Thursday, November 06, 2014

Indie Publishing Pt 2 with Alexandra Sokoloff

James O. Born
Today we are proud to host the second part of the blog on Indie Publishing by Alexandra Sokoloff.  Good writer, smart business person and sucker for letting me trick her into furnishing the blogs.

 Alexandra Sokoloff

These days I can’t go a day without someone e mailing me or stopping me at whatever event I’m at, wanting me to tell them everything I know about indie publishing.

But what many of these people are asking for is a magic formula. They want a silver bullet, an easy answer to a vastly complicated question.

Have most of the people who ask me how to indie publish even read Huntress Moon? Even to the extent of downloading a free sample of it? (although if you can’t pay $3.99 for a book by an author whose methods you’re studying, do you really expect anyone to pay for your books when the time comes? Think about it. )

Have they looked at the book’s Amazon page to see how I put together the book description, the blurbs,  the categories I’ve chosen to place the book in? Have they read the Amazon reviews to see how readers respond to the book? Have they looked at the pricing? Or the rank the book is in different genres and subgenres, and overall in the Amazon store?  

Have they gone further and looked at the same information for the sequel, Blood Moon?  

Those are all things that I did myself in my year of self-teaching, that I trained myself to do by studying auth

ors and books whose success I wanted to emulate. I did that kind of research extensively. That was just to start with. I then followed those authors and read what they had read, used the resources they had used. I never asked an author for advice unless I’d done all of that with their books first.

There’s no magic formula, and to make things even more complicated, the playing field changes month to month. You have to have a basis of knowledge to work from so you can make informed decisions as they come up. It’s a huge investment of time and energy. But so is anything worth doing.

So ask yourself: Am I willing to do what it takes? Or am I just looking for a silver bullet?

Be honest, because that's the first step. And if you are willing, then commit.

If you don’t have an agent and are considering doing directly to indie publishing, I would strongly suggest that along with writing the best damn book you can write, you do some reading every day on what indie publishing actually entails (editing, formatting, cover design, pricing, distribution, promotion, and the kitchen sink) so you are going into it with real knowledge.

And please hear me. I am not saying this is the way to go for a never-been-published author.  For one thing, indie publishing works better if you have a number of books out. Also, going through the gauntlet of traditional publishing prepares an author to indie publish like boot camp prepares a soldier for war.  I know how much editing it takes to come up with a clean and readable book.  I know how much time I'll be spending marketing, and I have some idea of how and where to do that.

Already-published authors should also be warned: indie publishing is not the Gold Rush that it was just two years ago. There's a lot of competition out there. 

Always bear in mind that doing all the jobs of a publisher takes time away from writing. Promotion always takes time away from writing, but if you’re your own publisher, it really takes time away from writing. It’s hard to build a product line when you’re spending at least half of your time marketing. I am now responsible for lining up all kinds of support people that my publisher has always provided: proofreaders, editors, cover designers, formatters, technical services — and there’s a lot of new technical stuff I’ve had to learn myself, which I must say is not my forte. It can be overwhelming. I doubt I would have done as well at it if I’d just been starting with one book.

I would also suggest that if we’re talking about your very first book, even if you’re leaning toward indie publishing, it doesn’t hurt to do a traditional submission to agents and see what happens. If you get several very good agents very excited about your book and talking about taking it to auction, you may well want to choose the agent who makes the most sense to you and roll the dice that way. If the book doesn’t sell, you can indie publish it.

Conversely, e publishing first does not preclude doing a traditional publishing deal later. In fact it’s more and more common for traditional publishers to pick up indie books that do well, for traditional re-release. Personally, I’ve just signed a deal with Amazon’s mystery and thriller imprint, Thomas & Mercer, to re-release the Huntress series, because I believe Amazon can bring a wider audience to the books, and having experts manage at least some of my books will give me more time to add a new series to my writing schedule. Whether I’ll publish that next series with Thomas & Mercer or by myself or in some other entirely different way will depend on where the market is when I finish the first of those books. And I’d be lying if I said I could predict that.

The bottom line is, there is an opportunity here that was never available to authors before, and that —is nothing but good news.

-          Alex


  1. from Jacqueline: Thanks for a really thoughtful post, Alexandra. The truth is that even if you're published by a "traditional" publisher, you spend a fair amount on time on non-writing work. This week I finished checking copyedits on my next book, finalized copy to go out with galley proofs, checked the readers' guide for the book just going into paperback, wrote a proposal for something allied to my work, answered more emails than I can count (all to do with the "business" end of publishing). And that's just for starters. As you wisely pointed out - there are no magic bullets. You have to know the field to make a good play, then you have to work hard to stay in the game.

  2. Hey Jacqueline - thanks for laying all that out so I don't have to! :) You're exactly right. There's no difference in the AMOUNT of business you have to do as a traditionally published author or an indie pubbed one. Some of the work is different, though.

  3. James O. Born11/06/2014 1:04 PM

    Thanks, again, Alex. Any chance you want to write another one or two? Just kidding. Unless you'll do it.
    you're the best,


  4. I'm with James O. More! This makes me tired just reading it but it's all great information.

    1. Patty, it is pretty overwhelming. But isn't everything about writing? :) I'll see you at Bouchercon, won't I?

  5. Thanks for the great information, Alex. I have some experience in self-publishing as I re-issued my out-of-print first mystery series. A lot of work, even with the editing part already done. But, it's satisfying to know that these books are completely mine. Thanks for presenting the comprehensive overview of all the work, risks, and rewards.