So I’m seeing tons of coverage of the digital phenomenon. There’s been a lot written about Amanda Hocking, obviously, and the new Kindle millionaires, many of whom have never been traditionally published. This is exciting for many reasons, but I want to address a few key points in the digi vs traditional publishing debate.
1. Craft is important.
No matter who you decide to write for, the quality of your work matters. It’s a bad idea to toss a book or story up on Amazon because it’s easy, convenient, and you figure even if it’s bad, it’s still worth $.99. The price may draw some readers in, but you won’t build a broad reader base this way. One sale, and then they’re gone. You’re looking to build a brand and create return traffic in terms of readership. It’s best to decide where your wheelhouse lies (paranormal, YA, SF, fantasy, urban fantasy, humor, women’s fiction, literary) and then do a number of stories or books in that same vein. That way, when you’re ready to branch out, you’ve built up trust from your readers that you can handle your commitments. Regardless of your venue, I recommend against writing five “book ones” for various series because that makes readers worry that you won’t follow through, and that makes them wary.
2. Writing is always hard work.
Whether you’re writing for NY or you’re an indie author, it’s never a matter of magic happening, everything got silver and sparkly for a while, and then you have a book, a horde of screaming fans, and a million dollars. There will be lots of long hours where it’s just you and the keyboard. Add in the revision, editing, proofreading, and promotion, and your hourly wage will probably not be awesome. Also, if you choose to become a digi / indie author, there are a number of things that you’ll need to do yourself (like all of the above, plus cover art), or you’ll need to outsource it. As an indie / digi author, you’re ultimately responsible for all quality control, which means readers will be harder on you if things aren’t up to snuff.
3. It’s not Us vs Them.
The caveats above notwithstanding, there are some great reasons to go indie. If you write a book that you love but it can’t find the right place, then there’s plenty of room for it on Kindle or Smashwords. (In my research, those have been listed as the easiest / lowest learning curve in terms of self-publishing for the digital world.) If you want complete creative control and you have faith in yourself as writer / editor / promoter, then digi is a natural fit for you. However, it’s not an Us vs Them situation. I’ve read screeds where people whom the “gatekeepers” have denied claim that traditional publishing is now running scared. I don’t see it that way. Sure, there are a lot more opportunities for authors than there were in 1979, but there’s also a lot of other distractions, entertainment-wise. I think the fact that readers are spending money on books is a good thing, all around, and there’s no reason why people can’t mix and match. If your indie books do well, you could get a NY deal down the line as a result of the sales and building your own fan-base. If you’re NY published, and you write something that isn’t easy for a traditional marketing department to get a handle on, then you might make a nice chunk publishing it yourself. These days, writers can mix and match, and I recommend that approach for the best career coverage.
4. Weigh your options against your needs.
It’s really important to make a list of what you hope to accomplish in your career, and what you’re looking for via publishing. Money, recognition, a physical book in your hands to show and sign, being able to say HAHA I DID IT! , readers liking your work, being able to earn a living. There are many different reasons why people choose this career path, and once you know what you’re trying to accomplish, you can analyze what markets offer you the best chances to do what you want. It may be that a combo approach as mentioned above will work best.
5. Make an informed decision.
Before you jump into anything, do your market research. If you want to be an indie author, look at strategies. Market in a similar way to those who are selling well in your genre. Check to make sure the publishing venue of your choice has a good reputation and their authors get paid. If you decide NY is magical, proceed in the same fashion. Nobody will give you a dream career. You have to get out there and fight for it. Whether you choose digi, traditional, or both, rock on. Just remember that it’s not a battle; we all love the books.
Photo courtesy Flickr’s deltafrut