What’s the Difference Between Self-Publishing and Indie-Publishing?

Publishing labels are important and using them properly is critical

Difference Between Self-Publishing and Indie-Publishing?I often use the terms of self-publishing and indie-publishing interchangeably. I shouldn’t.

They mean different things. So what’s the difference?

That’s a great question. I turned to my friend Google to investigate. It turns out Google doesn’t know. It simply confirmed a lack of consensus. Here are the findings of my research:

  • Self-publishing and indie-publishing are not the same thing. However, the difference is a matter of perspective.
  • Self-publishing and indie-publishing both emerge as alternatives to traditional publishing. And we need those alternatives.
  • Self-publishing may be a subset of indie-publishing.
  • The difference between self-publishing and indie-publishing may boil down to attitude.

Here are my thoughts on the matter.

Self-Publishing

  • Self-publishing finds its roots in vanity publishing, a pay-to-be-published model. (Though four years ago I asserted that attitudes have changed and traditional publishing is the new vanity publishing, offering a stamp of validation that I, for one, want.)
  • Self-publishing is all about art, and making money from art isn’t the point—or so they say.
  • The motivation of self-publishing is making books available to the public.
  • The hardcore self-publisher does everything, from cover design, to editing, to interior layout, to marketing. Unfortunately it shows in the final product. And for that reason I hate reading self-published books.
  • Self-publishing finds its place with the writing hobbyist.

Indie-Publishing

  • Indie-publishing finds its roots in the entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Indie-publication is a for-profit endeavor with a clear objective to monetize the value of books as a business.
  • The motivation of indie-publishing is profit from the art of books.
  • The indie publisher assembles a team, tapping others to assist with the publishing process, from cover design, to editing, to interior layout, to marketing.
  • Indie-publishing finds its place with the writing professional.

I view my writing as both art and a business opportunity. Click To TweetFrom all this, I realize that when I say I plan to self-publish some of my books, I really mean indie-publishing. Though I view my writing as art, I also see the results as a business opportunity. And I’ve been an entrepreneur longer than I’ve been a writer—though not by much.

Yes, I still have a goal to traditionally publish some books. I also plan to indie-publish other books. Together they will help me to one day make a living writing full time.

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When We Should and Shouldn’t Self-Publish

Writers need to balance the considerations of self-publishing and traditional publishing

When We Should and Shouldn’t Self-PublishThere is much debate in the writing community about going with a traditional publisher versus self-publishing. Neither is a panacea. Both have their advantages and their disadvantages. Considerations include career objectives, time investments, speed to publishing, potential revenue, and personal goals. Though I am pursuing a traditional publishing deal, I will also self-publish (indie-publish) other works.

The key is to know when it’s the right time to self-publish.

Here’s When You Shouldn’t Self-Publish:

  • Publishers Reject Your Book: It’s an unwise reaction to self-publish your book just because a couple publishers said “no.” Some well-known books and classics were rejected scores of times, but their authors didn’t give up and kept trying new avenues. And I’m sure they continued to work on improving their book in the process.
  • Agents Won’t Sign You: The same thing applies with agents. Agents only make money when they sell books, so if they don’t think they can sell your book, they won’t take you on as a client. Not being able to land an agent may be the worst reason to self-publish because you’re probably not ready.
  • You’re Tired of Hearing “No”: Rejection is a part of writing. It’s often a sign that you or your book isn’t ready. Self-publishing prematurely will just give more people a reason to reject your book.
  • You’re Weary of Waiting: Traditional publishing takes time and requires patience. Being impatient with long production times is not (usually) a sound reason to self-publish.

Here’s When You Should Consider Self-Publishing:

  • You’ve Written The Best Book Possible: When your book is the best it can be you might want to consider self-publishing it. This means you have carefully edited and proofed it, you’ve received feedback from others, and you’ve hired people to make it shine.
  • Your Book Has Been Professionally Edited: There are three types of editing and you need a different editor for each type. Usually you need to hire these people. If someone gives you free editing, you often get what you pay for. First there’s a development edit (the big picture stuff), copy-editing (sentence structure, flow, and word choice), and proofreading (grammar, punctuation, and typos). There are three types of editing and you need a different editor for each type. Click To Tweet
  • You Will Invest In Your Book: In addition to hiring editors, you will need to pay for a front cover design. Since “a book is judged by its cover,” don’t skimp on this. Other considerations include the book jacket, the interior layout, and file conversion. Each one costs and your book will look “off” if you try to do these yourself.
  • You Are Ready to Market Your Book: Successful self-publishing requires marketing. While traditional publishers will also expect you to help promote your book, when you self-publish, it all falls to you.

