What Do Indie Authors Really Want?

TOF-front cover onlyOne of the great attractions of a good travel website or book are the ratings for accommodations, places to eat and places to visit. Let’s face it, we all notice a one-star vs. a five-star rating.

But how do we rate book distribution agreements for independent authors? What are our criteria?

Recently, the website Digital Book World did an interesting survey of indie authors about why we do what we do. Going into the survey, most folks thought that the number one reason to indie publish would be higher royalty rates.

That was number two, as it turned out.

The number one reason why indie authors publish their own work is—creative control. (It’s certainly my number one reason to independently publish my own books.)
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Now most folks would define creative control to mean that indie authors choose their own book covers, titles, and how the insides of their books look.

But in indie publishing, creative control means far more than that. The creative control exerted by an independently publishing author extends into the very heart and soul of the business of publishing. Within the traditional industry, that heart and soul is called distribution—the control of pricing, control of the stream of financial information, where and how to sell a book, and control of the printing process.

Who Controls Your Book?

Books in redWhat, exactly, is a book?

Is it the raw manuscript that you have on your desk top in MS Word or Pages?

Is it the thing on paper between two covers?

Is it the electronic version that someone downloads onto a Kindle or iPad or Android?

Is it the spoken version on CD?

Is it the PDF the you posted on FaceBook?

When you think about it, they’re all books, aren’t they?

Or rather, they are all different forms of the same collection of words by the same author(s).

Prior to the 1960s or so, it’s probable that a book existed in only two versions—the one that an author had meticulously pecked into a typewriter and the one that had a cover with printed pages on the inside.

Since then, we’ve added books on computers, talking books, and a proliferating number of electronic versions. All the same collection of words by the same author(s) and all called books. But they’re so different from one another.

It used to be that the acid test of book ownership rested on what entity (author or publisher) owned a book’s ISBN. And that’s still a pretty good test.
But now there’s an even better one, one with more stringent conditions, and it’s this: the entity that controls the digital file of a book owns the book.

In other words, if the digital file(s) of your book are on your computer, then you are in control of your book, its distribution, and its destiny.

If the file(s) are elsewhere, a place where you can’t control them, then something or someone else controls them.