Confident Reads (1): State of Publishing & Review of The Indie Authors Guide to the Universe

Hello everyone!  Welcome to the first week of this brand new feature!  Confident Reads is a way to open communication between readers and indie authors.  Several weeks ago I did a guest post at Pages of Forbidden Love about Self-Published vs. Major Publishing houses (you can find it HERE).  At the time I had read a bit about self publishing/indie publishing and had quite a lot to say about everything from a readers perspective.  The comments that were left (especially by fantastic indie authors) really got me even more interested in the subject.  Since then I have read a bit more and studied more about it.  I’ve also noticed that readers have very strong opinions about what they want/need in a book.  Confident Reads is to help readers feel confident in the books they spend their money on, and for authors to feel confident in the book they publish.  You can find this feature each week (Wednesdays except in September when it will be Tuesdays) discussing a different subject regarding indie books and authors.

To start the feature off I have invited Jeff Bennington, author of The Indie Authors Guide to the Universe (review below), Twisted Vengeance, Reunion and Creepy to the blog to help us understand the difference in self publishing, indie publishing, trade publishing, etc.  There are so many terms out there, so what do we use for what?  Let’s welcome Jeff to the blog!

State of Publishing

In the year 1450 a German blacksmith named Johannes Gutenburg revolutionized the publishing industry. He wasn’t a prolific writer. He wasn’t a well-known scribe. And he never penned a lasting literary work. He was just an average guy, who happened to be a mechanical genius. Although his past is somewhat mysterious, he changed everything about how books were published and reproduced.
Since that time, there have been other printing revolutions, often marked with controversy, excommunications and even death. Today, we’re experiencing another publishing upheaval. Once again technology has caught up with the times and is changing the way books are published, and who gets published. Yet with all the changes in how books are printed, and how we read, I’m surprised no one has been murdered yet!
With that said, the current changes in the way literature is produced is still evolving. In fact, I wouldn’t consider murder beyond the realm possibility where money is concerned, publishing biz or not.
So what’s happening out there in the world of publishing? The answer is complicated, but can be summed up in two distinct phases.

·        Phase 1 – Vanity Publishers gave traditional publishing a hard jab to the eye with the onset of print-on-demand (POD) technology, making publishing easier and more affordable to the masses—specifically writers who did not fit into the “trad” publishers business model.

·        Phase 2 – Kindles, Nooks, Sony eReaders, smart phones and iPads have changed the way we read—knocking traditional publishers out with a deadly 1-2 punch.
• • •
Technology has practically eliminated the need for traditional publishing in terms of ebook creation and online distribution. Any writer who prefers the 70% royalty that Amazon provides over the measly 8-12% royalty offered by most traditional publishers can easily and cost effectively publish their own work at a fraction of the cost. Moreover, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Kobo (especially Amazon & Kobo) have honed publishing into a science … the science of publishing ebooks.
With ebooks, there is no physical product to handle. Yet there is still a high value, usually, in terms of what is actually consumed. And the cost is rightfully less compared to print, relative to the traditional publisher’s inflated ebook prices ($9.99+).
With that said, I’d like to clarify a few terms.
Let’s start by detailing who the players are, keeping in mind that these are my definitions, and subject to argument:

Traditional Publishers– The folks who have “traditionally” served as the literary gatekeepers, and determined what will and will not be published for the reading public.

Vanity Publishers– Publishers who primarily make their money by selling publishing services to authors rather than selling direct to booksellers.

Self Publishers– Author’s who use a “pay to publish” service (Vanity), including shared publishing (50/50 split in publishing expenses). Authors who use these are often, but not always, publishing with less control because the publisher frequently charges exorbitant fees for common and simple tasks. Many “self-published” authors fall prey to the marketing hype, and lose control of pricing, and quality because the cost to create a fully professional book is so high. As a consequence, some authors settle for less editing, basic cover art, etc. Again, this is my opinion based on what I see every day on Amazon, and in listening to author complaints.

