Thursday, March 29, 2018

Should You Indie Publish Your Novella?

Recently, I came up with an idea best suited for a novella-length story. I started researching my options and was surprised by what I discovered. So if you've ever considered indie publishing, especially a novella, read on!

Years ago, indie publishing carried a stigma--both to readers as well as to traditional publishing houses. Typically, indie books were lower quality. But times have changed. And industry professionals have come to see successful authors who are either hybrid, or who began their careers indie. The stigma has faded, and in its place has come a unique opportunity for writers struggling to break into the industry.

(Now, quick side note while I have my English teacher moment for the day-- bear with me! I am not suggesting you jump to indie publishing because the editors at traditional houses have told you that your first novel/novella is not ready yet for publication. If anything, in many ways, indie publishing is harder, not easier, than traditional publishing, and I have loads of respect for authors who do it well-- looking at you, Melissa Tagg! You need to know, that you know, that you know this material is top notch, because if you go indie, you won't have a gatekeeper as you would at a traditional publishing house. Aside from a freelance editor. But still.)

So here is what surprised me the most about my research. Provided that you 1) pay for a professional cover, and 2) pay for professional editing, traditional publishing houses are not going to look down on your indie sales numbers. They understand that you are giving this a go without the support of a professional marketing team. So in all likelihood, because you are doing this alone-ish (again, with the help of a freelance designer and editor) you shouldn't expect epic sales numbers. But the flip side of that is that editors no longer have these expectations either.

Shannon Marchese, Senior Editor at WaterBrook Multnomah, says this: "Traditional houses are getting accustomed to novelists having some indie career before selling traditionally now. The key is in how one presents the data when pitching, and how what you are writing for a traditional house is similar or different." Be ready, in particular, to explain how your indie audience can be expanded upon when you make a move to a traditional publishing house.

Shannon also has important advice about pricing. High sales numbers that are driven by very cheap pricing will not matter to a pub board. Instead, Shannon suggests pricing a novella between $1.99- $2.49, and making sure you advertise the story is a novella rather than a novel so that readers do not criticize the shorter format in their reviews.

Amanda Luedeke, Vice President at MacGregor Literary agency, puts the price even higher at $2.99 per novella copy. Amanda also suggests that would-be indie writers consider the persuasive role of pre-sales. Typically, a pre-sale reader who is willing to buy the novella at a fair price point is the type of reader who publishing houses like to see. In other words, a reader who will come back to read more of your stories because of you as an author rather than a price that is cheap.

Amanda says that 1,000 pre-sales, or 5,000 copies sold in a year make for strong numbers. But if your sales numbers are but a tiny fraction of those, don't despair!

Shannon suggests framing your novella experience when pitching to an editor so that you highlight the most persuasive information. Maybe you only sold several hundred copies. But five star reviews on Goodreads, or a blurb from a very well-known author, according to Shannon, can go a long way.

So, let me hear from you! Have you ever published an indie novella? What was your experience? If you're considering becoming an indie or hybrid authors, what concerns or questions do you have about the process?


Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.

1 comment:

kaybee said...

Ashley, these are good points. This is in many ways a great time to be a writer, so many options. I also visit Seekerville, your "mama blog," and have found that many of the traditionally published writers are going indie for stories that are a little outside their brand, or a departure from what they're known for. Or simply because they want to have fun and do a novella collection with friends. No shame, no stigma. But we need to be careful WHY we're looking at indie. If it's a new genre or a project with friends, that's one thing. If a traditional house said, "You're not ready," the person is probably not ready. So they get ready, right?
I just placed my Last First Novel with Pelican/White Rose. Small traditional publishers are another option.
SO many good points and such an interesting time to be a writer.
Kathy Bailey