Why I’ve decided to go indie

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve been leaning towards indie publishing my novel, The Big Smoke, for more than a year now. Well, I’ve finally decided for sure – I’m going to do it. I’m flying solo.

If you’re new here, you’ll probably assume that I’ve already tried my hand at getting a traditional publishing contract and clocked up countless rejections. But that would be incorrect. I’ve decided to skip that part.

‘Are you crazy?’ I can hear you saying. ‘Don’t you at least want to give traditional publishing a shot before you make the decision to indie publish?’

Short answer: no.

Why? Because, as we all know, it’s incredibly difficult to get an agent and publisher, even when your manuscript fits the narrow window of what traditional publishers are looking for. And The Big Smoke doesn’t fit that window. Based on my research, traditional publishers are unwilling to take a risk on young adult fiction by new authors that’s over 90,000 words. The Big Smoke is about 140,000 words.

That doesn’t make it unsellable. It just means that the risk for a traditional publisher to take it on is higher, because they would earn less profit for each book sold. Why? Because big books cost more to print, but you can’t necessarily charge much more for a big book than a thinner book. There’s only so much readers are willing to pay for a book, after all.

I get that. And I don’t blame traditional publishers for avoiding projects that have more risks, especially not in today’s market. But that doesn’t mean The Big Smoke isn’t worth reading, or that it won’t find an audience out there. I believe it’s good enough to publish, and so do my beta readers. So that’s what I’m going to do.

There are a few more reasons why going indie appeals to me:

  • The Big Smoke will be available to readers a lot faster than if I waited for a publishing offer (which in all likelihood would never come).
  • I’m a bit of a control freak, so the idea of having ultimate control over the whole project really appeals to me
  • I probably won’t sell nearly as many copies, but I’ll get much higher royalties for each book sold.

Where to from here?

Once I get feedback from my second group of beta readers (in early July, hopefully), I’ll make any required changes then send the manuscript off to be professionally edited and proof read (if you know any high-quality Australian freelance fiction editors, let me know!).

While that’s happening, I’ll also be commissioning a professional cover designer to produce an awesome cover that will work for both hard copy and e-books. Once all of that is done, I’ll release the book through Amazon, Smashwords and Createspace Print on Demand.

And then the blog tour and celebrations will begin! 😀

As you can probably tell, I’m feeling pretty excited about all of this. I’m not expecting to be the next Amanda Hocking by any stretch of the imagination, but just the thought of my book being available for readers makes me feel all warm inside. And if I can make back the money I spend on publishing and a bit more, that’d be awesome too.

Stay tuned, because I’ll be keeping you up to date every step of the way!

Your turn

What do you think about my decision? Feel free to be honest! What are you plans for your work-in-progress? Are you hoping to get a traditional publishing contract or does going indie appeal to you too?



Filed under Progress update, Self publishing, Writing

39 responses to “Why I’ve decided to go indie

  1. Good luck! Can’t wait to watch your journey 🙂

  2. Toni

    awesome! looks like you’ve given it a lot of thought. all the best! xx

  3. Congratulations Cally. I partner-published with Zeus. Be sure to find out when you will be sent your royalties because my book first became available in June 2011 and I haven’t been paid anything yet, despite the contract promising 20% of every sale. However, after complaining about absolutely zero feedback, I am expecting a cheque in the post tomorrow (a month earlier than Zeus are obliged to send it, in the fine print). I am waiting with bated breath!

  4. I applaud your decision, Cally. It makes a lot of sense and you have obviously thought your way through it carefully and have good reasons. It’s true that books that don’t quite fit the traditional niches are much harder to sell, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t terrific and worth reading, it just means, as you say, that traditional publishers tend to steer clear. By hiring an editor and cover designer you will be avoiding the mistakes that some people make, rushing to produce something that isn’t as high quality as it should be. And the idea of maintaining artistic control is very appealing. I’ve been reading a lot about this topic lately – there was a long post on Writer Unboxed about it the other day – and I think self-publishing or indie publishing are becoming viable choices for a lot of people now, looked upon with much more respect than they were 2 years ago. It’s all about doing it right – which you are 🙂

    • Thanks so much for your support, Susanna. It means a lot to me. I definitely want to do things the right way so my book can have the best possible chance to shine. There’s no way I’d do the cover design myself – I’m not visually artistic at all! Plus I know from experience that it doesn’t matter how many times you read your own work, mistakes will still slip through, so an editor it also very necessary. Should be an interesting journey! 🙂

  5. The Golden Eagle

    That’s a brave step to take!

