Ten Reasons Why I am Self-Publishing (Part 1) by Jordan Dane

Author Jordan Dane

I’ve been living my dream to write since 2006 when I sold in auction to HarperCollins. Lightning struck me square between the eyes and I liked it. I sold three books that Harper planned to release back to back in 2008 and while I waited for my debut launch, I sold three more books to them. Yep, six books sold without one being on a shelf. Now I have my Sweet Justice adult thriller series for HarperCollins and I also write Young Adult fiction for Harlequin Teen. My HUNTED series will be coming out 2012-2013.

I’m sharing these choice tidbits for three reasons. One—I like seeing it in print. Two—I like reading it in print. (I’m still pinching myself that this really happened at all.) And three—I want to share why I recently turned down an offer from another Big 6 house in favor of self-publishing. I’ve taken a very big leap into a new abyss, but with my accounting and marketing background from my former career in the energy industry, I couldn’t let my ego keep making business decisions for me. Not when I had choices.

The publishing industry isn’t like it used to be. But as I stand on the precipice of a brave new world, I wanted to share my reasons to self-publish. It’s an exciting time for authors, whether you are traditionally published or not.

I extend my appreciation to Indies Unlimited for graciously allowing me to take a guest spot. Over two parts—because I’m a bit windy—I will share my TEN REASONS for self-publishing. Stay tuned for part two when I’ll chat about Subsidiary Rights, Foreign Rights and Rights Reversion—the HUGE meaty reason why I made my decision. Now in random order, here are my first FIVE reasons:

1.) Creative Control – Publishing is an industry of “hurry up and wait.” As an author, you can submit a proposal and still wait 2-3 months to hear feedback while your agent works at peddling your new effort or you wait to hear about your option book (the one by contract you are obligated to show your current house in a specific genre). But when you publish on your own, no waiting. What you want to write is yours to create. It’s critical that you write a good book, get a professional editor to enhance it, and bundle the package with a nice cover, but all this is under your control—good or bad. If Snookie can do it, anyone can. (I’m depressed now.)

2.) Pricing Control – You have control over the price you set for your book AND you can offer a discount for any time period you elect. By having this control and better knowledge of your immediate sales, you can “try” certain pricing to capture momentum without going through a committee. An author also doesn’t have to recoup monies for expensive office space or high overhead for personnel. I write from home and sit on a wooden crate. Desk optional.

3.) Cash Flow – If you’re lucky enough to be offered an advance for a book, that money is an advance against future royalties. It’s yours to keep, but to earn royalties beyond that dollar amount, you must “earn out.” A publisher also retains a certain dollar amount against returns. All of these accounting transactions will appear on your royalty statement, which is issued every six months (with a 2 months lag for reporting). This means that you may or may not see any more money beyond your advance until you see it on your statement once or twice a year. When you self-publish, the digital method to account for sales is faster to attain and cash is paid to the author monthly or quarterly, depending on the retailer the author chooses. This could turn into your margarita slush fund, a shoe budget, or a big screen TV. Let the kids earn their own college tuition.

4.) Book Release Control – From when the book is finished by the author, it can be released in 1-2 months, depending on the availability of an editor, formatter, and cover artist (presuming the author doesn’t format or create his or her own cover). If an author seeks advance reviews, this time will be longer by several months. An author doesn’t have to worry about other books being released that are vying for limited shelf space at brick and mortar stores like publishers do. Self-publishing authors can post their books when they’re ready. In the grand scheme of things, the “virtual shelf life” of a book is much longer and momentum can build as word of mouth grows. And if you get a wild hair to write a book on Big Foot, you can hammer it out while wearing your tin foil hat, without having to get approval from normal people. Other Big Foot hunters would appreciate that.

5.) Time Management Between Contracts – Crafting and creating proposals, submittals, approvals, committee reviews, contract negotiations—all of this takes time. What does an author do while they wait? If you self-publish, you write and create and issue a book or two. Sure an author must take time to send that solo book through service providers and promote it, but the production schedule is much shorter and YOU have control over how the project moves forward. Knowing you can be productive while you are waiting might save your manicure too.

Stay tuned for post 2 when I talk about the contractual reasons that made me reconsider my writing future—the things I didn’t know before I sold.

You can read Part 2 here.

