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Independent Thoughts February 2015: Becoming an ‘authorpreneur’ PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dave Sheets   
Wednesday, 07 January 2015 03:31 PM EST

Why some authors are striking out on their own to publish their books even after having success with traditional publishing

DaveSheetsGone are the days when independent publishing was only for new authors or authors who were having difficulty getting published through traditional means.

Today, more and more well-known authors, who have previously published their books via traditional publishers, are making the move to independent publishing. You might call them “authorpreneurs”!

According to a recent industry study, authors who are publishing with traditional houses and doing their own independent projects, are seeing more success financially than authors who are only going one route or the other. Authors are taking more control over their writing business, and retailers can be an important part of that strategy.

But why go independent when so many new authors are clamoring to get their books published traditionally? What do established authors find so appealing about publishing their books independently?

In this column, three best-selling authors explain why they’ve gone the independent route. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll note that BelieversPress was privileged to work with each of these authors to produce the books listed below.

INDEPENDENT BENEFITS

International evangelist and author Sammy Tippet (Twice a Slave) believes that “the most appealing part of independent publishing is the flexibility it offers. It would never have been possible through traditional publishing to work on some of the projects close to my heart. For instance, I’m presently working on a series of e-books called ‘Light in the Darkness.’ I’m writing about ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Islamic terrorist threat. I feel a burden to issue an urgent call for a sweeping spiritual awakening among Christians as we face such darkness. There’s no way I would be able to release this series in a time-appropriate manner through traditional publishing. Independent publishing allows me to address this situation with the urgency that I feel so deeply.”

Best-selling author Angela Hunt (Passing Strangers) considered a changing economy in her decision to publish independently.

“After publishing scores of books traditionally, I had to face a hard fact: Due to the economy and the changing market, I had fewer traditional options with each book,” Hunt said. “I’m still publishing traditionally if a publisher wants my work, but I am also taking my books straight to readers. This is incredibly liberating (no more having to wait for months!) and terribly frightening (How will people even know about my independently published book?).” 

Both Tippet and Hunt appreciate the timeliness with which they can deliver their books to readers by publishing independently. Release dates are in their control—as are such elements as cover design, editing, layout, marketing and distribution.

Like Hunt, author Hannah Alexander (Hallowed Halls) enjoys the freedom inherent in independent publishing.

“After 30 traditionally published novels, I suddenly found the ground moving beneath me when those traditions changed,” she said. “Hannah Alexander Books is now my publishing mode of choice. I choose my editors, my proofers, my formatters, my cover artists. I upload my own e-books, and I’ve never been more content.”

Traditional publishers work via a process subject to corporate strategic planning and meeting long-range goals that may have been in place for a while. As a result, the author may not have the opportunity to contribute creatively to the release, marketing, and distribution plans for his or her book. Independent publishing affords the author more autonomy on a release strategy, creative marketing plans and a more “grass-roots” distribution program.

“Another reason I like independent publishing is that it complements my creative abilities,” Tippet said. “I’m establishing something similar to a book club for [‘Light in the Darkness’]. People will be able to receive one e-book per month for a year. Independent publishing has stirred my creative juices, and I’m loving it.

“It also gives me the ability to provide additional resources,” Tippet added. “I’m including an audiobook for each e-book. I could do that through traditional publishing, but the length of time it would take to publish them would cause the series to lose some of its relevance. I’ve learned through the self-publishing process that it’s possible to produce quality materials in a timely manner.”

STRONG CONNECTIONS

Independent authors may face a particular challenge—how to get their books on booksellers’ shelves and in readers’ hands. Along with the independence that comes naturally with self-publishing is the responsibility to ensure that one’s books are actually distributed in retail stores. Like traditionally published authors, independent authors understand and appreciate the importance of working closely with retailers, especially independent retailers, on getting their books in front of readers.

“When writers like Angela Hunt, Brandilyn Collins, Bill Myers and Sammy Tippit are creating their own novels from start to finish, bookstores won’t want some of their favorite novelists to get away,” Alexander said. “As a reader, I still want to see their books on the shelves when I shop.”

Of course, well-known authors have an edge over newer authors because of the books they’ve already published, largely via traditional publishers. Therefore, it will likely be easier for them to place their independently published titles into bookstores. However, the challenge remains for all such authors.

“I am still investigating the best ways to get my books to the people who need and want them,” Hunt said. “And I’m hoping we can find a way for independent authors and bookstores to work together and better meet the needs of people who want the unique materials we have to offer.”

With shelf space at a premium, and independent booksellers working harder than ever before to drive consumer traffic to their stores via popular books and other resources, securing good distribution for independently published titles can be challenging—and that’s where best-selling authors can pave the way for lesser-known authors who have chosen independent publishing for their books. They can serve the market well by encouraging retailers to carry a healthy selection of indie titles.

Many of today’s independently published books are virtually indistinguishable from their traditionally published counterparts. They have professionally designed covers, high-quality paper and binding, are professionally edited and formatted, and are written by talented writers who, with the support of retailers and readers, may become tomorrow’s best-selling authors.

Perhaps Hunt sums it up best: “We do appreciate the hard place that booksellers have found themselves in—we’re in a difficult place, too, and I’m sure there are ways for us to effectively work together.”


Dave Sheets has worked in the publishing industry for more than 20 years, garnering experience in all areas of the publishing process. He now serves as CEO of BelieversMedia, a services company that assists content creators in the production of books, films and other media, as well as distribution, promotion and management. His extensive background includes work with Tyndale House Publishers, Multnomah Publishers, STL Distribution, Harvest House Publishers and Snowfall Press. Reach out to him at dave@thebelieversmedia.com.

 
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