Update From the Indie Publishing Front Lines

Recapping recent battles in the war:

  • Scrub the original Word.doc file formatted for submission to agents to remove all the “messy” troublemakers like extra returns, tabs, spaces, etc.
  • Follow the guidelines of Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), and PubIt (Barnes&Noble) to prepare a single .doc file for conversion to .epub and .mobi.
  • Create another .doc file using the Smashwords formatting guidelines.
  • Use Calibre to create the .epub and .mobi versions of the ebook.
  • Design a cover for the ebooks with Photoshop Elements.
  • Upload the .epub and .mobi files to PubIt and KDP along with the cover.
  • Create a template for the print-on-demand (POD) edition of the novel to be published by Amazon’s CreateSpace (CS), and/or Lulu.
  • Fill the template with the original .doc file and add stylistic elements that work in print but don’t in ebook format.
  • I could have elected to use this .doc file as the source for conversion to .pdf for upload to CS, but I decided to try Adobe InDesign and create an .indd file. Two considerations drove this decision: 1) the conversion from a .doc file to .pdf is less reliable than from an .indd file to .pdf, and 2) InDesign offers much more capability than Word, including the option of creating a wraparound cover.
  • Create the .indd file, design the cover, and convert both to .pdf.
  • Upload both to CS.
  • Delay the upload to Smashwords because they do not offer a preview function. Once I send the file to them, it goes through the “Meatgrinder” and comes out live, and I don’t want that to  happen until all the other versions are available for sale.

As of this writing, I’m within a few weeks of being able to pull the trigger on indie publishing, and I’m sliding closer to making that decision every day.

A few months ago I decided not to “nudge” any agent currently considering a full or partial manuscript, under the philosophy that if the material hasn’t been received well enough to generate contact after a few months, it’s more than likely not going to. Then I received a rejection from an agent on a full sent out in March, an email that obviously is a standard “no thank you” after having requested additional material.

And on further thought, It occurred to me that I’m hesitating on going indie in part because I’m waiting to hear from the agents. So I nudged another agent on a full that’s been out for over four months and received this in reply:

Thank you for the opportunity to consider Pilot Error. I started and stopped reading this on several occasions. I find your voice and writing style to be quite good. I think you know how to develop characters and settings and to convey emotion on the page with minimal prose. Plot-wise, however, I found the pacing a little slow. So unfortunately, I am going to pass. Please understand that my opinion is but one and another agent may feel differently.

I could be wrong, but again, I think this could apply to any novel. I’ve got another full and a partial out, and it’s about time to nudge them as well. As for continuing to submit, I’ve always planned to work my way to the end of my list. But that resolve is beginning to slip, for two reasons:

First, my query list rank-ordered agents according to their proven record in requesting additional material from QueryTracker members. I’m about halfway through it, and the statistical request rate for the remaining agents is in single digits. That doesn’t preclude the possibility that one of those agents might be the perfect match for this novel, of course, but then there’s the second reason, a recent post by veteran author Dean Wesley Smith, one of the most prolific bloggers on the topic of indie publishing. You can check it out with the link above and look for “The New World of Publishing: Traditional or Indie? What To Do Now?” published July 28, 2011.

His opinions about where the overall publishing industry is going really got my attention. He does an excellent job of analyzing the primary factors in play and offers his projections for the next few years. They are nagging at me with the following:

Why bother trying to join the crew of a sinking ship? Even if I were to get an agent and be offered a publishing contract, it would be filled with provisions representing legacy’s “new” approach to turning writers into indentured servants. I’d have zero bargaining power to negotiate any relief.

And even if that contract were for a two-book deal and $500k advance that most unpublished authors would consider the equivalent of hitting the jackpot, what happens if the publisher declares bankruptcy a year later? The book is held up in court for who knows how long and I would be powerless to expedite the process.

Smith’s idea is to ignore agents and publishers for now and let the industry suffer through the inevitable metamorphosis that’s coming. If he’s correct, that the survivors will be representatives of the “new” legacy publishing, and the relationship with authors may well be more equitable, and publishers will likely recruit new authors from the ranks of proven indie success stories, then how well I do with this and subsequent novels as an indie author will determine if I have a chance a few years down the road with one of the new Big 6.

And in a very real sense, that’s not much different than now. I either make the grade with them or I don’t. In the meantime, to delay the decision feels more and more like an ill-advised move. I’ve got issues to solve, but there’s nothing I see on the horizon to prevent publishing the ebook and POD versions within a month or so.

I’ll probably end up eating those words, but it won’t be the first such meal or the last supper.

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