Guest Post: Helen Scheuerer on Why I Chose to Indie Publish
Today I have a special guest post from YA fantasy author, Helen Scheuerer, in which she talks about the reasons why she chose the independent publishing path for her series: The Oremere Chronicles.
Helen’s love of writing and books led her to pursue a Bachelor of Creative Arts, majoring in Creative Writing at the University of Wollongong and a Masters of Publishing at the University of Sydney.
In addition to being a YA fantasy author, Helen is also the Founding Editor of Writer’s Edit, an online literary magazine and learning platform for emerging writers.
Why I Chose to Indie Publish
by Helen Scheuerer
There’s no denying that there’s a stigma attached to indie publishing. People seem to forget that for a lot of authors, it’s a choice, not a last resort. When I released my debut novel, Heart of Mist in 2017, I was one of those writers who chose the indie path. Heart of Mist hit the Amazon bestseller lists in under 24 hours, and has managed to stick there ever since. In the months that followed, I’ve often been asked why I self-published…
I understood the cons of traditional publishing:
Firstly, I think it’s important to know that no publishing path is easy. Understandably, no one really ever talks about the disadvantages of signing with a traditional publisher, so people tend to think that this is the better option.
But as someone who’s been immersed in the publishing industry for years now, I’m all too familiar with the complaints of traditional authors: low pay, lack of creative control, deadlines pushed back, not to mention the terribly lengthy and draining querying process.
Writing a book is an incredibly hard thing to do. For me, it seemed a real shame to put all that work in for someone else, and for such little reward.
I wanted creative control:
I had worked with a publisher on a previous book, and the experience was excruciating to say the least. The edits went round in circles, and in the end, we had envisioned two very different books. Luckily, the rights were eventually reverted back to me, and that novel never saw the light of day. However, it taught me a very valuable lesson - that I need some semblance of creative control.
Some of my favourite memories from producing Heart of Mist have been doing things like briefing my cover designer, choosing the trim size and internal design of my book.... You don’t get that level of control with traditional publishing.
I wanted a reliable publication schedule:
Another source of great frustration for me in traditional publishing was how I had little to no say in my own publication schedule. A book can get pushed back for a number of reasons, and the author just has to deal with it, even after waiting years for that title’s release.
Indie publishing however, lets you set your own pace. My current publication schedule takes me all the way into 2021, and that’s my choice. I have complete control over when my books come out into the world.
I wanted to earn more money:
Frankly, I was tired of people telling me that I’d never make a living from being an author. I hated that the traditional ‘artist’s way of life’ meant writing in my spare time after I’d already worked for someone else for 9 hours of the day.
Indie publishing makes earning a living from writing a real possibility.
My royalty rates are 7x what they would be with a traditional publisher, and the earnings from Heart of Mist alone have enabled me to write full-time.
I already had a platform to leverage:
Through my work with my online writers’ publication, Writer’s Edit, I had already built a platform. I had done the hard yards of establishing my name and various social media channels, so why would I want to leverage these for only 10% of the profit? As an indie author, I have worked harder than I ever have in my life. But at the end of the day, I know that every hour I put in, every social event I miss, is all to benefit myself.
It’s another lesson I learnt: no one else is going to work as hard for your book as you are.
I had experience in book publishing:
I had already been running the online publication, Writer’s Edit for years. We had published three creative writing anthologies (Kindling Vol. I, II, and III) through Writer’s Edit Press, so it felt like a natural step to establish Talem Press (the imprint my books are published under).
Publishing the Kindling books through WE Press taught me a lot, and gave me the confidence I needed to put my own book into the world. For me, it was important to have a press associated with my books. It’s simply more professional, and allows you to perfect the finer details such as the logo on the spine of the book and the details in the imprint page. Any author seriously considering self-publishing should start their own imprint. I was also friends with a number of writers working in the same genre, it felt right to create an imprint that might in future publish all our books.
I wanted control over my marketing:
At this point I’m sounding like a bit of a control freak, but I see so many publishing houses doing marketing wrong these days that it really irks me. So often, the big 5 publish titles and just throw them out into the void without doing any target marketing. I couldn’t stand the thought of that happening to my book.
I spent a lot of time on my marketing campaign, on targeting the right readers and reviewers. Since then, I’ve actually had publishing houses come to me for advice on how to market their titles.
To me, the above reasons feel like just the tip of the iceberg on a topic I could talk about for days. If you’re seriously considering the indie path, what it really comes down to is doing your research and working out not only what’s best for you, but what’s best for your book. Indie publishing suits some genres and niches better than others, and to produce a quality product takes time and money.
With that being said, it’s an incredibly rewarding option. Heart of Mist is just over 6 months old, and since its release, I’ve become a full-time author, secured an agent, secured an audiobook deal with Audible and the ebook is still in the top ten on the Amazon charts.
It’s all entirely possible if you put the work in.
Many thanks go out to Helen for taking the time to share the reasons that led her to choose indie publishing and why it works for her. As with any business decision, publishing is all about weighing the pros and the cons for you as an author, and I think it's super important for writers to realize just what Helen said-----that indie publishing is not (and should not) be a last resort-----it's just a different path that requires the same levels of verve and dedication. Writing and publishing books is hard work no matter which avenue you pursue!
Be sure to check out Helen's books and connect with her on social media! :)
And, as always,