needs to be professionally edited; it needs to have good cover art; it needs to have strong copy; it needs to be formatted correctly. All of these things help books to be taken seriously, and to succeed.

He also mentioned that most successful digital book authors know their audience really well. He suggested that authors should know their audience and their audience demographics, to better prepare packaging that appeals to the target audience and set prices that make sense to that audience.

Because the topic of digital publishing is so huge, Mark then took questions from the floor to focus his comments.

• He was asked whether KOBO intends to add author pages to the site – he said they had been in the works since KWL launched last July and are still in the works.

• He told us that the search utilities would be vastly improved on KOBO shortly, and that there would be more categories for books.

• He was not so encouraging in response to a question about allowing readers to post reviews directly on the KOBO site. He talked about Kobo’s partnership with Goodreads, expressed great admiration for Goodreads, and essentially didn’t seem to see any reason to duplicate or overlap what they already do so well.

Mark also talked about formatting of digital books, giving a brief overview to attendees. He was quite passionate on the topic of digital book prices increasing, and certain that free books and 99 cent books will become less effective as marketing tools. (Such pricing strategies are already markedly less effective than even six months ago.) We had some questions from people who wanted to embed video in their books and also a graphic novelist in attendance, so he talked about those technical requirements and possibilities for those sorts of works. (I didn’t understand it all!)

Again, I was struck by how generous the exchange of information is between authors and digital publishing portals like Kobo. He was quite direct about the merchandising of books on their site and how books are chosen from all the many titles presented each week for special attention. It was a lively and informative evening.

Mark even brought his skeletons – he writes horror in his life as an author – so maybe it was inevitable that we have a lot of fun. In fact, Mark will be coming back to our monthly event in June to walk our local authors through the process of digitally publishing a book on Kobo.

Why Go Indie?

(I wrote this post for the newsletter of my writing chapter, but thought you might enjoy it too.)

Technical innovation has recently evoked a huge change in the business of publishing as we’ve come to know and love it. The emergence of portals for digital self-publishing and the distribution of ebooks published through those portals directly to consumers has created far more choices for authors than was previously the case.

The kinds of authors who took advantage of these opportunities has been evolving, too. Originally, most authors who took the plunge into self-publishing were either unpublished authors or authors who had previously been published but were not actively publishing any longer. Authors who wrote for niche markets also were early to take advantage of this new opportunity. In the past year, however, more and more traditionally published authors have chosen to indie publish, either exclusively or in combination with traditional publishing. This decision mystifies many unpublished writers, particularly those who would like to be published by a traditional publishing house. As one of the authors who has made the choice to take some work indie, I thought I’d talk today about pros and cons of making that choice.

First, a little backstory. I write – or have written – under three names. I write medieval romances as Claire Delacroix and have published twenty-seven novels under that author brand. I also published a Claire Delacroix trilogy of apocalyptic paranormal romances set in a dystopian future. In addition, I’ve written four time travel romances and four contemporary romances, all of which were published under the name Claire Cross by Berkley. More recently, I have been writing paranormal romances and paranormal YA featuring dragon shape shifters under my own name, Deborah Cooke. EMBER’S KISS, coming from NAL in October, will be the eighth Dragonfire novel, the eleventh “Cooke-book” and my forty-eighth traditionally published novel in print.

My experience with traditional publishing is not unusual, so my reasons for going indie with my new Delacroix medieval are not unusual either. Let’s take a look at them.

1. Finishing What’s Been Started

This was the impetus that drove me to indie-publish my first original work. I like to write linked series, and I like to write long linked series. It’s not strategically a good idea to contract for (just for example) all ten books in a proposed series right off the bat. The hope is that the series will sell well, sales will grow and subsequent contracts will be for higher advances – which will mean more promotional budget and attention paid by the sales team to the books. Publishing houses also are leery of making such long commitments without having seen any sales numbers for the series in question. To contract incrementally – maybe three books at a time – makes sense both for the author and the publishing. Incremental contracting of a long series, however, does leave the door open to the possibility that the publisher and author might part ways before the series is completed. This invariably has meant that the series would not ever be completed, as traditional publishers do not like to pick up a series that has been started at another house. If they’re interested in publishing the author, they’d rather have something new that can be entirely their own.

