Thursday, January 05, 2017

Indie Publishing Paths: What’s Your Master Plan? Part One

By Jami Gold, @JamiGold

Part of the Indie Authors Series

Over the course of this Indie Publishing Paths series, we’ve covered a lot of information. Indie authors have to make far more decisions than we might think, and each of those decisions comes with pros and cons for us to consider. There’s no one right way to be successful as an indie author.

In this series, we first focused on how to decide which path will work best for us. We figured out our goals and priorities and walked through our options for the where, when, and how much of putting our book up for sale.

Following along with the second phase of our indie publishing journey, we then explored our options for how best to hold onto our readers from book to book, covering everything from using special links, including excerpts, or offering extras on our website. Over several posts, we also dug deeper into the most effective method for keeping our readers: using a newsletter.

*whew* If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone.

Now over the next few months, I’m going to share how I reached my decision for each of those categories. As I mentioned in the very first post, as indie authors, we can choose virtual mentors and try to emulate them. Or we can pay attention to “what not to do.”

While my sales numbers aren’t anything to brag about, I’ve obviously thought a great deal about each of these choices. So simply following along as I share my thought process might help you clarify your own decisions for your indie publishing path. *smile*

Do Our Goals Match Our Measure of Success?

Long ago, we started this Indie Publishing Paths series by talking about how we measure success so that we can identify our goals. As I mentioned in that post, I’m a mix when it comes to defining success. I don’t measure success by income, yet I am business minded.

To that end, I’ve made sure that my goals don’t focus on the income side of the scale. Even though I wouldn’t mind making money, that’s not what makes me feel successful or validated.

Instead, some of my goals include:
  • Prioritize Readers over Sales Income: This can be expressed by making decisions that aim for high availability and acquiring new readers.
  • Establish a Professional Reputation: This can be expressed by making decisions that mimic the quality and offerings of the best of traditional publishing (print versions, etc).
  • Think and Plan for the Long Term: This can be expressed by making decisions that ignore short-term gains or would lead to burnout.

As I explain the rest of my decisions, keep in mind those priorities I’ve stated. If your priorities are different, you might follow my thought process and decide to do the opposite—and that’s okay. There are many ways to be successful as an indie author, so we each have to find the right approach for the goals we set to reach our definition of success.

Where Will We Sell Our Books?

As I mentioned in my posts here about our distribution plan (and part two), we have four options that we can mix and match for where to sell our books:
  • Option 1: Sell direct on our website.
  • Option 2: Sell through a distributor (Draft2Digital, Smashwords, BookBaby, etc.).
  • Option 3: Sell direct through a retailer (Amazon KDP, Apple iBooks, Kobo, etc.).
  • Option 4: Sell through an exclusive arrangement with a single retailer (Amazon’s KDP Select, etc.).

Remember my stated goal of prioritizing readers by offering my books with high availability? That goal has directed my choices about where to sell my book.

Currently, I combine Option 2 and 3 to list my books at all the big retailers. I use distributors (Draft2Digital and Smashwords) to reach Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and a few miscellaneous retailers, and I sell directly through Amazon, GooglePlay, and Kobo. So far, I’ve decided against Option 1 because of the tax, fulfillment, and paperwork hassle, but if I find the time to set up a good solution, I wouldn’t be against adding that to my list.

Obviously, if I’m trying to make my books available wherever readers are, I wouldn’t limit my books’ availability in an exclusive arrangement with Amazon’s KDP Select. However, authors with other goals might make other choices.

My goal of thinking long term also plays into this choice to focus on multiple retailers, as I don’t want to limit where my books might catch on. For example, my sales on GooglePlay have grown over time to be comparable to my Amazon numbers.

Also, from a long-term business perspective, I want to avoid the risk of putting all my eggs in one Amazon-shaped basket. The implosion of the All Romance eBooks retailer last week gives evidence that distributors and retailers aren’t immune to the possibility of going under and screwing authors in the process.

When Will We Sell Our Books?

As I mentioned in my post here about our release plan, we have several options for when to sell our books:
  • Option 1: Will we put our book up for sale right away?
  • Option 2: Will we delay publication of our book?
  • Option 3: Should we use preorders?

Remember my stated goal of establishing a professional reputation? That goal has led me to try to duplicate many of the behaviors of traditional publishers. My books go through multiple rounds of editing, I purchase professional covers, etc.

