Thursday, June 11

Indie Authors: Permission Not Necessary

By Julie Musil, @juliemusil

Part of the Indie Author Series

I was having a conversation with a traditionally published author, and each time I brought up a question or idea, her reply was, “I’ll have to ask my publisher.”

As an indie author, that concept has become foreign to me. I used to say, “I’ll have to ask my agent.” But now that I’ve jumped into independent waters, I appreciate how I don’t have to begin sentences with, “I’ll have to ask...”

There are multiple roads to publication, including the wonderful avenue of indie publishing. For many authors, traditional publishing is perfect for them. For others, it’s hybrid publishing. For me, indie publishing is the answer to a wish I didn’t even know I had.

Allow me to share my favorite “don’t have to ask” qualities of indie publishing:

Indies don’t have to ask if they can publish their books

We all have manuscripts hidden on our hard drives that probably shouldn’t be published. But if we wanted to publish them? We could. We don’t have to ask for permission.

If we have the one--the story that burns in our hearts and longs to be told--we don’t have to worry about whether or not it’ll ever been seen by readers.

We don’t even have to ask when. Is the book ready now? Publish it. Want to tackle it next year? Wait. Want to store up a trilogy and publish all three books at once? The choice is yours.

Indies don’t have to ask if they can switch genres

Are you writing YA romance, but long to venture into adult noir? Do you write middle grade, but want to dip your literary toe into self-help? No problemo. You don’t have to worry about whether or not your agent reps the new genre. You don’t have to fret about mixing brands with your worried publisher. Indies can publish what they want when they want to.

Bogged down marketing departments don’t decide if your book is worthy

If an indie author has invested his own time and money into a project, he automatically feels it’s worthy of telling others about it. We don’t have to ask for permission to buy an ad, or participate on a panel. Indies are responsible for their own marketing, but most traditionally published authors are as well. With indie publishing, a committee doesn’t decide if your book is worth investing in--you do.

Indies don’t ask for permission to pursue other income streams

Want to venture into non-fiction, audiobooks, podcasting, online courses, or apps? Go for it! No need to ask for permission. There are no conflicts of interest.

One friendly reminder: quality matters. A lot. Just because we want to publish a book doesn’t mean buyers will think it’s worth their cash. We must edit the manuscript until it’s shiny, invest in a quality cover, and make sure it’s formatted properly. Let’s take pride in what we put on the digital shelves.

Have you indie published yet? Are you on the fence? Do you like the idea of not needing permission, or does that make you nervous? Please share!

Julie Musil writes from her rural home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband and three sons. She’s an obsessive reader who loves stories that grab the heart and won’t let go. Her Young Adult novels, The Summer of Crossing Lines and The Boy Who Loved Fire, are available now. For more information, or to stop by an say Hi, please visit Julie on her blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

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  1. Gads! Every time I firmly decide against going indie (my debut novel was picked up by a small press publisher who then folded - so now I am indie-not-by-choice and find marketing my book to be an uphill battle) I read an upbeat, enthusiastic article like this and think....hmmm. I *do* have a contingent of readers waiting for my next book - which is with beta readers right now and so thisclose to ready. And so the internal argument goes.....

  2. Published as I re-think my decision to seek an agent, and traditional publishing. Er.

  3. Janice, thanks for letting me hang out on your blog today!

    Bonnie, congratulations on being picked up by a small press! I'm sorry to hear it folded. I can totally relate to your internal argument. You could always try it with a smaller project, and see how you like it. No pressure!

    R. Mac, know what I love about this? You have a choice! Before, there wasn't a choice for writers. Now you're in control in the path you take. Good luck!

  4. This was very helpful as I didn't know much about the "Indie" side of things. I'm not published yet and may consider this as an option.

    1. Sheila, isn't it great that we now have this option? That alone is wonderful. I wish you nothing but the best as you make the decision that's best for YOU!

  5. Excellent post on Indie Publishing. I started Indie, and I have a book coming out with a small press sometime this year (date is up in the air), and so far I have liked both of those paths to publishing (but I won't know all the details until the small press book comes out). I love the freedom that surrounds authors at this point in the publishing business - many authors can go indie, small press, and even "big trad" all at once.

    1. Tyrean, that's wonderful! Congratulations. That's the beauty of it. You don't have to decide either/or. You can do any and all of it. Best of luck to you on your upcoming release :)

  6. Excellent points, Julie! Thanks for more great reminders about why I chose the indie route!

    1. Jodie! It's kinda sorta liberating, right? But definitely not for everyone. Your non-fiction books are must-haves, by the way.

