(Late day edit: Maybe I misunderstood the question or I should have worked a better title. I changed it, but it seems too late. As I’ve learned today, some people say Paperback when they mean Traditional Authors and others say eBook when they mean Indie Authors. I had a lot of people respond to the title of the post instead of the actual content, which didn’t match up. I apologize for the confusion.)
First, some preparations. Got my hard hat, platemail, electrified fence, highly trained attack pet rock, and totally experimental candy cannon. Still feel like this is going to obliterate my Wednesday, but here we go.
I was asked the following question on my ‘Ask an Author’ page by Heather Cai:
What do you think of the market of paperback publishing and ebook like amazon?
There was more to the question, but this is the gist of it. We had a brief discussion about the ‘situation’ on Amazon and how there are authors who write and publish without much else being done. Also how people still look at traditional publishing as the sole path to serious authordom. Basically, the stigmas around indie authors that are still holding out today and will probably turn the comments into an interesting read. Yet, this about my opinion and here we go.
First, my personal history to give you an idea of where I’m coming from. I spent the ages of 17-30 submitting queries, excerpts, and manuscripts to agents and publishers. As you can see, I never got a bite and I was lucky to even get a response. Most of those were form letters, but a few suggested I find a fan-base first. When someone I went to high school with published a book on Amazon, I talked to him about it. Then I was introduced to an author named Larry Kelter who went from trad to indie. He showed me how to do the Amazon publishing and marketing. Now here I am.
Now there are ‘problems’ inherent in both systems, which are polar opposites of each other. Traditional publishing has limited space, so not every author will even get a first glance. A lot of it involves being marketable and tapping into an audience that the publishing house is interested in. So you need to strike the right people and the right time to get in the front door. The indie eBook world has the ‘problem’ of not having a lock on the front door. So anybody can walk in and publish their book. I ran into an eBook for 99 cents that was one sentence and another that was littered with spelling errors that a 6-year-old would be able to point out. The quality control of a place like Amazon is in the author’s hands and some people are in there to make a quick buck off a popular trend.
Many people look at indie authors as those who couldn’t make it and have no talent, but are too stupid to give up. Heck, I’ve been told that a few times. They see traditional publishing as the only true path, but they don’t realize how difficult that is or how there are gems in the indie world. Yes, there was, and still is, a lot of low quality eBooks from people out to make easy money. They’re the ones you will hear about when someone wants to bash the indie author scene. Personally, I think the situation is getting better and you’re seeing higher quality eBooks come out. The initial luster of Amazon publishing is gone, so those looking only for money with little effort have moved on to something else. I would give it a few years and you’ll see more good than bad. Still flawed at times, but worth reading because this is where you get some really hard-working authors that have everything on their shoulders.
Remember that when you see an indie author, you’re looking at someone who is going it alone. They do the marketing, take every review on the chin, rarely have anyone to stop them from taking a misstep, and are learning as they go. An indie author is evolving and growing as a professional and a brand, which is a very stressful situation. I’ve been lucky enough to have great support through my blog and a terrific friend who knows more about this than I do. Many indie authors don’t have this, so you really have to go in with the knowledge that you’re looking at a one-man/woman show . . . and they’re working without a net.
Now I’ve been talking more about the indie author side of things and defending it because that’s where I’m standing. I only have a vague idea of how the trads work and they may always be seen as the ‘true path’ by people. Though I do get the sense that they have to rethink how they approach things because the rise of indie authors has changed the landscape. Now, would I love to be a traditionally published author and see my book in a Barnes & Noble or library? Yes, but I do enjoy the freedom here and would want to retain most of it. So I guess it would have to depend on the contract. To be honest, I’m at a point where I’m simply enjoying writing and publishing my books. Even when I’m stressed out to the point of wishing the world will leave me alone, I keep going because this is what I want to do. That’s how many serious indie authors feel, so you can’t really lump the entire group in with each other. We’re as diverse as the trads if not more so.
I’ll end on my opinion of how I ideally think the traditional and indie worlds should work together. I’ve said before that I look at indie publishing as the author’s open mic night, demo tape, and audition. Unlike acting, singing, and painting, a person needs to put a lot of effort into reading a book. You can’t just hear it or see it, but you have to interact with it and that makes it hard to snare somebody. By going indie, an author can establish a fan base and prove to the trads that they have something worth paying attention to. They can reveal their professionalism or lack thereof. They can learn enough to enter the ‘big leagues’ if they so choose. So I like to think of the eBook world as the talent pool that the trads can watch and pick out of if they so choose. Again, that would be the personal ideal from me.
Now for a song to those that read through this: