Monday, October 17, 2016

Roll Them Bones: Indie versus Traditional Publishing

By: Aaron Michael Ritchey 

So Donnell Bell is to blame for this post.

No, blame me. I can take it. 

Donnell suggested I write about the benefits and drawbacks of Indie publishing versus Traditional publishing. I’ve published independent books and I’ve published through small presses (and WordFire Press, a medium-sized publishing that is gaining ground). 

One of Donnell’s many friends published through a big publisher and her readers found some typos. The friend asked her big publisher if they could be fixed, and the big publisher said, “Sorry, girlfriend. Your book is what is. We’ve moved on.” 

If the friend had Indie published, she could make the changes and re-upload. So, yeah. But before we go any further, I have to be clear. I could write FOREVER on the different avenues and mouse holes and mazes and labyrinths and bear-traps of the publishing industry. 

But I will say this…. 

In this day and age, it takes about fifteen hundred dollars to publish a book and do it right. When I say that, I mean you pay for several rounds of editing and you pay for professional cover art. You can do it cheaper, and there are no rules. You could publish your book for free and do it all yourself. Some people warn against this, but I think they’re Nervous Nellies who are terrified that people might laugh at them. Be brave. There are no rules. And if you publish junk, oh well. Lots of junky novels do really well. No one knows anything for sure.

So, if you have $1500 in the bank, and if you are willing to risk it, I say Indie publish because you have creative control, you’ll make more money, and this is the big thing: EVEN WITH A TRADITIONAL PUBLISHER YOU WILL MOST LIKELY BE DOING ALL YOUR OWN MARKETING ANYWAY!

Notice, MOST LIKELY, I emphasized in all the capital letters because if you get a huge, big, huge publisher (huge), there is a chance the will choose your book to push. If they choose your book to pour the marketing dollars into, then you’ll get a ton of help and you win! Hurrah! 

But most likely, you’ll be doing it yourself. So, dude, if you are doing all the work, why pay
some nameless corporation 90% of your total profits? And you have to jump through their hoops, follow their rules, and you become a line item on someone’s to-do list. Most likely, no one at the house will care about your book as much as you do. 

There is the whole status thing. I’m published with Random House. Look at me! 

Yes, you win the status thing and people will say your name in awe. Wow, she’s a Random House author and she has huge distribution into bookstores. Okay, but how many people are buying books at bookstores? 

I don’t know. 

So if you can afford it, and if you are willing to do the work, going Indie seems like the best bet. 


Unless you a can find a publisher that will “help” you market your books. 

Notice, “help” is in quotation marks. Many will promise to help and won’t. Others will do a few things and call that “help.” Warning! The level of help will vary!

I love WordFire Press because they help me market my books by setting up massive booths at comic cons where I can harass crowds until they buy my stories. And I love WordFire because really, it’s a coalition of Indie authors backed by industry professionals with the best contract I’ve seen in the publishing world. Walking away is easy. Staying is even easier.

What really makes the most sense is playing the publishing game like craps.

In craps, you have all these different bets you can make on the next roll of the dice. If it comes up a six, you’ll win. If it comes up “snake eyes,” you’ll win. If you hit boxcars, bam, winner, winner, chicken dinner. 

Placing your bet on traditional publishing is betting on the long odds, the weird roll of the dice that hits it just right. Yeah, you might get screwed on a cover, and you might have typos, and you might have issues, but you can manage some of that. Every single time I’ve worked with a publisher, I’ve used my own line editors along with the one the house provided, to make sure my document is as clean as possible. And I went in with open eyes. I’ve talked with other authors at the publishing house and learned what their experience was. 

I will say this, if you find a small press that will publish your book and they don’t offer any kind of marketing, what’s the point of publishing with them? You can do it yourself. Email me. I’ll set you up with my vendors. If you have $1500 to spend. 

So there are no easy answers. Being a hybrid author, independent and traditional, makes good sense. I get to place lots of bets for every roll of the dice. 

And the querying process is good for my spirit. It keeps me hopeful and it keeps me strong.

If you want an easier industry, I’d go into health supplements. You’ll make more and it’s easier. But if you love stories, if you are called to write books, then you have a duty to get those books out into the world. 

By any means necessary.

About the Author: Aaron Michael Ritchey is the author of The Never PrayerLong Live the Suicide King, and Elizabeth’s Midnight. His fourth novel, Dandelion Iron, the first book in The Juniper Wars series, is available now from Kevin J. Anderson’s WordFire Press. If you like the first one, Killdeer Winds, the second book in the series, just hit the streets. In 2015, his second novel won the “Building the Dream” award for best YA novel, and he spent the summer as the Artist in Residence for the Anythink Library. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two ancient goddesses of chaos posing as his daughters.

For more about him, his books, and how to overcome artistic angst, visit He’s on Facebook as Aaron Michael Ritchey.

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