________________________

HarperCollins launched Jordan Dane’s suspense novels back to back in 2008 after the 3-book series sold in auction. Ripped from the headlines, Jordan’s gritty plots weave a tapestry of vivid settings, intrigue, and dark humor. Publishers Weekly compared her intense thrillers to Lisa Jackson, Lisa Gardner, and Tami Hoag. This national best selling, critically acclaimed author’s debut novel NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM was named Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2008. Her adult thriller, RECKONING FOR THE DEAD, is book #4 in the Sweet Justice series for HarperCollins. Dane’s first Young Adult book is IN THE ARMS OF STONE ANGELS (Harlequin Teen) with ON A DARK WING released January 2012. Her next YA books with Harlequin Teen will be a series – THE HUNTED, release slated for fall 2012 through 2013. Formerly an energy sales manager, she now writes full time. Jordan and her husband share their Texas residence with two cats of highborn lineage and two very lucky rescue dogs. You can learn more about Jordan at her website, her Amazon.com author’s page and her Barnes & Noble author’s page.

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59 thoughts on “Ten Reasons Why I am Self-Publishing (Part 1) by Jordan Dane”

  1. I couldn't have said it better (nor would I make the attempt)! This is a fantastic post that completely summarizes my reasons for self-publishing! Thanks to IndiesUnlimited, we just had a hugely successful promotion for Shepherd's Moon (a record 16,100 downloads in a 48-hr period). With help from book bloggers, indie sites, and other authors, it is very possible to write and self-publish successfully…

    Thanks for a super informative post!

    1. Congrats on the success of your release, Stacy. Awesome! Post 2 is even more telling. It boils down financial and contractual reasons that any author should heed. Thanks for commenting and wishing you all the best for your new book. Bravo, Indies Unlimited!

  2. Jordan, loved your 5 reasons, can't wait for the other 5. I met you at RWA National when No One Heard Her Scream had just come out. Wishing you mega Indie success.

  3. My mentor tells me that my goal should be to eventually publish trad. I self published because, although I personally thought that I had written a book well worth reading, I feared the gatekeepers and the possibility that after a year of frustrated knocking on doors, I would end up with a drawerful of rejection letters. Writers far better than myself have had that experience-James Michener, J.K. Rowlings and Darcy Chan to name a few. Reading this post makes me wonder if publishing trad is really a necessary goal.

    1. If you judge success by whether or not you are published traditionally, then I think you are placing too much stress on yourself. Self-pubbing teaches you more about the industry than traditionally pubbed authors know at the start. I'm learning a lot. I measure success by whether I'm happy and living my passion. If I can make money doing it (and cash flow is something I talk about in post 2), then that is more than many traditionally pubbed authors see.

      Not every author can hit one out of the park like Darcie Chan, but there are many making steady cash flow as they build their virtual shelves. Strive for quality and challenge yourself with your craft. You won't regret it.

  4. I'm glad I self-published. Coming from a Fortune 500 corporate background, the freedom of creating your own work without interference…is a wonderful thing. I'm looking forward to part two. Great article!

  5. Jordan,

    This was a very inspirational post. I wonder, sometimes, whether I should have waited and resubmitted the ms of my first book to the agent who was interested in it. She wanted to see it in a year. When I read a post like this I feel confident that it would have been a mistake to wait.

    Thank you!

    1. Hey LA–It takes guts to choose this path, but as with any writing option, it takes a belief in your talent and a passion to write. There used to be MORE of an issue taken with indie authors, but these days it's almost a proving ground. Build your following/readership, learn and grow. Cyber hug.

      JD

  6. Thank you for this very inspiring post, Jordan. Like everyone else, I look forward to Part 2, and am already pleased I made the decision to self-publish.

    1. Hey Siobhan–We all balance this crazy passion in different ways, but it's a big deal to finish a book and get it into the public eye. SOOOOO many people tell me they've always wanted to write a book, but never took that first step. YOU DID IT!!! Be proud. You are in a creative minority.

      JD

  7. I'm sure your post will help many other authors make the right decision.

    I learned the hard way. I went with a NYC publisher for my first novel. The process took almost a year. They made the decision to publish in hard copy FIRST, they suggested a good quality cover designer (excellent choice), they suggested an editor (bad choice and very costly), they set the hard copy price and once the electronic version was available it followed along without my input.

    If I had it to do over, and I did, I published using Amazon's KDP program.

    I went with the original cover designer and a differnt editor. I did the conversion following KDP's guideline, which is a free e-book. I set the price at $2.99. That provides 70% royalties, which actually has the potential to beat those involved with the first novel.

    The process took less than a month with most of it the time it took to create the final cover design.

    The hardest part of the entire process is being discovered. The five FREE days provides an opportunity for readers to discover new authors.

    Indies Unlimited provides an assist in that area as well. I wish I had the power to tell all the other writers/authors about this great site.

