5 Mistakes A New Author Can Make: Indie vs Traditional Publishing

Indie Publishing vs Traditional Publishing

This blog is co-authored by Jean Hopkins and Richard Flores IV. About Richard.

Indie Publishing (eBook):

  1. Submitting your eBook before researching your options
  2. Not promoting your eBook sufficiently when you have a “Free” or “Discount” time-period.
  3. Adding your eBook to the wrong category
  4. Not being ePrepared for your eBook
  5. Expecting too much of your first eBook

1. One of the first mistakes I ever made when publishing my first two (finished) short stories on KDP was electing to use “KDP Select” without reading the fine print, or researching more on how to make eBooks “free” on Kindle. We’ve all seen the free/cheap Kindle books that are available, which led to my belief that there must be some option for Authors to set their books to $0.00 (or whatever your currency is) on the back-end. In fact, there is! The option is limited to 5 days every 90 days, however, which is significantly less time than I’ve seen many publications set at “free.” There are other options for setting a book free, which I’ll go over shortly. The main point here is not that KDP Select is horrible, which it isn’t at all, but that it may not be for everyone. KDP Select is incredibly useful for Authors who are establishing a name on the market. The relatively short contract length (although probably the standard in Traditional Publishing) is definitely a bonus, since 90 day spans can help get your name out there long enough that you can start submitting elsewhere. Kindle has the largest market share of eBooks (or so I’ve been told) with an enormous number of readers. This doesn’t mean no other eBook store is worth submitting to, but it does mean it’s your quickest entry into the market if you use don’t mess up like I did. Just so we’re clear here, submitting using KDP Select first is a good idea, but once you have established enough readers, you should also submit to other stores. Many Kindle readers have friends who prefer Sony, Nook, Kobo, etc. Those friends won’t be able to get your eBook unless they have an Android or iOS device, or some other Kindle-supported device. Some of them specifically stayed away from Kindle. You don’t want to alienate potential readers.

I want to note here that KDP Select is an option for your Kindle books. You can sell your eBooks through Kindle and not elect for KDP Select. It is a tool used to allow you to get more visibility on their site, however it does lock you in to a 90 day contract. You have three days from your initial “signature” to opt out of it, however if you use any of the 5 “free” days offered through the program, you will be locked in. You can use the 5 days individually or all at once. From my own research and the opinions of others, using 1-2 days at a time gets the most visibility, with a month between sales.

If you want to offer your eBook for free and do NOT want to use KDP Select, you CAN. You just need to submit your eBook elsewhere, which you can do if you aren’t tied to the 90 day contract on KDP Select, set your eBook free there, then use the “Report Lower Price” option on your eBook’s Amazon page. Amazon is good about switching it back to its “regular” price if you change it back from $0.00 on the other sites. If you want to offer free books on multiple platforms, this would be the way to do it. KDP Select only lets you offer free eBooks 5 days every 90 days, which doesn’t work if you want the book to be free all the time.

Here’s a list of other places to submit your eBooks:

  • Smashwords – Smashwords is the first place I would go after establishing clients on Kindle. It submits automatically for you to several places, and if you format your eBook using their (somewhat strict) guidelines, they’ll even provide an ISBN for you. This enables you to submit to eBook resellers that require an ISBN, like iTunes. Smashwords is completely free, but does take a % of your sales.
  • B&N Pubit! – Smashwords will also submit to B&N, but many authors prefer handling this account separately. Smashwords lets you pick-and-choose your vendors, so it’s definitely an option. Some authors prefer having one vendor handle all of their distribution. I’m lazy enough that I’d go the only-Smashwords way.
  • Indie Publishing – there are a lot of Independent Publishers out there. Many cater to specific genres (Erotica, Horror, Sci-Fi, etc) and some are very picky about who they publish. In this sense, they can be like Traditional Publishing.


2. There are many sites out there that provide their readers with lists of Free or Inexpensive eBooks. Letting them know in advance is a good idea, since they do have other Indie Authors alerting them of their sales. Since eBooks are Digital, many readers are active on the Internet. It is very important to go to your potential readers and “hang out.” I don’t mean running up to them all and saying “GO TO MY BLOG!”, I mean getting to know them and being a PERSON. Don’t be sneaky and two-faced about it either. If you don’t understand or like someone, they probably aren’t the sort of reader who would want to read your work.

