Should I Go With an Indie E-book Publisher?

Hmmm...Dear Rachelle,

I sent you a query but I haven’t heard back from you yet. I’ve been offered a contract by [unnamed independent publisher], but since I’m a brand-new author, it’s only for e-books. They do paperbacks, but not for new authors.

I know e-books are the coming thing, but I like real books, hardback books, especially for my first book. I have a super, well written book, and while I would like to make lots of money, it is equally important that I have a real book (a hardback). What should I do?


Want to Make the Right Decision

* * *

Dear Right Decision,

I sure wish I could tell you what to do. Please keep in mind that since I’m not your agent, and I don’t know your situation, I can’t give you any actual advice. But I can share a few thoughts, in no particular order:

  • Of course I understand that you’d like to make lots of money — don’t we all? But that is perhaps not the best motivator for going into publishing. So let’s set that one aside.
  • Many people are motivated, like you, by the dream of holding their book in their hands. A printed book. And in your case, you want a hardcover. Fair enough. If that’s your goal, I see no need to give it up. Kick the indie publisher to the curb.
  • You didn’t mention how long you’ve been pursuing publishing, but if this is your first book and you’ve just begun the process, I think you’ll need to stay the course for a LOT longer, if your dream of a hardcover book is truly meaningful for you.
  • Don’t forget, there are small indie publishers who publish print books. If it doesn’t matter to you how you get that hardcover book, even if it means self- or subsidy-publishing, then you could explore those options.
  • However, if the “acceptance” by a traditional publisher is important to you, then I say keep trying. You have many stones to overturn yet. Make sure your book is really good (you’ll need other opinions besides yours). Learn how to write an amazing query; study agents and publishers and generate lists of the ones who seem like they’d be a fit. Doggedly pursue the dream. And meanwhile, write a second book. And a third.
  • If you decide it’s too hard to find a print publisher and you want to go forward with e-books, you’ll need to ask a LOT of questions. Are they going to do anything to sell and market your book besides listing it with online retailers? Do YOU have a way to market and sell your book? If the answer to either of these questions is no, think twice. It won’t be very satisfying to have it “published” yet you have no printed book to hold in your hands, nor is anyone out there reading it.
  • Keep in mind there are a lot of small indie e-publishers popping up all over the place. It’s difficult to know if they’re reputable or just out to take your money. And hardly any of them have any means of driving buyers to your book.
It’s not a very rosy outlook, but I hope I at least gave you a few things to think about. Mainly I want you to get the message that you shouldn’t give up on your dream too soon!

 Readers: Have you had to adjust your dream along the way?



Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  4. Theresa Froehlich on February 6, 2012 at 1:48 PM

    This is such a timely post for me.

    I have a manuscript for which my agent is searching for a publisher. I’m also in the process of getting a short eBook ready as a conference giveaway. I appreciate the information so many of you have shared, e.g. Jill Barville’s idea of setting goals for sending out queries and proposals.

    Since I’m considering putting out more short eBooks, I’m trying to learn the process. Does anyone have a good website to recommend?

    Theresa Froehlich

  5. […] agent,Rachelle Gardner gives her thoughts on deciding about using an Indie E-book Publisher,citing that “you need to ask […]

  6. […] agent,Rachelle Gardner gives her thoughts on deciding about using an Indie E-book Publisher,citing that “you need to […]

  7. S. F. Roney on January 27, 2012 at 2:49 PM

    There isn’t really a good reason to go with an e-publisher. If you do, you’re better off going indie. In fact, going indie is the author’s best choice. Publishers, whether electronic or paper, are quickly becoming irrelevant. Why even bother with them?

  8. Peter DeHaan on January 25, 2012 at 8:48 PM

    The first adjustment I needed to make was that it would be difficult to make a living being a full time writer.

    Thankfully, I kept my day job.

  9. Christy on January 25, 2012 at 8:44 PM

    Excellent post Rachel!
    What is it we really want in writing a book? Is it the satisfaction and pat on the back for having accomplished our dream? Is it the influence we have on others by creating something that never existed that changed other’s perspectives? I think it is a good idea to keep our real intent in mind.

  10. Amber Argyle on January 25, 2012 at 6:50 PM

    There’s no one answer for everyone. It depends on the person and the publisher. It is completely possible to make more money on your own over a books life span than to go with a small press who doesn’t have the budget for marketing though. I’ve seen it.

  11. SE Shurtleff on January 25, 2012 at 5:43 PM

    Yes, like many of the writers who have commented, I have adjusted my dream along the way. But I don’t think that should mean that we’ve settled. The world is changing and writers need to change right along with it.