    Good luck with publishing your book. It certainly sounds like you have plans for it. 🙂

  6. I think this is a good decision. Half of the books I read anymore come from those that are self-published. If anything, I suggest you sink the majority of the money that you have for this project in getting the best cover art possible. Marketing is really the most difficult aspect of any author. I wish you luck and let me know if there’s a way I can help out. I’d be happy to host you for a blog tour or something.

    • I totally agree re marketing being the tricky part. I’m hoping I might have a slight advantage in that area given I have a degree in marketing – I work in a very different area though (internal communication for government) so my hands-on experience isn’t that transferable.

      Thanks for your offer for support – I’ll definitely take you up on that. I’d love to have you involved in the blog tour and perhaps you’d be interested in receiving an early review copy too? I’m up for almost anything so if you have any left-of-center ideas for your bit of the blog tour, throw them at me! 🙂

  7. Hi Cally, I started self-publishing a creative writing magazine almost ten years ago. The subs only just cover the printing and postage costs but the personal reward has been huge. When I started a good friend told me it didn’t matter whether it was successful or not, he thought I was a winner just for having a go! His words sustained me through the glitches and every time I worried there wasn’t going to be enough money to cover the next issue. Yes, it would be nice to make a profit (to break even would be good some months!) but even though I won’t be challenging Rupert Murdoch in the near future, I know I made the right decision. I am sure you have, too.You’re a winner 🙂

    • Thanks so much for your support! I really appreciate it. I completely agree that words of encouragement from friends and others in the industry make such a difference and sustain us when the going gets tough – which no doubt it will, at some point. I shall file your email for those occasions. 🙂

  8. Hi Cally,

    I hear you about publishers. I just read that one publisher has just signed an author for a three book deal that is going to write some Mummy Porn. As this catergory has been around for a very short time, made famous bu one book as far as I know, this shows to me what some publishers are all about.

    Of course every business needs an income, but writing is not like a normal business and when they try and make it like one, this is where authors like you and me and many other give up.

    Now why should we as authors help support businesses where their model is based on the next thing that sells. Writing is not a business, but publishers think it is. And most of the time they do little but make most of us look bad.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Rob. Don’t get me wrong – I can understand why publishers treat writing like a business: because for them, it is. Books are the product that allow them to feed their families. So I don’t hate them for making commercial decisions, I’m just making my own way (and making commercial decisions that will hopefully benefit me and allow me to buy a few chocolate bars!). 🙂

  9. Hi Cally,
    My first royalty cheque arrived in the post today: $165 for the last half of 2011. I was quite shocked to get only 5% of revenue when the contract said 20%. I gave them about $3500 for editing, publishing and marketing. It is the worst investment of my long life. However,the 121 copies they sold is better than my median prediction. My book is no particular genre. It is a cheap hobby that I love, so I’m not upset. My next book is entirely different, a swashbuckling unconsumated semi-autobiographical romance lasting 45 years, and could sell well. I will get Alex Adsett, who I have got to know last year, to have a look at my contract. Her card says,” Publishing contract advice for authors and publishers”, 0431874787, alex@alexadsett.com.au http://www.alexadsett.com.au. She is a lovely young person, who was chief judge for the Aureolis Science Fiction Novel awards in 2011. I think a $200 consultants fee (?) would be a good investment after my experience (in my earlier email I told you about the delay in getting any feedback at all). I will be more careful in choosing a publisher in a few months time. Could you send me something with Indie’s contacts please?

    • If you have in writing what Zeus were supposed to pay you, I urge you to stay on their case. They can’t not give you what you’re owed. I’m familiar with Alex as well and think you couldn’t go wrong with getting her on your team – she definitely knows what’s she talking about.

