in Indie Publishing

The Top 5 Reasons Traditional Authors Are Going Indie

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It’s probably not a surprise–we’re always hearing about authors who have previously published traditionally choosing to go indie.  But what is making them? When they’ve been accepted by the literary elites, and they’ve been given advances and have received the support of a publisher, what motivation could make them switch to publishing independently?

The top 5 reasons we see authors going indie:


1. The “support” traditional publishers offer is no longer as relevant or valuable.

Traditionally, publishers would give authors a nice, fat advance. Then they’d take the brand-spankin’-new author’s book, publish it, deliver it to the exclusive sales channels (the traditional bookstores, unreachable to anyone but publishers and the ONLY place anyone ever bought books), and send the author on a multi-city book tour where the author was met by eager and ready readers.

Today, thanks to Amazon, those once-exclusive sales channels are near extinct. And the book tour? Not gonna happen.

2. The financial rewards are no longer worth it.

You know that nice, fat advance? Not unless you’re EL James, kids. And guess what else! You don’t get a dime back until you pay your publisher back through book sales! Cha-ching!

3. Authors have to do the same amount of work to market regardless of how they publish.

As publishers’ methods of marketing are near extinct, and they won’t reinvent, authors are forced to use all the means at their disposal to get the word out about their book. And guess what: regardless of how you publish, your marketing process is going to look exactly the same.

4. Self-publishing options are getting better, leaner, meaner, and more readily available.

Every day, we’re hearing about another consolidation, merger, or bankruptcy in traditional publishing. Where are all of those talented publishing professionals going? They’re freelancing. And they’re not just freelancing for their previous employers–they’re freelancing for indies. I can name dozens of editors, designers, proofreaders, etc. who have previously been employed by a traditional publisher and now work for indie authors.


Authors want and deserve creative control over what audiences they reach and how to reach them. And, since authors are doing all of the (effective) marketing, they want the rewards. Simple, right?

Genese Davis is an indie author we worked with whose new-adult gamer-fiction title, The Holder’s Dominion, just launched today. She was encouraged by multiple agents and publishers to change her genre to YA–but to Davis, doing so would shift the whole mission of the book. In an article she wrote for  Publishers Weekly January 2013, Davis said,

 When it came down to it, I couldn’t change the heart of the story. The whole foundation revolves around that ‘shove’ we all go through into adulthood. When we leave the nest, we’re forced to grow up quickly. Beyond our high school days are powerful new adult stories that begin and blossom in our late teens and early 20s. Inevitably, I had to rebel, go rogue, and keep my book as the crossover genre it was then, and proclaim it proudly as the new adult genre it is now.

Davis decided to forge into uncharted territory rather than change her book to fit in someone else’s vision. And it’s already paying off! To date, she has already pre-sold hundreds of copies. And guess what else? She’s not paying a publisher back with those sales–she’s paying herself back.

(We’ll be interviewing Davis next week about her launch and marketing efforts–be sure to check in!)

Authors: Have you had to make the decision to publish traditionally or go indie? What did you decide? Why? What challenges did you face? Are you glad you made the decision you did?



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  1. I’m indie, but wouldn’t mind a contract if it was good enough. I have a “big” project I plan on pitching to an agent, but if it get’s rejected no biggie I know it will do well on it’s own.

    • I always go into a panic when I comment on your blog and realize that something isn’t capitalized : )

  2. When I began freelance editing more than a decade ago, all of my clients were traditional publishers. Now, it is about 50/50, and indie authors continue to gain ground in my client list. Self-publishing has definitely become more attractive for many authors, especially as the costs go down and the quality improves.

    • It’s been fun watching the evolution! What’s the biggest thing you learned in working with indie authors?

  3. After my first 5 books were traditionally published, 2 by a NY house and 3 by small presses, I have self-published my last 5 books and I have never regretted it for a moment. I LOVE self-publishing! I love having total control, I love designing the cover and packaging the book, I love setting the price and making the book exactly the way I had envisioned it, I’m even learning to love the marketing. It’s a lot of work, but the products are quality, it’s affordable and it’s fun! It’s a great time to be an Indie!

  4. Respect to Genese Davis. It takes guts to follow your instincts and not be pressured by an agent to change fundamental things about your work. When I had an agent I did anything and everything she told me to, whether it felt right or not. I regret that now. Following orders didn’t result in a publishing deal anyway, and I’m currently self-published. That’s not to say I wouldn’t attempt the traditional route again at some point, but next time around, I’d definitely stick to my guns a lot more. Thanks for an interesting article.

  5. I wonder how long it will take for the majority of authors to get on the Indie bandwagon. I still hear my fellow writers talk about queries and elevator pitches. While a dear friend who is a bestselling author had to completely rewrite her book to please the publisher–the next few years will be very interesting!

  6. I’m indie and wouldn’t have it any other way :)

    I’ve been working almost 20 years “for the man”, selling my brain and taking orders in return for money; being assessed for my performance by folks who only truly care about their scorecards. Of course, I’ve been giving orders and assessing others, myself, without truly caring about them.

    I did that willingly, and in return I’m having a nice life, although it’s not really mine.

    Why would I choose to do it all over again in an area of my true passion? The only reason I write is because I want to be FREE :)

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