There are three reasons that I decided to go the indie publishing route for my second book, and they all have one common thread: indie publishing gave me greater control of my project.
- Creative control
- Control over pricing and distribution
- Control of my intellectual property
For my first book Building a Better Law Practice, I went through a traditional publisher, the American Bar Association. It is one of the largest publishers in the legal and law practice space. I worked with some really good people and am happy with how the book came out, but I learned along the way that traditional publishing isn’t for me.
Dispelling the notion that indie publishing is vanity publishing
One thing I had to overcome was a stigma that remains among certain groups of people that indie publishing is vanity publishing. In fact, a guy who’s made a career in publishing directly told me as much before I released my second book Stop Putting Out Fires. I have used that comment — “little more than vanity publishing” — as a motivating fire in my belly for the last six months.
I don’t mind telling you that my second indie-published book has sold as money copies in its first few months of existence as the first did with a traditional publisher. So now that my decision has been objectively validated, let’s look at the four factors that led to the decision in the first place.
1. Indie Publishing Gave Me Creative Control
Indie publishing gave me greater control of both the interior and exterior contents of my book, from word usage to cover design. For Building a Better Law Practice, the publisher consulted me about proposed edits and cover art, but they had the final say.
I didn’t like being in that position. I had spent immense amounts of time on the manuscript. So I wanted to control its final form. Indie publishing gave me that opportunity.
But it comes with a price. Literally. All those costs that the publisher incurred on my behalf for the first book, I was now responsible for with the second: cover art, interior images, software for interior design and manuscript formatting, an editor, ISBNs, advertising. Making and selling books is not cheap. And there’s a price to pay for being pigheaded. But it’s a price I was (and will continue to be) willing to pay to have greater control of my work.
Indie publishing allowed me to publish Stop Putting Out Fires in whatever formats I wanted, on my own schedule, with the look and feel that I desired for the project. That creative control can be paralyzing when you realize how much work really goes into creating a book. But it’s also immensely rewarding.
2. Indie Publishing Enable Me to Control Pricing and Distribution
A look at the Pricing Issue
One of the biggest points of contention between the publisher and me on Building a Better Law Practice was the pricing. The ABA wanted to price it so as to maximize their profits per book. But I wanted it priced to sell in a way that was competitive with standard market rates. They won, because the contract says they get to decide pricing.
I can’t help but that the pricing strategy for Building a Better Law Practice has left potential sales on the table. This rift between the publisher and me was the most significant catalyst that pushed me toward indie publishing. I wanted to control the price for my creation.
Having indie published Stop Putting Out Fires, I can set the price point however I want. I can raise or drop the price as I see fit. In fact, on several occasions, I have significantly lowered the price of the ebook either to get a bump in sales or just to test the market’s reaction. With indie publishing, I can experiment. I can play around. I can even give my work away for free if I choose. Indie publishing gave me greater control over how I make my book available to the market.
Then There Was the Matter of Distribution
For the first 7 months of the life of Building a Better Law Practice, it was only available on the American Bar Association website. As in, that is the only place in the world that it was available for purchase. The problem with that is that people have to go out of their way to buy it. And people have to really want to buy your stuff if they’re going to be inconvenienced to buy it.
I understand in some respects why the ABA wanted to have a monopoly on book sales. They didn’t have to sell the paperback to a retailer at 55% of the list price, thereby reducing the amount of profit on the book. And for e-books, selling it at other sites means they’d only get 35%-70% royalties. But in my view, it is a short-sighted strategy to intentionally limit the availability of the book.
Eventually, the ABA made Building a Better Law Practice widely available in both paperback and e-book form. But it took no small amount of coaxing from me.
Not wanting to deal with that in the future, I opted for indie publishing. Now I have control over where my books are available for purchase. For example, from its launch date on May 2, 2019, Stop Putting Out Fires was available from any retailer that people regularly purchase books from: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and even Wal-Mart. I wanted to make it easy and convenient for people to buy the book.
This isn’t to say people showed up in droves to buy it because selling books is hard. But I’ve been pleased with sales, particularly in the last month or so as I’ve started to figure out how to more effectively us Amazon’s advertising services.
3. Indie Publishing Gave Me Control of my Intellectual Property
Having control over my own intellectual property provides me with a great deal of freedom. And this is probably the most important bit of this decision. I envision myself as becoming an author entrepreneur. My writing will supplement my income no only for the rest of my life, but also for a period of years after my death, it will continue to support my family.
By publishing independently, I don’t have to wait on a royalty check to arrive once a year or quarter from a publisher. Every month funds from book sales are distributed directly into my bank account from Amazon, ACX, Ingram, and a smattering of other places. There are no gatekeepers. There is no one taking a cut from the profits. I took the financial risk and I (hopefully) reap the rewards.
If I want to license my books to be translated into other languages, I can do that. If I want to creative derivative works, like a workbook edition, there’s nothing stopping me. Indie publishing gave me control of my intellectual property in a way that means I can create as many streams of income from it as possible.
Gain More Control with Indie Publishing
I’ve really enjoyed being an indie author. It is a lot more work than traditional publishing. But the payoff has been worth the extra effort. This isn’t to say I would never publish through a traditional publisher again. If the right opportunity presented itself on the right project, I’d definitely give it consideration.
If you’re an independently minded person with a vision for what you want your author business to look like, indie publishing may be for you.