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Readers Hold the Power in the New Publishing Landscape

Some people have asked me, “What’s this I hear about you hybrid/indie publishing?” So I’m going to take a second right now to focus on what is this thing called indie publishing, and why I’m choosing to go down that path for some of my books.

When an author signs a contract with a traditional publisher (any of the big publishes that give advances and royalties and produce your book without cost to you), the first book you publish with them often dictates a “brand” that you must now write in.

My first trade published book was Home for Good which is a contemporary western romance. Did I want to forever write only contemporary western romances? NO. I have all kinds of ideas, but not many more western romances. Nail biting ensued. Would I be forced to write more westerns when that wasn’t really a passion of mine?

My publisher was awesome and said I didn’t need to stick with western, but I would be continuing to write sweet contemporary romances. This is cool because I have plenty of stories in that vein.

But I also have young adult fiction I want to write, adult fiction that doesn’t fit neatly into the “sweet contemporary” category, and historicals. What could I do with those? Just shove them away forever? That didn’t seem wise.

Here’s the thing—I may be a writer, but I’ve always been a reader first. And as a reader, I don’t just like one certain type of books. I’ll read YA, historical, classics, and contemporaries. I’ll read in the fantasy genre and I love a good science fiction book. When I talked to others, I found most of them read the same way too (all types of genres).

See, I believe that the average reader is very smart. When they pick up a book from an author that they’ve read before that isn’t in the same genre I 1) trust that they’ll know what genre they’re picking up and know what to expect from the story, and 2) won’t have a melt-down because it’s not the same exact type of book as before.

So while I’ll continue to publish sweet contemporary romances with my publisher, I’ll also be jumping into the pool known as ‘indie publishing’ to publish some of my YA and historical books and ones that don’t quite fit well in the other parts of the publishing market yet.

Like anything, Indie publishing has its good aspects and the parts that aren’t as good. I weighed my choice to join the indie world with a lot of thought, sound counsel, and prayer.

The Good

  1. I have so many story ideas—and now I can get them into your hands faster than I could if I published those stories the traditional route (in traditional publishing it takes a year or more to put out a book).
  2. I can write more than one genre!
  3. I get to be part of the cover art process, something many traditionally published authors don’t have much of a say about.
  4. I *may* be able to make a living publishing this way, whereas, making a living just publishing the traditional route is very, very difficult and very few authors reach the level of pay/fame to make that possible.

The Bad

  1. My indie published books will not be available at your local bookstore
  2. More than likely, they will not be in our neighborhood library (unless you put in a request for them to stock it – which I’d be all for!)
  3. Some of the things I plan to publish independently will not (initially) be available in paperback/hardcover. For example, my upcoming Christmas novella will (initially) only be available as an E-Book. But after I have written more King’s Cove novellas (which I have in the works) then I will bundle them and they will be available in book form together.

The Good and Bad

To publish a book independently, it costs the author money up front. NOT in the old “vanity press” style, but an author pays out of pocket for the rights to the cover art (and to hire a graphic designer), for someone to edit their work, for formatting, and for any advertising they do.

Okay, parting with money before you know if you’ll get a return is never fun, but every entrepreneur and inventor has to do just that no matter what type of business you’re running. I think this is a good model for authors.

Since it costs them money, most writers make sure they are putting out the best quality book they can because you want to make back your investment (and then some). Yes, there will always be some many who shortcut that system, but readers are smart, very smart.

Readers know poor quality when they see it (amateur-looking cover, poor editing/formatting, and/or terrible writing) and stop reading, return, or never buy those books. Those books and writers get passed up. See, a reader votes for an author’s career to succeed every time they click that purchase button. No click. No career. It’s that simple.

YOU, the reader, holds all the power when it comes to the future of indie publishing—not me, the writer.

What does this mean?

It means the same thing as always: I’m a writer.

Some like to label themselves by saying “I’m a published author” or “I’m a trade author” or “I’m a hybrid author” or “I’m an indie author.” But let’s be serious. We’re all just authors—people who love words and storytelling.

I make money the same way Stephen King and J.K. Rowling both do. Different amounts don’t change the job title just like the President of the United States and the President of the student council are both called the same thing, even though their spears of influence are vastly different.

How the book comes out, doesn’t change the fact of what we are: Writers. Story-weavers. Authors.

Thank you, every single person reading this, for being a part of my journey so far as a writer.


About Jess Keller

I'm an author, speaker and chocolate eater who's chasing hard after my dreams.

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