    2. Thanks, Julie! Glad you like my books! :-)

  7. Julie,

    Bonnie mentioned enjoying your upbeat article about indie publishing.

    I want to thank you simply for being upbeat!

    There are so many voices shouting doom and gloom or--at the very least--no more gravy days, that this article is like a breath of fresh air!

    Thank you!

    1. You are so right, Carrie Lynn - the repetitive doom & gloom out there is a colossal *downer*. Once again, I too really appreciated the optimism in this article :)

    2. Carrie Lynn and Bonnie, I'm so glad you found it helpful. Heck, there can be doom and gloom about everything, right? If we've done our homework on ALL avenues of publishing, there shouldn't be any major surprises about whatever path we've chosen.

      And the key word here is "chosen." We get to choose!

      Good luck to you both.

  8. Not needing to ask permission? Great!

    Lack of finances is what stops me from doing much indie stuff. I only have one e-publication out, and so far not even one sale, and it's been over a year, I'm not sure what I can do to improve that, other than perhaps changing the cover (I made it because I just couldn't afford to hire it out at the time, and this was the only story I finished that was solid enough to experiment with).

    As you often make point of, Julie, we shouldn't shortchange the quality of what we publish, but that doesn't make the push-pull between "Do it right" and "Just do it before you're dead" any easier to deal with.

    I try not to let envy cloud my judgement, but I don't always win that ongoing battle, I refuse to quit, but sometimes taking breaks i nessecary, even if I don't want to, because of lost momentum. I guess that's another benefit of not needing permission, you're not held to anyone's deadlines but yours, but even then there's a concern of "Patience vs. Perfectionism" that's not easy to rectify.

    Issues of quality aside, timing can be tricky, by which I mean taking the time needed to bring quality to any given book, without every project taking a decade or more, as you can't build a sizable readership with too long a lull between books, even if they're in the same genre or part of a series.

    But it's true you can experiment more readily, but even if you don't have ask permission, you do want to put some thought when you start genre-hopping, if only so you as the author don't get overwhelmed because any major shake-up (even if by our own design) can get daunting for anyone.

    1. Taurean, here's the beauty of it--you were able to publish! Now you can work on the next project, then the next, and so on. Try your best not to worry about sales from your current book. Move on to the next one, without worrying about sales or speed. Just focus on putting out the best YOU can put out there. I wrote a post about "How penniless authors can indie publish." I hope it's helpful!

    2. Julie,

      I'm doing my darndest to be happy and appreciative about being "able to publish!", but it doesn't change the fact that the final push is a challenge for my limited finances.

      I did read your post BTW, but it's not always easy to trade skills, and I say that as someone who spends LOTS OF TIME looking for help, but haven't yet found what I need, and I don't know what I can offer that's a fair trade for what I need.

      While I'd likely have next to no input on the visual aspects if I'd sold "Gabriel" to a larger publisher, I also wouldn't be paying upfront costs for the cover design, illustrations, and printing costs all by myself.

      But I went with my publisher for three key reasons, a writer friend of my worked with them and I trust her judgement, my now editor got the book (in a way even a few of my best beta-readers didn't), and I have the editing help I would not be able to afford solely on my own (and I don't have beta-readers to swap with right now), so I see covering costs for the cover and illustrator I have in mind (my book is a novel, but it will have illustrations) as a POSITIVE byproduct of going with a small press.

      But that doesn't mean I'm not frustrated.

      I'm quite grateful for the flexibility I have in regards to publishing "Gabriel" with regards to the cover and illustration, not just the words within.

      Just because I'm pointing out the concerns and challenges I'm facing right now, doesn't mean I'm belittling that fact, Julie, and I'm not bemoaning what I haven't sold, just being honest about where things are now, and honesty isn't always positive, I just try not to frame it in too melodramatic a light.

      Maybe because I don't have tons of stuff to shop around I don't feel the possibilities as readily as you or others do.

      It doesn't help that I don't find my "next book" all that quickly.

      Part of why I had to slow progress on my blog and all other non-contracted projects on hold is because I was becoming a nervous wreck, and I didn't like the person that I was becoming, I'm having to rethink A LOT of things regarding what to do next.

      I don't want to sound overly defeatist, because it's not how I am, but I just see my current phase differently than perhaps you do, Julie.

      Maybe I'm just not in the right frame of mind to see "all the possibilities" yet. Others find this post and yours so uplifting, and I just see the challenges.

  9. I love this post! Very empowering. :)