Writing Life: Is Indie Worth It – A Novice’s Point of View

So, earlier this week, someone asked me if independent publishing was “worth it”, and I had to sit back and take a good look. I’m not making anywhere near what I would call a living wage, so I thought about it:

My first response was this: Well, it's not a get-rich-quick scheme. And it's a lot of work. Ask me in twelve months’ time when I haven't been neglecting the release schedule. Sales plummet when releases aren't regular, and short work doesn't sell well. If I had to weigh profit against effort right this minute, I'd say no. If I were to take into consideration the sales when I *was* putting things out or writing regularly, I would say I could work towards a living in the young adult and romance genres in the next five or so years. So, now, I'm working at maintaining a regular release of short work, getting the young adult back on-line first, and then following with a mix of novel-length dark fantasy and romance, but I also write under different pen names, and that means it can take longer to make a living wage. I don't expect to be doing that for around five years, and could be looking at up to ten. I also need to get better cover art, but I can't afford it, so that could slow things down until I have a day job again... *if* I have a day job again. All the research I've done, indicates making a living is possible if you put in the time and the effort, and that time to making that wage varies between 5-10 years of consistent effort (and could take longer)... and consistency has been my bugbear. You'll never know if you don't give it a shot.

And then I sat back and thought about it some more, and said this: Oh -forgot to add - being able to enjoy my writing, being able to write what I like, and not having to stress about a mythical market, THAT makes independent publishing worth being mocked for not having a traditional contract, being accused of publishing yourself because you're not good enough, being treated like an outsiders by other writers. ALSO not having to worry if my work will ever see a reader, or how long it will remain available to readers, or if I am being stiffed on payments by publishers THAT makes it worth it. Making 60-70% on my cover price and not 7-25% THAT makes it worth it. Controlling my own release dates, my cover content, and being able to correct any glaring faults without having to worry about waiting for someone else to do it THAT makes it worth it. Owning my copyright and knowing my book will be able to readers for the life of that copyright THAT makes it worth it. So, yeah, independent publishing is worth the effort, every single time.

And I’ve been asked similar questions over the Christmas period as well, so I’m still thinking about it, and I still come back to the fact I haven’t really been publishing like a pro in the last two years, so I’m not seeing the results I might, and that’s okay, because that’s what the next three years are about – getting my act together and actually writing and publishing like I mean it, instead of like maybe I want it, and maybe I don’t, and maybe...

And that takes me back to thinking I really can’t answer the question. Because, usually when someone asks the question ‘is it worth it?’ they’re not asking if I find the satisfaction of publishing my own stuff worth the effort of putting it out there; they’re asking if I’m making any money off it. I haven’t been doing what it takes to be successful from a wage-earning point-of-view, so I really don’t know. Let me get my writing and publishing organised, instead of the haphazard way I’ve been doing things, and then I’ll let you know.

For now, my answer has to remain that it’s worth it to me because:

  • I can enjoy my writing
  • I can write what I like rather than trying to force stories into an imaginary market mold
  • I can be assured that my work will be available to readers, no matter what I write
  • I can be assured that my work will be available to readers for as long as I want it available (and maybe longer – it is the internet, after all)
  • I can release my work according to my own schedule
  • I know how much I should be getting paid and can check on that amount – there are no hidden publisher or agent expenses or deductions
  • I can correct any glaring errors once I’m aware of them
  • I own all the rights of my work
  • I retain the ownership of all the rights of my work AND I retain ownership of my copyright
  • I have overall control of my cover content
  • I have control over what platforms my work is available on – usually
  • I can be assured Book 1 of any series I write will still be available in print and in ebook when I release Book 6
  • I control the pricing

As to whether or not I can make a living from my work… well, I believe it’s possible, provided I don’t disappoint my readers, but it will take time to get into the habit of doing the things that will keep them, hopefully, happy.

Ask me again, this time next year.


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