Indie Pride

Two of my new blogging buddies–Bunnygirl and Zoe Winters–have got me all fired up. I feel just like Pat Benatar, only without the big hair and mullet backup band. Not that I’d turn down a mullet backup band right now. I’d love to have one following me around everywhere I go…but I digress.

Wednesday’s post led to quite a discussion of traditional vs. independent publishing. Actually, Zoe’s been talking about it all week long and Bunnygirl stirred things up at Mr. Nathan Bransford’s blog last week with this comment:

What I find interesting is how many people think the only reason to write is to be published, and that publication legitimizes ones efforts somehow.

Why is that, exactly? I suppose it’s validation. Before a book hits the shelves, smart people with pretty degrees on their walls have all had to give it a thumbs up. That’s gotta feel pretty good. But what makes them do so? Artistic merit? Puh-leeze! You only have to browse your local Barnes and Noble to know that’s not necessary. Nope, the publishing industry is just that…an industry. It exists to make money. Peruse any agent’s blog and they’ll tell you that what they’re looking for is What Will Sell. That’s cool. That’s their job. But it means there’s a lot of good writing out there that’s being overlooked, and that sucks. In fact, it fucking sucks like hell.

That’s why so many of us have turned to self-publishing, a world where there’s no money to be had and even less respect.

Bunnygirl: POD and e-pub get a bad rap because there is so much awful and unedited dreck out there. To publishers’ credit, at least when they put out something bad, it’s well-edited for common errors. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any gems out there in indie publishing formats and I think a movement is growing to support more indie work.

Zoe agreed, adding:

Indie Bands and filmmakers are seen as “cool.” Indie authors are seen as “writers not good enough to get a publisher.” It’s time that perception was overturned.

Exactly! So how do we do that?

1. Write well, edit well, and polish. Let an honest crit partner check it out. Listen to that feedback and polish your work again. If it isn’t good enough to submit to an agent or an editor, then it’s not good enough to put into your readers’ hands.

2. Get your words out there. Post excerpts of your stuff on your blog or website. Offer free e-books and free audiobooks, even if you’ve got hard copies for sale.

3. Get your name out there. Submit your work to e-zines and other websites that support talented unknown writers, whether or not there’s a paycheck involved.

4. Support those e-zines and websites by reading them regularly and by spreading the word about them. Support and encourage other good indie writers. Comment on their blogs, buy their books, tell others about them. Let’s build a community.

Personally, making lots of money has never been a goal of mine, and it’s certainly not the reason I decided to try for publication in the first place. I just want my work to be read by as many people as possible. I love the feeling I get when someone has been moved or entertained by my words. That is why I write. It’s the only validation I need. If that’s why you write, then chime in here. Let your voice be heard.

7 thoughts on “Indie Pride

  1. Hey R.J. I think validation is a big part of it. Like there is this huge push to be legitimized.

    And it doesn’t matter where you are on the ladder, there will always be someone who thinks you aren’t good enough either to be there or to climb higher.

    It’s like the little snippy wars between the epubbed and the print pubbed. Are they serious? Folks, grow up.

    I think so many writers are so “hungry” that they don’t take time to consider A. what their goals are and B. if those goals might be reached without “the man” involved.

    I would like to eventually make money with my writing, but the MOST important thing to me is readers, and I can get that on my own. I’d have to anyway, even with a trad publisher, because books sitting on shelves is not marketing.

    To me trad publishing personally right now at this stage is a big waste of time, because it’s tying up time trying to get “vetted and validated” that I could be using to build an actual audience.

    If I was lucky in five years going the trad route I MIGHT have my first book on a shelf. Going indie, I’ll have 3 or 4 books available. And since so much is built on backlist and growing an audience of “repeat readers,” that makes a big difference I think.

    Since my odds are so teeny tiny to “make real money” doing this or to “get famous” doing this, I figure if I have something worth reading and learn how to market it, I can do just as well for myself as a lot of published writers.

    I feel like every human being has the right to create a product and bring it to market and I think too many writers forget that the traditional route is not the ONLY route.

    I think the argument gets further obscured because it’s just not “socially acceptable” if you want to be a “serious writer.” Well screw socially acceptable. People want to talk about the small percentage of people who “succeed” with self publishing. But isn’t that true of the trad route too? First for even GETTING published, then for succeeding after that?

    At least going indie means no one but you is in charge of whether your book gets a chance to see the light of day.

    And that’s valuable to me.

    Sorry I’m so verbose. I’m just really passionate about this issue. I don’t think self publishing is for everyone and I don’t look down on anyone who chooses the trad path. But it’s just not the only way to navigate this sea.

  2. “I would like to eventually make money with my writing…”

    Of course. That would be cool. If I could pay off my mortgage with this writing thing someday, no one would be happier than me. Well, except for my husband. But like you so aptly pointed out, there’s little money to be made whether you decide to go the traditional or indy route, so it can’t be the chief reason to write.

    And don’t apologize for verbosity. 🙂

  3. Traditional publication only proves you have competently told a story that agents and publishers think they can earn their salaries off of. It doesn’t prove one’s literary talent, although many talented writers do, in fact, get published. But others don’t, and it all comes back to market.

    In the 1970s, doorstop-sized epics were “in.” Think Shogun, The Thorn Birds, and anything by James Michener. If you were a newbie with a well-written epic, you could probably get published. But now? You could write the most finely-crafted epic to end all epics, but without a big name and proven sales record, no sale.

    And that’s just one example. Any of us can think of many more.

    It would be nice to be traditionally published because it’s so much easier to get your work into the hands of readers that way. But the road to get there is time-consuming and I consider it no accident that the people who are most successful at breaking into traditional publishing are also the ones who (pick as many as apply):

    a) don’t work
    b) work part-time or flexible schedules
    c) work as writers in some other capacity
    d) have a big name or platform

    I’ll probably continue to ping agents when I have a good story, but until I retire, I won’t be pursuing it aggressively and my results will likely reflect that.

    I may shop my current novel to the e-pubs, but I’m a little wary of that, too. Some of them want you to submit a marketing plan and I don’t have time for serious marketing, which is part of the trouble I have with traditional publishing in the first place.

    Good thing I write for the love of it! 🙂

  4. R.J.,

    I heard today that Comic-Con, a comic book convention, is this weekend. They had their first get-together with only 300 people in a basement of a hotel. Now they fill a convention hall and have celebrities signing autographs at their conventions.

    Maybe we need to take the Indie Resistance to a hotel basement and show the world there are good indie writers out there.

    Authors could read excepts from the novels they enter in the festival. There could be contests for different genre’s, and so on.

    If nothing else, we know we can write our own press release for the event.

    Any ideas on how or what could be done at a Indie Writers Festival?

  5. Stonewriter,

    I SO love that idea. I think building an active community first will be necessary…perhaps with a central website. I know that a friend of this blog is cooking something up along those lines. If you want to talk about that in more depth, please email me (the link to my email addy is on my blogger ‘about me’ profile page).

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