Top Ten Reasons to Independently Publish

One of the big questions any author considers is “who’s the best publisher for my book?”  After writing eight books, being published by four different publishers, and independently publishing my own books, my answer has changed over time.  I’ve been published by big houses like Tab and McGraw-Hill, I’ve had a literary agent, and I’ve published myself.  Color Mastery I published through my own “indie press,” Willow Ridge Press, and here are my top ten reasons why:

  1. Present Innovative Content. Groundbreaking ideas rarely come from big, established companies, because they’re too entrenched in their own systems.  Color Mastery takes a totally unique and innovative approach to not only color in quilting, but how it provides a road map and focuses on exercises and building great color skills.
  2. Hire the Best. I’ve published two books on my own, and managed a publishing group, and I know how essential hiring the best talent is to the outcome of any book.  Many self-publishers do everything themselves and that’s a mistake.  I hired the best quilt photographer, illustrator, book designer, technical editor, and content editor I could find.  And it shows.  Color Mastery is beautiful, a great read, has excellent photos, and easy-to-follow instructions.
  3. Know Your Audience. That’s the first rule for any writing, is to know who you’re writing for.  I know from my quilting classes that all quilters, from newbies to art quilters, have burning questions about color.  I also know they make a diverse range of quilts, from originally-designed art quilts to baby quilts to reproduction quilts, and they all need color advice.  Color Mastery includes color wisdom any quilter can use, not just quilters who want to make vibrant, in-your-face with color quilts.
  4. Become an Entrepreneur. The world of publishing is much more accessible with the internet.  I can talk to a printer in China, my photographer in California, and my Brazilian illustrator in Washington state easily.  And I can develop distributions channels far more efficient than other companies, saving you money and making the book more affordable.
  5. Develop Relationships. I meet everyone involved in the quilting industry, from quilters in my classes, to shop owners, quilting wholesalers, book authors, pattern designers, and fabric manufacturers.  Because I’m involved in every aspect of my book, from content, to print, to sales and distribution, I’ve met wonderful people I never would have as an author insulated from the industry.
  6. Get the Attention You Deserve.  My literary agent represented over 100 authors.  Big publishing companies produce hundreds of products, from books to CDs, each year, and you get a miniscule slice of their attention.  Most authors don’t realize how little time they’ll actually spend with their editors.  By publishing myself, I get face time with my team when I need it.  I don’t feel lost in a revolving door of authors and products.
  7. Build an Evergreen Title. What’s that?  An evergreen title is one that stays in print a long time, rather than being a fad than lasts only a year or two.  After writing a couple of books, I realized it took just as much effort to write a book that would last for 10 or 20 years as it did to write a book about a fad that would last only one to two years.  And when I buy books, I go for longevity as well.  Trends are fun, but the good stuff lasts and hold lessons for me for years to come.
  8. Earn More. Most authors are horribly surprised at how tiny their royalty checks are and how long it takes to actually get them.  It’s not unusual to wait 18 months to two years for your first royalty check – the author is the last to be paid in the publishing chain.  And if you get an advance, you may never earn more than that.  Most authors also don’t realize they must buy copies of their own books from the publisher, so if you want to speak and sell your books, you must buy them first.  As an independent publisher, I keep far more of my books’ earnings, and I get them sooner.  However, as the publisher I also put up the capital to hire the team and print the book.  Ultimately, I made an investment in myself.
  9. Turn Your Book into Opportunities. A book is just the beginning of my career, and it serves as the ultimate business card.  From one book I’ll develop additional products, book speaking engagements, be offered opportunities to design quilts, fabric, and who knows what else?  Because I have closer relationships with players in the industry, I’m one of the first they think of when it comes to partnerships.
  10. Own the Copyright. Never, ever write a book and let the publisher own the copyright.  I’m devastated when I see women work tirelessly to develop a book and the quilt projects in it, only to practically give it away to a publisher who then owns the copyright.  Basically, you’ve just done a “work for hire” and you have no rights whatsoever to that work ever again.  I value my work and talent far more than that, and so should you.  Don’t give your work away.

I know I had loads of questions as a newbie author, and it’s tough to know who to trust.  Join me over at LibraryThing’s author chat and I’ll be happy to answer any question you have about quilting, writing, or the publishing process.  See you there!