When it comes to releasing my books, I’ve opted to use preorders just like the big publishers. Preorders allow me to:
  • set up buy links for early promotions (cover reveals, in the backmatter of previous books, etc.)
  • determine a specific release date in advance
  • have my books release on all retailers at the same time
  • release several books on a specific schedule (I’ll get into the details of my schedule in a future post here)

However, none of my goals focus on landing on a bestseller list, which can be affected by preorders (especially on Amazon). If my goals were different in that regard, I’d likely make different choices.

How Much Will We Charge for Our Books?

As I mentioned in my posts here about our pricing plan (and part two and three), we have several options for how much to charge for our books:
  • Option 1: Will we price high?
  • Option 2: Will we price in the middle?
  • Option 3: Will we price low?

Remember my stated goals of acquiring new readers and planning long term? Those goals helped me decide how to price my books over my whole series.

In other words, I didn’t price just one book with an eye on the short term. My pricing decisions were made with the long-term plans of my whole series in mind.

I priced my books to accomplish certain things:
  • I’m utilizing a freebie short story and a lower-priced Book One as “loss leaders” for the rest of the series.
  • I’m hoping that freebie and the low price of the first novel in the series leads to more exposure.
  • I’m hoping to convert the freebie readers into paid readers, leading to more sales in the long term.

The freebie short story introduction to my series world is listed on every ebook retail site I can find—high availability—to gather readers to my series. However, as I mention in part three linked above, this sales funnel works only because I have other books available in the series that I can lead readers to. Otherwise, a freebie merely gives something away for nothing.

Likewise, the first novel in the series is priced at the low end of the “sweet spot” to encourage more readers to check out the series. Later novels in the series—after readers are hooked on the series world—are priced in the middle of the sweet spot. I occasionally offer discounts or short-term promotions, such as for preorder sales, but those are usually intended to increase buzz for potential readers rather than to increase income from sales.

Once again, if someone had different goals as far as readers vs. income, or had a different situation as far as a series, their choices would likely look very different. There are pros and cons for every option listed in this post, so there’s no right or wrong answer.

It’s important to recognize why I made the choices I did—and how those choices tie into my goals—because everyone’s goals are different. We don’t want to blindly follow what a successful author did because their choices might not be right for our goals. Hopefully, learning the what and the why behind my choices will help others hone in on their own thoughts as they apply their goals to the options for their success.

Next month, I’ll continue this exploration of my thought process by taking you through my choices about keeping readers from one book to the next. Until then, let me know if you have any questions. *smile*

After escaping Area 51 armed only with a ukulele, Jami Gold moved to Arizona and decided to become a writer, where she could put her talent for making up stuff to good use. Fortunately, her muse, an arrogant male who delights in causing her to sound as insane as possible, rewards her with unique and rich story ideas.

Fueled by chocolate, she writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy tales that range from dark to humorous, but one thing remains the same: Normal need not apply. Just ask her family—and zombie cat.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | GooglePlay | Kobo | Additional Retailers

About Ironclad Devotion, the latest release in the Mythos Legacy series:

A faerie princess evading her fate…

Earth is no place for a faerie, but Kira can’t go home without dooming her people. Desperate to avoid the pull of her homeland, she fosters an abandoned girl, the child’s joy a source of much-needed energy.

A blacksmith with something to prove…

When Zachary Chase discovers he has a daughter, he’s determined to be part of his child’s life and not repeat his mother’s neglect. But to open the little girl’s heart, he must earn her foster mother’s trust.

One night is never enough…

Despite their rivalry, Kira and Zac’s desires tempt them into one no-consequences night. Yet the more passion flares between them, the more Kira risks destroying the life she’s carved out on Earth—and endangering those she cares about in both worlds.

Amazon | iTunes | GooglePlay | B&N | Kobo | Additional Retailers 


  1. This is very timely for me as I was just thinking about this. The WHY is important. Thank you!

    1. Yes, knowing why we do things is very important. :)

  2. Greetings,
    Excellent post. These point can apply in the publishing industry as well as outside of it. I especially liked "Do Our Goals Match Our Measure of Success?". The three bullet points were very insightful.
    Stay Well,

    1. Thanks, Donovan! I'm glad this resonated with you. :)