I’m an independent author and the number of us in the world is growing thanks to ebooks and print-on-demand services. We no longer have to fight for the attention of publishers or pay out a large chunk of money to get our books published. We can upload our manuscripts to the internet and anyone can pay to read them. We get a larger chunk of the profit than traditionally published authors (those that have contracts with the larger publishing houses), and we keep all of the rights to our books. Of course, that also means we take full responsibility for our own marketing, but it can be argued that many of the traditional authors have ended up taking on more responsibility for their marketing than they thought they would after being signed.
Independent authors have more freedom to write what they want than traditional authors, who are bound to their publishing house contracts. Traditional authors can write what they want as long as they maintain the expectations outlined in their contracts and stay within the mold that the publishers feel is the blueprint for selling thousands of copies of books. No one can deny that blueprint often works, but it means sacrificing some creativity.Traditional authors can’t push limits as well as independent authors.
The flexibility awarded to independent authors can create some unique challenges. One of the challenges I’ve had to face when writing The Starseed Series is choosing how to categorize the books. The first one, Anna, follows Anna, a 17 year-old girl as she navigates her last year of high school while dealing with a series of strange developments. The basis of it is science fiction, but that isn’t entirely apparent until the end. Matter-of-fact, the first book fits more into the young adult genre, which is written for ages 12-18, so that’s usually how I describe it. However, the second book, Quintina, without revealing too much, has a lot more science fiction elements, but also has a storyline that is more new adult, which is targeted at 18-25 year-olds. Why? Because the character transforms in a unique way. So, I’ve gone back and forth about changing my genre, because I want to categorize the series in a way that will create the most appropriate expectations of readers.
If I was a traditionally published author, I would probably be limited to the young adult genre, because that’s where I started my series. However, because I’m an independent author, I can literally change my book’s categorization at the click of a button. So, I can test to see if I’m reaching the appropriate readers. The same goes for the book’s description, which has also been a difficult part of publishing. There are so many layers to my story that it’s hard for me to sum it all up in a paragraph.
Another challenge I’ve faced as an independent author is getting coverage from local news outlets, as well as getting local bookstores to stock my book. As soon as they hear that I’m published through Amazon’s Createspace, they start to treat me differently. I wrote to local news stations and the newspaper, and never got a response back. Yet, they’ve since covered local authors with publishing contracts and other news on their literature segments that could be argued as not really being related to books. As for bookstores, one never returned my calls after I dropped off a copy to them and the other bought one copy, but put it on a shelf where it wouldn’t be seen. Still, Anna has a 4+ star average rating between Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Goodreads. It’s just that not many people in Southeast North Carolina know that.
That reminds me, if you read a book, please review it! Reviews are PRICELESS for authors, especially independent ones.
I’ve been asked why I didn’t spend months sending my manuscript of Anna to agents and publishers in hopes that they offered me a contract. The fact is that I want to maintain control over my books and my royalties. Time and time again, I’ve read interviews from authors that have been traditionally published and it’s not the glamorous lifestyle that outsiders imagine. Unless you’ve already proven that you books will be bought by the thousands, the publishers aren’t going to spend the time and money on you to do all your marketing. You could still very well be out there doing all the legwork just as any independent authors has to do. So, why hand over your royalties without some guarantee on the publisher’s part? More than once, I’ve seen an agent start out independent, become traditional, and then return to being independent, because the benefits didn’t justify the means.
While I often feel like I’m running into walls, I’m proud to be an independent author. My success will always be my own.
If you haven’t read Anna yet, the ebook is only 99 cents right now. You can purchase the ebook, as well as a print copy of it, on Amazon. If you have read it, please share in the comments below which genre you think it fits or should be placed in considering the direction the second book is taking.