Consider both of these lists before you self-publish your next book.

Recommended Podcasts for Writers and Content Producers

Podcasts provide practical on-the-go instruction – and entertainment

Recommended Podcasts for Writers and Content ProducersI listen to many podcasts, between five to ten hours a week. Most cover writing or publishing, and a few (not listed here) address other areas of interest. I listen in the car, during lunch, and as I work around the house. I access all through iTunes and listen on my iPod.

I select podcasts to help me become a better writer and producer of content. Of course easy-to-listen-to hosts, as well as overall quality are also important. With so many options to pick from, I don’t want to waste my time.

Here is a list of my current, can’t-miss podcasts, in order of preference:

I also have a string of alternate shows and listen to some episodes based on the practical application of specific topics. They are all good, professional productions, but since I have limited time to listen, I must be selective:

  • On the Media considers all things media related, some of which includes writing, publishing, and books; just under an hour, weekly: www.wnyc.org/otm-podcast
  • Story Grid Podcast discusses the art of writing a book: under an hour, weekly: storygrid.simplecast.fm
  • The Portfolio Life (Jeff Goins) covers how creative people can build a portfolio of work to make a difference; up to an hour, weekly: goinswriter.com/portfolio-life
  • ProBlogger Podcast shares tips to be a successful blogger; at least weekly, varying lengths: problogger.com/podcast
  • This is Your Life with Michael Hyatt looks at intentional leadership, with references to writing, marketing, and platform building; thirty to forty-five minutes, weekly: michaelhyatt.com/thisisyourlife
  • Social Media for Authors is no longer being produced, but it does have relevant information; up to fifteen minutes: www.socialmediajustforwriters.com

This list is long and no doubt, daunting. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Pick one to check out and go from there.

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May is National Short Story Month (Sorry for the late notice)

Last week I was disappointed when I learned that May is National Short Story Month. Gee, the month was all but over before discovered this. We could have spent the whole month talking about short story, but I missed the opportunity. Maybe next year.

A short story is one category of short-form fiction, generally with a length of 1,000 to 7,000 words. As a person used to writing and editing 1,000 word articles, a 1,000 word short story feels right to me.

Until recently there weren’t many options for writers to publish short stories (or any fiction shorter than a novel, for that matter), but with the advent of e-readers, new opportunities have opened up. With e-readers and self-publishing, the short story has been resuscitated as a viable option for writers.

Short stories can fill many needs for authors:

  • Offer a creative outlet
  • Supply a way to make some extra cash
  • Provide a use for good fiction ideas that aren’t extensive enough to fill a novel-length work
  • Flesh out minor characters from a novel, possibly providing backstory that novel fans will devour
  • Present content for fans to fill the gap between novel releases
  • Fit nicely in a short story anthology
  • Be compiled into your own short story collection, something traditional publishers have avoided but is viable when self-publishing.

I primarily write nonfiction, but I dabble in fiction. While I feel confident in my ability to write nonfiction and to discuss writing in general, when it comes to skills unique to fiction, I feel I have so much to learn. Writing short stories is a great place to start. Let me hone my skills on shorter works before diving into longer ones.

If you write mainly fiction, where do short stories fit in? If you primarily write nonfiction, do short stories offer a diversion or perhaps a creative outlet?

Does the Thought of Marketing Your Book Make You Squirm?

This blog is about writing. An important aspect of writing is marketing what we write, first to get it published and then to get it read. I don’t talk much about promotion because, like many authors, I don’t like to do it; I don’t even want to think about it.

Robin Mellom's book Perfect TimingWhen Robin Mellom told me she was thinking about self-publishing her next YA book, Perfect Timing, I encouraged her to do it and promised I’d help get the word out. Thankfully it’s much easier to “market” someone else’s book than your own.