    Looking forward to your second set of five reasons.

    1. Great input, Dick. We all take different paths in this journey and learn different things. No path is less worthy if you are creating something from nothing and touching other people with your storytelling, my friend.

      The hardest thing is getting noticed. You might hit an algorithm sales rank on B&N that keeps you there because of the way B&N handles their LISTS, but Amazon does theirs differently. They like creating multiple lists and make it harder for their ereaders to see an outright bestseller. They've even changed how their free books are handled these days. With KOBO becoming a player with some good things coming on their portal system, Amazon might feel the pinch of competition–always a good thing for us–the storytellers.

      Keep the faith.

      JD

    1. Even my freelance editor had some funny issues on a blog post I'm doing for her on THE KILL ZONE. She cracked me up trying to fix it. It must be hell to hold yourself to such high standards. See? We're all human.

      JD

  8. Jordan, it takes a dream, passion, and follow-up creativity to write a story. Along with other elements thrown in, self-publishing seems to be the natural next step, particularly with today's options available to authors. All that hard work should be to your primary benefit, too. Congrats on your decision.

  9. It's good to see independent publishing decisions being commended rather than questioned. And, with your Big House background, it lends some weight to the "we do things by OUR standards and schedules" motto that indies have been explaining – for years. 🙂

    I look forward to the second part of your post. All the best and BREAK A PEN!

    BC Brown ~ Paranormal, Mystery, Romance, Fantasy

    "Because Weird is Good."

    1. BC – Break a pen—AR, AR, AR. Very funny. Love it.

      For me, this is a business and business decisions should come first. Post 2 will have financial and contractual areas that we'll talk about, so more to come.

      Often an author places that high standard that their self-worth is measured by whether they are published by a third party. Then it becomes WHO is that third party, like a big 6 is the top dog. No one has a crystal ball on whether a project will resonate with readers. If they did have such an invention, every book would be a bestseller.

      As authors we face doubt all the time. Being your own boss, you are in control.

  10. Interesting. I know several other authors who are doing the same, including Norma Beishir and Michelle Scott.

    One thing, though, it's a lot easier to do this when you already have a fan base.

    Kind of like leaving an agency with your clients, as opposed to starting an agency from scratch.

    Another advantage I'd add is being privy to sales figures directly. If you put your Kindle book ad on Kindle Nation or something, you can sit there and watch the returns roll in. You have no idea of sales analytics from a big publisher. This, coupled with the flexibility of pricing you mentioned, is a powerful aspect.

    1. Very true, Lin. Publishers have to call third parties to get estimates. Some are offering better more timely information, but the agency model for print books will always have issues with this. Digital books ahould be more accurate.

      One of my houses discounted my debut book series to $.99. They hit and stayed on B&N's Top 100 for months, even after it went back up to full price, but I won't see those monies for months and months, due to the way royalty statements come out. At the time these contracts were negotiated in 2006, none of the digital thing was even on anyone's horizon, but even today, publishers control contract language in a "take it or leave it" way.

      Cash flow is very different for ebooks vs print books, but their contracts lump these two types of books together to their advantage. In my former life, I was an accountant. Can you tell?

      JD

  11. I admire your courage. My recent debut launch was a fantastic ride. I did it with the support of Indie authors from around the world, and have no regrets. If I had accepted the offer I received from a publisher, my book and cover would be completely different. The novel out there is mine, created by me. My dream.

    Good luck for the future.

    1. Thanks, Glynis. I'm so happy for you.

      I have a history of turning down things. Agonizing choices at the time, but now I look brilliant. HA! I figured I had my day job and this was a lifetime passion that I didnt want to short change, so I could afford to gamble.

      I turned down my first agent offer and I turned down my first book offer. If I hadn't done those things, I wouldn't have scored my agent, Meredith Bernstein and watched as she sold my books in auction.

      If you're going to gamble on anything, gamble on yourself and have faith in your talent.

      JD

  12. Thanks for everyone's comments. Indies Unlimited and you guys ROCK!!

    Sorry I didn't respond yesterday, but I have out of town guests in and a bridal shower happening this weekend. Lots to do, but keep the faith and happy writing!

    Support each other.

    JD

  13. I'm so thrilled to see someone of your stature recognizing the importance of indie publishing. I wish you all the best, and I'm happy you're sharing your story. I can't wait for part 2!

    1. Thanks, Donna. At the end of the day, we're all authors trying to tell our stories. We're a special breed and we understand each other, right? Best wishes to you!!!

