Most writers have one goal in mind; getting published, and for many there's a limited number of paths to choose from. Fi Phillips took a different route, that being independent publishing. What's that? You ask, well she's here to explain it all. A guest post written by Fi Phillips.
For many writers, when it comes to working out how to get your book to market, the choice will be either traditional publishing or self-publishing.
For me, however, there was a different path – an independent publisher.
So what is an independent publisher?
An independent publisher:
· is independent to a big publishing house
· is generally a smaller set-up than one of the traditional publishers
· publishes works by other authors and, in some cases, by the founders of the indie publisher
Back in October 2019, my debut fantasy novel Haven Wakes was launched by Burning Chair Publishing. I had already gone along the prolonged and painful path of attempting to find a literary agent with the plan to land a publishing deal with one of those big publishing names you hear of – Penguin Random House or Harper Collins, for instance – but that didn’t work out. My novel wasn’t seen as commercially viable, i.e. it wasn’t the kind of thing that those traditional publishers wanted on their books. Therefore, it wasn’t the kind of thing that literary agents wanted to take on either. Burning Chair, on the other hand, loved Haven Wakes and were more than happy to offer me a publishing deal.
So what about you? Why would you consider an independent publisher over one of those big name publishing houses or simply doing it yourself? And what can you expect if your book is published by an independent publisher?
Indie publishers have relatively few gatekeepers
What do I mean by gatekeepers? Literary agents.
Most of the big publishers won’t accept ‘unsolicited manuscripts’ which means that unless you are already represented by a literary agent, they won’t even consider reading your darling novel, poetry or non-fiction book.
Generally, an independent publisher will consider work from authors regardless of whether you have a literary agent or not.
This is no reflection on the quality of the work they publish. Independent publishers will still examine how well-written a novel is and insist on the same level of editing as a big publisher.
Indie publishers are happier to take a risk
Independent publishers are more likely to take a risk on a genre or novel format that doesn’t fit with what the big publishing houses see as a sure thing.
The big traditional publishing houses, on the other hand, feel more comfortable publishing books that have an easily recognisable genre, are part of a successful trend, or appeal to a readership that has already been successful for them.
My own novel, Haven Wakes, is fantasy with a sci fi twist. There is plenty of magic and mystical beasties, but there are also robots and futuristic tech in the mix.
My protagonists and their support team vary in age and gender, from 12 years old to ancient. The readership, therefore, isn’t obvious at first glance.
Neither of these factors deterred Burning Chair.
Indie publishers usually pay more generous royalties
Not all independent publishers pay advances to their authors, but nearly all will offer a higher royalty rate than a big, traditional publishing house.
The reason for this? Overheads.
An independent publisher doesn’t have the monster of a workforce or work base to maintain and pay out on.
Authors get more say
Working with an independent publisher, an author will generally have a closer relationship than with a big publishing house and be allowed a greater creative input too.
For me, one factor of this was the amount of say I had over the book cover design for my novel. Burning Chair involved me at every stage of the process, from providing the initial outline to the designer to deciding on the typography.
Less authors = more time for each author
Generally, an independent publisher will have less authors on their books than a big publishing house.
This means that they have more time for each of their authors: time to read and edit their books, and time to market those books too.
Indie publishers are small teams
Generally, an independent publisher will have a small team of people and each of those people may take on multiple roles.
For an author, this could mean communicating with the whole team, perhaps only two or three people, across the varying parts of the process of getting your book to market, be that editing, promoting your book, design or payment of royalties.
This is no monster of an organisation where you only know a few faces. Working with an independent publisher, you can genuinely get to know your publisher and build a level of mutual trust.
Indie publishers can move quickly
The process from landing a publishing deal to having a book launched can be up to two years for an author who goes through the traditional publishing route.
Independent publishers can move much more quickly than that.
The length of time between signing my publishing deal and the release of Haven Wakes was just under seven months.
Indie publishers will continue to market their authors’ books
Whereas most of the big publishing houses will only market their authors’ books for about two months once they’ve been released, independent publishers are more likely to continue that marketing process for longer.
Having said that, whichever route you take into getting your book out there, you will be expected to take on a large share of the marketing and promotion workload.
Authors are invested in the success of indie publishers
Big publishing houses have their fair share of wins and losses when it comes to authors and their books, but as large organisations they can usually absorb any loss.
Independent publishers, on the other hand, are much more vulnerable financially.
As an author working with an independent publisher, I feel a greater responsibility to promote my publisher and their books to ensure that Burning Chair continues to be a success.
After all, it’s a win-win situation. If they’re successful and stay in business, I can continue to work with them and get my books out there.
So what do you think? Does the idea of working with an independent publisher appeal?
I’d love to know what you think in the comments.
For many years Fi Phillips worked in an office environment until the arrival of her two children robbed her of her short-term memory and sent her hurtling down a new, bumpy, creative path. Her novel Haven Wakes is set in the year 2110 where everyone has their own robot, and magical worlds are just behind the next door...Steve Haven always thought he was just another ordinary twelve-year-old boy. Well, as ordinary as he can be given he’s the nephew of Rex Haven, founder of the Haven Robotics Corporation. But when Rex dies in mysterious circumstances and Steve is given a strange artefact known only as the Reactor, he finds out that the world he thought he knew is a lot stranger and more threatening than he ever imagined.