Monday 14 October 2013

Publishing Models Part 2

by Narelle Atkins 

Last Monday I provided definitions for the different publishing models. I also posed the question: How can writers make an educated decision on whether or not they want to pursue traditional publishing or subsidy publishing or self-publishing (indie)? 

Today I’m going to look at indie publishing and the market opportunities for indie authors. 

Indie or Self-Publishing

To recap, indie or self-publishing can be defined as an author publishing their own book and controlling all aspects of the book production process. The author assumes the financial burden and risk of publishing their own book. The author is responsible for editing, cover art, marketing and distribution.

An important word in this definition is ‘control’. An indie author chooses exactly how their book will be produced. They may decide to do everything themselves, or contract specific services. This is very different to buying a self-publishing package from a publisher. A self-publishing package that provides a one-stop complete package with a publishing contract is a subsidy publishing arrangement. 

Traditional Publishing vs. Indie Publishing

A question many writers are now asking is would they be better off seeking traditional publishing opportunities or self-publishing indie books? The answer depends on a writer’s individual circumstances and their unique goals for their writing career. Is their writing a hobby or a career? Do they have ministry or business goals? 

Is there a defined market in traditional publishing for their book? Authors of non-fiction niche market books may need to find alternative publishing options because their books are considered too niche for a traditional publisher. Traditional publishers like their non-fiction authors to have a platform so they can generate book sales from the author’s followers and pre-existing fan base.

Many authors now fall into the category of the hybrid author. These authors are exploring opportunities in both traditional publishing and indie self-publishing. 

Indie publishing

Time and money is required to successfully indie publish. Indie authors have to either fulfil or contract all the roles in the book production process plus market and distribute their books. 

Amazon Kindle and Smashwords provide e-book distribution channels for indie books. Indie authors can upload a book for free and pay a percentage of the cover price from each book sale. 

Discoverability can be a big challenge for all authors. How can authors make their book stand out among the millions of books already available from online vendors? How can authors find and build a readership? These are a few of the very real challenges facing indie authors, who don’t have the benefit of any marketing or distribution support from a publisher. 

It is time consuming to write, produce, distribute and market books. In theory, indie authors have less time available to write than traditionally published authors because they have additional roles and responsibilities that are usually undertaken by publishers. The flip side is indie authors pay for all the fixed costs in the book production process, create their own marketing plans, pay a set percentage for distribution and keep all the profits.

Indie authors are effectively running a small business that could be lucrative if they can successfully market an excellent product to their target audience.

NARELLE ATKINS writes contemporary inspirational romance and lives in Canberra, Australia. She sold her debut novel, set in Australia, to Harlequin's Love Inspired Heartsong Presents line in a 6-book contract. Her first book, Falling for the Farmer, will be a February 2014 release.

Narelle is a co-founder with Jenny Blake of the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (ACRBA).

Twitter: @NarelleAtkins


  1. Hmm. A lot to mull over, Narelle. I think I'd prefer the traditional over Indie publishing as I'm not business oriented. Still, for those who are, why not? It's actually breaking in tothe former which is a huge hurdle for Australian authors.

    1. Rita, yes, it is easier for those who are less business savvy to work with a traditional publisher. The popularity of indie publishing will not change the existing market realities for new authors wanting to sell to traditional publishers. Writers have more options and can select the mode of publishing that best suits their needs.

  2. Thanks again Narelle for this comprehensive series. I think we'll see more authors following the "hybrid" model especially to kick start a career. Build a following that attracts traditional publishers.

    I think one of the real challenges with self-publishing is the need to be your own salesperson. Yes, all authors need to do this, however, when self-publishing you don't really get any assistance and so you've got to be spruiking all the time which can be uncomfortable for many of us.

    1. Thanks Ian. The hybrid model is attractive to many authors because it provides flexibility and multiple income streams.

      The burden of marketing that falls on indie authors is huge, especially for those who don't have a pre-existing fan base. I can understand why many indie authors feel overwhelmed by the whole marketing thing, especially if they had mistakenly believed they could post a book on Kindle or Smashwords and sit back and watch the sales roll in.

  3. I love this relatively new term 'hybrid' ... It's kind of like having it both ways.. or having it all... Great post. Thanks Narelle. xx

  4. Thanks Michelle. Hybrid is a great description for the path many authors will take in the evolving world of publishing. It's an exciting time to be an author and have multiple opportunities to explore :)

  5. Self-publishing gives an author a lot more control over the publishing process, and this can be a blessing and a curse. The plus is it means authors get to keep more of the sale price of the book (up to 70%, while some trade contracts pay as little as 15%).

    The down side is that the self-published author has to find their own 'tribe' of helpers—an editor or two, a proofreader, a cover designer, a website designer and a legal advisor, not to mention people who will promote the book on their website or write a review. All of this takes time, and many cost money as well.

    On this basis, I can see the advantage in gaining a traditional contract, using that to develop a solid fan base, and then considering self-publishing as a future option, as Brandilyn Collins and Tamara Leigh are doing.

    And Rita makes a good point about the business aspects. Not everyone has the gift of administration. Does this mean there might be a place for freelancers to provide some of these broader business skills to authors?

  6. Iola, thanks for sharing your assessment of the pros and cons for authors considering indie publishing. There are definitely more opportunities opening up for freelancers who can provide a range of competitively priced services to indie authors.

  7. Very informative post, Narelle. So many opportunities for writers these days. Thanks for expanding on this timely topic.


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