Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Indie Publishing, One Author's Decision to E-Publish Herself

Hi guys, as you're all aware, self publishing through Kindle and other electronic formats is becoming more and more common. Self publishing used to be the domain of those who couldn't or wouldn't even try to get agents, but with a new shakeup of the publishing industry, the roadmap is changing.

My Clarion West classmate, Susan Ee, indie published her first novel, and was kind enough to allow me to repost a blog post she wrote about that decision. I very highly recommend her book, something I don't do lightly.  I think she's got a lot of interesting things to say. Here's her post (it originally appeared on Nicole Zoltack's site):

When I finished writing my novel, Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, Book 1), I had a good feeling about being able to attract an agent and a major publisher. It's a dark fantasy about an angel, a kick-ass girl and the end of the world. What's not to love? :)
But instead of querying agents and trying for a traditional publishing deal, I chose to be an indie author. This was a big surprise to me and to others who know that I’ve worked hard for years in preparation for a traditional writing career. I studied writing through the Iowa's Writers' Workshop and Clarion West. I've had stories published in magazines and anthologies likeRealms of Fantasy and The Dragon and the Stars. I even had invitations by two respected agents to submit a novel based on the quality of other writing they'd seen. 
So I’ve been asked why I chose to go indie. Here are the factors I considered.
Wild West Ebook opportunities - I love finding opportunities that the chaos of a new industry can bring. I love the nimbleness it offers--make a mistake, you can bounce back within hours rather than years, so I feel a lot more free to try different things. You can find ways to forge a fresh path because all the potential paths are fresh. Once the industry matures, those paths will have already been forged and many of them will be closed off to newbies. For someone like me, it could be a golden opportunity to find an audience faster and possibly grow it for longer than I can in the traditional publishing world.
Now vs. later - "Angels are peaking now." This statement by a friend haunted me for months. Although I don't know if angel stories are actually peaking, it's a certainty that angels will not have the staying power of vampires. Since it can easily be 2 years from the time you finish your book to the time it is offered to the public by a traditional publisher, who knows what readers' interest in angel stories will be by then? I know there's interest now. In epublishing, the time scale is more on the order of 1 or 2 months from the last polish of the book to the first offering to the public. This was a major factor for me.
Marketing - this was the one area that would have won me over to traditional publishing even if all the other factors pointed toward going indie. If I was sure that a traditional publisher would do serious marketing on my behalf, I would have been knocking on their door, begging them to take a look at my manuscript. But the more I looked into that possibility, the more I realized that's probably a pipe dream. New authors have to market their books and somehow rise above the noise. That's all there is to it.
Competition - as a new author in bookstores, what are my chances of successfully competing against the big authors with marketing budgets ten or a hundred times bigger than mine? Not very good. But as an indie author of ebooks who can undercut publishers, I have a fair shot at getting my book noticed among other indie books with similar marketing budgets.
Did I make the right decision?

Angelfall has been available for a month and it’s been a wild ride. It has gone as high as being #48 on the bestseller list for Kindle Dark Fantasy and somewhere in the 50's for Kindle Fantasy Series. It's currently ranked #1 in top rated Kindle Dark Fantasy, #1 in top rated Kindle Fantasy Series, gone as high as #1 in Kindle's hot new dark fantasy releases and #7 in Kindle's hot fantasy series new releases. But it's also fallen off these lists all together, with some of them coming back and some of them not.
It's an emotional roller coaster watching it go up and down and hopefully back up again. Is this better than how it would have been through a traditional publisher, assuming I could have gone there? No idea. Who knows what will happen after the first month?
I do feel that in order for it to be a fair comparison, I should actually wait the 1 1/2 - 2 years it would have taken before my book would have come out through a traditional publisher. How many books will I have sold by then?
Although it’s still too early to tell, I feel that it was probably the right decision to become an indie author. Why? Because if the traditional publishing route is not the clear choice, then I’d rather ride the crest of the changes in the industry with all my rights to the Angelfall series intact. The industry is changing every week. Who knows what the landscape will look like by the time my second or third book comes out? It’s possible for me to move from being an indie author to a traditionally published author. But it’s extremely unlikely that I can move my series from being traditionally published to being indie published without having to wait many years before I can buy them back.

