Going Independent and the Future of Publishing

After announcing my decision to go independent with my Dating a Widower book, some people were curious as to why I’d turn down a publishing contract. Since I know most of my readers don’t follow what’s going on in the publishing world as closely as I do, I thought I’d give a more detailed explanation for my decision. The publishing industry is going through a similar change that the music industry went through at the turn of the century. Back when I was in college most people still bought CDs at the mall or stores like Wal-Mart or Target. Right around the time I graduated Napster showed up and everyone started downloading digital music to their computer for free. Of course this was illegal and Napster was soon shut down but not before demonstrating there was a big appetite for digital music. Then iTunes came along and showed that most people would willingly pay 99 cents for song or buy digital albums online—usually for less than the price of a CD. What made digital music really take off was the iPod and other digital music players that made it easy to take digital music files from your computer and put them in a device that would fit in your pocket.

Despite screaming from the record companies that some well known bands that the music industry was going to go bankrupt and disappear,  most bands and record labels not only survived but learned how to thrive in the new music world.  However, the biggest winners were independent musicians who now could upload their music to iTunes and could distribute their music just like the big boys. Many talented, independent musicians and bands suddenly had a way to get their music in front the same people as the big record labels without the overhead of distributing CDs or figuring out how to get them in stores. Because of a level playing field many independent bands and musicians have found an audience been able to make a living. Some have even been signed by big record labels after proving there was an audience for their music.

In the last couple of years eBooks and eReaders have revolutionized the publishing world. In the old days going independent (or self publishing) meant the author would write a book then and spend thousands of dollars printing copies of their book. With no way to distribute their work, most copies sat unsold in the author’s garage collecting dust. Now thanks to devices like the Kindle and improved print-on-demand (POD) technology, writers can bypass agents and publishers and have their books in the same online stores as big name publishers without having to invest money in printing actual books. Authors like Amanda Hocking have been able to launch their writing careers by promoting and selling their eBooks online.

With this kind of disruption in the traditional book business there’s the standard weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth as Big Publishing watches the business model they’ve relied on for decades being turned inside out. Many authors and industry experts are predicting the demise of big publishers or publishing companies in general. I don’t see that happening. However I think most have the financial resources to ride out the storm and will (eventually) adapt to the changing marketplace. (It’s traditional brick and mortar bookstores that have the most to lose.)

So what does this have to do with my decision to go indie—at least for this book?

Thanks to eBooks and POD technology I can reach this book’s target audience just as well, if not better, than most publishers. Over the years I’ve built up a loyal readership on the subject and in many corners I’m considered the expert on dating a widower. In addition my website receives hundreds of Google hits every day from people looking for information on this very subject. If I didn’t have any of this going for me, signing a contract with a traditional publisher might have been a better way to go.

What I’m hoping to avoid is the mistakes many indie authors make. I can’t tell you how many books by indie authors that I’ve downloaded on Marathon Girl’s Kindle only to delete the books after a couple chapters because the writing, editing, and proofreading wasn’t anywhere it needed to be. I’ve also refrained from purchasing other books simply because it looked like some 12-year-old put it together. I estimate it’s going to cost me roughly $1,000 for a cover, editing, proofreading, and everything else it’s going to take to bring the book to a professional level. However, it’s a good investment and I’m fairly confident that I can earn that money back in a relatively short timeframe because of the need for this book.

Unlike some authors, I’m not married to the indie way of things. I have two other books I hope to get wrapped up soon. One I’d like to take the traditional route while the other one could go either way. A lot of the direction I choose to go will depend on how this project turns out and the lessons I learn along the way. If anything I see my writing future including using the best of both worlds.

Whatever happens, it’s going to be an exciting journey. And I promise to keep you all posted as this and other projects move forward.