  12. Dorothy Thompson on January 25, 2012 at 3:36 PM

    What I would like to know is why doesn’t he self-publish and make more money off his ebooks, then wait for a traditional publisher to come along and see his work for what it is knowing he’s sold XXXXXXX amount of books?

    • Timothy Fish on January 25, 2012 at 5:50 PM

      I would love to know where all of these authors are who have made so much more money through self-publishing than they would through traditional publishing. I realize it is possible, but it isn’t nearly as common as some people think.

  13. Kristin Laughtin on January 25, 2012 at 2:20 PM

    I think we have to learn to adjust our dreams as we go along, because life rarely turns out the way we expect or hope. Mine certainly hasn’t, but I’m mostly OK with where my experiences have brought me. If we’re not at least a little flexible, we’re more likely to end up with nothing in the end. If we can adapt, we’ll probably end up with something better than that.

    That doesn’t mean we have to abandon our dreams or take the first thing that comes along, though. If having a physical version of your book is the most cherished part of your dream, then keep pushing for that. Or if you think this opportunity will make it more likely for you to achieve that in the future with a different book, and that’s OK with you, then do some homework on the publisher and decide whether this is a good opportunity to pursue. Above all else, do what feels right for you and your dream, and don’t let desperation or doubt guide your decisions.

  14. joan Cimyotte on January 25, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    Age and experience tells me not to be so embedded with any dream. I’ve learned to live a good life, do what you can, help others and animals. Give thanks to Jesus, give love.
    Having my novel published would be great. That’s a nice dream. Dreams take work. I’m still working at it.

  15. Maril Hazlett on January 25, 2012 at 1:09 PM

    I’ve definitely adjusted my expectations, in ways large and small… But sometimes the smallest seem pretty big. Like, before I had my daughter, I thought I absolutely NEEDED at least two full hours of peace and quiet to get any solid writing done. Hah! Now I’m delighted with ten minutes, even if there is an off-tune xylophone banging in the background.

    Another weird change popped up this morning, when a freelance editor was asking me how to make the transition to more freelance writing. I told her that whereas the writing “norm” used to be journalism (ie, if you started out with basic journalism skills you could then make the leap pretty much into any area of writing you wanted, with a little work), I thought the new norm was web writing. Now, if you have strong web writing skills, that seems to give you the basis needed to make a leap into other writing formats.

    But I’d never put words to that changed expectation until she asked me.

  16. Jill Barville on January 25, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    I’ve definitely adjusted my dream along the way, going from journalism major to technical writer to freelance writer who churns out articles, PR copy and computer documentation. I do those jobs equally for fun AND money.

    On the side I blog and write fiction, which is more play than work, though I’m also aiming for publication. To keep the fiction fun, I primarily write in my off hours at the coffee shop, while my daughter has rehearsal. This time is so enjoyable it almost feels like I’m cheating on my day job, but without any guilt.

    To stay motivated on the bumpy road to publication I’ve set milepost goals for myself. I must send out at least 75 queries to targeted agents for each novel before submitting to reputable small presses. With one novel complete and another underway, I figure if I eventually exhaust my agent and small press lists I’ll have finished revising the next book and can start again, applying what I’ve learned along the way.

    Since the publishing industry is changing so rapidly, I expect my road to publication to have many course corrections I can’t see today. But someday I’ll arrive. I just don’t know when or how yet. I’m curious to find out.

  17. Timothy Fish on January 25, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    I didn’t answer the question either.

    In a way, I suppose I have adjusted my dream. All I ever wanted was to have a book in print and to sell enough to make a little extra money each month. I never expected that I would have eight books in print and these days I don’t pay much attention to how much money I make from it. I tell Uncle Sam, when the time comes, but other than that it just goes in the bank account and I forget about it.

    I’ve gotten to the point where I enjoy the process of making the book as much as anything. Sure, I want people to buy and read my books, but the Lord has blessed me with more than I need, so making money from books is a very low priority.

    I didn’t set out to write novels, but now I find myself constantly looking for a way to get a point across in story form.

    I don’t know if I will ever sign a traditional publishing contract. I suppose I might, if the opportunity presented itself, but right now I’m having so much fun that I don’t care.

  18. Michelle DeRusha on January 25, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    Oh yeah, I’ve done some dream adjusting so far. Mainly with the timeline. I thought a published copy of my book would be sitting on my coffee table by now — or on a shelf shining under a few dozen spotlights. So far it’s still a paper manuscript stuffed into a Super Saver plastic grocery bag on the floor next to my desk — but I haven’t given up hope!

