Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Should I go Indie or with a publishing house? #IndiePubTip

Welcome back to my blog. This week I'm going pause in our series about prewriting and talk about something very important you need to consider once you have finished your book - Publishing.

It use to be if you wanted to publish you book all you had to do is get an agent and have him or her pitch your book to one of the Big 6. The Big 6 are the largest publishing houses in the United States. Amazon changed all that when they launched their self-publishing platform, BookSurge, in 2000. BookSurge was created by eight authors who wanted to offer a publishing platform where authors could have their work publish and still maintain their content rights and sales profits. The service offered on demand printing, online distribution and complete self-publishing. Publishing houses and authors used and benefited from the service. It was the first time a small publishing house could make an impact on the literary world. Amazon acquired BookSurge in 2005 and changed the name to Createpace in 2007.

Createspace isn't the only platform small publishing houses and independent authors can use to get their work out into the masses. Let's face it, you want your book on Amazon. Most readers will find your book through their system and now that they own Goodreads it makes it even easier for your book to be found in their system if you do the proper marketing. There are thousands upon thousands of books on Amazon. Just because your book is listed there doesn't mean your book will be found. Gone are the days when all an author has to do is sit back and relax after the book goes to print. We live in the world of social media. Readers want to interact with the authors. This means, as an author, I should be interacting with readers on all the social networks available to me, giving speeches, attending book signings and whatever else I need to do to get my brand out. What's my brand? It's not your book. It's your name.

Before you decide if you want to self-publish or go with a publisher here are some things you need to ask yourself......


Let's face it. Every book an author writers is their baby. You've birthed it and nursed it through the editing process. The characters are your best friend. Some new authors are so attached to their work that when a beta reader or editor makes constructive criticism about something in the book the author is hurt. That's their baby! How dare they find fault with their baby!

I'm just going to be blunt with you. If you have this kind of attitude about your book then you have no business working on the literary field. You will receive negative reviews on your work. Everyone does. Why? Because not everyone is going to LOVE your book as much as you do.

But if you still insist on publishing book then don't seek out a publishing house. Why? Because once you sign that contract you have given all your publishing rights over to the house. They have the final say in the production process. Which brings us to another point...............


This is a very important question to ask yourself. Most new authors think that the publishing process is something easy. You just pop a cover on it, load on Createspace and off it goes into the world. Seems like it should be easy, right? WRONG! There is so much that must go on behind the scenes before the book is released to the world.

The book needs to be edited by someone who knows your genre. This is so important because a romance reader doesn't want to read a book that sounds like sci-fi. Serial writers do not write the same
as a stand alone book. Some books cross into more than one genre. These are even trickier to edit because the editor has to be familiar with those different genres. For example, Calico would be considered historical fiction, paranormal and romance. If you don't know the differences between genres, sagas, series, and standalone you can't effectively produce something that will interest those different target markets. Publishing houses know all about target market and what readers are looking for. Editing costs anywhere from $1-$5 per page. It's the most expensive part of the publishing process.

The cover art needs to be something that attracts readers. You can't just simply place just any cover on your book. It has to be something that attracts your target market. There are certain colors that should and shouldn't be used. Designing a book cover is an art form. You need to know how to use Photoshop and not just put a few pictures together. Graphics can cost you. If you decide to go on your own you can hire a graphic designer to do you book covers. I wouldn't buy a pre-designed book cover because readers aren't stupid. They can tell when a book cover has been recycled or not. Readers do not like that. They want a book cover that is unique for the story. Book covers generally cost $50 or more, depending on the artist. If you decide to attempt the cover on your own then you will need to buy Photoshop and the stock photos. That means your book cover can cost you around $100 or more, depending on the images you use.

The formatting can be a bit tricky. Your book will need to be formatted for ebook and print. Those are completely two different kinds of formatting. If you are using Smashwords then you need a Smashwords version as well as your kindle version. Smashwords and Kindle don't always get along so it would be best to upload your book to Amazon on your own. Smashwords will distribute your book to other markets such as iTunes, Kobo, Sony and Barnes and Nobles. Formatting varies in price but can run between $50 - $200, depending on the formatter.

You will also need an ISBN for your project. The ISBN number tells who owns the rights publishing rights to the book. There is only one place you can buy an ISBN. You must buy the ISBN through You will need separate ISBN numbers for your ebook, paperback and hardback books. Createspace does allow you to publish your book with one of their ISBN's for free but if you do that they are considered your publishing house. ISBN's cost $125 each.


There seems to be this myth about authors that has been floating around for years. All authors are rich. I'm just going to lay that one to rest. We are not rich. In fact, most American authors are middle class and if they are lucky, they can live off their royalties. Some publishing houses do offer advances to their authors. Which sounds all great and good, right? Wrong. If the house gives you and advance then you have to repay that amount to the house before you receive royalties. Your advance will come in two payments. The first is paid after you sign the contract and the rest is paid after you turn in the completed manuscript. Publishing houses also only pay twice a year. So you have to learn to budget very carefully. There is an excellent blog about this and other things you may not know about using a big publishing house found at this link.

Small houses will not pay their authors an advancement because they want their authors to start earning royalties right away. Small houses generally pay four times a year but some will pay once a month, depending on their distribution methods. Createspace and Kindle will pay once a month and Smashwords pays four times a year.

Let's talk about royalties. If you go through a publishing house the standard royalty rate is 70% house 30% author. You would be hard pressed to find a house who offers a better deal than that. Why? Because publishing houses are a business. They want to make money. I would stay away from any house that asks you to pay in order to publish your book even if you get to retain all your royalties. That's just a scam. Think about it. Why would I want to pay someone for something I don't even know will make me money. The publishing world is very tricky. You're not guarenteed to sell books. If a publishing house has offered you a contract then they are fronting their money to say "I believe in you and your book. I'm willing to bet my own money on that."

If you decide to self publish you won't earn all of the money from the sale. Smashwords, Createspace, Kindle, etc. all take a percentage of your sales. The money the publishing houses and self published authors receive is after those platforms take their cut.

You also need to consider how much your book is going to sell for. Most readers will not pay more than $5.99 on a new author's ebook. They want a great read. The more reviews you have the more attention your book will receive and the more likely you are to be able to sell your book at a higher rate. Don't make your book so expensive that no one will want to buy it.


This is a very important question because you are not going to get rich or well known just by one book. You may be saying, "But Allison what about Twilight?" Twilight wasn't the only book Stephanie Meyers had written. She had already written and marketed other books before her Twilight series hit the market.

You never know which of your books are going to attract attention that's why you need to have more than one, well written, well produced book out in the market. Readers are attracted to authors who have more than one book on their Amazon author page. If this is going to be a career for you then you need to do your research before you commit either publishing or self-publishing. Publishing houses want an author who is going to keep producing works. They will have a clause in their contracts that state they have the right of first refusal. This means you must present anything you want published to the house first before you take it anywhere else after you have signed your contract. It's good for the author because they can relax and focus on their writing instead of worrying if the book will be picked up by a publisher or not.

Things to think about before you decided which way you want to go. I hope this has been helpful. Feel free to leave any other tips or ask a question in the comments below. 


  1. Some excellent things to consider. I teach publishing seminars and the question of whether to self-pub or go traditional comes down to what the writer wants to accomplish and what he or she is willing to do.

    1. Thanks. I think there's a huge difference between an author who makes writing a hobby rather than one who wants a career.