      When I said ‘indie’ I was actually referred to independent publishing, indie for short. Like indie films and indie music. I won’t be using a package deal from a self publishing company, I’ll be sourcing a cover designer and editor on my own, and will format the book myself and publish it through CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords. If you’re interested in doing this yourself, I’ve just finished a really great book that talks you through the entire process called ‘Self Printed: the sane person’s guide to self publishing.’

      Let me know how you go with Zeus!

  10. JessB

    Fascinating Cally, good on you! I’ll be intrigued to see how you and wish you masses of luck!

  11. Eeeeeeee! I’m so excited for you!! I can’t wait to get to beta reading your book. And you KNOW I am more than happy to host you on my blog and chat about book marketing ideas (though if you have a degree in marketing, you probably don’t need my help!)

  12. Congratulations. It’s an exciting feeling isn’t it. Good luck and I can’t wait to see how things go for you.

  13. touchwooddesign

    How exciting Cally! Can’t wait to catch up and hear all your stories!

  14. Danny

    “There’s no way I’d do the cover design myself – I’m not visually artistic at all!” — Yup, I remember that one time when you tried. 😛

  15. Until the point comes where traditional publishers actually start to change the way they do business, it doesn’t make any sense to go with them. At all. You’ll still have to do all the work to sell your book, and they’ll pocket the money. What’s the point of that? The independent market is the one that’s growing, so, yeah, it’s what makes sense.

    • I think the major benefit of traditional publishers is the distribution reach they offer – i.e. gettting your book into bricks and mortar bookstores. Also, I think there’s still that ‘prestige’ factor of being backed by someone other than yourself. That does seem to be diminishing a little though because, in the online world, the readers and reviewers are the true deciders of which books succeed and which don’t.

      • It’s true that they are the way into physical market places. Market places that are disappearing. And being in a brick ‘n’ mortar doesn’t get you sales the way it used to, so, if you’re not there convincing people to buy your book (when you’re just starting out), it’s just going to sit there until they send it back for a refund. I’m forgetting the number, right now, but something like 85-90% of new books published each year don’t sell through their print run, and that almost always means the publisher chooses not to publish you again. It’s not a good deal.

  16. adinawest

    Wow Cally! Sounds like you’ve really thought this through, and made a decision based on what’s right for you and for this particular book. We do often hear that longer books are difficult to place with publishers – though it’s worth keeping in mind that that might have presented less of a problem with a digital publisher. No print costs = no length problem!

    Your marketing degree will also most definitely come in handy.

    For me, honestly, though I hear so much about self-publishing in the blogosphere, it would never be my first choice. Because I have young kids, and I’m time poor…and I don’t have a marketing degree, and I’m very happy to have others who can help with that side of things! For certain projects though – novella length, poetry, short story collections, and longer books like yours there often isn’t a place in the traditional publishing model, and self publishing can be great.

    Good luck!

  17. adinawest

    Forgot to say…your Queensland Writers’ Centre might be a good starting point for recommendations of freelance editors.


    • Good point re the Queensland Writers Centre. Don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that myself!

      I agree that digital publishers may not’ve had the same issue with the length as print publishers, but I figure I can do pretty much the same as what a digital publisher would do for me and earn higher royalties. I’m not saying I’d dismiss an offer from a digital publisher if one ever came my way, but I’d definitely weigh up the benefits versus diminished royalties.

      I totally get the desire to have someone else manage the process for you though – it can be scary when you realise all the things you have to do! And I have no doubt that it’ll be a time suck. Hopefully I can still manage sleep in there somewhere! 🙂

  18. Pingback: Book review – two self publishing how-to guides | Cally Jackson Writes

  19. Vicki Tremper

    Congratulations on the big decision, Cally! I wish you the best of luck and I look forward to following your journey. I know a great cover designer in Australia – email me if you’re interested (vtremp at yahoo).

  20. I totally see where you’re coming from and think this is a great idea! Let me know if there’s anything I can help out with!
    I can’t wait to own my very own copy of The Big Smoke!!

  21. Pingback: Insecure Writers’ Support Group: review-phobia | Cally Jackson Writes

  22. Pingback: Interview with Cally Jackson, author of THE BIG SMOKE | bailey is writing

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