  19. Stephen King on January 25, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    Oh, right–Rachelle’s question. I forgotted to ATFQ (Answer The Flipping Question).

    Have I had to adjust my dream? Well, sort of. I mean, dreams are always changing. The core is still there. I’m going to some day make a lot of money from my writing. I’m going to some day be able to walk into a writer’s conference and have people be happy to see me. I’m going to some day receive fan mail about how good my writing makes people feel.

    I’m a realist, though, and a businessman by training and a dean by profession. I said early on in my own blog that I knew the chances of any of the above happening with my first book were pretty dang slim. That’s why I didn’t set any specific time frame on the dream. It’s going to happen, some day. Maybe this year, once my next series launches. Maybe not; having fame and wealth visit in the second year of writing and third or fourth book is nearly as rare as it popping up on the first attempt.

    But that’s just timing. It’ll happen.


  20. CG Blake on January 25, 2012 at 11:28 AM

    My advice: look very carefully at the contract and the terms they are offering. What is the e-publisher going to do for you to justify the royalties you are leaving on the table by not e-publishing yourself? Personally I could not care less if my novel ever appears as a printed book. It’s the words that matter most to me not the format. Best of luck to you.

  21. Karen Boncela on January 25, 2012 at 11:24 AM

    I’ve adjusted my dream, yes.
    I wrote many queries and when I didn’t get the response I was hoping for, I explored other avenues. And then I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and the culmination of my Journey to Publication seemed very clear. My book will be available very soon on Amazon Books and other sites as well.
    And I never really thought about making money at all, I just found and still do find that writing is Therapeutic for me, makes me feel Wonderful. If I never make a penny, thats fine with me, I will keep on writing.

  22. Else on January 25, 2012 at 11:01 AM

    Oh, and to answer Rachelle’s question– I had to adjust my dream twice. The first time when I found out that getting published by a big six publisher did not mean fame and fortune. It meant welcome to the midlist.

    The second time when I found out that once I got a major book deal, I had to take on a pseudonym. This happens to a lot of writers and I suspect it’s often a bit of a shock.

  23. Else on January 25, 2012 at 10:56 AM

    It seems like a lot depends on just whom the writer has had an offer from.

    The name “indy”, which ought to refer to publishers unaffiliated with big houses, has been taken over by what used to be called vanity publishers. And for the most part, today’s vanity publishers try very hard to pretend they aren’t vanity publishers. (Hence, “indy”.)

    The writer (and any writer in similar circumstances) should go to Google, type in the name of her prospective publisher with quotes around it, add the word “scam” outside of quotes, and hit Search.

    Also, check them out on Preditors & Editors (sic).

    If the publisher is legit, then, my take from my own experience: If the manuscript is good enough that a paying, non-vanity indy press is interested in it, then it’s probably good enough that a major publisher will be interested in it. But the writer must do what seems right to her.

    • Timothy Fish on January 25, 2012 at 11:23 AM

      I don’t know of any vanity presses that are using the term indy. The best I can tell, indy is a term that some people have borrowed from the movie industry because they didn’t like using the term self-publishing. I don’t like the term indy because it implies that there is something that we are independent from. While that was true in the movie industry, when the term was created, it isn’t in the book industry.

      While there is nothing wrong with looking into what other people have to say, nearly every vanity press out there has someone claiming they are a scam. In some cases they are, but many times it is just that the author expected far better results than what the vanity press promised.

  24. Richard Mabry on January 25, 2012 at 10:24 AM

    Rachelle, Let me cast my vote to agree with what you’ve posted. And since the subject has come up, to me a traditional publisher (whether hard copy or ebooks) pays royalties, partners in marketing, and doesn’t require the author to contribute financially to editing, cover art, printing, or marketing. If a writer chooses to go the non-traditional route, they may object to the old term, “vanity press,” but that’s exactly what they’ve chosen.
    The self-publication route is easier, and a few people (but not nearly as many as one would think) make some bucks from it. Agents and traditional publishers serve as gatekeepers to traditional publishers, but if you get through that gate, you can stand a bit taller.
    Just my $0.02 worth.

    • Cynthia Herron on January 25, 2012 at 12:21 PM

      To which I wholeheartedly echo, “Amen!”

  25. David Todd on January 25, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    Yes, I have constantly adjusted my dreams for writing. I think they have followed a bell curve. At first I simply wanted to get the story that was in me into print. That required that I finish the novel, which I did in 2003. I then began to study the publishing industry and learned my novel broke a number of rules for what they would publish. Rather than diminish my dream, after a bit of sulking it seemed to expand it. They followed the bell curve upward as I expanded my writing to try to keep up with my dreams.

