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“Who’s your publisher?”

I get that question a lot. And the answer is becoming more clear cut: me.

A bit of backstory: I published my first two novels with a small publisher. I got excellent editing and pretty covers. When I wrote my third book, Tell Me a Story, I intended to publish it only in an anthology of Florida romance writers. It was initially supposed to be a one-off, short novella. Then things snowballed. I hired a designer to create a beautiful cover. I decided to self publish the book on its own. Then I wrote five more stories in the series. I sold some books, then I sold some more. The Story Series hit number one in several erotica categories and Tell Me a Story was the most-downloaded erotica book in several countries. It even got some good reviews from mainstream publications.

Just like that, I was an indie author.

(To clarify: I’m using the terms “indie author” and “self published author” interchangeably).

There’s a lot that goes into being a professional indie author. It’s not just about hammering out some words and throwing up a book on Amazon. I have a cover designer, a content editor, a critique partner/beta reader, a copy editor, a PR firm and a blog tour firm. I’ve become a businessperson. I believe in my work and I spend money making my books the best they can possibly be.

Which is why I’m so thrilled when I get reviews like this from Underground Book Reviews: “It can hold its own against any traditionally published novel in its genre…The entire novel was an engrossing read for me; I literally couldn’t put it down.”

Today I attended Digital Book World’s first-ever Indie Author Day in New York. Some of the best and brightest minds in publishing, and the self-pub community, met to discuss indie books. I met with helpful folks from Kobo and iBooks (look for some promos of my books on those sites, soon) and also met the knowledgable Porter Anderson of publishingperspectives.com.

I wanted to share some indie book stats, courtesy of Data Guy:

  • There were 229 million indie book sales in 2016
  • 55 percent of all romance fiction in 2016 was self-published
  • Beyond the U.S., 20-25 percent of all e-book sales are indie published
  • Indie publishing is a $867 million dollar industry (USD)
  • African American and urban fiction are hugely indie: the Big 5 publishers take only 4% of all online sales in these categories
  • A half-billion dollars is spent each year on e-books without ISBNs (which are non-traditionally published books)

But these stats only partially answer the other question I’m often asked: why do you self publish?

I’ve thought about this a lot. I’m not advocating self-publishing for everyone. In fact, it’s not for everyone — it takes time and money and I readily admit that I am privileged in both of those areas.

I self-publish because I think it’s the best way for me to have creative control of my work. I’ve been a journalist for 25 years and will continue to be one for as long as I can. But make no mistake: I have editors and I work for a company. Which is perfect and excellent for journalism, but it means I answer to many editors. Which again, is necessary and something I desire — journalism is very much a collaborative effort.

For my creative fiction, I want total control. I want to decide the best covers for my books and loved hiring my team. I enjoy making the decisions on pricing and promos.

Perhaps I’ll fail. Perhaps I won’t. But I’ve discovered that the experience of relying on myself for all aspects of my indie book journey has been a huge boost to my creativity and my confidence.