Here are some easy steps we can do to promote another author’s work (which we can later apply to ourselves when the time comes). Consider these seven options:

Blog: We can blog about the author and the book. This can be direct or indirect. Even a brief mention with a link can help. We can also post a review of the book on our blog.

Amazon: We can review the book on Amazon. While every author wants five-star reviews, a book with only five-star reviews is suspect, so give an honest rating. Perhaps more important than the rating is the actual review itself and especially the headline we give it. If you spot another review that is favorable, mark it as “helpful” so more people can see and read it. More Amazon reviews mean more exposure to prospects by Amazon and more people likely to buy the book.

Goodreads: On Goodreads we can first flag the book as one we “want to read.” Then, as we read it, we can post our progress. When we’re finished, we mark it as “done.” Each of these steps shows interest in the book and helps other Goodreads readers to discover it. Of course, we can also write a review on Goodreads. Some book-marketing gurus think Goodreads is more important than Amazon.

Facebook: We can make status updates about the book and the author. For example, “I can’t wait to read Robin Mellom’s new book Perfect Timing” or “Perfect Timing was a real page turner.” Of course include links and even the cover. We can also follow the author; then “like” or comment on his or her updates. With Facebook, the more likes and comments an update receives, the more people who will see it.

Twitter: We can tweet about the author and the book. Use their Twitter handle and book hashtag. We can also follow the author and retweet their tweets. All these efforts increase their reach on Twitter.

Pinterest: Technically with Pinterest we’re only supposed to post our own images or ones we have the right to post, but what author would object to us pinning their cover? The more places it appears, the better.

In Person: Although we think about using social media for marketing, we can also go old-school and talk about books in person with our friends and family.

Try some of these options to help your friends promote their books. Then when it comes time to market your own, it will be a bit easier.

(And please check out Robin Mellom’s new book Perfect Timing.)

What Are Your Writing Goals for 2014?

Although I do not make New Year’s resolutions, I do set annual goals. (The two are different, but I won’t go into that here.) I set personal goals, spiritual goals, financial goals, and writing goals. Not only do I form new goals, but I also review last year’s goals.

For 2013, I made four writing goals. (I also had several other secondary goals.) I want my goals to stretch me. Between pushing myself with my writing, the distractions of life, and other opportunities that arose, I only completed three of my four goals. Although disappointed over the missed goal, I know it was quite a reach, so I celebrate my three successes.

Now, I look forward. For 2014, I have these writing goals.

  1. To land an agent: Technically, this is an ill-advised goal because the outcome is outside of my control. Yes, I can query agents (one of last year’s goals), but I’m not able to make them decide to represent me.
  2. To overhaul my website: Yes, I did this two years ago, but it’s time to do it again. It needs a cleaner look, with easier navigation, more substance, and less minutia.
  3. To self-publish some of my existing writing: I know, this is a vague goal. I should make a list or at least quantify it by stating how many. The reality is that I want to do at least one and hope for more, which one I pick doesn’t matter. This could include publishing my research, repurposing blog posts, and reworking speeches. At least a dozen ideas come to mind.
  4. To rework my dissertation into a more accessible format: This is a carryover from last year.
  5. To repackage and republish A Faith Manifesto: I picked the wrong name for this book, which resulted in the wrong cover. The book was judged by its appearance and found lacking. I believe in the content and need to give it the package it deserves.
  6. To relaunch The Blog Pile into an author anthology blog: The basis for this transformation is in place. I simply need to put in the time to make it happen.

I share my writing goals to encourage you to make your own (and for some self-accountability).

What are your writing goals for 2014?

Seven Tips For Successful Blogging

Seven Tips For Successful BloggingIf blogging is a form of self-publishing, then is writing a blog post the same as other writing? Well, yes and no. While there are similarities, there are also some key differences.

If you want to blog, here are seven blogging tips to be a successful blogger:

1) Make Your Title Search Engine Friendly: Forget clever titles. They may work well in a magazine, but they fail to work in the online world. Instead, aim for SEO (search engine optimization) and to get readers’ attention. If search engines don’t like you, no one will find you.

2) Have One Point Per Post: The point of this post is how to blog successfully. The sub-points reinforce that. Anything else is a distraction.

3) Keep it Short: Our online attention span is fleeting, so keep posts succinct. Since search engines need about 300 words to index a page, use that size as a minimum. Lengths of 300 to 500 words is a good goal—unless your readers like long-form content.

