Indie Publishing, a guest post by Ken Lizzi


Indie Publishing, a guest post by Ken Lizzi

Any new endeavor, any new project comes accompanied by equal parts worry and excitement. It’s a step into the unknown, with outcomes you can’t wholly predict. It could be a kick in the pants — an appropriately ambiguous phrase, I think, since the new project might be a lot of fun, or it might be a pain in the keister.

I’m venturing out into a personal terra incognita myself. Indie Publishing. A frightening new land, the very name of which is laden with preconceptions. I’ve steered clear of it thus far, finding homes with publishers for all my novels to date. I wanted that…prestige, I suppose. There is a certain comfort that accompanies placing a novel with a publisher: you’ve established that at least someone thinks your book is good, good enough to invest the time and resources required to publish it. And then there’s the knowledge that someone else is now shouldering the rest of the work: producing the cover, formatting, distribution, marketing, etc. You can get back to writing, let the publisher publish.

There’s also a degree of snobbery involved, let’s be honest. There is the notion that independently published books, self-published books, are little better — if at all — than vanity projects. There’s the commonly held prejudice that such books are released by the authors only because no publisher would touch them, the corollary being that having a publisher for your book is a hallmark of quality. This latter proposition is clearly nonsense, easily disproved by reading some of what publishers have deemed worthy.

But the self-publishing stigma is persistent and deep-rooted. I’m as guilty of harboring the prejudice as anyone. In fairness, you can find evidence to support the notion; it’s as easy to find poor quality indie work as it is poor quality traditionally published work.

The path to success I’d plotted for myself traced the conventional route on my mental map, and I rode each new book to publication, never considering publishing one myself. Boss was merely another mile-marker on that map. I found a home for it with a publisher. I received encouraging comments. In fact, the editor suggested I write sequels, with the goal of rapid release, one after the other. This wasn’t what I’d had in mind; staid, conventional me wanted to wait until sales results came in to indicate the level of interest before I descended down into the word mines once more. But, willing to do my part, I set aside other projects and spent a year writing sequels.

After all that effort on my part, and additional steps by the publisher to see the manuscript to print, I was informed that the publisher was cutting back on the number of releases it wanted to commit to. Well, publishing is a business. Taking the decision as a personal affront would have been a) delusional (dollars and cents doubtless prompted the culling, not some animosity to Yours Truly) and b) a pathetic indulgence in victimhood mentality. Suck it up and drive on, soldier. So, I asked to be released from the contract, and we parted ways with, I believe, goodwill on both sides.

It was about that time that I began to hear the proselytizing siren song of the indie authors. No one knocked on my door and handed me a tract. There was no coordinated campaign of conversion. But at conventions, at gatherings, at dinners, I’d find myself chatting with successful indie authors. (Hello, Sarah. Howdy, Blaze.) They were all encouraging, and enthusiastic about the benefits of self-publishing: the freedom, the opportunities, the larger chunk of the royalty pie. Over the last several months I’ve been deluged with with good advice, best practices, tips, tricks, and on-line resources.

And I have succumbed. Why? Because it is new. I want to explore this new land. I’m trepidatious, sure. Where’s my publisher to turn to if I get lost along the way? But more importantly, I’m excited. This is a new activity I want to try my hand at. I want to learn. I want to tackle the challenge.

I don’t see myself abandoning the traditional model entirely. Frankly, I’m too lazy. So my path forward will probably be a hybrid one. But I want to see where indie publishing can take me. Why don’t you check in on my progress from time-to-time? Boss: Falchion’s Company Book One is now available. And you can drop in for my weekly musings and nonsense at


A city governed by wizards can still have an underbelly that is governed by crime lords. Out-of-work mercenary, Falchion, arrives in the city of Groft and signs on with the boss of the organized crime outfit. But when Falchion’s distaste for the work angers the Boss, his only move is to become the Boss himself. Even if he succeeds, Falchion will have more trouble in store, trouble that his sword alone may be unable to cut through, for there is a connection between the underground criminal organization and the wizards in their lofty towers, and no one received wizardly permission for a change in leadership.


38 thoughts on “Indie Publishing, a guest post by Ken Lizzi

  1. I looked at the picture and saw two robot silhouettes holding blasters and shooting at the sun.

    1. There was a previous version with the same silhouettes but no sun, iirc, that induced similar confusion. (I recognized it this time!)

  2. There’s also a degree of snobbery involved, let’s be honest.

    I note that “sob” seems to be built from the term “nob” — a British slang term equivalent to “toff.” To wit: “(slang, chiefly, British) a wealthy or influential person; a toff”

    Thus snobbery would be a pretentious donning of airs.

    N.B.: the above exercise in etymology is wholly without substance. an impure phantasy.

  3. Cover image caption: “So I said, ‘Why *not* get into the mercenary business?’ “

  4. There is the notion that independently published books, self-published books, are little better — if at all — than vanity projects.

    Increasingly it seems that what publishers put out are a form of vanity project, except here the vanity projected is the publishers’.

  5. I’m venturing out into a personal terra incognita myself. Indie Publishing.

    Welcome to the frey.

