Monday, May 3, 2010

Indie vs. e-publishing

The other day I posted something about indie books vs. e-publishing on Twitter, and Zoe Winters responded, "As great as some E-pubs are, I just don't think they offer that much more [than indie publishing] honestly." I answered that I'd started e-publishing in 2003, when things were obviously quite different and no one had even thought of Kindles. I didn't expand upon my comments, since Twitter doesn't allow one to expand much. But here are some additional thoughts on the subject.

Now that indie publishing is a viable alternative, what are the relative benefits of indie publishing vs. small press e-publishing? I'll start a list; feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.


1. Someone else does your cover. This can be good (if you have absolutely no graphic ability, your self-created cover may turn out looking like crap, or you may have to pay someone to do it for you). It can also be bad. Thank God we've mostly moved away from those hideous Poser covers (you remember the ones I'm talking about) in favor of stock photos, but there are still some small e-pubs out there whose covers don't look any better than mine-- basically they just take a stock photo and slap words over it. No real benefit there. On the flip side, some e-pubs are doing awesome covers-- look at Samhain and Carina. Covers sell books, and a cover like that might well have a big advantage over something I personally turn out.

2. Editing. Again, this can be good or bad. A good editor is worth her weight in gold. A bad editor can be horrible to work with. I've worked with an epub that generally did little to no editing, and there may still be some of those out there too. If I don't get any editing from a publisher, then I really might as well be indie publishing. But this is something you usually get with a good e-publisher. Indie writers need to rely on beta readers, or hire their own editors.

3. An already established customer base. A good epub usually has a loop full of rabid and enthusiastic fans (though in some cases it feels like it's just full of authors trying to sell to each other!). But if an epub is large enough, then there are usually fans waiting to pounce on each release day. That's not true for an indie author, although if you produce a lot of books, you may develop your own following.

4. Promotion. Epubs send out books for review, post about them on blogs, set up Yahoogroups, and so forth.

Indie publishing:

1. Control over the cover. Anyone who's ever had a bad cover (which is most authors, I suspect!) can understand why this might be a positive thing. Also, indie publishing gives you the opportunity to change the cover at will. If a book isn't selling well, an epub is typically not going to go back to the drawing board and change the cover. As an indie, you can do that.

2. No editors to deal with. If you feel your creativity and personal style is stifled by editing, as some authors do, then you'll probably prefer indie writing. If you worry that an epub will pressure you to add more heat or to change things you really like about your manuscript, indie writing may be your cup of tea. I'm a big believer in editing, but poor editing is worse than no editing at all.

3. Instant release. The most annoying thing for me about traditional publishing is the incredibly long time it takes to see your book hit the shelves. Epubs were once much quicker (my first ebook was published within a few months), but now that most of them have so many books stockpiled, your release date can easily be scheduled out a year from now. With indie publishing, once you're done, the book can be released. No waiting, no stressing.

4. You do your own promotion. This means more work, but no one has more invested in your book than you do, so this isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.


  1. This is a great list! I'm such a control freak that I think anything but indie would probably make me miserable.

  2. Technically with #4 you can control a lot of your own promo with a small press too. They don't/can't do much. Since I detest promo with the fire of a thousand introverts, that's actually a con in the indie column and about half a con in the small press column! (Quarter con in the NY press column. Writers must promo at all levels now, which makes me depressed.)

  3. Hi Ellen! I trekked over from The Galaxy Express to read this. Thanks for clarifying. I am an epub author too. I had a great editor for my lastest SFR, Forbidden Love. (featured at The Galaxy Express as a May release) But I've heard other authors say they had really bad editors. I also got lucky with my cover art as well. Least I think so-- I love the artsy way Nancy Donahue did my FL cover. Anyway, just wanted to stop by and say hi.