Choosing to be an Indie Author
What would you say if I told you I've seen publishers contracts across my desk? To date, I've seen three separate contracts. I've refused all of them and made the choice to continue on as an independent author. This is a long and hard road that requires a lot of honesty and checking with yourself to temper expectations.
I chose indie because I ultimately wanted full control of my stories. The Veiled Monarch was completely re-written from it's first edition for a publisher. I gutted much of the story, toned down parts deemed "too violent" or a bit "too much", and I toned down the characters and how they acted. It was sure to be accepted. At least, that's what I was told. No, it didn't get accepted after all. So I was left with a novel that I wasn't happy with and wish I could re-write to this day. One day I'm going to rip it apart again and make it mine.
A couple of publishers took interest in The Tin Photo, but they wanted changes. More romance. Less depictions of abuse. Less sad stories. If I changed any of that, I would have changed the truth. Sure, The Tin Photo is a work of fiction, but much of it is based on truth. Adding any of that would have erased the true story of what those people endured and survived. I wouldn't do it.
After that comes the part where you must be honest with yourself. Traditional publishing guarantees you money for your books. Being an indie author does not. There is no one size fits all study to tell you what indie authors make. Indie authors gain royalty from each book sold that goes directly to them. How much you make depends on several key factors -- how well you market your book, how good your book is, how well-written your book is, and how much exposure your book gets.
You can Google for how much indie authors make and find many articles that tell you "You're going to make lots of money as an indie author! Five to six figures!" That's bull shit. Ask around. Find other indie authors. Many of them make enough to break even. Some may make a small profit. In short? Keep your day job. Most indie authors have one. Including me.
Sure, there are exceptions. Beatrix Potter was rejected by every publisher, and we all know about "Peter Rabbit". Thought I hate to include E.L. James and the overly problematic "50 Shades of Grey", she did begin as an indie author and has seen massive success. Author Bev Stout and her YA pirate adventure "Secrets of the Realm" has seen great success over the years.
Those are exceptions. Not the rule. I think it is healthy and honest to plan for success as an indie author, but be realistic. Have a back up plan. Know some books will not do as well as others. Have another job, or side gigs going if you want to make an income writing. Keep learning. Keep improving. Take workshops. Take classes. Network with other writers. Can you be successful as an indie author? Can I be successful as an indie author? The answer to both of those questions is, "I pray it's yes, but I don't know."