There are a number of reasons writers may choose to go indie, and this is a decision I struggled over for a while. I started out firmly entrenched in the traditional model, but found the time frames and gate-keeping dynamic extremely frustrating.
It takes months to hear back on your submissions to agents and editors, and in many cases you may never hear back at all. I’ve recorded response times of nine months and more. In the speculative fiction field, simultaneous submission is not allowed. This means you can’t send the same piece to multiple agents or multiple editors at the same time. They don’t want to compete with each other this directly, but they also don’t have the staff to wade through their slush piles in a truly timely fashion. This puts all the power in the hands of understaffed agents and editors. When I had young children, I was too busy to continue both submitting stories and writing them. I chose to step out from publishing for a while, so I could focus on creating novels.
Once my children were a bit older, I prepared to familiarize myself with the publishing landscape. In order to have an impact with your submissions, you need to be sending your work to the right editors and agents at the right time. During my hiatus, markets had closed or merged, and new ones had come into the field.
By this point I had several friends who had been mid-listed or dropped, despite writing fantastic novels and series. I had other friends who managed to keep their contracts by writing what they were told to, rather than what they wanted to. Some writers don’t mind that latter scenario, but in many cases, the pay isn’t high enough for me to want to make this compromise. If I can’t make my living writing what I want to be writing, I don’t want to follow that path.
It took me some time to decide I had no interest in playing the traditional publishing game.
Making a Decision
Indie writing is a lot of work, you become the writer, editor, copy editor, cover artist, layout technician, and publisher. You make the distribution and marketing decisions and then implement them. Both models have their advantages and disadvantages, neither is intrinsically superior to the other.
So how do you determine if indie writing is a path you want to take?
Signs that indie writing might be a good fit include (but are not limited to):
- Writing for a smaller audience such as a marginalized community (many larger presses won’t take on projects they don’t see as largely profitable)
- Desire to have full creative control over revisions and cover art
- Interest in learning or using project management skills
- Interest in learning the publishing business from start to finish
- Accurate awareness of your skills and your weaknesses
- Willingness to hire out the elements you lack the skills or interest in completing
- Willingness to engage in marketing endeavors yourself
- Willingness to accept a slower build in your readership
- Uncomfortable with long response times on submissions and lengthy waits for publication
Signs that indie writing would not be a good fit include:
- Desire or interest in handing off your work once the writing is done
- Willingness to relinquish revision and creative control decisions to another
- Desire to have your books immediately placed in physical stores
- Comfortable with long response times on submissions and lengthy waits for publication (one to two years is common)
In both indie and traditional publishing, it stands to reason that you want to be sure you’ve hit a point in your writing development that you are producing high quality work. Your stories need to engage and interest your audience for both models, but it is especially damaging to your credibility if you start releasing unprofessional or poor quality work as an indie writer.
For more articles on writing, check out my Reflections From the Sol section.