Thursday, 4 July 2019

Indie Publishing anyone?

by Jeanette O'Hagan

What is Indie publishing? 

What is Indie publishing?  In the past there were two main routes to publishing - through a traditional publisher or through a vanity press. With the advent on e-books, print-on-demand, and online sales, it's become more and more viable for authors to become their own publishers. This means much more than finishing a book and then banging it up with a cover and no editing or proofing on somewhere like Amazon (though that can happen).  A serious Indie publisher is committed to producing a quality book with professional covers, with well edited and structured content that will connect with readers.

Like most authors, my aim was to be traditionally published. I became involved in Indie publishing through writing short stories and anthologies, first with some hands on involvement with the publication of the Tied in Pink anthology (which included my story, The Herbalist's Daughter) in 2014 and then publishing two anthologies in December 2015 - Let the Sea Roar (editor Madeline Calcutt) and Glimpses of Light (editors Jeanette O'Hagan and Nola Passmore). In 2016 I decided to publish a couple of the short stories and then a novella - Heart of the Mountain. The rest, as they say, is history.

Interview - Pros and Cons of Indie Publishing:

At the recent Omega Writers Toowoomba Retreat I was invited to be on the three-woman panel (along with Anne Hamilton and Ruth Bonetti) about Indie Publishing.  Nola Passmore asked us a number of questions and it was great to get three different perspectives as well as to answer questions from the audience. I've reproduced my answers I'd prepared to the questions below.

‘The Road to Self-Publishing’ Panel

Sat 8 June 2019 

Nola: Very briefly, tell us what you have self-published and the genre/s.

Jeanette: Of my own books

The five novella series Under the Mountain. The first book Heart of the Mountain published in 2016 & the last book, Caverns of the Deep released last month.

Akrad’s Children – first novel in the Akrad’s Legacy series

And a collection of short stories Ruhanna’s Flight and Other Stories

I’ve also been involved as either editor, proof-reader, & /or publisher of a number of anthologies

 Glimpses of Light - editor (with Nola Passmore) & also publisher
 Let the Sea Roar – editor Madeleine Calcutt, I assisted & also published the book
& I helped Victoria Carnell publish her first edition of The Call of the Wattle Bird.

Nola: What led you to take the self-publishing route?

Jeanette: I have a few reasons:

The opportunities to be noticed and accepted by a traditional publisher are extremely limited
I like having creative control and while a Indie publisher takes on the brunt of financial commitments up front, they also receive a greater percentage of royalties in the long run, and are not restricted to the publishers timetable and/or change in direction or focus.

Nola: What tasks did you do yourself in the production of the book/s and what tasks did you outsource? Can you provide tips (or lessons learned) from your involvement in any of those tasks? Any useful resources?

Jeanette: The tasks I do are:

  • Write the book & Initial edits
  • Get ISBNs, & register with Library Catalogue, Goodreads etc.
  • Format both e-book & the print book
  • Cover (in most cases)
  • Uploading the book to Amazon, Draft2Digital, Ingram Spark
  • Send legal copies to National Library of Australia (NLA) & State Library
  • Launch, promotion, special offers
  • I also want to work on distribution - to schools, libraries and bookshops.

And I outsource:

  • Editing & Proofreading
  • Cover (in one case)
The mix will be different for each Indie author and there are services like Book Whispers or Lillypilly Publishing or Australian E-Book Publisher that can provide many of these to Indie authors at reasonable cost without taking control of royalties and/or decision making.

I will say that it's important to outsource at least some of the editing and proofing as it's important to get other eyes on the manuscript.

Nola: What costs were involved in producing the book? How did you fund the project?

Jeanette:  For me the main costs are:

  • Pay for professional editing, proof-reading (this is the biggest cost but important not to skimp)
  • Paying for ISBNs 
  • Set-up costs with Ingram Spark (a Print on Demand publisher with a printer in Australia)
  • Software costs 
  • Cost of giveaways – especially print books for reviews or promotional opportunities or giveaways (most will take ebooks),
  • Admin /Promotion costs – such as POBox subscription, domain name, website hosting, Book Funnel subscription,  etc.
  • Also for events & fairs – Table hire costs, Insurance (Duck for Cover), travel & accommodation for book tables at conventions like Supernova or the Omega Writers Book Fair – and a kind gift from one good friend.
  • Advertising – I’ve done a small amount of Facebook Ads but haven’t had the time or budget to invest in this as yet.

To cover these costs, I’ve invested my own available spending money, cashed some shares, also I’ve done some occasional paid editing & formatting. And I do get some royalties from online sales, one anthology & conventions.

