I gave my mother a copy of Wish You Were Here for Christmas. There’s something quite confronting about your mother reading a story where the occasional swear word is uttered and sex happens.
It reminds me of the story when my brother was really young and we were on the farm just outside of Bombala (in southern NSW) helping with the lamb marking. If you don’t know what lamb marking is, I’ll explain sometime much later. Anyways, my brother was wrestling this lamb that was almost as big as him – it was one of the early born lambs that season – and he said ‘F’n hell, you’re an idiot, lamb!’
We all went silent. Ummmmm aaaaaah.
Tearfully, my brother apologised, ‘I’m sorry Mum – I didn’t mean to say idiot!’
Given that Mum’s reaction to my potty mouth is usually something like, ‘ you’re better educated that that, Joanne,’ it’s fair to say I was concerned that Mum was reading my book. I even joked about redacting the spicy bits. As one of my sisters said, I can’t believe you used the word “cock”.’ Really? What else was I going to call it. Hi Leese…
As it turns out, Mum loved the book and said the sex was nicely done. I’m not sure whether that’s a good or a bad thing…in fact, I don’t want to know. I was, however, thrilled that she liked it – and was prepared to tell all of her friends that she liked it. She asked me, though, why I’d decided to self publish this book. ‘Surely it’s good enough to be published, Joanne,’ she said.
Yeah, I think it is – which is why I published it.
The thing is, after I self published Baby, It’s You, I made the decision to continue to self publish. I’m still not making a living – or anywhere near a living – from my books, but I’m proud of them, and I’m proud to be an indie author. It’s what I want to continue to do.
Why did I go indie in the first place?
I’d sent Baby, It’s You off to a few publishers. It got through the slush pile with one – who asked to see the first three chapters. Then three months later they asked to see the whole book – and requested that I not show anyone else while they were deliberating. Three months later the answer came back: sorry, like the story, like the voice, but not enough romance for us.
Disappointed, I repeated the process. Can we see the first three chapters. Sure. Three months later: we’d like to see the rest of the book – you’re not showing anyone else are you? After six months I got the same result: sorry, like the story, like the voice, but too much romance for us.
At that point I figured that if it was good enough to get through the slush piles and good enough to be considered for acquisition, the bones of a good story were there. It was then that I decided that I was tired of waiting. It was then that I decided that it was time to back myself and take control of the process.
What happened next?
A lot of research.
I sat down and worked out what it was that a traditional publisher would do. They’d hire a structural editor, a copy editor, a cover designer, and there’d be someone to do marketing and promotions. At least.
So that’s what I set out to do. Hire the same people that a traditional publisher would hire. Except for the marketing part – although, I’ve since done that too.
That means an investment?
Absolutely. Publishing costs money – especially if you want your book to be the best version of itself that it can be. When you’re publishing independently, you’re making the investment that a publisher would normally be making for you and in you. You’re also reaping a larger proportion of the royalties – assuming, that is, that you’ve done your marketing and sell books outside your immediate circle of friends.
If you’re with a traditional publisher, they hire the editors, organise the cover, and do your marketing (although many first time authors have been disappointed with the amount of marketing they’ve had to do for themselves). If you’re lucky you’ll be paid a small advance, and will be paid a portion of the royalties once their investment has been repaid. It’s basic business common-sense. If you’re successful, you have the support of the publisher for your next venture, and your next, and the one after that.
So why self-publish then? Surely it’s better to have someone do all of that for you?
The easy answer would be to admit that I’m a control freak. The longer answer is that as much as I love the creative process, I really enjoy the business of writing – and I’m prepared to make an investment in my business.
I’m in this for the long haul, so the team I’m building around me is one I trust to help me achieve my publishing goals and to help me be a better writer.
Do I secretly yearn for a publishing contract?
Man, yes! Especially when I get great feedback about the books, but the sales remain slow – even though they are improving with each release. Would I go out looking for a publisher? Not at the moment – but I wouldn’t rule out doing that in the future. At this point I’m enjoying being the CEO of my writing career, although there’s no denying that I’d love to one day see my books in an airport – and have the instagram to prove it.
Can you keep the costs down by skimping on an editor and doing your own cover design?
In theory, yes, but would a traditional publisher skimp on an editor or a cover designer? No, they wouldn’t. And when you’re an indie, you’re your own publishing house. Just saying.
Is indie publishing for everyone?
No. You need to be prepared to be responsible for your business, treat your creative output as the product or assets of your business, and manage it in the same way as a traditional publisher would.
If you want to simply create and leave the business to someone else, then indie publishing is not for you.