    I took such a leap this weekend, for the first time putting up a novel for pre-release on Amazon (release date April 5). I’ve had one short up for a couple of years. As it is I still need to finish everything up, make a real cover, and real ad copy. The pre-release was me creating a self-imposed deadline.

    So, good luck to both of us.

    Oh, and book obtained.

  6. There’s the commonly held prejudice that such books are released by the authors only because no publisher would touch them, the corollary being that having a publisher for your book is a hallmark of quality.

    Increasingly, the opposite is true. Authors self-publish because none of them want a publisher to touch a book, or more importantly, any of the income and accounting.

    Why settle for pennies on the dollar when you can get almost the whole quarters.

    In fact, I first sat down and started to write seriously almost 30 years ago while still in the Navy. And I stopped, because looking at the publishing game and attendant popularity contest it was becoming (and I hadn’t seen anything yet) I figured I had better ROI and could scratch the story telling itch other ways (RPGs, being the story guy on my boat, oral storytelling at SCA events). Indie is what made me say, “that’s worth investing in like a career”.

    1. I went indie because my stuff was sooooo cross-genre that I knew no agent would touch it, and because people liked the raw stories.

    2. Did the same myself, more than a decade ago. I pitched by first to books to agents (all of them in New York City) in an attempt to do the trad-pub thing … and while I did get interest from a couple of them (including two or three who were really complimentary, and one who regretfully turned down my first book but gave me all sorts of good advice) I said to myself – ‘screw this, I’ve got a devoted coterie of readers, why would I go on tormenting myself. hoping to get a traditional publisher who would screw me out of most of the benefits just so that I could say that I had a publisher?
      These days, when people ask me who my publisher is, I look at them, loftily, and reply,
      “I OWN the publishing company!”
      Welcome to the dark side. We have cookies. Luxurious cookies, with real butter and expensive chocolate!

      1. LOL… and every so often I get someone trying to buy the domain. No, I’ve used the name since before there _was_ an internet, so yeah, I own the company! Phbbt. Cookies are over there, on the counter. Double chocolate.

        The main issue I see with so much of self-pub is the desperate need of an editor who groks both verb tenses and sentence beats. Not that this isn’t increasingly lacking in tradpub; still, no need to descend to their level!

        1. My first thought on editing, was yeah everyone indie and trad needs to work on it.

          However, that is a little like my reaction to the constant refrains that you need to pay a developmental/story editor. It is hard to justify on an ROI basis.

          What does a good copy editor cost? Let’s say $0.01/word of manuscript. For a 60,000 word novel, about where I aim (I miss DAW yellow spines from the 70s) that’s $600. Looking at Ally, I can put that $600 in a 12 month CD and earn $12 over the year, plus recover my principle. That’s $612.

          At the minimum Amazon price for 70% of $2.99 that means only on the 287th extra book sold in the first year have I broken even and started to get benefit on the copy-edit.

          Developmental editors are even worse, at about three times that.

          I can believe a professional cover vs. one I design myself can sell 287 extra books in a year. I am not convinced copy edits or story edits can. Yes, there is more complex analysis to be done about long term building a fan base, but again. How much does the copy edit help on that front.

          That’s actually a serious question. If you view indie publishing as a business, you need to do ROI calculations on every expense not necessary to be in business. On book specific expenses you need to do cost accounting for that book and any possible knock on benefit.

          Right now, it seems good copy editing does not pay for itself on a 1 or even two year time frame unless I can see how it benefits long term fan building.

              1. Mostly kidding. I have occasionally considered trying to expand my scope from editing nonfiction to editing fiction — on a professional basis rather than “will note obvious typos if you let me read it early” — and you make excellent points regarding the cost-benefit analysis involved.

  7. I don’t normally read book one until more are out (if nothing else, I forget that I started the series and never find it again), but since this is your first one: Got it.

  8. Welcome to the land of indie publishing… your hostess this evening will be… Well hard to say… We aren’t too organized here. Welcome anyway and remember one thing– Have Fun!

      1. If you try the latter, you must also remember that Your Target Audience Can Not Be Everyone.

  9. Bleh…

    That wasn’t meant to be a reply above, though I suppose it works nearly as well where it appeared.

    Good luck with your book sales!

  10. Very cool post. I personally prefer the Indie route. I think anyone should be able to throw their work to the world and let the world decide what the quality is. I think we live in a great time where we are able to actually do this. And sink or swim, we get the opportunity to potentially entertain others. I really enjoy my writing and sharing it with new people. I may never be a millionaire from it but so what? When my time comes, I can look back at my life and smile, knowing that I enjoyed what I did. After all, what else do we have but time and why not enjoy it? Great post!

  11. Wow. What a great post. Very encouraging that you are dipping your toes in the water. I had a career as an indie game designer so it was a natural thing for me to try and go it alone. Although I did send my manuscript to Baen just to see what would happen. They get thousands of submissions though I am sure. In the end I just put my first book up on Amazon Select. It was fun to write but I’m wishing I had a publisher to market it right about now. Hope it isn’t in bad form but here is my amazon link:

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