Indie Publishing: A Quick Guide

For authors keen to get published today, there are other routes to take besides just a big name publisher. Self-publishing has been around for a while thanks to Kindle, platforms like Amazon, and even vanity press outfits, but there’s also another option you may not be so familiar with—indie publishing.

Like in the music genre, indie indicates that something is not belonging to or affiliated with a major company. So how does that work in publishing and how can writers utilise this option to get their work out there?

What is indie publishing?

Indie publishing refers to any kind of independent publishing at small presses, or self-publishing. It has become a popular means by which writers can become published authors without needing to query a lot of agents or publishers or pay for an agent or vanity press. Of course, there is still an outlay for marketing and other services with an indie publisher.

Like other industries, the modernization of publishing has meant a lot of mergers and buyouts, and the creation of large publishing companies that can dominate the scene. Indie publishers therefore refer to any of the smaller of these.

These indie publishers, or small publishing houses, often work in particular genres or niche markets. They usually offer authors a lot more freedom than large publishing houses. A publishing company may ask an author to change a title, add a chapter, edit it again, alter a character, and so on. These aren’t necessarily bad things, but with an indie publisher, the author calls the shots and is very involved in the process of what happens with their work.

Indie publishers have also been very successful. Books published through indie publishers have won film contracts and been contenders for literary prizes. Paul Harding’s book, tinkers, won a Pulitzer Prize and was published through the indie publisher Bellevue Literary Press.

What is the difference between indie publishing and self-publishing?

Self-publishing is sometimes associated with inferior quality and ignores how much time and effort has gone into making a book. Self-published books are completely curated by the author from beginning to end. Some write very well, edit their books in an excellent fashion, use the right software, get a good graphic designer, and make an effort to market it properly. But this isn’t always the case.

Some are slapped together and made on the cheap, while other authors just don’t have the professional skills to match what comes out of publishing houses or the money to get the help for the aspects that would really have benefited them. The problem with either approach is that the end product suffers. Readers who see a product on which it’s clear little time or effort has gone into may assume the writer doesn’t care enough, so why should they?

As a result, there is now some stigma attached to self-publishing or self-published titles, so many authors have chosen to rebrand themselves as independent authors, and chosen independent publishers instead.

Indie publishing may sound similar to self-publishing, but with an indie publisher, you’re not footing the bill upfront. While you’re involved in the process, you may hire out aspects of the book’s development and distribution but save money by utilizing the skills you have. For example, you might decide to create your own website or use a friend or contact who has design skills for the cover. These are all elements you then won’t be billed for.

So indie publishing gives you the freedom to be as involved as you like, retain rights to your work, and usually get better royalty rates. It’s a great niche in-between option. But there should be some word of caution about the process. Read on to find out.

How to get started: Tips and Steps

So, once you’ve decided to go down the indie publishing route, what’s the next step? Here are a few tips and steps to get you started and help you produce a product that may stack up to what a professional outfit can produce.

RELATED READ: What Are The 4 Paths To Publishing?

Identify realistic goals

Presumably, you’ve written a great story and it’s ready for you to take the next step with it. But there are key questions you should ask yourself at this point which should help determine which publishing option is best for you.

These include things like, what’s your goal, how much time do you have, what talents do you bring to the project and what is your budget?

The more realistic you are when answering these questions, the better the product you will produce. For example, using a son or daughter who is an artist is not the same as hiring a graphic artist who designs book covers for a living. And getting a friend who was an English teacher to edit a document, is different from hiring a professional editor that looks at manuscripts day in and day out. Similarly, if you want to impact a lot of people, it will be hard to do so if you don’t have a budget to spend on some marketing.

“Even if it’s just your family, put the best book out there that you can. There’s no reason to bore your family,” Keith Ogorek says from the Author Learning Center. “Books have a long afterlife.”

The publishing process may cost more than you think, and take longer than you anticipate. According to Alexa Bigwarfe from Write [Publish] Sell, authors often underestimate the time it can take to prepare their manuscript, how much it costs to prepare it for publication in editing and marketing, and the amount of revisions needed after editing to keep shaping the book into something better.

RELATED READ: 5 Strong Tips For Publishing a Successful Sequel to Your Book

Assemble a good team

Once you’ve established your goals, you can begin the next part of the process. The goal setting will probably help you determine the areas you may need help, and what areas you’re prepared to spend some money on to get it done for you.

Editors to shape the work, designers to illustrate a cover, marketers to drive the sale of your work, and publicists to get the message out there about it are just some of the key areas you should consider getting some help.

There are a lot of indie publishers out there that you can contact, and a quick Google search of this term or independent publishers will reveal a list, and the kinds of genres or markets they cover. They may work with editors, designers, marketers, or publicists, or you may opt to do some of these elements or find your own.

A good editor is very key to the success of your work. There are third-party editing outfits, like us at First Editing, that can assist with this aspect of your work. All editing outfits outline the kinds of editing they do and may provide a free assessment of your work to help you decide. It is important you submit a good product first, as editors still work with the original ideas and presentation they are given.

Develop a marketing strategy

Even if you are getting the help of a marketer or publicist, there are plenty of things you can do to aid the sales and reach of your book. After all, there are only so many family and friends that will buy your book to support you. After that, you need to reach other parts of the public.

You may wish to consider developing an author website, a social media presence, an author’s page on Amazon or other key websites, and regularly send out useful information about what you’re doing. This could be in the form of a newsletter, writing tips, writing excerpts, and so on.

Whether you self-publish, pursue indie publishing, or take the traditional route and approach a big-name publisher, getting a book or story into print is a big undertaking. The more time you spend planning and preparing, budgeting, revising, the better chance you have of a good end product. Or at least something that won’t annoy your family and friends!


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