My last two traditionally published Delacroix medieval romance trilogies were loosely linked. The Rogues of Ravensmuir (THE ROGUE, THE SCOUNDREL and THE WARRIOR) was followed by The Jewels of Kinfairlie (THE BEAUTY BRIDE, THE ROSE RED BRIDE and THE SNOW WHITE BRIDE). The second trilogy features a younger generation of the same family. There are eight siblings in the family at Kinfairlie, and I was expecting to write another five books after The Jewels of Kinfairlie trilogy. Unfortunately, the market for historical romances was not very robust in 2005, so the publisher and I parted ways. It was subsequently impossible to place the rest of the series with any other traditional publishing house. Rather than pitch a different medieval series at that time, I chose to do something completely different. I wrote the Prometheus Project (FALLEN, REBEL and GUARDIAN), that Apocalyptic paranormal romance trilogy mentioned above, and just loved writing those books.

Readers can be a faithful bunch. I have been hearing from readers since 2005 that they’re waiting for the other Kinfairlie sisters to have their stories told. (Only one reader has asked about the two remaining brothers. I’m not sure why, but there you go.) This has troubled me. I think it is critical for an author to keep the faith with his or her readers, and one part of doing that is to finish series once they’re started. With traditional publishing, though, this has not always been possible. Indie publishing gave me the opportunity to continue the Kinfairlie story: I indie published THE RENEGADE’S HEART, the first book in The True Love Brides series, last week. This was very satisfying for me. I loved returning to my medieval world and taking the next step in bringing that series to completion.

2. Exorcising Ghosts

This reason is a variation of the first one. In the process of placing those forty-eight titles, I’ve pitched a lot of story ideas that did not ultimately sell. Some of them have been vague ideas (of the scratched-on-bar-napkin variety) while others have been full written proposals. The latter would probably make a three foot stack of paper if gathered together and piled up. The problem is that the ideas which have been more fully developed haunt me, much like those unmatched Kinfairlie siblings. (I can forget bar napkins, apparently.) Some of the story ideas and characters I really, really like – which is why I have still have those proposals stashed away.

Typically, when an author is in a relationship with a traditional publishing house, any idea during the option process but is not contracted by the house disappears forever. Because the idea has been rejected, it’is not new or fresh or even worthy of consideration in subsequent discussions. There are exceptions, of course, but in a very real sense, traditional publishers have controlled not only what is published but what is not published: when an author presents ideas at option, the one that is ultimately contracted will be written and published. The others will fade away. By the time the author is up for deal again, he or she will have a crop of new ideas or the publisher will be looking for different kinds of ideas.

It’s always been possible for an author to walk away from an option offer to write “the book of his or her heart”, or to work on that book on the side, but for many working writers like myself, that just hasn’t happened. I’ve not been alone in making a deal where I could and moving forward from that point.

The issue is that some of those ideas are as persistent as faithful readers, and haven’t faded quietly away. I have probably a dozen ideas that pester me to write them down, and I think that’s pretty typical for writers. It might be that those ideas were not the right ideas at the right time, but that doesn’t mean their time can’t be now. It might be that those ideas were a little bit too different for traditional publishers, but that doesn’t mean they’re too different for readers. It might be that the idea was outside the bounds of what the editor considered to be my brand, but that doesn’t mean that readers won’t agree. (After all, I don’t.) In traditional publishing, there hasn’t been a good or an easy way to discover whether those editorial judgment calls were right or wrong.

Now there is. Indie publishing is a place to give voice to those persistent story ideas.

3. Pushing the Boundaries

Traditional publishing tends to be conservative about editorial content, particularly in the romance genre. There are often concerns from editors about stories that don’t cohere to an established idea of what is effective in a specific sub-genre, or stories that don’t include expected elements, or stories that challenge expectations in some way. It is always difficult to see a book published well that pushes the boundaries, or one that hybridizes genres or subgenres.

I know this because many of my book ideas fall into this category. The problem is that it’s impossible to know what readers will make of a book before that book is published. The other problem is that I don’t believe for a minute that readers are as conservative as editors tend to believe readers to be. For example, I have consistently added paranormal and fantasy elements into my medievals, and had to fight for their continued inclusion in the final book. Is it really true that readers don’t want to read historicals with paranormal elements? I find that hard to accept, especially in a market that is so hungry for contemporaries with paranormal elements as our current market. THE RENEGADE’S HEART is a paranormal medieval, as will be the other books in The True Love Brides series. I really enjoyed populating the paranormal realm in this book and taking some chances. We’ll see what readers think of that.

