Why I Prefer Indie Publishing Over Traditional Publishing

inmatescover

Tomorrow, my latest book, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Thoughts On Following Jesus, Amish Romance, the Daniel Plan, the Tebow Effect, and the Odds Of Finding Your Soul Mate officially releases.

As most of you probably know, I’ve had the privilege of publishing two books through traditional publishers (man, talk about a pretentious sentence!). I’m really grateful for all the people I’ve met and all the neat opportunities that have come through working with traditional publishers.

However, in recent years I’ve made the conscious decision to move away from traditional publishing and into indie publishing. Most people think this is a relatively stupid idea. Or, they associate indie publishing with terrible authors who can’t get published by traditional publishing companies. But there really is a method to my madness. There are some very specific and concrete reasons I prefer indie publishing to traditional publishing.

IT’S WAY MORE FUN

The truth is, for me, indie publishing is way more fun than traditional publishing. The reality is, publishing companies need to make money on the books they publish. I don’t fault them for that. After all, no money means no company. The downside to this is that publishing companies can’t afford to take risks on books. They need to know that they’re going to at least make back the money they spent publishing books. Again, nothing wrong with that.

However, what this practically means is that publishing companies tend to be primarily concerned with platform. If an author has a big platform, he can get published (see Jefferson Bethke, etc.). Or, if an author writes a controversial book guaranteed to raise the hackles of large numbers of people, he or she can also get published (see Rachel Held Evans, Rob Bell, et all.).

I have all sort of books I want to publish that don’t quite fit into the mainstream of Christian literature. The Inmates Are Running the Asylum is more in the vein of David Sedaris and Dave Barry than John Piper. I want to publish a collection of short stories. I want to publish a novel that doesn’t conclude with everyone getting saved and the marriage being rescued and the football team winning the championship. Indie publishing lets me follow my imagination wherever it may lead.

IT’S WORKING REALLY WELL FOR ME

Without going into specific numbers, I can say that indie publishing has been really, really good to me. My last release, Untamable God: Encountering the One Who Is Bigger, Better, and More Dangerous Than You Could Possibly Imagine, has sold very well. The reason for this is simple: I have fantastic friends who have really helped me promote the book. I don’t have a marketing team. I don’t have a video team to help me create controversial book trailers (ala, “Farewell Rob Bell”). I just have a lot of great friends who have helped spread the word about my books.

Going the indie route has also allowed me to be really generous with my books. I’ve easily given away over 20,000 copies of my book Create: Stop Making Excuses and Start Making Stuff. That simply wouldn’t happen if I had gone the traditional route.

So am I done with traditional publishing? Not necessarily. But I’m having so much fun right now going the indie route, I’ll at least pause before I consider signing with a traditional publisher.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? SHOULD I GO INDIE? SHOULD I STAY WITH A MAINSTREAM PUBLISHER? ALL THOUGHTS WELCOME!

Comments

  1. Lisa says

    Thanks so much for the information and encouragement! Do you sell mostly hard copies or electronic versions? It would be great if you would write more on indie publishing-maybe a series? (Best route for hard copy publishing, approximate costs, resources, etc.)

  2. joanna says

    I think you should stay indie unless you get a super good offer from a traditional publisher since you’re doing indie publishing so well. Many indie books fail at at least one of writing, editing or graphic design but you’ve managed to get them all happening to a high standard.

    Looking forward to see where you go with the novel. You are totally right that the cliches of rescued marriages and everyone getting saved are way overdone in Christian publishing so there’s lots of other potential storylines out there to explore.

  3. M says

    I have thought about going indie as well. I’m published through a very small traditional (Christian) publisher which basically means all the cons of traditional publishing (i.e. they keep some of the money, which, as you said, is understandable) and none of the pros (there is no marketing department–I have to do all marketing and publicity myself).

    Would you say that to go indie you really have to have somewhat of a platform and connections ALREADY in order to sell successfully?

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