Indie Publishing and Me

A couple of years ago I met with Scottish publisher, author and agent, Allan Guthrie. We met up in a pub in Portobello and spoke at length about the publishing process, writing, and all that kind of stuff. I was looking for advice, and what he told me, or rather asked me, began to change my views on publishing entirely.

He put to me the following key questions:

1. Do I want to be picked up by a major publisher and have to give in my job to work full-time for them writing one book a year and marketing it?

2. Am I the kind of writer happy to hold down a full-time job while writing at my own pace?

3. What do I actually WANT out of being a writer?

4. In what way am I marketable to any publisher? What is my platform and who are my readers; do I know where my markets are?

All good questions that made me realise not only wasn’t I ready to go full-time with my writing, but I hadn’t come to the point of realisation where I actually knew what I was doing or where I was going.

I only thought I did.

So the first thing I did was split off my poetry and fiction; poetry under a pseudonym (Chas Stramash), and retaining fiction under my own name. This meant I could work on them both without them becoming confused, as well as giving my own name a marketing basis that was supported with a new website design.

The next thing was to decide what kind of fiction I enjoyed writing most. I’d dabbled with a lot of genres at some point (historical, sf, fantasy, western, romance, porn, and even gay) but where was my real calling?

Thrillers and crime fiction stood out and bellowed at me, screaming in my ear like the little boy lost. Crime thrillers are where all my stories naturally drifted towards, and more often than not, I was reading a book with some element of crime in it.

Thus, I rebranded myself on that basis. Not only that, but I got more professional about the whole thing: I hired the services of a cover art designer and edited my first indie novel to death, SLICK. And then I published it. I was off and running with indie publishing and it felt good.

So where am I now? Well, that’s why I’ve been talking to more people and doing as lot of reading from other writers like Scott Nicholson, JA Konrath and August Wainwright. And I’ve compared what they’re talking about with the debates and talks I attended in the recent past, such as at the Edinburgh Book Festival and online.

My mind is made up.

And this has made me able – finally – to answer all of the questions Allan posed to me:

1. Do I want to be picked up by a major publisher and have to give in my job to work full-time for them writing one book a year and marketing it?

No. Publishers are dying and refusing to go with the times. Change is not something they like and they, along with bookshops, are dying out because they haven’t realised that Amazon isn’t killing the book, it’s peoples reading habits that are changing in a new age of technology. Their outdated business models are unable, or unwilling to adapt, because they are losing a huge slice of the money. Money that is now going directly into the hands of the writers and not the publishers, agents and marketing departments.

I think I’ll take my chances earning 75% royalties of my ebooks that will be available forever online and not displayed in the bookshops (if they ever got there against all the celebrity and money stacked books) for a few months. Why pay an agent and publisher to get my books to readers when in this day and age I can do it myself and keep the bottom line? What are the average royalties for that? 85% of the 10% cover price. Fuck that!

From what I can tell, the big publishers don’t see writers as part of the process, not new writers or “risky” writers such as me. If you’re earning them £50 million a year then it’s different, but most writers aren’t in that position so why would I want to put my career in jeopardy by signing over all my rights to companies that don’t see writers as the critical component?

All that matters in publishing is the author writing books, and them being able to find their audience. We don’t need to take a measly percentage any more for that privilege – we can do it ourselves thanks to Amazon, B&N, Apple, etc.

2. Am I the kind of writer happy to hold down a full-time job while writing at my own pace?

Yup, sounds much more sensible. I enjoy writing and I enjoy creating new characters, stories, and making them exciting. I also have a day job because I I’m not earning enough from my books to pay the bills.

So I’ll do both without the commitment of having to tour for months at a time in bookshops that are dying out anyway. My readers are online at the end of their devices, not in bookshops. I don’t need a publisher to put my books out there to find my readers – it wouldn’t work with their business model anyway – I can do it myself much, much more easily.

3. What do I actually WANT out of being a writer?

I want to reach my readers and know I am able to deliver the kind of book I enjoy reading. I want to be able to do it at my own pace, earn a fair royalty for it, and keep enjoying the process of doing it. I don’t need or want to be caught up in the outdated corporate side of it (I get enough of that in the day job anyway), so I’m happy being an indie writer. It suits me. I’m happy here.

4. In what way am I marketable to any publisher? Who are my readers and where are my markets?

I wasn’t marketable two years ago, but I’m moving forward. I’m finding my readers and my markets, slowly, but I’m getting there. I’m discovering how to tap into them and learning as I go. It’s hard work but it’s fun and much more rewarding.

So what’s next?

On the journey so far, I’ve learned there are still some vital pieces of the puzzle missing.

I have some good people behind me (trusted readers and a cover art designer) but I need to get even more professional. I need to further improve on quality and on advertising. I’m bad at letting people know about my books.

So in the coming months, as well as continuing to write, I’ll be aiming to meet these challenges. It’s very much a case of “watch this space” but now that I’m out there, I feel good about it all. I feel as if I’m part of something that wasn’t possible before and I’m enjoying it. It’s improved the quality and output of my work, and it’s improving the quality of my life.

Which can’t be a bad thing.

I also believe that the more I write and the better I get at becoming visible, my books will find their readers. Or rather, more readers will find my books.

It’s time to step up to the plate and really go for it.

The future is indie, and I’ve got a window seat booked and I’m ready to board.

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About Colin Galbraith

Author, poet, music lover, rabbit tamer, fake faller.
This entry was posted in Books, Day Job, eBooks, Literature, Publishing and Marketing, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Indie Publishing and Me

  1. scullerypress says:

    Go for it mate, embrace the future. The music and movie industry has gone through the same seismic shift and they were also very slow to realise it. Losing millions in the process, the publishers will catch up eventually.

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