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NINCThink Round Table:
Going Indie or Traditional?



Industry Guests: Jennifer Brehl (William Morrow/Avon), Leah Hultenschmidt (Sourcebooks), Wendy McCurdy (Berkley), Jen Talty (Cool Gus Publishing), Dan Slater (Amazon)
NINC Authors: Barbara Freethy, Vella Munn, Denise Grover Swank, Cindy Procter-King, Karen King, Ruth Glick
Moderator: Edie Claire

This panel discussion addressed the pros and cons of going indie, staying with a traditional print publisher, or doing a mix of both.

Moderator Edie Claire kicked off the discussion with a question on what traditionally published authors should consider when contemplating doing both indie and traditional publishing.

The NINC authors at the table agreed that time is a major factor. One mentioned that she didn’t have a backlist so she had to write new content, which took her a year. In addition to writing the book, she had to learn the ropes of this new business model. Another had a huge backlist, but isn’t having the kind of success she thought she would have. She went with Samhain Publishing for some titles, renegotiated e-book rights with the original print publisher for others, and is indie publishing four other titles. This mix seemed to work for her.

An industry guest wanted to know what things traditional publishers had done for authors in the past that authors must now do for themselves. This guest listed line edits and a critical eye on authors’ work as something s/he saw authors having to do on their own now. It was also mentioned that publishers pay attention to the brand of an author’s books and provide outreach, marketing, and publicity. This person stated that traditional publishers have a greater potential network that can be used.

The authors suggested that indie books could be used to fill gaps in a traditional publishing timeline, but acknowledged that going indie can involve a lot of time and effort. However, authors can hire out for formatting, etc. and slowly learn to do some of these things themselves as they are comfortable.

Another author responded to the industry guest’s suggestion that line edits and a critical eye are valueaddeds that traditional publishers provide by saying that an author would be crazy to put out a book without an editor and that you do have to find someone you trust. She noted that she works with an editor with whom she worked at a major publisher and who has gone freelance, and her husband does her proofreading.

The talk at this point turned to covers, with an author mentioning that with indie books you can change covers of backlist titles to better fit the brand of new traditionally published works, enabling authors to get more value from both. Another author said covers were her biggest frustration with traditional publishers because of the lack of author input. Her comment that someone had once told her “If you complain about the covers, you get something worse” made the audience laugh, but she made the point that as an indie author, she has control over her covers.

Industry guests responded to this by saying they solicit the opinion of the sales group who want to sell the book after they ask the author for ideas for cover images. Another said her company also asks authors for input.

At this point, an author acknowledged that since going indie her idea of what a good cover is has changed, and that she thinks more about what will sell the book to readers and less about if the man on the cover matches the description of her hero.   

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