What’s important to note here is that the model of indie publishing is so different from that of traditional print publishing that both the editor and the author can be right in any given example. Digital publishing is very well-suited to works that may appeal to a niche market, while traditional publishing – particularly in the romance genre, which tends to be published in mass market originals – does not service niche markets so well. There are two main differences to account for this: the sales cycle, and the financial model.

The sales cycle in traditional publishing is derived from the reality of physical book distribution. Any given bricks and mortar book store has a specific amount of shelf space. Publishers release books monthly (or even more biweekly) to best exploit that physical space. Because physical books will be removed to make space for new releases, a print first book has a window of opportunity of two to four weeks to perform. Indie publishing relies more upon digital editions of books, which do not consume physical space. A digital book can wait on a server forever to be discovered. A digital book can have a very different sales cycle than a physical book, at very little incremental cost of ensuring its ongoing availability. Because of this, digital publishing can offer more opportunities for long-tail marketing. Indie publishing also tends to use print on demand technology for physical books and this echoes the long tail advantages of digital books – the POD file waits on a server until a customer buys the book, then the book is made “on demand”. There is no inventory cost for physical books, no warehousing required, and no returns.

Then there is the different financial model. Consider the possibility that there are some people who want to read paranormal medievals. Let’s speculate that there are 10,000 of them in the United States. If my paranormal medieval romance was published traditionally, the primary focus for format would be the mass market paperback. Although there are variations depending upon the individual contract terms, we can take fifty cents as an average royalty per unit sale for the author: if 10,000 units were sold, the author would earn out $5,000. No one would be very excited about this kind of sales history. It is a “meh” result. In contrast, indie royalty rates are much higher, primarily because indie publishing tends to focus on the digital book format. If the indie published edition of that book was priced it at $4.99, royalties would be in the vicinity of $3.50 per unit. Selling those 10,000 copies would earn the author $35,000, a sum that most authors would find far more interesting. It might be a number that made writing the book worthwhile for the author. Of course, there are costs associated with indie publishing and no guarantees that the target audience can be found, but still indie publishing can serve niche markets more effectively.

4. Proving Marketability

The final reason I offer for a traditionally published author to go indie is that of proving the existence of audience. Traditional publishers rely upon accumulated sales data for an author who has been previously published, in order to decide whether to publish that author again in the future. This is primarily Bookscan data, which is point-of-sale data for print books. Authors thrive, survive or die – metaphorically speaking – on the basis of the sales numbers for their most recently published work. A book that “doesn’t perform” can condemn an author’s career, or at least hamper it. In traditional publishing, the “way back” often involves a new and different idea, maybe in a new and different subgenre or genre, maybe with a new author brand.

But what if that last book wasn’t published well? It might have had a mediocre cover. What if the timing of the book’s release affected its sales? World events influence book sales overall and individual books get caught in the crossfire. I have a backlist book that was originally published shortly after 9/11. There were virtually no fiction sales for 90 days after that horrible incident so every book published in that timeframe failed to perform. Some of them got second chances but most didn’t. What if it was the publisher that failed to perform, not the work itself? There is an old saying in publishing that if an author isn’t being published with enthusiasm, that author is better off not being published at all. With the changes in the publishing market in the last decade, a far higher percentage of traditionally published authors are being published without enthusiasm.

 

Some of the first authors to test the waters of indie publishing were previously published authors who were no longer being published. Many of these authors had been published by traditional publishing houses in the midlist. Most of those authors entered the indie publishing forum by republishing their backlist titles, as I did. Most of those authors believed their backlist books deserved a second chance. They all believed they could market their own books better than their publishing partners had marketed them – a great many of those authors were proved to be right and established new careers for themselves. A second chance for an author brand or an individual book is an opportunity prove that an audience exists for the work.

Is there a market for Claire Delacroix paranormal medieval romances? I hope there is, but I don’t really know. The good news is that now there’s a way to find out for sure. Indie publishing such a book, as I have just done, provides an excellent opportunity to get results instead of making guesses.

 

So, there are four reasons to go indie, even for an established and/or traditionally published author. The thing is that I don’t believe it needs to be an either/or decision. There’s a lot of rhetoric in author circles these days about choosing indie publishing or traditional publishing to the exclusion of the other model, but both models offer distinct advantages to authors – and also to publishers. It seems only reasonable that both models can be used in tandem to both build author brands, to explore niche markets, to test the marketability of unusual books, or give works a second chance. Indie publishing is a new tool and one that can open many doors for authors. That’s pretty exciting stuff.