      JD

  14. Excellent post, Jordan, and I look forward to the second half. More and more established authors are seeing the writing on the wall, and taking control. However, as Lin said, it is easier when you already have a fan base; although, as you so astutely outlined, with the ‘hurry up and wait’ attitude of mainstream publishing, you can better utilise that time chasing down the avenues to improve your profile, like some of the high profile online bloggers for one thing, and increase your fan base.

    You are of course quite right about the crafting and creating proposals, submittals, approvals, committee reviews, contract negotiations et cetera taking time and considerable effort. Nevertheless, that time and effort is now invested in other areas; there is also no doubt, in this fast changing industry, that other skills certainly need to be honed and utilised, particularly if you don’t have an already established fan base; social media commitments for instance can take up a considerable amount time and effort.

    Personally, I wish I’d made the move earlier, I have no doubts at all that ePublishing, independent author/publishers, is the future and will one day be the mainstream, with print on paper books and bricks and mortar booksellers holding a niche market. The transitional period we are experiencing could be two years or ten, but it is happening and we should all embrace it.

    Power to you, Jordan, and power to Indies Unlimited.

    1. Hey TD. Thanks for your comment. Self-publishing redefines the author's role, budget, & time spent. We also need to develop the stamina & mental toughness of the long distance runner. There are offsets to the pros & cons, but I believe the positives outweigh the negatives primarily attributable to the author–the creator–being in charge. Best wishes!

      JD

  15. Though I do think that self-publishing is ultimately the way to go (having gone that direction myself with my latest two novels after having other books with small presses), there's a certain point where it becomes viable for an author and not before. Many new authors start off on the self-publishing route before they learn all they can about the book creation process itself, and the results speak for themselves (in terms of poor editing, plot problems, poor covers, etc.). Yes, any digital book can be fixed and re-uploaded into the system, but readers who see these issues before they're corrected likely won't pick up another book by the same author (especially if they've paid $4-5 to read the first one). The new author should make sure they know all they can about what makes a successful book (and what to watch out for) before they start down this path. As much as we'd like to label self-publishing as the golden brick road, it's also a path that shouldn't be taken lightly.

    1. Very true, TM. I stress that quality is vital & encourage indie authors not to go cheap on a good editor. Bottom line is that solid writing builds readership.

      I've been grateful to be vetted by my publishers & their edit process, but I spent years honing my skill before I self-published. In truth, not every house edits the same. My YA editor, Mary Theresa Hussey (Exec Editor at Harlequin) is amazing. My books are pretty solid (from what editors & my agent have told me). I am fanatical about plot pacing, char motivation, & telling an emotional story, but Matrice finds a way to add her touch & make every book better because of her talent.

      So yes, it is up to the author to put the time in to hone their craft. I never feel like my books are my best. I'm always learning. That's the joy in it for me. I write for myself as much as I write for my readers, but I still study writing to discover new things.

      Thanks for your astute comment, TM.

  16. I wanted to mention–after TM's comment–that before I sold, I attended many writers conferences & craft workshops, submitted to national writing contests, sent countless proposals to editors & agents (my own agent turned me down twice before), & got tons of rejections. I worked with beta readers & took to heart what criticism resonated with me & honed my skill. It took a little over 3 yrs for me to sell but through it all, I kept writing new material & didnt rehash the same MS. I don't know what turn my journey would have taken if I self-pubbed too soon, but my first suspense book got its share of accolades, including being named a Top Pick by RT Magazine. For me, it all comes down to the plot & the emotion of the story. After I wrote NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM, the book that jumpstarted the auction, I knew it would sell, but only because I'd gotten all those rejections & years of feedback. Its hard to explain that feeling, but I feel strongly about TM's comment & how true it is that an author needs to be patient & pay some dues in order to "know" that feeling. I hope that makes sense.

  17. Hi Jordan,

    I am a proud indie author with 6 published books. Even though I have two publishers for my books, I went with Kindle Direct Program for my two self-published horror collections. One, because collections are difficult to contract unless your last name is King, and two, I was ready and wanted to see it. I hire professionals as you suggest and am pleased with both the finished product and the results of the program. A bookseller once told me I could do a book signing when I had a "real" book. Thanks for continuing to validate us indie authors. We write real books all day long.

    1. Hell yeah, Samantha! You go, girl. You bet indie authors write real books.

      I know there are ways for readers to get ebooks "signed" on their devices. Google Ebooks had allowed indie bookstores & chains to acquire ebooks through them, but I believe Google changed their policy on that, which is a shame. With all the changes happening, who knows where this will lead. Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience.

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