Indie Publishing Cheer and Indie Publishing Gloom and Doom

Indie Publishing Cheer:

The latest sacred cow of publishing slain by Dean Wesley Smith is the myth that you cannot make money writing fiction. Because you can, via what Dean Wesley Smith calls the “magic bakery”, that is your entire backlist and the myriad of subrights included in every single story you ever wrote.

Anyone interested in electronic indie publishing should check out David Gaughran’s new book Let’s Get Digital: How to Self-Publish and Why You Should. It’s available at all the usual e-book outlets as well as a free PDF download at David Gaughran’s website.

Indie Publishing Doom and Gloom:

Paul Jessup rants, among other things, against electronic self-publishing and particularly against the indie publishing label.

His complaint, by now very familiar, is that self-published e-books are mostly derivative crap, third-rate Harry Potter and Twilight rip-offs and commercial thrillers. Of course, according to Sturgeon’s Law ninety percent of everything is crap. And with the low entry barriers to electronic self-publishing, it’s more like 95 to 98 percent. Which still leaves five to two percent of good stuff.

Besides, while a few indie paranormal romance writers seem to be doing well (and of course, not every paranormal romance is a Twilight rip-off), most of the indie publishing bestsellers seem to be thrillers of some kind. Probably the e-publishing equivalent of the airport thriller. There also are a couple of indie-published romances and even a work of lesbian spanking erotica in the Kindle top 20. However, I can’t think of any indie-published Harry Potter rip-offs at all.

Are these novels derivative? Many of them probably are, though it’s difficult to tell without having read them. But then, traditional publishing puts out plenty of derivative works, too.

Nonetheless, I see indie publishing also as a chance for unconventional voices to be heard, voices that don’t get a chance in traditional mainstream publishing. Read the post Women writers, international writers, marginalized writers on my main blog or read this interview with Connie Brockway about how writers of historical romances are discouraged from using settings other than Regency England to see what I mean. Of course, an e-book aimed at a niche audience will probably never sell as well as John Locke or Amanda Hocking or J.A. Konrath any of the big indie publishing names. But the alternative would be that these books would never see the light of day at all, because the presumed audience is too small.

As for Paul Jessup’s problem with the term “indie publishing”, in the US the word “indie” has always had strong connotations of an anti-mainstream, punk/grunge DIY ethic. Viewed this way, calling highly commercial thrillers that just happen to be self-published electronically “indie” is indeed contradictory. However, I have never had a strong emotional attachment to the term “indie” as anti-mainstream – indeed the first time I heard it in connection with music, I thought it referred to Indiana Jones. Hence, I consider the term “indie” to refer more to a method of production outside the big entertainment industry rather than as automatically anti-mainstream. Like I told someone in a memorable internet flamewar long ago, “Uwe Boll is an indie filmmaker. Live with it.”

Not that I’m not open for a better term than “indie publishing”, which can indeed be misleading, since “indie publishing” can be applied to both small presses and self-publishers. But “digital self-publishing” is something of a mouthful and no one else seems to have come up with anything useful. Though I rather like Chuck Wendig’s term “micro-pub”.

And by the way, Chuck Palaniuk, David Fincher and Fight Club did not invent swearing – people were using bad words in public long before anybody ever heard of Fight Club. That’s like saying Joss Whedon invented urban fantasy, vampire detectives, kick-ass girls, snarky dialogue and sex – oh right, plenty of people are saying that. They’re still wrong though.

Meanwhile, Scott Nicholson argues at the blog of Vincent Zandri that indie publishing as we’ve barely begun to know it is dead, because big publishers are looking at indie publishing successes and copying what those writers have done. Found via The Passive Voice.

I must say, I can’t really follow this argument. Are traditional publishers either snapping up successful indie authors or copying some of their tricks? Of course, they are. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Traditional publishing would be a bad business if they didn’t take a look at what the competition is doing right. But many of the big name indie authors are strictly anti-traditional publishing for reasons of their own, others don’t want to give up the freedom or higher royalty rates. But plenty of indie-published works would never have found a home in traditional publishing, because their niche is too small to be lucrative. Though if the success of unconventional indie published works would incite traditional publishers to be more open for a diverse range of voices and subjects, that could only be a good thing.

In fact, I believe that the publishing industry will eventually gravitate towards a mix of big publishers, smaller publishers and self-publishers as well as a mix of print and e-books. Indeed, one of the things that most annoys me about the indie publishing cheerleaders is the constantly repeated claim, often backed up by statistics of some sort, that print books are dead. Even in the US, the earliest e-book adopter (due to some weird idea that clutter is bad and plenty of people being ashamed of their reading material), e-books only make up about 20 percent of the market – and no one seems to have reliable statistics anyway. Other countries remain far more attached to print. In Germany, e-books only make up about 0.5 percent of all books sold. When I launched Pegasus Pulp, I actually had to explain to most people in my offline life what e-books are.

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6 Responses to Indie Publishing Cheer and Indie Publishing Gloom and Doom

  1. Pingback: The infinite cluelessness of the news media, Harry Potter, Star Wars and some writing links | Cora Buhlert

  2. Many self-publishers refer to themselves as “Indie Writers” rather than “Indie Publishers”. And many small publishing firms who consider themselves “Indie Publishers” furiously resent self-published writers going anywhere near the term.

    I just refer to myself as self-published, because I too think “Indie” equals “Indiana Jones”.

    • Cora says:

      Not that I would mind being Indiana Jones or rather being with Indiana Jones, when he was young and hot. But the Indiana Jones association is not really helpful when discussing writing and publishing. Nor is the “indie” equals “alternative” and “anti-mainstream” association.

      The term “self-published” used to carry a lot of stigma, which is probably why so many writers avoid it. However, that stigma is eroding fast.

      Thanks for commenting BTW.

  3. Pingback: Nomenclatura, sales and non-fiction e-books | Pegasus Pulp

  4. Pingback: Kindle woes, more nomenclatura, the resurrection of the gothic and the usual gloom and doom | Pegasus Pulp

  5. Pingback: More on the Reviews Dust-up | Cora Buhlert

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