When I started writing Your Life with RA, I fully intended to publish the traditional way. Because of the vagaries of my own RA, I didn't think I could deliver a large manuscript on a deadline, so the idea was to write a book first, then shop it around to an agent or publisher. Decent plan, right?
About halfway through the writing process, a revolution happened. E-book readers and tablets took off, Amazon started their Kindle Direct Publishing program and writers started doing it themselves. I was aware of it, but still really locked into my original plan. Then on an evening in early 2012, The Boy and I had a conversation. As he is always way more ahead on technological issues than I am, he’d been nudging me for a while about publishing The Book as an e-book myself and I had been resisting. I had been doing some reading, though, and apparently, there’d been a significant degree of percolating going on in the back of my head. It all came together in that January discussion and from then on, there was no looking back.
I was going to publish my book independently.
There were a lot of arguments supporting this decision. Traditional publishing has changed — it’s increasingly difficult to get published as a new writer and when you are a new writer (as opposed to Anne Rice or Stephen King), you don't have a lot of influence in the process. I have friends who are authors and have seen them struggle being heard when their vision of their book differs from the publisher’s. I've seen them do most of the promotion work themselves and I've seen them not get paid very much in royalties. Which, to be fair, is somewhat understandable — when a publisher takes a chance on a new writer, they're the ones who are financially out on a limb. Cover design, editing, printing, etc. all cost money and those services are supplied by the publisher. Still, at the end of the process, the author him/herself don't make a lot of money, whereas if the book does well, so do the agent and the publisher.
Publishing independently, on the other hand, means you take all the risks, you bear the initial financial cost — hiring a cover designer and editor are key to being professional and more about both in the coming weeks — and you do all the promotional work. You also reap the rewards, though. If you are even the slightest bit of a control freak, you'll revel in the fact that, as the publisher of your book, you are in full control of all aspects. You hire the cover designer you want and decide what the cover should look like. You find an editor you can work with. You do the formatting of the e-book yourself — or find someone who can do it for you (blessedly, my partner is a geek) — and have final approval of what it looks like. And at the end of it all, when you publish your e-book through Amazon’s KDP and Smashwords, you get 70% royalties. That’s a big difference from the estimated 10-15% you receive as a new author with a traditional publisher. And it means you actually have a chance to make a living from writing books.
I am fond of saying that the best thing about being an indie author is that you control everything. This is usually quickly followed by me saying that the worst thing about being an indie author is that you control everything. In addition to the aspects I mentioned above, you also have to figure out tax things, where and how to get ISBNs, learn marketing and promotion, and the list goes on. Thankfully, there is a large community of indie authors who are willing to share their hard-won experience and by reading a large number of blogs and independently published e-books, you figure it out. There were times, though, that I wished I could just focus on the writing.
Which leads me to the heart of the story where my plan to publish independently evolved. I was lucky that I had The Boy by my side throughout the daunting maze of information. He was my sounding board, my research partner, the guy who doublechecked the IRS forms that were written in such a way they made my ears bleed, dealt with the formatting of both e-book and paperback editions and together, we midwifed my baby into being.
Five months after Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis first saw the light of day, I have absolutely no regrets. The last year and a half has been frustrating, exhausting and there's been some degree of anxiety and stress. It's also been filled with excitement, learning new skills, gaining in confidence and having the best time I've ever had with work. When I started writing my book, I had no idea it would end up with me having my own business. Life is funny, but what a ride!
Thanks for being with me on that ride.
Crossposted on Your Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis