Why I chose to be an indie author rather than seek a book deal (for now)


If you’re a first-time author trying to understand the pros and cons of the traditional and self-publishing routes, there’s good and bad news: you don’t need to decide between the two until you’ve actually written and edited a complete manuscript.

Whichever path you take, you want to give your work the best chance of being read, enjoyed and shared. The way to do that is to focus on quality. For your manuscript (not your finished book, that entails more), ideally that means:

  • writing and editing several drafts yourself

  • hiring a professional editor to review or edit your manuscript

  • incorporating the editor’s feedback (it’s still your work, you don’t have to apply each suggestion, but it’s wise to trust a professional)

  • agreeing with the editor on the best version of the manuscript that will serve your goal and be most satisfying for your prospective reader.

If you’re just starting out and you’ve an eye to the future (or you’re simply curious) hopefully my decision process around publishing options will be insightful. 

My 4 key reasons for self-publishing

I decided to self-publish my first book so I could:

  • intimately understand the end-to-end process of writing and publishing a book

  • maintain creative control of each part of that process

  • maintain all rights to the book, unless I specifically decided otherwise

  • not have others’ deadlines imposed upon me, which could affect quality.

Also, I knew from 12 years’ attendance at various writers’ festivals that professional authors and agents advise that publishing independently doesn’t preclude anyone from looking for a publishing contract in future. My reasoning: having a title I’d produced could confirm my work has an audience, which would certainly be of interest to any prospective publishing house.

Between confessing “I’d like to write a book” and actually publishing a professionally-polished ebook — and potentially creating a pick-up-worthy paperback available for sale in bookstores — there’s a lot to be done.

I had no idea how much when I started. But I wanted to do it all myself at least once so if I did seek an agent and a publisher in future, it would be an informed decision with a clear understanding of what I would lose and gain.

haven’t written anything yet? here’s a tip

Are you agonising over the independent (‘indie’) vs traditional publishing route before you have a complete first draft?

If so, I’d suggest the beast of Resistance has taken hold. ‘Resistance’ is described by Steven Pressfield in The War of Art, as a self-sabotaging force which acts against any person in pursuit of a creative goal. The greater the goal, the greater the resistance.

Don’t worry, if you’re on the look out for it, you’ll come to recognise Resistance in all its forms by the time you’ve finished writing your book — hint: it’s a shape-shifter. Just don’t let it be the reason you don’t start.

(The War of Art is a brilliant read, and a must for any artist trying to wrangle their own will to begin, and keep going.)

So, back to basics

My journey from ‘writer’ to ‘author’ began with 3 simple ideas. I would commit to the highest quality I could create, and:

  • test my self-edited drafts with beta readers (including professional writers and editors, in addition to ‘general readers’) and analyse their feedback

  • hire the best professional editor, proofreader and cover designer I could

  • find trusted people to give direction as I accrued knowledge along the way.

That’s enough to start. So, please start. Your future self will thank you.

**

P.S. Readers are enjoying the result of these efforts outlined above, in GO: A memoir of wanderlust and anxiety. As one book lover put it, “Start this book to read the author’s story; finish it to find your own”. Check it out and see where to buy it, here.