Going Indie

Posted by Derek Chamberlain on Tuesday, August 12, 2014 Under: Publishing

There's a perceived stigma associated with indie publishing amongst those not actively involved in it, a conception that it isn't 'real' publishing. This conception extends to ebooks too; if your book isn't in the corner store, it's not really a book, it's just a file on the computer and we all know they aren't 'real', after all, who of us hasn't lost a file to a computer crash? If self-publishing isn't 'real' publishing, and ebooks aren't 'real' books, then a person who self-publishes an ebook isn't a 'real' author, or so the unspoken logic goes, even amongst those who should know better.

Given this perceived stigma, why would anyone want to be an indie publisher? This was a question I asked myself for years without finding an answer, and was only matched by the similar question asking why anyone would want to be traditionally published? (More on this later.)

I’m an inveterate podcast listener, all my favourite shows are about writing – Writing Excuses, The Creative Penn, I Should Be Writing, among others – because I love writing. I love crafting stories and creating worlds. I love the way words can construct images in the minds of those who consume them. Like a fisherman who listens to shows about fishing and reads fishing magazines, I listen to shows about writing, and used to read magazines about it, in order to see what other people were doing and how they were doing it and to get advice as to how to do it too.

My dream, ever since I was a pre-teen, has been to make a living by creating fiction. This was a dream that I thought would never come to fruition because all the advice I read and listened to about getting published was to do things that I couldn't do. It cost too much to send seven-hundred-pages of manuscript to New York from Japan. I didn't write short fiction, not to commercial lengths. I couldn't afford to buy all the magazines I might want to send stories to in order to learn their style and what they had published recently. I couldn't even find most of them in Japan, and couldn't afford them anyway, not at the prices import magazines cost, and not at the returns most magazines were paying for stories. 

Basically, I was screwed, or so I thought. Then I got put onto the Self-Publishing Podcast by Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn, and I discovered that it was not only possible to self-publish, but to make a living doing it.

That was three months ago. 

Once I knew it was possible to self-publish without it costing a fortune, I immediately began planning and working towards a self-publishing career, not because it was easier than going the traditional route – anyone who has had to go through the process of producing a book for publication in any sort of professional way knows that it isn't easy. (Not that it's complicated, but, as the saying goes, Simple doesn't mean Easy.) There are a lot of things to work out, money to find for editors and cover designers. Formatting, proofing, and publishing platforms to learn, among a myriad of other things it's necessary to learn how to do, like writing cover copy, blurbs, CTAs, and the rest. I didn't choose self-publishing because it was easy, but because it was possible. 

All the advice from all of the traditionally published people was that you shouldn't quit your day job. (A lot of indies say exactly the same thing, though for very different reasons.) Many traditionally published authors said that it was difficult to find an agent who back your book; difficult for an agent, once you had one, to shop your story to an editor who might, even though they loved it, still might not buy it because their marketing department said they didn’t know how to sell it; and, even if a publisher bought your story, there was very little chance you'd ever be able to make a living from your writing even if the publisher didn't fuck you over by completely screwing up the production of the book. And when they did do everything wrong, by giving it a crappy title, a horrible cover, and a blurb that had nothing to do with the story, thus killing any chance the book had of reaching an audience; they then blamed the author, and never offered them another contract, thus killing the author’s career.

     And those horror stories don’t even bring up the ways the publishers screw authors over when it comes to royalties. According to a large number of reports, traditional publishers don’t pay in a time fashion and their accounting methods are straight out of the dark ages. And they only hint at the fact that, once they condescended to accept your book, they then cut you out of all further decisions regarding it, unless you were awfully lucky and managed to get one of the forward thinking production houses who actually asked if you liked the cover they had already chosen.

If this all sounds like sour grapes, it isn’t. I’ve never submitted my fiction to a major publisher, mostly because I heard these horror stories and decided that my life was depressing enough without having to deal with that sort of shit too. 

Three months ago I was writing every day, struggling to get words out to fulfil my daily minimums for the Magic Spreadsheet, dreaming of a one day in which I’d win the lottery and be able to afford to move somewhere close enough to a publishing centre that I could afford the postage, somewhere where they had English language magazines in bookstores and libraries so that I could read them and know where to send my stories. 

This month I will be publishing a novella through my own publishing company, Black Stump Books

I decided to become an Indie Authorpreneur because I want to get my stories into reader’s hands, but I didn’t want to give up total control over them. I didn’t want to be writing one novel a year and still be working this same job when I’m ninety, still barely scraping by. I want to be able to write and publish as many stories as I can come up with in a year. I want to be able to select what I’m going to write, and be excited about it, not sit around waiting for someone who has no stake in my future to tell me what I should be writing. I want, in effect, to be my own boss and to make a living from the crafting of words into stories, and that’s something I just couldn’t see myself doing three months ago, not via the traditional method.

I’m Indie, because I want freedom. The freedom to choose what I want to write. The freedom to fuck up and learn from those mistakes. The freedom to choose my covers, my prices, my retailers. And a traditional deal, for a brand new author, doesn’t include any of those freedoms. Indie does.

In : Publishing 

Tags: "indie publishing" career "black stump books" "magic spreadsheet" 
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Meet the scribbler

I'm a writer, editor, indie publisher, and dedicated Magic Spreadsheet user. Originally from Adelaide, Australia, I've been living in Japan since 1995. I've had a life-long interest in writing and in speculative fiction. My first book was published in mid-2014.
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