Why independent publishing

Once upon a time, books were copied by learned scribes. They were precious and valued, the manuscript itself considered as much an art as the words it contained. Long story (very) short, movable type was invented, then the printing press and within a few centuries, books could be made and bought with relative ease by large companies.

Cut to 2011.

I’m publishing a book this fall. I didn’t sell it to a publishing house. I’m publishing it independently. Does this mean I’ve sent it to a bunch of agents and it was rejected? Nope. Does this mean I think it wouldn’t stand a chance in legacy publishing circles? Not necessarily.

There are other reasons to publish independently, and I’d like to outline just a few that are important to me. It comes down to three things that are priorities for me. I want to publish what I want, when I want, and I want full creative control.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never been through the query process, but I have a fairly decent idea of how it works. It doesn’t appeal to me. I’m an independent person by nature and I’m starting from scratch, so I’ve decided I might as well do it my way.

I want to publish what I want. That means, if I write a 50K word short novel/long novella, I don’t want to feel like I have to adjust the word count to fit a publisher’s expectations. With electronic publishing, there is no need. That also means if I want to publish a short story to go along with a book, I don’t have to group it with a bunch of other short stories in a collection by authors my readers might not have any interest in. I can put it up for .99 on Amazon and readers can decide whether it’s worth the dollar to read it. I publish what I want.

I want to publish when I want. That means, I don’t want to wait the average of two years or more for my book to hit the marketplace. There is no need to do that. I can have it edited by people I trust far faster than that, and send it to the marketplace with much more alacrity. That also means, if I want to release a novel in serial fashion on my blog (like I am with Tracing Shadows) and then make it available for readers as a book later, then I can do that, too. I publish when I want.

I want full creative control. Does this mean I think my writing is perfect and beautiful, a thing to behold that I am gifting to the world in a magical e-book resting upon a rainbow cloud?

Um … no.

But I do know I can find the people I need to help make it as close to rainbow-like as possible. That means, just like independent writers, there are independent editors, graphic artists, and others to make my book a professional production. That’s partly why I don’t call myself “self-published,” though I don’t make a fuss if others call me that. So many people have contributed to my book already, and more will be involved by the time it hits the market. But all of them have been chosen by me. Not because I want to have my ego stroked—far from it—but because I have chosen those who I think will make me a better writer.

I have no illusions about becoming an overnight sensation, or even a sensation at all. I hope, in the next five years, to develop a body of work that people are excited to read and buy. I hope it will enable me to someday, down the line, support myself financially by writing. It may never be my sole source of income, but it’s something that I take seriously and is a goal I have chosen to work toward. Frankly, I’m going to be writing anyway, I might as well see if someone might like to pay me for it.

I’m not a fan of epic blog posts, so that is all I’ll write on the topic for now. There are many resources out there about publishing independently, but I wanted to give a quick mention to David Gaughran’s new book, published today and available as a free download on his website, Let’s Get Digital: How to Self-Publish and Why You Should. David interviewed thirty-three successful independently published authors for the book and I’m looking forward to reading it.

I’d love to hear from any independently published authors. What are your main reasons for foregoing traditional publishing? What has the experience been like?

To my readers, how many independent authors do you read? Do you still feel like there is a stigma attached to authors who have not been vetted by large publishing houses? If so, what could change your mind?

Thanks for reading,



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  2. Um..I have to disagree with this statement:

    ‘I have no illusions about becoming an overnight sensation, or even a sensation at all.’

    Honey, you already did that when you wrote ‘The River’. People are still in awe of you, totally and completely changed forever, just from reading that story. I am one of them.

    I told you before, I would have paid for that story, and will gladly pay when you publish your first one.

    The internet is a funny place. I have never met you, but I have total and complete faith in you and your future.

    It’s coming……just wait. 😉

    Hugs to you today!!

  3. Get out of my head woman! lol!

    I decided to go indie/self pubbed for all the same reasons you highlight in the post. I just doesn’t sit well with me, the whole trad pub, jumping through hoops to make your work fit in their box.

    By the way, I’m really looking forward to reading your stuff!

    • And I’m very excited to read Voodoo Dues! I’m making myself finish some editing this week before I read any new books, but yours is first on the list. I just loved your first chapter.


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  5. Fantastic posting about indie publishing! I started my own imprint, QEW Publishing, in May 2003 and then decided to become a publisher in March 2011 by releasing comics and graphic novels and an actual prose-written novel in same month.

    I’m currently writing my very first novel. Your three points of priorities as to why I’ve chosen to self-publish are identical to my own and highly inspiring. Thanks for that! I needed that affirmation.

    If it hadn’t been for me loving the film based on your screenplay, JUMPING THE BROOM, I would have never looked you up! Keep writing and please keep posting…as the spirit moves you, naturally. I’m not a fan of epic blog posting, either.

    Lord knows we both likely have enough writing to do. Thanks again!

    • Oh, Quentin! Thank you for your lovely words, and I’m so flattered that you found my reasons for self-publishing inspiring. I am NOT, however, the same writer who wrote the screenplay for Jumping the Broom. (There are a few Elizabeth Hunters out there.) I am the author of the Elemental Mysteries series.

      Thank you for commenting, though, and I wish you the best with your writing and publishing. It sounds like you’re well on your way!


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  7. I am just entering into the world of independent publishing, and I must thank you for being the voice that swayed me to choose that path. I was researching the pros and cons of going through the querying process versus publishing independently, and in doing so I stumbled upon your Elemental Mysteries series. My only gripe is that it pulled me away from my own work! I was hooked until I finished reading the series. When I followed up by visiting your blog, I came across this compelling post. It hit me at the right time, and I made the decision to publish independently. Thank you for the inspiration! I look forward to reading the remainder of your work.

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  9. Dear Elizabeth, this post resonates with my beliefs.
    I have worked for several years as an official translator in Venezuela, but it is so much more enjoyable to translate books by independent authors that I love instead of 80 page contracts about construction.
    I now run a small independent publishing company, which started about 7 years ago when I came across an excellent blog written in English by a young Egyptian. I liked his content and ebooks so much I sent him an email telling him I thought the Spanish speaking community around the world would benefit from his content. After several emails he finally wrote back and we gave it a go. Last January one of his books topped the best-seller charts in iTunes in Spain and Mexico for 3 weeks 🙂
    Ever since I read A Hidden Fire, and most of your books thereafter, I feel like that once again.
    Your writing is absolutely wonderful. I love your style, characters, and story lines. Your imagination rocks! and I would be honored to translate your work into Spanish.
    If you’re interested (and also if you’re not interested) you would make my day if you let me know.
    All the best,

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