On going indie and an announcement

When I sat down in the much too early hours of the morning to write this post, I found myself at a loss. My brain is fried and the ability to come up with something new seemed beyond me. So, as I will often do when I’m unsure what to blog about, I started checking out a few writing-related sites to see what they had to say. Nothing really jumped out at me until I started scrolling through The Passive Voice. One article in particular caught my eye. I’m not going to actually discuss the article, so I’m not linking to it. However, the idea behind the article did set me to thinking — something that might be dangerous since I’m pre-coffee.

Basically, the article was a lengthy dissertation about how the indie publishing industry has changed between the author’s first and second book. I’ll admit, I started chuckling pretty much right away. This particular author’s first book came out in 2016. While the industry has changed in the last two years, indie publishing hasn’t changed all that much, not in the big picture and not when compared to what it was 10 years ago.

I’m not going to bore you with all the details about what’s changed. However, to give you an idea, it wasn’t unusual for conversion from the final manuscript to ebook format used to take hours, perhaps days. Many of us actually hand-coded the html because the programs available back then simply didn’t do a great job. While there wasn’t as much competition because there weren’t as many indie authors, there also weren’t as many readers willing to take a chance on us. We were the outliers, the gamblers and a lot of us fell along the way while others stepped up to take their places.

Would I change anything about the path I’ve taken? For the most part, no. I was lucky because I had Sarah and Dave not only cheering me on but there to help me learn my craft. Even so, I’ll be honest. If I wasn’t impatient, if I didn’t want to wait a year or more from the time a publisher accepted a book to publication, I’d probably still be trying for a traditional publishing contract. But I started looking at the industry, at the economics of it as well as the number of publishing slots available vs the number of authors trying to win one of those slots. The odds were definitely not in my favor. I suddenly understood why so many folks said you needed more than the ability to produce an engaging, well-written story. You needed luck or connections or both.

Amazon changed that and took the power away from traditional publishers and they haven’t yet forgiven Jeff Bezos and company for that. You see, Amazon, for all its faults and there are many, gave authors another option. They didn’t do it for authors. They did it for their customers, knowing readers would buy books that were entertaining and well-written, no matter who wrote them or who published them. Amazon recognized something publishers still delude themselves about: most readers haven’t a clue about who published the book they just read. All they know is who wrote it and whether or not they liked it.

Yes, there are exceptions. Publishers like Baen have a core fan group and those fans will look for the Baen name or logo on a book. But they are the exception, not the rule. They also have come to expect a certain type of book from Baen and, if Baen stops giving it to them, they will find it elsewhere. That’s a lesson Baen knows (or should) and yet one so many publishers seem to ignore (I’m looking at you, TOR).

The challenge facing indie authors today isn’t the fact our books are making up an ever larger part of the market. The challenge isn’t even that we have to handle all aspects of publishing either through learning to do them ourselves or finding people who know what they are doing to do it for us. The challenge is keeping ourselves motivated and writing on a regular schedule. Why? Because readers aren’t as dumb about the industry as many traditional publishers seem to believe. They understand they no longer have to wait a year or more before their favorite author brings out another book. Indie publishing has shown there are a lot of excellent authors out there. So, if we, as writers, aren’t putting out books quickly enough, they will find someone who does, especially if we are writing series.

Now, before someone reminds me we all write at different speeds and have different demands on our time, I know. But I will remind you of something as well. Indie publishing has changed another rule. Books don’t have to be 100k words now. You don’t have to write goat-gaggers of 175k words or more if you are writing fantasy. Quick reads are just fine. Write a novella or short novel if that helps increase your output speed. If that doesn’t suit you, then throw in an occasional short story to keep your readers interested and remind them that you have a new book coming out soon.

And, on that note, I guess I ought to remind you that I have a book coming out on July 3rd. Fire from Ashes is the fourth book in the Honor & Duty series.

At war with an old enemy, betrayed by a supposed ally, Fuercon is a system on the brink of disaster. All that stands between it and defeat are its Space Navy and Marines – and the fact the betrayer does not yet know its secret plans have been discovered. But will that be enough to turn the tide of war?

Honor and duty.

Honor and duty have guided Colonel Ashlyn Shaw’s life for as long as she can remember. Honor kept her sane when she was betrayed by those she had fought beside. Duty gave her reason to trust again once the betrayal came to light and her name, as well as the names of her fellow Devil Dogs, was cleared. Now she and the Marines under her command are once again asked to risk their lives to protect Fuercon from its enemies.

Family and the Corps.

They are why she fights. She knows what will happen to them should Fuercon fall to the Callusians. Their lives are worth any sacrifice she must make to help keep their homeworld safe.


The not-so-secret driving force of Ashlyn’s life. Four years ago, someone betrayed her and her command. That person now works to betray Fuercon. Ashlyn is determined to discover who – and why – and bring them to justice.

The storm clouds of war gather and time is running out. Will Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs be able to turn back the enemy and unmask the betrayer before all is lost.


