Going Indie for Dummies -1
Amanda’s post yesterday prompted this post, because that poor agent, bless his heart, had no clue what he was talking about, but he’s not alone. I keep running into people, many of them professionals with years in the field who have the exact same ideas, bizarre though they are.
Now, I’m not saying you have to go indie, understand. I’ve told people from the beginning that if I were starting out today, I’d do one book to submit and another (unrelated) to go indie with. Because right now we don’t know what publishers will survive, or how many or well… if… It’s entirely possible most of the traditional publishers will become prestige outfits of the numbered edition type, something you do after you get known.
On the other hand, as a friend is fond of reminding me, indie could go away tomorrow. Some sort of law could have emanations that shut us down. Heavens know the establishment is trying.
So, because I’m a belt and suspenders kind of girl, I say one book for indie and one for traditional. That way you can dodge the explosions and implosions and hopefully have a long career.
I’ll be frank and say that I would have walked away if I didn’t have indie and Baen. So, for me, the options are a little limited because the stress was killing me. But even to the person happiest with their publisher there comes a time they go “I need a back up.” That time can be when their editor dies, or is laid off, for instance, and they find themselves facing working with someone they don’t like, or worse are orphaned within the publishing house.
Which brings us to: how can you go indie? Isn’t it expensive/difficult/ strange/surrounded entirely by dragons?
No. I can tell you it’s not any of those things because I managed it, and frankly my tech skills are so bad they’re practically non-existent.
Hence, going indie for dummies. I am practically at that level. Over the next three months or so, I propose to ease your way into this forbidding realm. Ignore the “abandon all hope” thing over the gateway. Many of the people who comment here (and many who write) are making livings out of indie.
But let’s start at the beginning:
WHAT IS INDIE?
Indie, in this sense is self-published or author-owned press, though it might be a co-op between you and half a dozen friends, in which you subdivide the work and the one good with covers does everyone’s covers, someone does all the editing, someone does all the typesetting and everyone takes 100% of the profit on their own books.
I’d say that’s the primary distinguishing feature:INDIE in the sense I’ll use in this series is when you do for yourself, control your copyright and collect the entire reward.
ISN’T SMALL PRESS INDIE?
This is where things get fuzzy. It can be… or not. Small press in the sense of author-owned presses or co-ops are indie. But there are a lot of small presses set up on traditional forms, which pay/don’t pay an advance, but which do everything else: cover, editing, distribution.
CAN THERE BE ADVANTAGES TO GOING SMALL PRESS?
Oh, sure. Same advantages as going traditional, which a lot of these, frankly, are. However a lot of these presses are fly by night, and those that aren’t are often incompetent. So before you go with a small press research them and make sure they are worth your while and worth the money you’ll be paying them.
But Sarah, you say, I’m not an idiot. These are not vanity presses. I don’t pay them. Uh… what do you call the part of the royalty they get to keep? That is a payment. Make sure they earn it.
A few rules of thumb: 1- don’t sign with a small press that offers you no distribution advantages. (Or a large press, for that matter.) If your book is going to get exactly as much reach as if you put it on the online venues and create space/lightening source, why are you giving them the money. 2- Don’t sign with a small press that offers less than 50% of the profit for ebooks or print on demand. 3 – Don’t sign with a small press that doesn’t do e-books of your novels. Yes, they exist. NO, they are NOT a good idea. 4- Don’t sign with a small press that doesn’t have an history of paying regularly. 5- don’t sign with any press that doesn’t have clear and easy rules for copyright reversal. (And for most small presses that should be at a specified date. I.e. they should lease your copyright for a time.)
If you decide to go with a single-author press (say Goldport Press for me, for instance) see what structure would be better. In most states a simple DBA will suffice and is easy to obtain. In others, you have to incorporate, which costs a little more but might have tax advantages.
After you investigate what you need to do, decide on a name. (All you needed for a DBA in NC when I lived there was a bank account under that name that had both your name and DBA on it. I had one for my current name before my name change. (It’s complicated. Because I knew I was going to change when I got citizenship, I wanted to establish my translation business under Sarah A. Hoyt, and I didn’t want to have to explain to clients. Opening a dba account allowed me to have checks deposited made out to Sarah A. Hoyt. I’ve heard of a lot of different arrangements per state. So, call your state government and bug them. That’s what they’re there for. Or ask a friendly attorney. Or whatever.)
Once you have a name, do a search. You’d be amazed how many Ratfink Publishing businesses there are. (I’m actually joking.)
At this pointing hiring someone to do a cute logo of a rat in bat wings is optional. However, if you decide to go that route and want a logo for business cards, inside covers, whatever, let me know. Older son does logos FOR FUN (what can I say, I dropped him on the head while he was small) and he had medschool tuition to pay. He’ll give you a good price.
Okay, now you’re set, right? You have a publishing house and a dedicated desk/computer/ corkboard for publishy stuff. Once a week, you put on your fake glasses and become Miss So and So publisher.
What in heck do you do now?
You remember the recipe for Shepherd’s pie, right?
First, catch a shepherd…
Well, this is sort of the same: First, write a book.
Okay, so you have one — or two, or three, or four — books ready to go. Good writer. Now put on your publisher hat (what, it goes with the glasses!) and set up a publication schedule.
Someone — glares Amandaward — made me do that recently and I’m already late on it, due to con crud. But I am working on it, and Sword and Blood should be out next weekend. And she’s right on the schedule thing. It allowed me to know when I needed an image for a cover, etc.
For now, since you’re unsure of the process — you’re unsure, right? Because that makes me feel needed — just set a schedule with the first no less than a month off, and the others at least a month apart.
Next week we’ll cover some of the things that will fill up that month leading to publication.