Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Indie & Proud

I'm one of many self-published authors on this blog but one of the few non-hybrid. Not being traditionally published by one of the Big Houses isn't because I've eschewed that part of the industry; it's simply because stars and stories haven't aligned.

I'm unrepentantly Indie. It's been a joy watching this half of the industry scrabble into existence, explode with popularity, then settle into a competitive marketplace. Sure, the royalties from the gold-rush days would be nice to see again, but that era is long gone. Then again, so is the insanity of indie authors having to release two books a month just to have a toe in the game. It was a fascinating moment when readers cried, "Whoa! Too much, too fast!" Authors happily responded, "Whew! Burnout is real!" By then the importance of backlists was established. Readers could binge, authors could breathe. Suddenly there was room for authors who couldn't pump out a dozen+ books a year, but who did publish stories readers were willing to wait to read. Niche markets were finally being served in measurable quantity with rising quality.

Speaking of rising quality, the Indie market provided opportunities for more than authors. The supporting industry of creative professionals from artists to editors to formatters and designers found new demand for their talents. It used to be a struggle to find someone willing to work with a self-published author, now our business is par for the course. Small tech companies have popped up too to serve our unique demands, innovating in ways that are thrilling to provider and user. Oh sure, crackpots and exploiters abound everywhere, but for the most part, Indie authors are gaining the respect of peers and readers.

The downside of self-publishing? There are many institutional biases we still have to overcome. There are public-facing opportunities (books fairs, expos, cons, local news, etc.,) from which we are excluded because organizers don't consider us properly vetted. We are hugely dependent on the benevolence of a singular capricious capitalist company. A single seemingly insignificant design change on any retailers' site can tank our sales. A tech glitch on their end can result in significant losses in sales and challenges to our Intellectual Property (among other legal complications). Retailers who struggle financially find the easiest copout is to delay paying us pay us or to not pay us at all. Worse are those who under-report our sales, a circumstance against which we have no proof or recourse. When distributors have a problem--be it in tangible or digital product--it's the author who gets blamed, though we have no ability to right the wrong. We've yet to consolidate our voices to demand changes that benefit all self-published authors. We ride the shirttails of the publishing industry despite our conflicts of interest. Oh, and of course, the whole damn enterprise is costly. Success is a long-game. Books into which you invested your heart and savings will tank. Envy is real, jealousy pernicious and prevalent. Don't get me started on piracy.

But...for all the negatives, it's worth it. To me, at least. I write stories because I want to share them. I want to help total strangers escape their realities and find a bit of joy.

The biggest advantage of being an Indie author is also its greatest disadvantage: control = responsibility = accountability.  It's our name on the cover. It's our words on the pages. It's our reputation regardless.

I wouldn't have it any other way.


  1. I admire your abilities. I know I couldn't pull off a self-pub as well as you do!