    Those dreams to be published peaked, I think, around the end of 2010, when I rounded a bend on the publishing track and found more hurdles; hurdles which I didn’t see myself as having the energy to cross. The downward leg of the bell curve was very steep at that time.

    But rather than end at the X axis, which would have been giving up, the curve stopped at an intermediary place: e-self-publishing. From there I find my dreams on an upward leg of a new bell curve, beginning from that higher plateau rather than from zero. The upward leg of the dream curve is not as steep as last time, and the vertical rise is happening more slowly.

    Once dreams are broken, it’s hard to dream as big again.

  26. Melanie S. Pronia on January 25, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    I wrote my first novel when I was 14, I’m now very close to 40. With that said, I have always wanted to have a book published. After many years, and three novels later, I finally wrote one that I felt was worthy of a publishing contract. I even got a publishing contract! However, me and five other authors, signed by the same ‘publisher’ got hosed. The publisher’s personal book got published, ours weren’t.

    After so much aggravation and heart break, I decided to self-publish and it’s been hard. I don’t regret it, because I no longer need the ‘traditional publishing acceptence’ and I am making a little money while playing by my own rules and building a fan base. My point though is to be just as weary of supposed publishers as you are of self-publishing. Writers beware, look into companies, make sure they have actually published some books and that they are not robbing authors.

    As far as marketing goes, it’s more work than the writing and very necessary. But it is ‘doable’.

    Best of luck either way you go!

  27. Kathryn Elliott on January 25, 2012 at 9:52 AM

    I’m a big dreamer, but somewhere along the writing road I woke up and realized my goal-compass was completely off kilter. Traveling North toward traditional publishing with MS #1, a small contest win brought an unexpected offer from the South with – what appeared at first glance – to be a wonderful opportunity. That ‘first glance’ led my type-a personality to an attorney friend and thorough review of the proposed contract. In short, although this particular e-publisher was reputable, and there ARE several good ones, the fine print contract stipulations, especially those for royalties and new work would significantly impact any future MS. And being completely honest, I was so excited about the contract I would have completely missed the problem.
    Lesson learned – I know I can write. I know I can research. I know when to ask for help! Best of luck to the poster – and whatever comes next, congrats on sticking with your dream.

  28. Lianne Simon on January 25, 2012 at 9:51 AM

    I recently faced a similar decision. For me it was maintaining a certain amount of artistic control over the cover.

    Early on I made a decision to spend my limited finances on manuscript evaluations. For the price of a critique session and pitch session at a conference, I could get a professional editor to read my entire manuscript and offer feedback.

    Although I sent out numerous queries to agents, I concentrated on finding small publishers who might be open to reading my manuscript. The three who read my novel all made offers. None of the agents requested a complete manuscript. Whether that was due to the quality of my queries or simply due to contacting the wrong agents I may never know.

    I was really excited by the offer from MuseItUp Publishing. I believe their marketing the best a new author is likely to find. They assign a content editor, a line editor, and a cover artist. They have a strong author community. What can I say? They’re fun to work with.

    MuseItUp publishes e-book and paperback editions. Because they intend to remain in business a long time, they’re very deliberate in releasing printed editions of their books. They allow their authors to opt out of print or wait a year to see if their book makes it through the queue.

    Opting out of print allows me to start my own micro-pub and release a paperback edition with the cover artwork and internal design I want.

    ‘Want to Make the Right Decision’ should consider whether or not her indie publisher can provide the editorial and marketing support she needs if she were to publish the hardback herself.


    • Lianne Simon on January 25, 2012 at 3:58 PM

      Have you had to adjust your dream?

      No, but I’ve heard “Recalculating” a number of times out of my GPS.

  29. Katie Ganshert on January 25, 2012 at 9:37 AM

    Another thought is just the idea of a hardback. There are a lot of traditionally published authors who never get a hardback.

    I’m not sure if that’s a CBA thing, or a genre thing, or a new author thing??

    • Rachelle Gardner on January 25, 2012 at 10:41 AM

      Katie, in CBA it has long been a tradition to publish trade paperback originals, versus the ABA where the formula has always been hardcover first, then sometimes a trade paper release, then mass market paperback.

      It was realized from the beginning of CBA publishing that the core audience was cheap. Okay, let’s just say, frugal. Or maybe poor, I don’t know. The bottom line is that they were much less likely than the average ABA book-buyer to plunk down the high price of a hardcover book. So CBA publishers started to skip that step, offering lower-priced trade paper originals, and saw sales rise dramatically.

