Saturday, May 8, 2010

Four Reasons to Go Independent by Smoky Trudeau

You’ve written a book. Congratulations! It’s a big job; most writers give up on their novels about the time they reach chapter seven. Sticking it out to the end is an accomplishment to be proud of.

Now what do you do?

Writers are often shocked to realize writing the words THE END doesn’t mean their work is done. There are still things they need to do in order to make their dream of being published authors a reality. And there is a right way and a wrong way to do these things.

Here is where many writers flounder. Blame Hollywood—television and the movies glamorize the writing life. On film, Joe Writer finishes his novel, submits it to Major Publishing Company, gets offered a $50,000 cash advance, and is flown to New York to meet with his editor and polish the book. Once the book actually is released, he gets sent on a whirlwind book tour around the country, with stops at The Today Show and Oprah.

Reality check: the majority of new books published each year are published by small independent presses, not the major publishing houses. And small presses don’t normally have the resources to offer any cash advance at all, let alone one in the tens of thousands of dollars. Editing services are limited, once again due to budgetary constraints, and while many small presses are happy to help their authors find venues to do a book tour, you’ll have to foot the travel expenses yourself.

So why bother publishing with a small press? What’s in it for you, the author?

(1) First and foremost, you stand a much better chance of getting your book published. Major publishers rarely take a chance on unknown authors. For independents, unknown writers are their bread and butter.

(2) Independent presses are more personal. You’ll get to know your publisher, and they’ll get to know you.

(3) Many indies are reluctant to work with agents, so that cuts out the middleman—and the 15 percent of your royalties they’ll take before you ever see a check. No agent means you get to keep 100 percent of your hard earned royalties.

(4) Because they are small, an independent press is much more likely to work with you to get exposure for your books. One book fails for a major press and it’s not a big deal. One book fails for an independent, and it is sorely felt on their bottom line.

In my next post, I’ll talk about etiquette for authors: the right way—and the wrong way—to query a publisher.

Smoky Trudeau is the author of the newly released Observations of an Earth Mage, a collection of photos, essays, and poems celebrating our beautiful planet earth. She is also the author of two novels, Redeeming Grace and The Cabin, as well as two books for writers, Front-Word, Back-Word, Insight Out: Lessons on Writing the Novel Lurking Inside Your From Start to Finish, and Left Brained, Write Brained: 366 Writing Prompts and Exercises, all from Vanilla Heart Publishing. You can learn more about Smoky at, or at her blog on Xanga, You can also look her up on Facebook.


  1. Somehow, the concept of small, independent presses not only doesn't get into the movies, it often doesn't get into the heads of prospective authors in the process of getting MFAs and related college degrees.


  2. Excellent advice Smoky.

    Another major misconception new authors have to deal with is that IF they get accepted by a "Big House" there usually isn't a marketing budget set aside for them, it still falls on their shoulders. The author who believes everything will be done for them often doesn't get very far.

    In large part due to the economy and costs of business, unless the author is proven or has a big name, the publishing house just does not sink more money into marketing. Many publishers even demand a "business plan" of marketing/promo before acceptance.

    I personally like the team work with a Small Press, I get to speak with my publisher when I need to and bounce ideas around.


  3. Well said.

    Those are exactly the reasons my co-author and I went with a small publishing house.

    It is our intent to help them grow and they entered into the contract knowing that our success is their success.

  4. I just found this blog through Malcom's. Very enjoyable and informative. It will be a place I visit often :)

  5. I'm just passing through town on the blog jog today.

    One of the odd things, Chelle, about marketing budgets is why so many dollars are spent on books that are going to take off almost by themselves because they're written by authors with a lot of residual buzz. It makes no sense to me for a BIG NEW YORK PUBLISHER to put money into a book by a relatively unknown author and then let it die on the vine because they did zip to publicize it.

    Thanks for checking out this place, Tara. Hello, Marie, nice to see you here.


  6. Just stopping by on my blog jog here. As an emerging writer who wishes to publish, I truly appreciate your sage advice Smoky. I will be sure to ferret out the independents for my now ready children's book. Thank you for sharing!

  7. joggin through...

    Lots of information here! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Found you through Blog Jog. I'm an independent writer and I wanted to keep control of my publishing process and wanted nothing to do with an agent. After sampling iUniverse and Virtualbookworm with two different novels and spending way too much money, next time I'm going with CreateSpace. Mainly because I won't have nearly the same costs as I did, and I know I can make $35 back easier than I could with $400+. Plus so many other authors seem to like CreateSpace, so I figured, why not?

    Being Independent is hard work as far as getting seen by the readers, but, I enjoy it.

  9. Very pretty blog and full of interesting stuff. Bravo to you all for doing such a great job. Happy Blog Jog Day.


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