Last month I released my first independently published book, a collection of short stories. However, it wasn’t the first book I’ve had published. I also have a teen novel out with an independent publisher. So, how do the experiences differ?
One of the reasons I’d decided to give self-publishing a go was because of the complete control in how your book is presented. I admit, I didn’t especially enjoy formatting the ebook, but I adored designing the paperback. I loved the flexibility of simply uploading a PDF. Everything was on the same place on the page that it was before I uploaded it, and there were creative things to be done with fonts and layout and pictures. It’s much harder with an ebook. But in the end both were done and I don’t think many publishers could have done it better.
There were a few things I missed from having a publisher of course. No one provided me with an editor to check the punctuation, spelling, etc. And designing a decent cover was much harder than I’d expected. Indeed, I couldn’t have managed either of these things alone. So I set up a private Facebook group with a few trusted fellow indie authors who advised me on cover design. Then I chose two or three of them to be beta readers and advance reviewers. It’s really important to have someone else look over your work when you think it’s done, even if you’re pretty good at editing. This is because, when the brain is super familiar with what it’s reading, it will skim over the words and you won’t notice mistakes in the same way. Many authors overcome this by changing the font and colour of the text for the final edit. This is a good idea, but you still need someone else to look at it.
The part I enjoyed most about the self-publishing process was organising the online book launch. I planned all sorts of competitions, readings and giveaways and it went really well. Of course, I could have done something similar for my other book. But when you have a publisher, it’s a great temptation to just leave it to them. When you self-publish you know very well that you have to do it all yourself. No one else will do it for you.
While there are many advantages to going with an independent publisher, these have to be weighed against the cost of the royalties they will take. And sometimes, if their distribution channels are limited, it’s just not worth it because of how easy it is to self-publish these days. Of course, it depends on the publisher and on yourself. I hope that one day I will be published by a much larger publishing company, though I don’t absolutely demand one of the Big Five. But I wouldn’t say no. Until then however, I think the pros of being an indie author outweigh the cons for me.