      These days, everything is changing and there is simply no single model that works in every situation. As you know, in the age of the 99-cent e-book, fewer will pay twenty bucks for a hardcover. Still, there is a “legacy” value in these books which will hang on for awhile.

      • Timothy Fish on January 25, 2012 at 10:56 AM

        Hey! You’re talking about some of my friends. Cheap is the right word.

      • Katie Ganshert on January 25, 2012 at 11:15 AM

        Super interesting! I always wondered about that….and now I know!

      • Stephen King on January 25, 2012 at 11:21 AM

        Funny that you mention this; my own blog post from yesterday discussed my personal breed of cheapness in the world of book-buying. Of course, it’s a far, far more complex consideration than just “cheap” versus–um, “not cheap.” I’ve regularly paid over $20 for the hard-cover work of an author I’m following. I just last month paid $60 for an audio book version of a work. But yeah, I won’t pay over $5 for a bundle of electrons, and most of the printed books in my home were purchased for less than $1 in various used markets.

  30. Deborah Serravalle on January 25, 2012 at 9:19 AM

    Yes, I’ve adjusted my ‘dream’,several times. The adjustment came when I realized I’d have to re-write and revise a gazillion times. But I’m still here…

  31. Timothy Fish on January 25, 2012 at 9:19 AM

    I find it disturbing how many popup publishers there are. Many of them appear to have been founded by authors who couldn’t get a traditional publisher to pay them for their book and when the technology made it possible they latched on to this idea of publishing as many books as you can as fast as you can. They don’t even care if the books are selling well, as long as they have a few books that they can use in their publicity materials. The latest trend is to do e-books only. I’m not sure if this is because they’ve devised a system where setting up an e-book is almost automatic or if it is because the person who set up the publisher doesn’t know how to publish a real book.

    Through my blog, I often get questions about various publish on demand publishers. Most of them, I don’t know anything about until I start digging. Some are very creative in how sell themselves to authors. One of the most creative I’ve seen is the one I covered yesterday and tomorrow. They are very effective at making themselves look like a traditional publisher, but they are still charging authors $3,990.

    As for Right Decision, the more I look at companies like this, the more I am convinced that authors should either go with a traditional publisher or self-publish, don’t get caught in the middle ground of subsidy presses. Publishers should pay for the right to make the decisions. If they don’t pay or fail to give the author complete control of all aspects of the operation, don’t go with them.

    • Stephen H. King on January 25, 2012 at 9:29 AM

      “Many of them appear to have been founded by authors who couldn’t get a traditional publisher….” Some, no doubt, were, but why paint the whole group with the same brush? My own publisher is most definitely NOT a writer, and another gal I chat with regularly on FB was a traditionally published author before she started her small pub. The fact is that there are different opinions out there on the future of the book world, and some folks would rather focus on what they believe is the “wave of the future” (e-books) rather than printed books. While I disagree with that logic, I can’t justify coloring it with anything sinister or, worse, lazy. They’re just doing what they believe is right for the future, when (some believe) many of the Big 6 fold and leave plenty of room for smart smaller guys.

      • Timothy Fish on January 25, 2012 at 9:59 AM


        As far as I can tell, there are only two ways to make money as a publisher. The first is that you find a few high quality books and sell a lot of those books. The second is that you publish a lot of low quality books that won’t sell a lot individually, but collectively will sell quite a few. There is nothing wrong with either approach, as long as the publisher is honest about it. I’m sure there are a few publishers who will come right out and say, “We make money by selling a lot of poorly written books,” but in reading through the promotional material for most of these publishers, I find that they are much more selective in their wording. When I see wording like “wave of the future”, that sends of red flags in my mind and I tend to think they have another reason, but they don’t think the author wants to hear it. Which is why I think publishers should pay their authors. But I’m actually more concerned with results than I am with motive. Motive is just an indicator of possible results.

        • Stephen King on January 25, 2012 at 11:32 AM

          It’s not as Boolean as your characterization would make it seem, I think. Sure, I have no doubt that some of the Big 6 publishers are only interested in the mega-sellers; I’ve seen leaked memos where that’s the primary thing they brag about. But I have yet to see a publisher go out with the intent of only pubbing poorly-written books. I think most people who’ve studied the industry know that most book sales result from referrals. Purposely putting out books that friends won’t tell friends about, then, is business suicide. I won’t bother arguing that NO small publisher has that outlook, or “motive” as you call it, but I will suggest that most of them try to do the best they can. At the same time, though, books aren’t just either good or bad. I’ve read a lot of indie and small pubbed works recently, and yes, a few were garbage. One was excellent. Most, though, were somewhere in-between, which is a result one would expect since I’ve seen the same thing in traditionally-pubbed books, a fact to which the paperback-sized divots in the wall opposite my reading chair would attest. Besides, it’s subjective; your favorite book very likely would end up smacking my wall.

