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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Making a Difference in the Indie Author World

Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling author of 28 books. She is best known for her Seatbelt Suspense®--fast-paced, character-driven suspense with myriad twists and an interwoven thread of faith. She also writes insightful contemporary novels, often laced with humor. Her awards include the ACFW Carol (three times), Inspirational Readers' Choice, the Inspy, Christian Retailer's Best (twice), and Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice. She loves to interact with readers on Facebook. Check out her books on her website.

The year 2014 will be my first full year as an indie author. I can’t say I’m the most prolific indie around. I released a Seatbelt Suspense® novel, Sidetracked, in April, and in just a few days I’ll be releasing Pitchin’ a Fit, book 2 in my Southern contemporary Dearing Family series. Two novels a year is good for me. Those indie novelists who put out a book every other month—sheesh. Only in my dreams.

However I’ve also been very busy lately dealing with getting back the rights for seven books—six novels, plus my how-to book on fiction, Getting Into Character. I will be releasing newly edited versions of these books in the next few months. My Southern contemporary Bradleyville series, three novels first published in 2001-2002, is re-releasing in the next few days.

I’ve also been spending a fair amount of time in seeing what I can do to change the indie world for the better. I’m just one author, but I do have a solid network of people in the Christian publishing industry. And, well, when I see changes that can be made, I tend to want to make them happen.

The biggest need I’ve seen—and this will be no surprise to any of you—is the lack of Christian indie books in the bookstores. (The secular indie world has the same issue.) I got to thinking—why doesn’t somebody fix this? So I started gathering data and talking to various people in the industry to figure out in more detail what the issues are surrounding this problem. With that information I hit upon an idea of what to do about the problem and spoke with some leaders in the Christian book industry about my thoughts. They are very open to our working together to solve the issue. I can’t be any more specific at this time, since there are many things yet to be worked out. But I can say it’s really exciting to see the potential of what may come.

Seatbelt Suspense® novel
Sidetracked
You may remember that when I released Sidetracked I joined a small group of known Christian indie novelists in an imprint that was sold through a distributor into Christian stores. Being on shelves was important to me. First, many of my readers still expect to find my books there. Second, I want to support the Christian booksellers. Just because I’ve chosen to walk away from Christian publishers doesn’t mean I want to walk away from bookstores. Releasing the paper version of Sidetracked with that imprint did work for me. I have made a profit from those paper sales in stores. But I had to put in a lot of upfront money, plus pay upfront for print runs instead of going POD. Most indies can’t afford that, and I wouldn’t want to pay that kind of money for every book. And so I’m trying to do something about this problem.

We indie authors can’t just look at this problem from our own standpoint. We have to understand the booksellers’ issues with placing indie books on their shelves. The main problem isn’t the ability of an indie print book to be distributable. An indie author can go through various programs such as Ingram’s Spark to release a POD (print on demand) paper book that can be distributed to stores. The problem is there’s no sales person presenting the book to the stores. Without that presentation there’s no efficient way for a bookseller to even know about a new indie book. Booksellers don’t have time to be checking websites of authors to see if they’ve just put out a new title.

Pitchin' a Fit,
Dearing Family Series
Book 2
Second, booksellers have a finite amount of shelf space, and products on that space must sell or the bookseller loses money. It’s hard enough right now for traditionally published Christian authors to receive shelf space in stores. And those books have been vetted by the publisher for the bookseller, both for content and quality. How can a Christian bookseller trust the content of an indie novel that’s not been vetted? Or trust that the novel will sell?

As you can see, this whole problem is a complex one. And solving it will be complex as well, requiring numerous people in the industry to work together. But this problem really does need to be fixed—for all three sides of the equation: the author, bookseller, and distributor. All three sides are losing revenue. Authors are losing sales in stores. Booksellers are losing the ability to sell certain titles, especially from indie authors who are known to the booksellers because they were previously traditionally published. And distributors are losing business as well.

Interesting times ahead. I’ll keep you all updated as I can.

5 comments:

Ron Estrada said...

Thanks for taking this on, Brandilyn. I think I speak for all indies when I say we are absolutely overwhelmed with learning how to market our books, format, keep up with the latest trends, and, oh yeah, continue growing in our craft. Most of us never give a thought to the bookstores. Which is unfortunate, because we still love them and want to help them offer more quality novels. Thanks again for all the hard work you put in.

Ane Mulligan said...

It's not just Indie authors who have trouble getting into the stores. The small press authors aren't getting that coverage either. Thanks to ACFW, I'm on the Munce Group blog this week which gives me some exposure to book stores, but like you, being in the book store is very important to me.

Barbara Latta said...

I'm just a beginner at the publishing end of writing, but I am thankful someone with your experience and voice is addressing this issue. Also, I have Sidetracked and Getting Into Character. Love them both!

Nicole said...

You're a perfect ambassador for the indies. No one has greater understanding of both sides of these issues and can present and represent them effectively and with grace. Way to go, BC.

Kelly Blackwell @ Heres My Take On It said...

Just another reason why I admire Brandilyn so much. Thank you for investing so much time and heart into this.