Indie Publishers– Indie publishers, are writers who take full control of their product from cover design, formatting, marketing, editing, etc. They feel more comfortable with the processes and technical aspects of the game. Indie publishers operate like a small press, doing every task in house or subcontracting to those more qualified. They not only hold the rights to their book, but they do not have to answer to a third party to make changes or upgrade quality. Indie publishers often spend far less money on the production of their books and are not restricted to specific price points, cover designs, etc.
• • •
So who receives the benefit from the publishing revolution? Answer: Readers, Authors, and ebook distributors.
From my experience, the distance between the reader and author is shrinking, making reading a personal experience that actually results in a reader/author relationship that was not previously possible. Lower prices are driving readers out of their comfort zones, trying new talent, and enjoying what they read. What they are discovering is down-to-earth writers who are approachable and available. I see this in my social media experience and in the online presence of many other authors.
So now that the fat is removed, and the middleman eliminated, writers and readers can thrive in a world with a greater variety of literary choices and lower prices. In my opinion, excellent books will rise to the top and those with less quality will sink to the bottom. Unfortunately marketing will still play a part in who is visible and who is not, and that is a shame because there are a lot of good indie/self-pubbed authors who do not enjoy marketing. Still, the authors who look at their writing as a lifetime commitment will grow their audience and continue to attract fans, while those who are not in it for the love of the craft will fall away, frustrated and weary from the work required.
I believe publishers will continue to be the predominant force in print and big name authors. The vast majority of authors, including many previously trad-pubbed authors, will choose to bypass the mainstream publishing route because there is more money to be made and they are more in control of their work—nothing wrong with that.
In a nutshell, the world of books has changed. But who knows what’s around the corner? You never know, one day Amazon could develop something like mind chips, with an auto download into your memory.  Sounds far fetched now, but who would’ve ever thought we’d be reading books from a hand held computer? You can even rate and share a Kindle book immediately upon completion, giving the author instantaneous feedback.
These are good times for readers and writers.
As in all things, times change, and change is always hard to accept. Scribes were needed for thousands of years, until Gutenburg came along. Likewise, third party publishers were needed to create and distribute books/ebooks for a season. Today, writers can bring their work directly into the hands of readers with just a few clicks… and with an equal number of clicks, readers can become the new gatekeepers.

Jeff Bennington
Bestselling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, and Creepy.


Purchase
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My Review:
I’m not looking into publishing my own book just yet, but I’ve been very curious about it and doing a lot of research about publishing indie. I also work with indie authors a lot and try to read as many of their books as I’m able.  Learning more about it all is just me, I like to know the ins and outs.  And I think if more readers learn about it they may be more open minded to read it.  I’m also trying to help open communication so everyone on both sides (readers and authors) know what the other wants and needs.

That being said, this probably isn’t the first book I would recommend to readers who don’t write.  There are books that compare traditional publishing and Indie publishing a bit more and in a way that readers that aren’t writers will understand more.  But this is an absolute must read for every Indie author out there.  They need to know how important the cover is to us readers.  They need to know how much they NEED to hire an editor if they want people to buy their books. And on top of that this helps with learning how to do a blog tour, get review copies out, etc.  It tells you where to go to get printed books and the good and bad from each company (per Jeff’s experience).  Some know most of this already, but it’s not going to hurt them to read it anyway cause I guarantee that you’ll learn SOMETHING from this book.
This is also a bit lighter reading compared to many ‘how-to’ books out there.  I would suggest this for if you are thinking of indie publishing as a starting point because it’s not as overwhelming as others.  It also has some very motivating and encouraging words for those who are indie publishing.
I give this one a firm 5 stars because it’s well written and very informative.  And I don’t usually comment on covers, but I think this one is pretty great.  It’s eye catching but simple and it looks very professional. 

Disclosure:  I purchased this book myself and was not paid or compensated in any way.  All opinions expressed are my own.

For the comments, do you agree with Jeff’s explanation and descriptions?  Do you have any questions?  Please let us know!  (Author feedback is also welcome.)

For next week:
We are going to discuss covers.  What we want/need in a cover as a reader.  
I would like some feedback regarding this.  Please fill out the form and let us know your thoughts.  You may be anonymous, or you can share who you are, your choice.  These thoughts will be shared on the blog next week (if there is a lot of feedback I may not be able to share them all).

For the authors, do you want to know what readers think of your cover?  Fill out the form and link to your cover. I will put it up next week along with a form so readers can anonymously share their thoughts.  The thoughts will not be posted for anyone to see and I will email you with an invite to view the google form.

Thanks for subscribing!
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Comments

  1. This is a GREAT new feature, Candace! Anytime a question from a friend, family member or blog reader comes up regarding self publishing vs. traditional publishing I have to admit that I don’t know as much as I should. I’m so glad to see an explanation given in such a clear and user friendly way. I learned a lot from this post (for instance I had no idea the differences between Self Published and Indie Published) so thank you, Jeff!

