Digital Freedom: The Story You Want to Tell

One of the largest changes to publishing today is the fact that independent authors can digitally publish their books right alongside those released from the Big 5 and their imprints. Indies are increasingly putting out content that looks and reads no differently than traditionally published books. There are several points of divergence between trad pub and indies, but the focus of this blog post is on content – the story itself.

When you publish with a traditional publisher, the people who have a hand in crafting your story into a polished final product – a book – work for the publisher, not for you. An independent author hires editors, cover designers, who work for them. This means indies have a lot more control not just over price, distribution, and all the other things that go along with publishing their own work, but over the final version of the story itself.

Paying editors and cover artists means you get to tell them what you want. If a publisher is paying them, that means they get to tell them what they want. More importantly, since a publisher is paying you – meaning advances and/or royalties – they get to tell you what they want, too.

When it comes down to it, there’s no right way to tell a story. The important thing is to tell the story you want, and to know how to say no to suggested changes if they would alter the finished tale in a way that wouldn’t fit with your vision. When you’re the one choosing and paying the people you work with, you’re also paying for the right to say no. I don’t mean discounting their expertise, but simply having the freedom to disagree with their opinion. Even before that, it also means you can go into detail to the people you hire about what you are looking for and what you need from them.

Another aspect to consider is the ability to republish whenever you wish. One of the books I’ve worked on was published and well liked, but received reviews that both praised the tale while pointing out that the sense of “couldn’t put it down” didn’t occur until several chapters in. The author and I partnered up again to figure out what could be improved in the earlier chapters, and once we reworked them, the book file was updated and republished overnight. Those sorts of reviews stopped, meaning our changes achieved our goals. There had been nothing wrong with the story in its original form, it had simply been a stylistic choice of several scenes that ran headlong into reader expectations. But the ability to change a story, in direct response to feedback from real readers after it had already been published, is a freedom that only exists with digital publishing. Traditional publishers have this same freedom the same as independent authors, but indies are currently in a better position to take advantage of it.

Working with people almost always means making a story better than one you would have been able to on your own. Have you ever struggled against someone you’ve worked with regarding aspects of your story? Was there ever a time you said “yes” to something when you wished you could have said “no”? Does the freedom to have a final say in every aspect of a book seem scary more than anything else? The comments are always open.

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