  32. Stephen H. King on January 25, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    Dear Want:

    There are really two–no, three–issues embedded in your letter. First is your desire to have a printed book to carry around and smack down on friends’ coffee tables. I understand that desire, and I did, too. My own small publisher promised that I’d get printed books (and many small pubs do, and from what I understand most make good on it) but I haven’t seen them yet. In his case, he’s just a small businessman who I think bit off more than he could chew. Still, I sure would like an actual book.

    That said, I’m not certain from your letter where you are in the querying process, but I do know that until you’ve been ignored by 50+ Rachelles, you really can’t claim to have seriously attempted it. I know, it’s a slog, but if you ramp it up and send out the queries 20-30 or so at a time you’ll get there no problem. There are a LOT of agents out there just waiting to ignore another new author.

    Third, please disregard Rachelle’s sly digs about paying you versus you paying. I know several small publishers and their authors, and there’s a difference between a vanity publisher and today’s small Indie pub. My own publisher chided me for paying for professional editing on my first novel: “that’s my job; save your money,” he said. I paid him nothing to publish my book. He pays quarterly rather than the semi-annual payments that I understand the Big 6 prefer, and he’s pretty good about it. He also, as do a few others I know, runs major marketing and cross-promotion campaigns within his author group, so it’s not like some agents will try to tell you it is, where you’re published but all alone.

    Lookit, the lack of a printed book option may be a deal-breaker for you, and I understand if it is. If not, though, don’t walk away from the Indie guy just because he’s small. Go to or and look up the publishing company name. Jot down some of his authors and then befriend them on Facebook (we’re generally pretty nice people and really darn eager to grow our–what’s that word, Rachelle?–platform, anyway, though other writers a true platform don’t make). Chat them up; find out what they like and what they don’t like about the publisher. Join Indie Author Group and/or Book Junkies on Facebook and listen to that chatter for a while; they’re both big groups with lots of opinions and experience behind the opinions.

    Most important, though, is to reconsider whether the manuscript you’ve written represents the best and/or only work you’ll ever write. Most of the famous guys whose names light up bookstore shelves now wrote trash in their first attempt. I think it was David Eddings who suggested new authors just plan on throwing the first million words away. You didn’t win any BMX races the first time you hopped on a bicycle, did you? You may be best served by putting that manuscript in a drawer and letting it simmer while you write your next work.

    • Timothy Fish on January 25, 2012 at 9:37 AM

      As much as I hate the idea of receiving payment for work I haven’t completed, I’m of the opinion that publishers should pay their authors advances of at least $500. Publishers that pay advances have an incentive to work harder on each book. Publishers that don’t make money by cranking out as many low quality books as they can.

      • Stephen H. King on January 25, 2012 at 9:51 AM

        Well, again, you’re painting with awfully broad strokes, my friend. My publisher doesn’t pay advances, yet some of our authors hit the top of the sales categories in Amazon (which I’ll take as evidence of quality). Frankly, I’d find a $500 advance for a novel a little insulting, as the whole point of it is to a) get the AUTHOR’s feet into the fire, and b) pay some of the author’s living expenses while all the magic happens behind the scenes in editorial closets and printing chambers. The publisher is going to make money if the book sells, and all a skimpy advance is going to do is change the timing on that money slightly.

        • Timothy Fish on January 25, 2012 at 10:14 AM

          Publishers make money if the books they have available collectively make a profit. As an author, I’m not concerned with what the publisher’s other books are doing, I want the publisher to spend time working on my book. I want my book to make a profit. I don’t really buy this idea that an advance pays living expenses, since most authors have other sources of income anyway. The $500 is just to keep the publisher from accepting a book they expect to be a throwaway. While a book should be worth more than that, if the publisher ignores the book, the author still has $500.

  33. […] generally tend to do well.Author’s note: This post was inspired by Rachelle Gardner’s post on Should I go with an Indie Publisher?Related Posts:Choosing a Digital Publisher? – Part 1Choosing a Digital Publisher? – Part […]

  34. Sabine A. Reed on January 25, 2012 at 8:46 AM

    Adjusted my dream by writing shorter fantasy stories, submitting them to e-publisher and getting a contract. Fantasy series are harder to writer, and difficult to get contracts for. But eventually I hope to write a series that will do well.