21 thoughts on “On going indie and an announcement

  1. Books don’t have to be 100k words now. You don’t have to write goat-daggers of 175k words or more if you are writing fantasy. Quick reads are just fine.

    One of the reasons to be glad that trad publishing is no longer the only game in town.

    Use the necessary word to best tell your story, however many they may be.  Anything less is insufficient to the task and leaves the reader unsatisfied.  Anything more is unnecessary bloat and is tedious for the reader.

    1. Poul Anderson’s “Three Hearts and Three Lions” (66,000 words) was a long book in 1963. Nowadays it’d be a novella by tradpub fantasy standards.

    2. Minor nit: The novel was from Doubleday in 1961. And note that it was an expansion of an earlier (1953, in F&SF) novella, which hasn’t been reprinted much (the only reprint I know of is in Vol 6 of the seven volume collected shorter works of Poul Anderson from NESFA Press).

      I think the novel was a stronger work (and, in my opinion, is one of the finest examples of High Fantasy around).

        1. Note that it was continued in the next (Oct 53) issue. Even novella-length works were often serialized then (and novels pretty much always were).

    3. I completely agree. One of the many things that bothered me when I was still chasing a traditional publishing contract was the artificial word counts they imposed. They didn’t want to see a manuscript if it was x-words long or more than y-words long. There was no consideration for how well-written the story might be or for what the book needed. Just this word count limit, something ruled by budget and little more.

      1. Yup.

        It did teach me something about how to add complications to a novel — but still, the Unpublishable Void between 25,000 and 75,000 words was a big gap.

        1. Or the reverse if you were writing romance and wanted to get in with some of Harlequin’s imprints where they didn’t want anything over 40k words

          1. And Harlequin was even more rigid when they tried their SF imprint, Laser Books, in the mid-70s. They got Roger Elwood, one of the more prolific SF editors, to edit the line, and Kelly Freas to do all the covers.

            And they figured that these would be like their romance lines — all completely alike (and likely to sell the same number, no matter how good or bad the book was). Each cover was the same — painting in the background, with a large head in the lower right corner. And the books all had to be the same length — 192 pages (some were short by a page or two, so had some blank pages, but 192 was not to be exceeded, since that would mean another signature). So, if a story took more than 192 pages, it got chopped until it fit. And not particularly skillfully, as we saw, both when we read the books and they seemed clumsy in spots, and, in those cases where the author later had a better version printed, where we saw what the story should have been.

            A lot of good writers (although usually early in their careers) wrote for them. Jerry Pournelle, Tim Powers, K. W. Jeter, Dean Koontz — and a lot of people who were the solid midlist of the era.

            Harlequin folded the line after a few years, when they discovered that the SF buying public had different ideas than the romance audiences they were used to. People didn’t want identical books; they wanted good stories, told in whatever length the story took. And, unlike their romance lines, which sold about the same number of copies no matter what, better books sold more copies, and worse books sold fewer.

            As stories, most of them were readable despite the editing (and despite the authors, often relatively new, needing good editing as they learned their craft). But it was certainly an interesting failed experiment.

  2. Most of the big name comic books tend to be short stories published monthly that are chapters in a larger story.that may run 6 to as much as 24 months in length. So if you have a picture worth a thousand words, and a book 66 panels in size, there’s your 66,000 words. If they can do it with pictures and a few words each month, we should be able to do the same with just words just fine.

    1. Exactly. We could really learn a great deal from comics, if we’d just let ourselves. Of course, a lot of the lessons today would be on how NOT to do it. I really, really hate what they have done with some of the franchises the last few years.

      1. Just watch out for the liberal-progressive-socialist propaganda that seems to infest a lot of comics now-a-days.

  3. Yep. Mind you, it was never actually _hard_ to indie publish, even at the very start. But now? Once you give up on finding more typos and misplaced commas and save the final Word file, it’s minutes till you are pushing the last button.

    If I had a do-over I’d have started Indie the day I heard about KDP.

    1. Hard, no. Tedious, absolutely at the beginning because the conversion from DOC to html via Amazon’s conversion process was anything but reliable. Even so, it was better than Smashword’s meatgrinder.

    2. I do tend to find a considerably larger number of typos in on-line published stories. If I’m not too wrapped up in it, I even occasionally e-mail the correction in ala a gamma reader.

  4. I haven’t met you and don’t know how old you are, but I’ll be 66 this Friday, and I realized in 2015 that I just can’t wait three or four years to find a publisher and get a new book into print. I wasted two years shopping Ten Gentle Opportunities before I abandoned my ancient nonfiction habits (I’d been selling technical books traditionally since 1983) and went full-indie. I used to lay out books for a living, so getting a new book from edited manuscript to an Amazon .mobi takes, mmmm, a day. Maybe two. I’m now kicking myself for all the hair-tearing and wasted time inherent in dealing with tradpub. I have neither the hair nor the years to waste anymore. It’s pretty much that simple.

    1. Yeah. I’m 64 and just not going to fool around trying to sell to a trad. Not that I’m making a lot of money, but this is fun, when you just drop kick the “sell to an agent, and then a publisher” stuff out of your life and just keep writing.

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