    I look forward to future posts on this subject:)

  2. Really cool Candace, I know after all the responses on my blog last week that this is a big deal to find the gems. Hopefully this meme can keep us better informed and help to remove some of that negative stigma with the self pubbed books!

  3. What a great great and super awesome feature Candace!!!!!!!! I ‘m excited to learn more about Indie’s and Self-Publish and the whole publishing process. I think all those authors are super brave and I respect and admire their dedication since they obviously have to be some different people: Author, Editor, Publicists, Marketing , etetctec…

    I think with eBooks a lot of things are changing and I personally look forward to this!

  4. After reading your comments, I’m excited about your interest and openness to indie authorship. Even though self-pubbers have made mistakes in the past at the expense of their creditbility, I believe that is changing, and great reads like Wool, Children of the Fog, among many others, are creating a new paradigm.

    • I agree that some don’t go about things right and it kind of ruins it for others too. But hopefully with this feature everyone will open up a bit more and maybe more will be willing to give Indie books a try.

  5. This is a cool feature Candace! You know how much I support indie/self published authors and I’d love for them to get more air time or help. I love to know about the publishing biz. I’ve read so many great indie/self pub books that have not gone through the big houses and I wonder how many more are out there that got rejections and just stopped there. There are so many great stories out there. I can’t wait to see the next feature!!

    Heather

  6. hi Candace! Jeff sent me over. i am so glad he wrote something about the publishing industry. it was very informative.

    hi Jeff! thank you. i have bookmarked this post so that i can refer to it again and again.

    • I’m so glad Jeff sent you over! And I’m happy you found it informative. I hope you continue to find the Confident Reads feature helpful in coming weeks/ months/ years (hopefully ;).

  7. Hi – again- Candace. Great weekly feature and that’s pure awesome that you opened it up with Jeff Bennington. His guide is a definite Must Read for all Indies and actually I recommend reading it BEFORE publishing.

    I like the break-down of terms. I see a lot of bloggers saying no “self-published” books in their review policy. Does that mean indies can contact them? LOL I kinda figure not.

    Thanks!

    • I definitely agree, authors should read it BEFORE publishing. To make sure they do everything right and are truly prepared.

      Ha, ha, good point about that. ;) Most bloggers (myself included not so long ago) don’t understand the difference in self pubbed and Indie. I don’t really expect it to change overnight but hopefully posts like this will help. And in defense of bloggers, sometimes its easiest to say that because the requests are SO overwhelming at times. Saying that cuts them down a lot.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  8. Hi! Jeff Bennington sent me to your site. I read his blog and agree 100%. Also, his Indie Authors Guide to The Universe is excellent. Jeff has been a great mentor to me and has increased my sales from what I was selling times 30.

    • That’s such great news Robbi! I think authors helping new authors is fantastic and this book is so helpful and eye opening!
      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  9. I would listen whole-heartedly to whatever Jeff has to say on the subject of indie-publishing. I hadn’t even considered going that route until I started following his blog.
    It has been three months now since I published my first novel, and I am amazed at how well the novel has been received. In fact, I just published my second novel (under a different pen-name, H.B. Bolton) and am excited to see where it goes.
    Thanks for posting:)

  10. Wow Candace! There is a lot of great information here, I hardly know where to start. I’m not a writer, but as a reader, the writing process does interest me. I’m always curious to know what an author goes through to get their stories out to us.

  11. This post is BRILLIANT. I love that bloggers are taking something positive from the drama. Yours and Parajunkee’s posts have convinced me to be more open with my review policy to accept more indie and self published authors. I was under the impression that most self-published authors will bully their reviewers and I am happily surprised to see that for the most part, that is not true. I can’t wait to discuss indie covers in your next post!

    Jessica @ Books: A true story

  12. I’m afraid I have to disagree with the definitions on Indie and Self publishing. To me, Indie means having stepped away from Traditional by using small presses and/or vanity presses. Self publishing means taking the reigns in a Do-It-Yourself process; at the very least, serving as the general contractor who hires cover artist, editor and formatter for print, then uses Amazon, Smashwords, Apple, etc to get your book into the hands of the public.

    But that’s just me.

  13. Yet another great feature Candace.

    I think that the Self/Indi published scene is definitely one to watch. You only have to look at recent self publish success stories crossing over in to traditional publishing; Kit Berry, Amanda Hocking and yes, EL James!

    At bigbooklittlebook.com we were very grateful to the self/indi publishers for giving us the opportunity to read and review their work when we were starting out, at a time when traditional publishers weren’t prepared to work with us.