Consider advertising your Blog/Website well in advance. Facebook, Google, and Kindle Nation Daily all offer advertising options that are budget-friendly. You can set your maximum spending limit for Facebook and Google, and KND allows you to pick a “Package.” Set up your ads in advance to go live a day before your eBook goes free/on sale, then set your budget for those days. KND suggests choosing the day of the promotion so that readers don’t get confused, since they publish your “ad” the day of the free promotion (if you choose the $29.99 package).

Websites to submit your Free Kindle eBook days to:

  • Pixel of Ink – submit at least two weeks in advance
  • Kindle Nation Daily – unless you pay for highlighting, they will only post if the eBook is one they feel stands out from the crowd
  • The Digital Inkspot – E-Mail the owner directly (there’s an E-Mail address on the page). They are very nice and SUPER awesome! <3

There may be more, but these ones seem to be at the top of the stack so to speak. Ty Johnston has a huge list of even more resources for Indie Authors, and has written 100 blogs for 100 sites.

3. Number three on my list wasn’t a HUGE issue for me, however it definitely will hinder sales if you tell people your eBook is about hearts and rainbows, but your cover has a bloody corpse on it. There is a list a mile long for categories on KDP, but they only allow you to choose two. For both of my first eBooks, I selected “Short Stories” first. If you are submitting a Short Story it is VERY important that you make sure your reader knows. I’d even go so far as to say you should put your Wordcount in the description so that readers know what they’re buying. If you’re concerned that putting a Wordcount in your description will discourage too many readers, remember the number of Kindle users out there. This does not mean the number of people with Kindles — I don’t own one, however I have the app on my Android, iTouch, two computers and a Blackberry. There is also a Cloud Reader that allows you to read on a browser. The number of people who read Short Stories is significant. In addition to providing Short Story readers an easy way to decide whether to get your eBook, it also keeps you from getting negative reviews from people who feel upset that they were not told the eBook’s length. Win/Win!

4. If you don’t have a website already and you plan on being an Author, Self Published or Traditional, you need to go get one right now. Namecheap.com is a very inexpensive place to get a domain (if you are so inclined), which you can host WordPress on. If you’d rather have someone else do the hosting for you, you can use authorblog.me (I’m http://jeanhopkins.authorblog.me actually. They use WordPress), WordPress.com, Blogger or Livejournal. If you do decide to use a hosted service (all of which are free, but have added features for $$, except for authorblog.me), you have the added benefit of the socialization aspect that is so necessary for getting your name out there. Livejournal has had years to acquire their users, while WordPress and Blogger are often the preferred hosts for many authors. They all have their own communities that help you have an Internet Presence. Authorblog.me is actually still too new to have a user base, but they do have a nifty URL! You can also sync up your authorblog.me account to WordPress.com (using the Jetpack addon) so you get the benefits of WordPress.com’s community, AND a nifty URL. Right now they’re invite-only, but the host is currently accepting invitation requests. Kindleboards is one of the LARGEST forums for Kindle readers. Many other eBook readers go there as well, however their first and foremost purpose is for Kindle eBooks. They have some strict policies that are very important to follow, however they have a large number of readers and everyone is very nice and welcoming. I’d suggest setting your eBooks up there well in advance (it’s pretty easy to do, they have many guides on how to do it and on how to get started as an Author using Kindleboards). Since you can only “bump” your eBook threads once every seven days unless someone comments on it, I’d suggest setting everything up at least 8 days in advance. That way, if you do make your eBook free, you can comment on your eBook thread. Submitting your own eBooks to the Book Bazaar’s “Free Book Finds” thread is a HUGE no-no (only self-promote in your book’s thread, once every seven days), however at least posting that your eBook is free on its thread will let others know. Just FYI — you can make a thread in “The Book Bazaar” for each of your eBooks. This lets others discuss the eBook. It’s a very large forum.

5. Last and most CERTAINLY not least, do not expect too much of your first eBooks. Consider this your “Learning Period.” A lot of people luck out majorly their first time through the grind, whereas others find their experience falls short. This is due to the type of work you are submitting: the book cover, the size, the price, the description and the genre. Erotica is a very popular genre, particularly in Short Story format. Maybe not everyone is interested in reading a short Mystery, but many people might be interested in Sci-Fi Flash Fiction. If the cover looks like something their cat couldn’t digest, or perhaps doesn’t even HAVE a cover, it might deter people who would otherwise find the description interesting. Most notably those with a GOOD description attract more readers. A description doesn’t have to be the whole book (if you wrote Flash Fiction); it can touch on the story, provide some insight into the author, and display a bit of the style the author writes in. All of those aspects help a reader decide if they want to buy an eBook. If your eBook has a lot of words but is underpriced, readers may assume it’s junk. You’re the next Laurell Hamilton, so don’t go charging next to nothing for all of your hard work! I’m not going to tell you how much your words are worth; you should try adjusting your prices until you get a good mix of buyers and profit. Each author will have their own experiences with this. As a baseline, the minimum you should go (other than Free) is .99 cents. If you want to stand out from the .99 cent crowd, try $1.99 or $2.99. Even if you don’t have 1,000 buyers at $2.99, your profit will be higher, which may make your bottom line higher.