It helps if you have some upfront resources to invest, though there are ways to bypass or reduce some of the costs without skimping on quality - but it generally means more time commitment and slower progress. Of course, with God all things are possible.

Nola Passmore: According to Jane Friedman, an author platform is ‘an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach’. What is the most useful or effective thing you’ve done to build your platform and/or market your book/s?

If I discount the early anthologies (Glimpses of Light & Let the Sea Roar) – then it’s a tie between early online Facebook launches & Conventions – like Supernova and Oz Comic Con. 

Nola: You’re all Christian authors, though not all of you were publishing material that was explicitly Christian. What role did your faith play in your publishing journey?

I felt a clear lead from God that this was what he wanted me to do. While my books are aimed for the general market (and I’ve had many non-Christians read and appreciate my books), I write intentionally from a Christian framework and themes. Faith also keeps me going when I feel discouraged.

Nola: What can readers and other writers do to support Indie authors?

Glad you asked :)

Much the same as any author.

  • Pray & encourage them
  • Beta read if requested or critique groups
  • Buy – or borrow their books (& if not in local library or bookstore or school, ask if they can be ordered) & read them :)  (Okay, so my to-read piles are huge - but I enjoy reading other Indie and Small Press authors).
  • Maybe buy their books for friends and family as gifts.
  • Recommend their books to friends, family, other readers – both in person and online
  • Review and/or blog about their books.
  • Subscribe to their newsletter or patreon
  • Like their FB pages, Twitter or Instagram – like, comment, share or retweet their posts. Follow them on Amazon Central, Bookbub, Goodreads. Add their books to appropriate Goodreads lists and/or ask questions.
  • Attend and participate in launches.
Especially, Active support on Social Media, Buy, Review and Recommend their books - and encourage and pray.

Thanks Nola for some great questions and the opportunity to share a little of the Indie journey which can be exhilarating, moving, lots of fun, discouraging and exhausting but always worthwhile. We walk by faith, not by sight. So as someone blessed me today by saying 'Jenny, keep writing' so I say 'Keep writing.' 

Jeanette O'Hagan spun tales in the world of Nardva from the age of eight. She enjoys writing fantasy, sci-fi, poetry, and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, millennia and cultures. Some involve shapeshifters and magic. Others include space stations, plasma rifles and cyborgs. 

Her stories and poems have also been published in over twenty anthologies - including The Quantum Soul, Challenge Accepted and Tales of Magic and Destiny in 2019, as well as her Under the Mountain series and Akrad's Children, the first book in the Akrad's Legacy series.

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and a Master of Arts (Writing). She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

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  1. A great round-up Jenny. It was a really informative panel and so good to hear everyone's different perspectives. Good on you for all of the hard work you've done in getting those books out there. I'm in awe of your productivity.

    1. Thanks, Nola. Yes, it was great to get Ruth & Annie's perspectives as well. Many different paths to (Indie) publishing. Thanks for organising the panel and giving Indie publishing some limelight :)

  2. I'll be saving this one when it comes through my email subscription! Terrific outline of the process, Jenny. I, too, am in awe of your industry. Hopefully some of your Indie Fairy Dust mojo has rubbed off on me. I'll need all the flight assistance I can get as I work my way through the process.

    You touched on one question I've thought about but not yet researched - you mentioned a PO Box subscription - would you say that's a requirement or a choice? I'm assuming it's for your publishing address, as I've seen it in your books. Is publishing a physical or postal address a necessary requirement for the actual books, or as a contact for reader inquiries, or only in terms of having a registered business address (which I assumed needed to be a physical location)?

    1. Hi Mazzy

      It's a choice. You do need a physical address to register a business name & for an ABN. The main reason I got the Post Office box was that you are required to put an address on Email Newsletters by law (to stop spammers) and as I send out the email to hundreds of subscribers (and maybe one day thousands :) - I'd rather not have my private (family) address on the bottom of the email. Getting a POBox was around that.

    2. Oh really? I didn't know you needed a physical address on email newsletters. Is that part of the new regulations? I'm sure I've seen many that don't have that.

  3. Good summary. I especially like the lists of costs and tasks.

  4. Thanks, Jenny. You are an inspiration :). I feel drawn to indie publishing but It’s a tough world out there. I know God will honour your faithfulness.

    1. Thanks, Sue for that assurance :) Yes, it's not easy. I don't going the traditional route is necessarily easy either. Either route suits different people for different reasons, and, of course, it's possible to by a hybrid author too - with some India published books and some through a traditional publisher. All the best with your publishing journey.