    Unfortunately, victims of our own success, we find that we have less and less time to devote to self/indi published works. As a result we have started a new fortnightly feature called Self Published Sunday- a series of guest post lighting the industry, the authors and their work.

  14. Jeff sent me to your blog. Thanks for making this information available. I am learning a lot from blogs like this one and Jeff’s. I appreciate clarification of these terms as I always did find them a bit confusing. I am just getting started with indie publishing with my first book. I wish I had run across Jeff’s “Guide” before I jumped into the pool, but it is never too late to learn. Thanks for this helpful post.

  15. Great series idea, Candace! I love how many authors and bloggers are getting together to talk about this stuff!

    Jeff’s article is really good, but I do agree with Doug, Candace, and BigBookLittleBook that the definitions of indie and self-published have a variety of meanings. They are in flux at the moment and I think different people use the terms differently, which makes life so confusing!

    “Indie” published generally has meant “not big six” published. That is, it means published by a small or medium press (an “indie” press) – which operates pretty much like a regular “big six” publisher, just on a smaller scale and with some alterations to the royalty/payment structure to authors (many don’t pay advances or can’t pay the same kind of big advances as the big boys. Also, they traditionally didn’t have access to the same distributions channels as the big six, but that has completely changed and small presses can get their books into bookstores these days).

    Self-published meant, as Doug said, DYI. At the beginning, self-publishing and vanity publishing were interchangeable terms. It means the author pays to have his/her work produced and the “publisher” takes anyone who can pay the fee–no quality control, no gatekeeper.

    Originally (in the “old” days of 2-5 years ago), “indie presses” (and the authors published by them) were looked down on, and self-published authors were viewed as….er, well, pond scum (not by me – by traditional publishers and their authors).

    Then “indie publishers” gained traction for producing quality works (last year’s Pulitzer winner was published by a small press) and people started just calling them “small presses” rather than “indie.”

    And then self-publishing became reputable and began to be seen as legitimate and so became distanced from vanity publishing (personally, I’d like to see the term vanity publishing become retired as passe).

    And so self-published authors latched onto the term “indie” and started using it for themselves. But since part of the old guard still uses the term to mean the upstart small/medium presses, there’s a sort of struggle to figure out what people mean when they use the term.

    Confused yet? It gets worse. Some people make a distinction between “indie published” (i.e. self-published/DYI authors) and “indie publishers” (small/medium/”independent” publishers) ::brain melts::

    Wait, it gets worse! Then there are many self-published authors who start a publishing imprint/label (basically a one-man publishing house) to help combat the stigma of being self-published. What on earth do we call these guys?! They tend to call themselves “indie publishers” too (which, actually seems to be the most appropriate use of the term since they are now, technically (on paper at least) a publishing house and they are truly independent (this seems to be how Jeff is defining indie publishers). If I was queen of publishing, I think I’d go with “publisher” (publishing house with more than 1 employee), indie publisher (author self-publishing under a publishing imprint), and self-published (author published under own imprint/name via a DYI service such as lulu or createspace, etc.). LOL – or can we just go with “published” across the board, and then we can wipe our hands of the whole mess and go out for hot fudge sundaes!

    Eventually, it will all get straightened out. In the meantime, it’s good to always be clear how a term is being used. I have read book blogger review policies that say they didn’t accept “indie authors” and I wasn’t sure if they meant me (published by a medium press) or just self-published authors.

    Okay, sorry to have written a book! Whoops! But I do find this all fascinating and love having this opportunity to talk all this stuff out! Thanks Candace and Jeff for a great discussion!

    • Terri,
      Thank you so much for your comment! I believe you are right, all these different labels just don’t really work. I feel like I need to say self published/ Indie published for everything. For me the difference of whether it was a small pub or done completely by the author isn’t much. I mean you would expect better quality from a small publisher, but honestly, from what I have read there are plenty that aren’t edited well, etc. (Obviously not all,just some.) And when they just have a fancy name listed as the publisher it gets annoying (as a reviewer) because I don’t always know if they are small press or did it themselves. I could google I suppose… but I prefer to just be told that it was published by the author. I think for now we may need to be more specific. If we don’t accept small press along with Indie and self published we need to say so. I think that most bloggers probably mean small press and self published in their term of ‘no indie’ but maybe I’m wrong. A lot of times its just to cut back on review requests because we get SO many by self pubbed/ Indie/ small press authors. Its too bad that people have to say it though, I understand but it makes me sad.

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