  35. Anne Love on January 25, 2012 at 8:32 AM

    Nice write up Rachelle. A young new writer was asking me similar questions, I’ll share your blog today with her.
    Beth Vogt–I agree! :o)

  36. Sarah on January 25, 2012 at 5:46 AM

    It suddenly hit me the other day – more like slammed into my stomach with sadness – that by the time I write well enough to see a book published it’ll probably be the era of publishing where very little is printed and I may never hold a “real”, bound copy of whatever book makes its way to readers.

    Good thing I like the feel of my Kindle in my hands. 🙂

  37. Iola on January 25, 2012 at 3:18 AM

    As a reader, I have to say that about the only hardbacks I ever see are 3-in-1 volumes trilogies, or library Large Print editions. However, that could be beside the point.

    As I understand it, pretty much anyone can have a hardback book published. All you have to do is hand over your life savings to PublishAmerica or another vanity publisher. Of course, they tend to have inadequate editing and marketing support, so very few people will buy or read the book, but if having a hardback book is how you define ‘success’…

    I know of one ebook publisher (Desert Breeze) that has decided to release some of their best-selling titles as paperbacks, so just because it is an ebook now doesn’t mean it always will be.

    Whatever you decide, I would suggest that you ask other authors published by the same publisher how they feel they have been treated, and would they go that route if they were starting again.

    And check out the Writer Beware! blog – if your publisher appears on their lists, be very careful.

  38. P. J. Casselman on January 25, 2012 at 2:56 AM

    Wow, now that is an honest letter, albeit by someone who is rather naive, as most of us were.
    My dream of being published pretty much ended with the lack of responses or passes to my queries. I thought I had a great timely book that took on “Chariots of the Gods” in reverse through a pre-King Arthur family saga. Unfortunately, there were no vampires in it. 😛
    If someone actually read my books and said “no,” I might have felt that they were not up to a proper level. However, they only read the queries and said, “not for me.” I finally put them out as E-books and began to build my own audience. Right now, I am writing short stories for magazines in my spare time, blogging, and building a Twitter following.
    During this time, I am learning the business of publishing. It’s been a joyful road since I do not care about making money. If that were the case, I’d sell Amway or Avon. :-O
    In today’s publishing market, going solo is not a good thing. Instead, independent, self-publishing authors need to ban together and cross promote their indie works. Isn’t that collective thinking what founded many great publishing companies? There are a number of online places to join with others, so I have done just that. Someday, the Angel Blood series or my other books will touch the right hearts. That will make every blog and tweet worthwhile.

    • Timothy Fish on January 25, 2012 at 8:47 AM

      I don’t disagree with the concept of self-published authors banding together, but it is mush easier said than done. My belief is that if the traditional publishers fold, they will be replaced by associations of authors that will serve the same purpose. But those associations don’t currently exist so authors have the same problem publishers do in deciding which authors and books they want to team up with. With more than half-a-million self-published books being written each year, that isn’t an easy question to answer. But if we don’t try to answer it and just team up with anyone, then we’re no better off than working alone.

      • Stephen H. King on January 25, 2012 at 9:12 AM

        “But those associations don’t currently exist”…actually, they do. They’re just not sitting in a New York City office with business cards with tons of acronyms across them. Check out Book Junkies and/or Indie Author Group on Facebook.

        • Timothy Fish on January 25, 2012 at 10:37 AM

          Those are completely different kinds of associations than the ones I’m talking about. These associations would be recognized by readers as a mark of quality. Suppose one such association was called the Knife Writers Association. It would be made up of suspense authors. To join the association, an author would have to submit a sample of his writing, a majority of the existing members would have to agree that it met their standard of quality, and he would have to pay his annual dues. The association would use the dues, in part to make readers aware of the association, so that when readers saw “Member of the Knife Writers Association” on a book, they would know that the author was endorsed by the association. To protect the association’s name, the association would send each book published by their authors through a quality check. Readers would know that a book from that association would be of high quality. The better associations might be such that an author would have to have been on a recognized bestseller list before being considered for membership.

          • Stephen King on January 25, 2012 at 11:11 AM

            Hmm, interesting. What you suggest is a throwback to the old guild concept. I don’t like it, especially in something that’s necessarily subjective like “writing quality,” because of the propensity for power grabs and abuse among the membership it leaves open, but I’ll grant that it’s an interesting idea.