4) Use Lists: Numbered lists or bullet points make your post easy to read. (Like this post.)

5) Be Scannable: People tend to scan while reading online. The careful use of bold text aids in scanning. Sometimes italics helps, but avoid underlining because it looks like a link. And skip using all caps because it looks like you’re SCREAMING.

6) Link to Your Blog: When you make relevant comments on other blogs, link back to yours. But never spam them or leave generic feedback; it will end up biting you. Also, link from one post to another, as I did in the opening sentence.

7) Ask For Comments: Blogs are about engagement. Ask a question to start the conversation. Though I vacillate on this, if you want comments on your blog, you need to encourage readers to share their thoughts.

Book Review: How Do I Decide? Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

How Do I Decide? Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing (A Field Guide for Authors)

By Rachelle Gardner (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)
Book Review: How Do I Decide? Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing
In How Do I Decide? Rachelle Gardner gives an unbiased explanation of the pros and cons of self-publishing versus traditional publishing. She starts with a brief review of how publishing has changed in the past 15 years, followed by a summary of the basic tenets as publishing currently stands and then seguing into an exposé of the emerging self-publishing option.

As the chapters unfold, Rachelle shares the strengths and weaknesses of both publishing opportunities, connecting them with the personal strengths and weaknesses, the individual likes and dislikes of each writer who is weighing these options. In doing so, Gardner does not attempt to steer readers towards one conclusion over the other, but gives an open-minded presentation of each in a balanced manner.

After explaining both options, Rachelle unveils a detailed checklist to guide readers in selecting the publishing option that best matches their personality, experience, goals, and strengths. The book concludes with a valuable resource list that covers all aspects of book publishing.

Having followed this discussion for several years – and as someone who is simultaneously exploring both options – this concise book is the best resource I’ve seen. I highly recommend it as a starting point for any writer seeking publication, as well as published authors wishing to better navigate the rapidly changing path of book publication.

[How Do I Decide? Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing (A Field Guide for Authors), by Rachelle Gardner. Published by RL Gardner Publishing, 2012, ASIN: B00B4JRNN8, Kindle; $3.99]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan

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Online Writing Course: Finding Your Audience

Over the past few months, I’ve taken a writing course from my new online friend Jeff Goins. It’s the most significant thing I’ve done this year (perhaps ever) to grow as a writer. And with as many things I’ve done, that’s saying a lot.

I was part of the inaugural class and now Jeff is ready to start a second one. I encourage you to consider it. There are four modules, each with several lessons, many short assignments, a slew of recorded interviews and teachings, and unlimited opportunities to network with the class on-line.

It’s called Tribe Writers and there’s a special rate if you sign up by Monday, December 17. If you missed the deadline, submit your name and email and you will receive notice of when the next class starts.

If this sounds like a sales pitch, I’m sorry. It’s just that I’m that excited about this online course..

Because of this class, I have a new self-published e-book coming out in a few weeks, A Faith Manifesto — and I have Jeff to thank for it.

[This is an affiliate link. I only recommend what I use, and I’m sold on this course.]

Get Published Quick

I recently read of a published author who advises writers on how to snag a book deal through blogging. Another says social media, specifically Facebook, is the key, while a third advocates the aggressive use of Twitter. Then there’s the countervailing strategy to not waste time online. Others say give your work away, either for a while or forever, (which reminds me of the one-liner: “We lose money on every sale, but we make up for it in volume.) Then there’s newsletters and email marketing. And don’t forget self-publishing.

These are all heralded as strategies to get published quickly.

Each of these self-proclaimed experts has empirical evidence to back them up: their own experience. “It worked for me,” they reason, “so it can work for you, too.”

But one success does not a strategy make. A singular occurrence may be a result of good timing, a confluence of factors unlikely to be repeated, or other unidentified causes.

Their path to success may be unique to them and not normative. As the fine print warns, “Individual results may vary.”

Until their advice can be reliably repeated, their experience is little more than an anecdote . Unfortunately, once a particular tactic can be quantifiably verified, it may already be passé and no longer viable.

So instead of chasing the latest “get published quick” scheme, focus on the time proven strategy of producing really great work and being patient.