(It should probably be noted that it’s 6AM and that I have opinions.)
#1 How cheap is cheap enough?
The bigger the market, the cheaper the books get. I’m lucky to love two subgenres with huge readership, which makes it easier for writers to price their books as low as $3.49 and still make money. In another one I’m still getting into, the lowest I’ve seen is $4.49, with the median price still being $9.99. (No wonder I’m having a hard time diving into it.) I don’t do KU for a myriad of solid, if individual reasons, but I’ve seen regular calls for recommendations online along the lines of ‘I’m penniless this month, KU recs only, please’, so make of it what you want.
Indie books I see are mostly priced by length and genre, with a special caveat that deep reductions are pretty common in indie publishing. Just watch people’s feeds or get, I don’t know, alerted by distributors when there are sales going on.
(The price thing is a fun one to see from the other side, having opened a small press and all, because almost everyone I speak to in person thinks our (normally indie-priced) books are way too cheap, even in Croatia. I can’t even begin to think how cheap it is for people in other places.)
#2 Why wouldn’t your money go directly to the writers?
Like, literally—why wouldn’t it? Coincidentally, it’s one of the many reasons I switched almost exclusively to indie a few years (already?) ago—I wanted my recently discovered new favourite author to keep 70% of the price of admission I paid for getting instant access to her new release. Of course, I wouldn’t have gotten there were it not for several people’s carefully curated personal campaigns advocating exactly that—for writers to keep money from the sale of IP they created. Nor would I have gotten here if the books hadn’t been so damn cheap to begin with!
As a writer, librarian and—recently—small publisher, I’m seeing this from several different angles at the same time and I don’t even like 3D graphics.
As a side note, indie is not the same as small or self, and I still prefer to buy from self-published writers over those who go through a publishing house, no matter how small. (As a reader in the m/m romance market, I’ve seen several houses go under for several reasons just in the past few years alone, and I can’t even begin to express how much my little writerly heart hurts for the authors.)
#3 Are you niche bitch?*
Sure, there are people who can read only het historical romance and be perfectly happy with their everyday book stack. (Even though, as always, the most famous historical romance novelist I know and happily follow on twitter is, you know, self-published.)
And then there are… oh, hell, I don’t know what to call us and still stay vaguely in the respectable language category. Wait, here’s an easy one—people who want to read queer adult books (that is, not YA). People who read niche romance (and you can insert your favourite dynamic here and spare me the need to list mine). Or, if I understand the writing youtubers correctly, people who love a genre which is not currently all that popular with traditional publishing (boarding school fantasy, anyone?).
Finding writers who do magic with our favourite tropes in our preferred subgenres might take a little research (I usually start with Goodreads lists and hope for the best)—okay, a lot of research—but, once we get going… there’s nothing stopping us until we reach the moon, baby!
#4 How much do you read, anyway?
Due to several overlapping factors, many indie writers publish more often than traditionally published authors. I’m not going to claim that’s a good thing for all people involved—planning a release every three months myself is, uh, quite a peculiar position to be in—but it’s such an incredible perk for readers. If you one-click buy, say, three writers (like I do at the moment), and at least one of them is ‘prolific’, you’re set for a full year!
Of course, for those of us who read, well, too much to mention in polite society, we’re still going to have to wander around, but—and I’m not really sure how to put it more plainly—when you read indie, you’re simply having much more fun than you would’ve ever thought possible.
(Oh, and you know that thing they say about romance readers, that we’re the hungriest market out there? That’s for goddamn sure, and indie publishing knows it.)
#5 But what about quality?
One of my favourite (not-just-indie) writers of all time had been an editor with a major house for several decades prior to switching to writing. Her books are produced as professionally as any I’ve ever seen (and probably more than the majority I see every day as a librarian).
Another one used to be a librarian (oops) and her recent books are not only making people angry all over because she took a problematic trope and went with it (I laughed so hard when I saw the furiously disappointed reviews—what’s a writer who’s not keeping you on your toes?), but they also have some of the prettiest covers I’ve seen so far, anywhere.
Oh, and the writer I probably read the most at the moment, because he publishes the most among my faves, works in the educational system. These people are not people who’d let bad grammar slide. These people are not people to play with.
These people are so freakingly awesome I’m still a little taken aback that I got to find them and support their writing in my lifetime.
And, the best thing of all—once you start reading indie, you’ll find people I would’ve never even heard of, people who will make you scream with joy with their every new release, people you’ll get to spam your friends and social media followers about on a regular basis. I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am for that simple fact.
*If this is still used in its other meaning, stated here, I’m sorry, but I’m European and I don’t care.
Cover photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash.