In a day when publishing is at our fingertips, the question whether to publish independently or traditionally is one many writers consider. Both routes have their benefits and drawbacks.
Maybe you are struggling with this very question right now. I hope today’s interview with author Janice Dick gives you some insight into making your decision.
Janice, what was the impetus behind your decision to go indie?
(1) my first three books are now officially OOP (out of print) after a run of about fourteen years. I need to re-release them.
(2) my fourth book, print version, shipped to me from CreateSpace, and I asked myself why I was paying someone else to do this for me when I could probably learn to do it myself.
What did you do to get back the rights to your books?
As I said, the first three were OOP, and the publisher sent me official release papers. I simply requested my rights back from the publisher of the fourth book and he granted them. No paperwork (no matter how often I asked) but I saved the emails. I also have a couple more manuscripts waiting for readers.
Having said that, most of my previously published books are still up on Amazon. I’m not sure why, because I have the remaining copies of the trilogy and the fourth is POD, and should no longer be printing.
I would assume those copies on Amazon are used copies that booksellers offer via Amazon. Though I don’t have a definitive answer to that issue.
Obviously there have been some problems in this journey. Can you tell us what some of the struggles have been along the way?
Learning on so many levels. I continue to learn the craft of writing, and have confidence that my skills are gradually improving. I use those skills to re-edit my previously published works.
Aside from that, there is the issue of cover design. I am not a visual artist in even the broadest sense of the term, so I had to look for an expert. I tried a free design-it-yourself site, but the outcome was so-so, and we know covers sell books.
Then I tried a site called Fiverr, which worked for my publishing logo (not essential, but something I wanted), but not so great for cover design. Some writers love it. I rated the designer 3 stars out of 5, and he messaged me that I had mistakenly not given him 5 stars and I should go back and fix that! Doesn’t seem right, in my opinion.
I am excited to say that I found a real designer I can afford who has not only skills and experience, but is known to me and lives relatively nearby. In a nutshell, this was a miracle. The Lord apparently wants me to have an acceptable cover, so He stepped in to assign me a visual artist.
If you are a Christian author, make sure to pray about your work, because God cares, and miracles do happen. I think He often takes pity on my feeble efforts, but I’m okay with that.
I haven’t reached the formatting stage yet, but that’s next. Right now I’m concentrating on editing. I love that part, and receive excellent suggestions from my local writing group, as well as from a writer friend with amazing insight and the willingness to offer honest critique. What I’m really saying is that I can’t at this point afford a professional editor. I know comments will be coming about that, but it’s the place I’m in financially.
Another area that I’m realizing the great importance of is marketing. I’m an introvert. I just want to write the stories. But when an author goes indie, marketing is part of the package.
To encourage others of you on this journey, there are many books—and good ones—about marketing your own books. Many are free to download, and others are relatively inexpensive. Just search online.
Right now my focus is on learning SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Amazon uses certain algorithms, which are apparently beyond the grasp of mere mortals, to sell books. No one really knows how these work, but we keep trying to understand/guess at it. Categorizing our books correctly is key. We want to tap into popular categories that readers are searching, but we also want to tweak our categorization so our books are not lost in a broad and widely populated category.
What have been some of the blessings along the way in this journey?
I think being vulnerable has been a blessing. I can identify with others who are on the indie journey. I can’t tell them the full story because it isn’t finished yet, but I am sharing my journey on my blog as it progresses. So many people have helped me, and I want to help others too, in whatever capacity I’m able. I’ve made a lot of great connections through this experiment.
What advice would you give someone considering independent publishing?
Read about it, research, ask for help from people who have done it/are doing it. My greatest encouragement came at a recent writing conference. I participated in a workshop on indie publishing presented by a 79-year-old gentleman. He said if he could do it—and he and his wife regularly self-publish excellent books—then anyone can do it. I believe you, Bryan Norford.
Are there resources (e.g. websites, books, etc.) you found to be helpful that you can share with our readers?
I belong to a Facebook group called Christian Indie Authors that is very helpful. Writers at all levels in the journey post their questions, answers, problems, solutions. They are willing to help someone who’s not as far along on the path.
As I stated above, there are tons of books available to give direction. Most of them are e-books, so they can be immediately downloaded and put to use. I will list a few: [links are to Amazon.ca; titles also available via Amazon.com]
Successful Self-Publishing by Joanna Penn (Free, includes video links.)
Indie Publishing Handbook by Heather Day Gilbert (Free, short.)
Self-Publishing Bootcamp Guide for Authors by Carla King (thorough, complete)
Self-Publishing Attack! The 5 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws for Creating Steady Income Publishing Your Own Books by James Scott Bell (only a buck or so, depending on where you live)
I actually have a list of about 50 e-books in areas referring to writing, publishing, and marketing. They are easily available.
Join groups, attend conferences and workshops, pay attention to email listserves that offer deals from time to time.
Readers, God bless as you consider and pursue independent publishing. You can do it.
Thanks for those great resources. I know Joanna Penn has been very successful with indie publishing and also has a blog. Another person I learned a great deal from concerning indie publishing is Joel Friedlander and his blog, The Book Designer.
I realize indie publishing isn’t for everyone, but it is an option well worth researching. Thank you, Janice, for sharing your journey with us.
Have you considered indie publishing? What helped you make your decision? Leave your comments below.
ABOUT JANICE DICK:
Janice L. Dick is an award-winning author of four historical fiction books, as well as many book reviews, inspirational writings, short stories, interviews and blogs. She lives with her husband on a farm on the Canadian prairies, where she continues to write under the tagline: Tansy & Thistle Press—faith, fiction, forum.