Book Publishing: Should You Choose Independent or Traditional?

As a business coach for fiction writers, I get asked questions about publishing strategies all the time.

Authors want to talk about:

  • Creative control
  • Audience building
  • Release frequency
  • Marketing responsibility

… and sales, of course.

To find the answers, you need to start with a clear picture of what your goals are.

Why are you writing?

Not every writer wants to be a professional.

Plenty of people write as a hobby or as a form of creative expression.

Those are perfectly valid reasons for creating books. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

If journaling in story form makes you happy, you shouldn’t feel pressure to sell a million copies.

… or even one copy, for that matter.

That said, if you’ve decided to write for a living, there is another consideration.

What will your role be?

When you decide you want books to be a source of income, you are going into business.

Writing professionally is work. It can be fulfilling, cathartic, or addictive… and it’ll still be work.

Anthony Robbins tells us there are three gifts that a person might naturally have.

Each of these is a role that can be filled inside a successful business.

He calls them the Talent, Leader, and Entrepreneur.

For the purposes of the publishing industry, I’ve relabeled them:

  • The Artist
  • The Director
  • The Producer
    There’s a good chance that you’re capable of filling all of these roles.

    The catch is, only one of them is going to truly fulfill you.

    You should choose your role as if quality of life were the only priority.

    Then you can decide which publishing strategy fits your business goals.

    The Artist

    These are people that want writing to be their only activity.

    Their focus is on a high-quality product.

    Many of them want to write literary fiction because it’s considered high art.

    They’re the most driven by awards or recognition of their writing talents.

    If this is you: Go with traditional publishing.

    Lean on your publishing team for anything business related. Your primary activity should be working on your craft.

    The Director

    These are people that want to bring their story vision to life.

    Their focus is on a high-performance project.

    They’ve identified a white space and are working to fill it because they see a way to contribute.

    They’re the most driven by taking the lead in a team environment.

    If this is you: Go with independent publishing.

    Being good at systems and management makes you an ideal indie. You’re the one that always gets things done.

    The Producer

    These are people that want to be in the business of entertainment.

    Their focus is on high-profile promotion.

    They cultivate relationships that will take them to the next level.

    They’re the most driven to take risks and innovate because they want to find the next big thing.

    If this is you: Go with independent publishing.

    Build an extensive catalog that will give you a stable income. After that, forging connections will lead you to new opportunities.

    There are no wrong answers

    You could strongly identify with one of these roles, a combination of several, or none at all.

    The truth is, choosing a role is about shifting your focus.

    The question about publishing is only important because it shapes your everyday life.

    If you’re chasing an arbitrary number of copies sold or a “bestseller” label next to your name…

    … you may be fighting against your own nature.

    That’s not to say you won’t achieve your goal. You might.

    Will the outcome make a significant difference in your quality of life? Is it worth what you’re giving up to make it happen?

    If the answer is no, you should take a step back and evaluate where your current activities are taking you.

    Don’t try to do the thing that everyone tells you is right, and don’t try to do everything yourself.

    What does an ideal day look like?

    • How many hours a day do you spend writing?
    • How much social media or interaction with readers?
    • How often do you want to be with your family?
    • When do you take time just for yourself?

    Create a picture of success and drive toward it.

    You might find that partnering or outsourcing is the best option for things you aren’t good at, don’t enjoy, or shouldn’t be doing.

    Leave all the stress, anxiety, pressure, and expectations behind.

    The journey is just as important as the destination.

    Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

    Olly Cunningham - November 15, 2016

    Hi Gabriel, my name is Olly, I’m 43 from Dublin Ireland, I’ve recently self published my 28 page adult comic book, on Amazon, and I am due to release a 32 page book on February, I’ve just heard your podcast with the spf guys, I’d love to talk about working together if interested. I’m currently setting up my site (don’t know why it’s live)
    Thanks, let me know what you think.

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