Self-Pub, Indie-Pub, or Big 5? Part 7

We continue on with our discussion of the three paths to publishing your novel. This week we will examine Independent Presses.

The first thing you should note when considering indie presses is that each and every one of them is different, operates differently, has a different contract, produces products of differing quality, and has different ethics. Indie presses are called small presses but they can be tiny one-person operations or huge organizations. What makes a publisher a small press/indie press is that they are not affiliated with the Big 5 Publishers, and they generate revenue of less than $50 million dollars a year.

Is any of this important to you?

It should be.

Are there bad indie presses you should be wary of?


There are indie presses who will contract your book without reading it, do not edit or proof it, throw on a shitty cover, only do ebook, and call it published. This is not good for you, the author. If readers buy your book and put it down because it hasn’t been edited or proofed, and write bad reviews on Amazon or Goodreads this is bad for your writing career.

Don’t get me wrong. There are indie presses that ONLY do ebook and do a great job of it. But make sure this is what you want.

The point is you have to do your research. All indie presses are different. Each has their own process, and you need to know what those are.

Independent Press Information

  • The publisher contracts with you for the right to publish your work for a specific period of time. There should be an end date on your contract. Make sure there is.
  • The publisher assumes all costs of production of the book. You should not be charged for production, or marketing or anything else except author copies if you want additional copies of the book to give away or sell. If they want you to pay for your cover or production costs, they are a vanity press, not an indie press. Don’t do vanity press, unless you have a specific business reason for doing so.
  • There may or may not be an advance.
  • They may or may not accept unsolicited manuscripts, or they may only accept unsolicited manuscripts. You will need to research what the particular press’ policy is.

Not all Indie Presses are the same. Questions you need to ask:

  • Do they publish in print and digital? Digital only?
  • Where do they distribute? Amazon only? Ingram? Baker Taylor?
  • Do they do print runs or only Print on Demand (POD)?
  • What is their submission process? Each house will have a unique process and you will need to submit according to their rules. Some will want ten pages of your manuscript. Some will want three chapters and a synopsis. Give them what they require.
  • Contracts will be different at each house. If you are offered a contract, I highly recommend that you use a literary attorney to review your contract. There are contracts out there that are bad for authors. Really.
  • What are their royalty rates? They (probably) offer higher royalty rates and more flexible contract terms than the Big Five. But this is not always so. Do your homework.

What are the benefits of publishing with an indie press?

  • Small presses can kickstart your marketing efforts and aren’t afraid to think outside the box. The profit margins for indie presses are small in general, so they do tend to find ways to market on the cheap. But, there are indie presses who do no marketing at all. Ask.
  • Small presses may give you more editorial control. They may allow you to discuss requested edits to your manuscript. But they may not. This will be outlined in your contract, which you should read in detail.
  • You may have more accessible interactions with your editor. These interactions can translate into a more rewarding writer-editor relationship. You also may have the option of changing editors if you are unhappy with the editor you have. But, some presses only have one editor, so you should do your homework before you sign a contract with them.
  • Small presses offer unknown and emerging authors a place to get a foothold in their pursuit of success by publishing those early works upon which a career is built. You may never get a Big 5 contract, or you may get one later in your career. Either way, you will have time to grow your readership over time, and that is good for everyone.
  • Most indie presses have limited resources, so don’t expect the diva treatment. By the way, if you do the diva routine, you also could get your contract canceled for being a pain in the ass. Yes, this is possible. Remember that publishing is a business and you should be as professional as possible at all times.
  • The packaging of your book may not look as professional as a Big 5 package, but it might. Take a look at their website, ask to see a media kit. Do their covers look good? Do they even create media kits?
  • Ask if they have a marketing plan for their authors. Do they assist authors by sending out review copies? Do they advertise? Do they offer suggestions to their authors on what marketing they should be doing? Remember that every author markets regardless of the publishing path, but it’s always good to get help if it is available.

Next time: Self-Pub, Indie-Pub, or Big 5? Part 8


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