  39. Maureen on January 25, 2012 at 2:25 AM

    Boy have I had to ajust the dream along the way. Sometimes I feel as though I am being tested by the Divine — how bad do I want this? I’ve wanted it since my third grade teacher handwrote on my report card, “someday Maureen will be an author”. Well, Maureen is aging quicker than the book is being written and money always gets in my way. Lesson there? Probably. My adjustment lately is trying to find time to write. My reality is working 16 hours a day to pay my son’s tuition, trying to be a wife in a newly empty nest and being too exhausted to be very successful at that. So the dream, again, has been adjusted. It’s back to someday the story will be told.
    I enjoy this blog so much and thank you for all your helpful posts and the wisdom of your readers.

  40. Stephanie McKibben on January 25, 2012 at 2:08 AM

    I was one of the lucky ones. I had no expectations and found the path of enlightenment to Rachelle’s blog! Thank goodness for you Rachelle because over the past year I’ve been faithfully reading your blog and now I feel as though I’ve been “let-in” to the agent/publisher side POV.

    I feel like I have a ground base and just enough knowledge to ask more questions before proceeding.

    My expectations haven’t been curved–they’ve been molded into a positive light by this blog and a few others of those that got into this business to read a good book.

    • Alan Kurland on January 25, 2012 at 4:09 PM

      Thanks Rachelle, a good article and comments. Ive been writing since high school, then on my college newspaper and, finally, some professional journals. I always had the dream of writing a novel or play but it took me to age 64 to actually write one. I, too, thought it was easy, but Ive learned the error of my ways. Ive been told that publishers dont want older authors because it discourages younger readers.But the point is to keep going, and, just maybe, your dream will come true!

  41. Beth K. Vogt on January 25, 2012 at 1:28 AM

    My blog post yesterday invited people to finish the phrase: Behind every dream is …
    My answer: Work.
    But I think you could also fill in the blank this way: Behind every dream is work — and adjusting your expectations — and working some more. And repeat.
    So, yes, I’ve adjusted my dream.
    Not diving into the whole indie-pub question today, I’ll leave that to others to debate.

  42. Jeremy Myers on January 25, 2012 at 1:17 AM

    If you are going to go indie ebook, just do it yourself. It’s not that hard. I hope to put out 6 ebooks this year. All published by the as-of-yet unheard of ebook publisher…me.

    As Rachel said, those indie publishers don’t have good marketing strategies, and then they take a cut of your ebook sales. Your book means more to you than it will to them, so market your book yourself. You’ll do a better job, will keep more of the profits (which still won’t be much), and will build your author platform in the process.

  43. Scott on January 25, 2012 at 1:06 AM

    Oh, and sorry about all the errors. My iPad loves to change my words when I’m not looking–plus I just messed up a couple times.

  44. Scott on January 25, 2012 at 1:02 AM

    I’ve adjusted my dream many times as learned more about the reality of writing. I graduated from high school certain that writing would make me rich. All I had to do is write a book and it would automatically be published and make me rich, be wise that’s how it was done.I wrote a lot at the time, but had never even tried anything longer than maybe ten pages.

    I graduated from college with some (very) minority successful poems and an essay that was printed in a small college lit mag. Again, I was sure I’d be a rich and famous author within a couple years. Still hadn’t really written anything, but it couldn’t be hard. I was a newly graduated English major. I knew what a good book was, and most books on the market weren’t “good.” I “sold out” and took a tech writer/editor job to hold me over until my novel was done. Of course, I still hadn’t written one.

    I hit 40, still a tech writer, but by then I was working on my first novel and it was going well. I started reading about how to write a novel I hadn’t before because I was a good writer, and I read good books. I had no idea how hard it was to write a novel until I started. I also started learning as much as I could about the business of writing.

    Now, ten years later, I’m working on novel number three while trying to sell number two and trying to figure out whether number one is worth the time it would take to apply what I’ve learned over the last ten years of writing and studying. I’m still a tech writer, making decent money for a major company. My expectations and how I hope to meet my goals are constantly adjusted. My motivations and outlook on life, as well as my priorities, have changed dramatically with age and experience, and I’ve paid enough attention to my life that I expect they will change more over the next ten year, and the ten years after that.

    I sometimes wish I had written more when I was younger and learned what that would have taught me, but writing for a living for 24 years has taught me quite a bit about how to approach writing. I still have the dream and I continue to work for it. It’s not about the money. Odds are stacked pretty highly against making more as a novelist than I do as a tech writer. I would like it to help me through my eventual retirement, but I write because I love writing, and I really get off on improving my skills.

    That was a long-winded “yes” to your question. But that’s my story.

    • Rachelle Gardner on January 25, 2012 at 9:01 AM

      That’s a great story, Scott. It seems to underscore the truth that to make a living from writing, most people will have to write many different kinds of things, not just what they want.