Thursday, March 12

Pros and Cons of Indie Publishing

By S.R. Johannes, @srjohannes

Part of the Indie Authors Series

Whether you self publish or publish with a traditional house, there are always pros and cons to each option. When you are self-pubbing, it is important to understand both sides to both coins. Today, I will give you insight into some of the pros and cons of self-pubbing.


1. You Can Track Your Sales

Most traditional authors do not have access to their sales and can’t track them individually. Indie authors can see their sales on a daily basis. This tracking helps you track sales faster, track the effectiveness of your promotions, and see what sells/doesn't in your market.

2. You Have Total Control

Indie authors make all the decisions regarding their book. This gives you a power that traditional authors don't get. You can choose your own cover, typeset, price and channel. You can also change any of them at any time. Your book never goes out of print so you control all your backlist rights.

3. You Can Publish at Your Own Pace

As a self-published author, you can publish whenever you finish your manuscript and you can write what you want. There is no contract or timeline to follow. In the traditional publishing world, you may only get one book out a year and some take two years to even hit the shelves. When you go indie, you can write what you want and publish when you want (NOTE: It's better to have high quality than high quantity!)

4. You Are Able to Set Prices

If you are self-published you can set your own prices and they can be different on any channel. This can change at any time you see fit. This flexibility allows you to reach different audiences, do special promotions on a book or series, and test the right price point for your book.

5. Your Book Has a Longer Shelf/Online Life

If you have a self-published book or series, the online life expectancy is much longer than the shelf expectancy of a traditionally published book, which averages at 18 months to 2 years. Unless you unpublish your work, it will continue to be available as long as you or your readers want it to be.


1. You Have to Pay

Because you have complete control over the entire process of publishing your book, there will be some skills you can do and some you can't do on your own. Sometimes, it is better to contract out work such as: covers, editing, typesetting or formatting. Where traditional authors get an advance and these basic services, Indie authors have to fork out money up front with no guarantee of getting it back. If you do it all on your own, without an investment, your quality is sure to suffer.

2. You Have Limited Distribution

Most indie books - especially "print-on-demand" books - will not be stocked in bookstores. You also don't have sales people in front of libraries, schools, and stores pointing out your book. You can do print and ebook distribution, but the print will be limited. I would say 80% of indie sales are ebooks not print.

3. You Still Have to Deal with a Stigma

Even today, you will find still find readers or bloggers who won't read indie books—period. Because of the self-published books that are low quality, all indie books tend to be thrown in that category. Readers assume traditionally published books are vetted through the process, and therefore, of a higher quality. Not. True. In addition, some stores, schools and libraries won't promote indie books or conduct signings/readings. Unfortunately, you have to prove yourself as a writer —over and over again.

4. You Can't Stand Out

Because there are so many self-published authors, it is hard to stand out above the rest without the traditional sales force, marketing dollars, and distribution. Every author hits this roadblock but indie authors have it a bit tougher. Indie authors have to work much harder to get their book to stand out in the crowd.

5. You Do It ALL

When you publish traditionally, you have a team of professionals that work together to make your book the best it can be. As an indie author, either you do the work yourself OR you hire a team of professionals. It is very hard to find the best people at affordable prices you can pay. Indie authors also spend a lot more time doing their own marketing as well as handling the basic business side of publishing (sales, inventory, orders, etc). This all takes time away from writing

In traditional publishing, the pros and cons above are simply reversed. You lose control, but gain distribution. You gain credibility, but lose flexibility. That is why the publishing process is a personal decision for the author to make: which book is the best for which channel and do they have the time.

In general, publishing is a now a personal choice for each author and for each book.

S.R. Johannes is the award-winning author of the Amazon bestselling Nature of Grace thriller series (Untraceable, Uncontrollable, and Unstoppable). She's a winner of the IndieReader Discovery Award in YA, an IPPY a Silver Medalist for YA Fiction, a Finalist in The Kindle Book Review's Best Young Adult Fiction, and a Finalist in US Book News Best YA Book.

Since leaving Corporate America, she has followed her passion for writing and conservation by working with The Dolphin Project, the Atlanta Zoo, other animal rescue organizations, and by weaving conservation themes into her books.

She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her dog, English-accented husband, and the huge imaginations of their little prince and princess, which she hopes- someday- will change the world.

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  1. Great informative blog, Janice. Having self published myself a year ago, I'm acutely aware that I need to up my game, particularly in terms of marketing. Though I do know a few authors who have published via the traditional path and the expectation that they will do a lot of self marketing is very evident.

  2. Janice,

    Great comparison, except that many trad pubbed authors in RWA are now finding they get ZERO promotion dollars or help, then do not receive a contract for a 2nd book, because the first one strangely did not sell.

    Or they are expected to do all promotion themselves. It's tempting to go trad for the exposure, but I would urge authors doing so to talk to other authors at their targeted houses and lines, and see what they're really going to receive.

    Cathryn Cade

    1. Ack, sorry S.R. Johannes! Called you by the wrong name. Apologies!

  3. The cost is a major factor. I haven't come remotely close to earning back the money I invested in Lady Raven, even factoring in sales of my previously-published work. It becomes a real labour of love and expression of faith when you can stare at your editor's invoice and have no idea when, or even if, you'll break even.