Traditional Publishing: By Richard Flores IV

  1. Not researching the Market
  2. Not reading the submission guidelines
  3. Not tracking their submissions
  4. Limiting yourself to one type of publication
  5. Giving up too early

I think you have to first decide how you want to publish.  There are many mistakes you can make when you choose to go with traditional publishing.  Since this is called “5 Mistakes” and not “You can really mess this up” I will give you what I think are the top 5.

1.  Not researching the Market:  If you plan to submit a Space Western, you might want to make sure the market publishes Space Westerns.  I don’t just mean that they say they will accept them, do they actually publish them?  Read the market, see what other authors are published there.  Since typically you can expect 30 days to six months of waiting for a response, don’t tie up your time with a market that likely doesn’t like your genre.

2. Not reading the submission guidelines:  Standard Manuscript format (seen here), is what I write all my stories in.  12 point courier font, 1″ margins all around.  It is pretty standard.  But, the format a magazine wants it in is not always standard.  Some may want a different font, or only certain file types, or no name listed in the header and footer.  Some may want a cover letter, others may want your previous publishing credits.  The point is, you have to read every single line on the submission guidelines for the publication you want to submit to.  You worked hard on that story, don’t let it get tossed out because you can’t follow directions.

3. Not Tracking their submissions:  There are a few ways to track submissions, but you really need to use Duotrope.  It is free (though I recommend you donate something), and it gives you more information then you can imagine.  Average response times, acceptance percentages, pay rate classifications, and so much more.  I’ve found publications I didn’t even know of on Duotrope (I’ll get to that soon).  But, the main feature on this is the submission tracker.  With many places not wanting simultaneous submissions (meaning you have the story out with other publications at the same time), you need to know where your story is.  Even if they allow your story to be submitted to others, you will want to let the others know if it is picked up.

With how long it can take some places to respond, it can be very easy to forget where your story is at and where you have already sent it.  Don’t embarrass yourself be sending the same story to an editor twice.

4. Limiting yourself to one type of publication:  Don’t be foolish here.  Don’t limit yourself to one publication type.  Don’t say you will only take “pro rates” or “Print magazines”.  You are limiting yourself.  I talk about this in my post “Quality Versus Quantity” when I talk about aiming for certain pay scales, but you also need to accept where the dart hits.   So don’t limit your story to a certain type publication just because your dream is to be seen on Daily Science Fiction.  That is a great dream, but your story deserves an audience.  There is a just as loyal an audience at any publication.  Aim for your dream market, but don’t stop when you miss the target.  The more you write the better you will get and the closer you will get to a bulls-eye.

5. Giving up too early:  Duotrope has over 4,000 markets listed.  Hard as it is to believe they don’t list every market either.  The truth is, while I can’t guarantee results, chances are there is a home for your story somewhere out there.  It may take some time to find it, or you may find it right away.  But stopping short of publication is foolish.  I refuse to see any of my short stories die, even if I have to try all 4,000 markets.  For me it is not about pay, it is about telling my story to an audience.  If I stop there, I fail my story, my characters, and worst of all my audience.  Trust me, if you don’t tell your story someone else will.

There is a cycle to getting published, I talk about it in “Getting Published“.  It is easy to give up with rejection.  But, it is part of the process.  You will have to learn to accept that your story doesn’t fit every market.  But, you also need to accept that your story DOES fit at least one market.  Don’t let yourself believe otherwise.  After every rejection, you must submit to the next market.  Don’t even wait a day.  Just send it on out to the next one.

Richard Flores IV is an author of Speculative Fiction who lives in Vacaville, California.  He fits his writing time around being a father of three young boys and a husband to his beautiful wife.  He has been published in Cygnus Journal of Speculative Fiction and Liquid Imagination.  He also runs a blog where he talks about publishing, writing, and whatever else interests him.  For more information on Richard Flores IV, you can find him online at http://floresfactor.wordpress.com/.  You can also find him on Twitter @Richard_Flores4

Leave a Reply to My Homepage Cancel reply