Indie Versus Legacy: Let’s Rumble!
Everyone is doing it and considering the less-than-inspiring performance of my small press and legacy published books, I thought I’d give it a chance. Independent publishing. Despite the success of folks like Amanda Hocking and J. A. Konrath, being an indie author still makes me wince. It feels like, well, giving up, or at least settling for less than the best.
Or it did.
When my book first came out, I worked very hard to get some reviews, and got some terrific ones. I chatted a little about it, but really, nothing like the work I’d put into promoting my other books. The first month it sold 60 copies, which wasn’t bad. In comparison, my first book published by small press might have finally sold 60 copies after about five years (I stopped tracking it when it failed to sell 9 copies the first year).
This last month, my indie book sold over 200 copies. Today isn’t over, yet, and it’s already sold 11. Sure, those aren’t huge numbers, but the point is, it is gaining ground. My indie book has already sold more copies in its first three months than my second small-press book sold in two years. If it keeps this up, by the end of the year, I will have earned more than the advance on my latest legacy publisher book, not to mention that it will be another year before that book even comes out! By then, assuming all things stay the same, I will have already earned twice what I got in royalties from a legacy publisher.
One of the big questions is, why?
It wasn’t marketing, since I marketed the heck out of my first five books. However, I did change my marketing strategy in a significant way. I became less interested in “look at me!” and more interested in “what can I offer an interested reader?” I also focused more on just chatting with folks. Ironically, during the last month, I frankly did nothing on marketing, and it’s doing even better. Go figure.
The biggest factors to me seem to be the same ones Konrath talks about: covers and price. You need a good cover and with legacy publishing venues, you pretty much have no control. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings because I admire everyone I’ve worked with, so I’ll leave it at that concerning covers.
I also firmly believe that legacy publishers (and a lot of authors) price their books way, way too high. People get twisted around the axle over the price of a single unit, refusing to understand that the value is the revenue stream it generates. Your book isn’t worth $.99; it’s worth whatever revenue it generates, regardless of unit price. My $.99 book is earning more for me than all my $7.00 books, combined. This confusion folks experience appears to be similar to the mindset of those who insist taxes must be raised to bring the deficit down, when the reality is that reducing taxes will create more revenues for the Government because business will prosper and generate more overall income to be taxed. Bring prices down, people buy more. Simple.
Anyway, the point is that if you’re not one of a few bestselling authors, having a lower unit price means a richer revenue stream. I would caution folks about making the assumption that if you sell 1000 $.99 books ($.40 royalty), you’ll only make $400, while you could have made $2,000 if you priced it at $7.00 ($2.00 royalty). The problem is, you probably wouldn’t have sold the 1000 books if they were priced at $7.00. If you sell 1000 at $.99, all you know is that you can sell 1000 copies of your book for $.99. The rest is an inaccurate projection.
Beyond that? I’m still figuring it out as I prepare to release my next indie mystery, A Rose Before Dying, later this month. I do have a big dilemma, though. Should I submit my next manuscript to a legacy publisher, knowing even if they accept it I won’t see it released until 2014? Or should I just suck up my pride and do the indie thing again?
It’s a hard decision.
If it was solely about the money, it would be simple: indie. But you learn a lot working with the team you get with a legacy publisher, and I personally enjoy it. I enjoy improving my craft, and the best way to do that is to work with folks who will make you swear, sweat, and then rewrite. It’s not quite the same relationship when you hire an editor, and they never seem as willing to aggravate you as the legacy publisher editors do. Weird, but true.
I’ve babbled enough and have to get back to work. My next project is to finish a holiday novella I’ve been working on for over a year. I’m determined to finish it. Maybe by next year!