I expect to have a better idea of the overall picture by September.Angelfall is on the to-read list of a fair number of book bloggers. I expect the bulk of the reviews to come out sometime around August. So far, there have been five blog reviews with all of them giving Angelfall 5-stars. I'm thrilled! But I'm also terrified at the expectation this causes. :)  By September, I should be able to see the impact of the blog community and have a better idea of the long term picture.
So I invite you to come back then for an update if you're curious. And in the meantime, may I suggest that you check outAngelfall? :)

Warmest wishes,


  1. I haven't thought about indie publishing or traditional yet, but Susan has some great points. I'll have to check Angelfall out. I love the cover!

  2. This is a really good post! Thanks for sharing it.

    I'm still going to give traditional publishing a try, but it is nice to know there are other options out there.

  3. In thinking about this, one really significant thing Susan E has going for her - she knows she could have made it in traditional publishing. She already had offers from agents. That's a good sign. She wasn't turning to self-publishing out of desperation. It was a business decision.

  4. Awesome, thank you for sharing! I've heard so many (great) reasons for going indie lately that it's really starting to have an impact on my choices for the books I have coming down the line...

  5. @Rebecca, yes, I chose to repost Susan's post because she's not an unpublished rookie. She's a solid author with professional short story sales under her belt and real interest from agents for her novels. For that reason, I think it's worth listening to what she has to say, because yes, the indie field also has people who couldn't sell traditionally thinking they can hit it big in e-books.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us Susan. It is similar to my own in so many ways. I'll be checking your novel out!

  7. Thanks for the post and recommendation, Emily!

    Madeline - I love the cover too! :)

    Rebecca & Susan- yeah, it's great that we now have multiple options.

    Heather - it's always nice to know we have company, isn't it? :)

  8. Emily and Susan, thanks for sharing. Susan, I enjoyed seeing your reasoning. It sounds like a wonderful book and I just bought it on Nook! Best wishes!!

  9. It's a quick read, Jonene, which isn't to say it's short. A couple of my friends and I have all reported blowing through it in a day, and all of us read enough books to know better than to let that happen!

  10. Emily, I love a good fast read! Can't wait. Thanks again for sharing this post and book!

  11. Such an interesting post. Indie publishing definitely has it's draw. I really enjoyed hearing the why behind your story. Best of Luck!

  12. Jonene - Thanks for your interest! I hope you enjoy it! Would love to hear what you think of it.

    Leisha - Thanks for the good wishes! Glad you all find it interesting.

  13. Great post. I love reading stories about why authors decide to self publish just as much as I love reading the 'how I got my agent' posts. It's going to become the rite of passage as more writers go Indie. I'll def. check out Angelfall. Thanks Susan for providing the link in my comments!

  14. Thanks, Laura. Glad you got something out of it. :)

    BTW, the first 5 chapters of Angelfall is on my site: www.susanee.com

  15. Susan, I finished Angelfall on our vacation. It was indeed a fast read and hard to put down. The plotline hummed from the very first page to the last terrifying one. I liked the main characters and worried what was going to happen to them. I cringed, then cringed, then cringed some more. A few parts were more graphic than I’m used to. It’s not for the faint of heart, but definitely intriguing, a killer page turner, and very well written. I hope you do well!

  16. What's funny is that I was re-reading Revelation right around the time I read Angelfall, and towards the end of the book I was going, "Oh, no... she's not going to literally show-" *cringe*. I am both looking forward to and dreading the next installment, because one thing I know about Susan, she doesn't pull punches when the story gets dark, and at least one plotline promises to be very dark. At Clarion West, she was one of the most visual writers in the group (not surprising that she's also a filmmaker now too).

    If you'd be so kind as to hop over to Amazon to rate the book, that kind of thing is extremely useful to any writer, indie or otherwise. We should do that for any fellow crew member here in the Cove.

  17. Hi there, awesome site. I thought the topics you posted on were very interesting. I tried to add your RSS to my feed reader and it a few. take a look at it, hopefully I can add you and follow.


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