Indie author versus traditional publishing

I’m honestly not certain which annoys me more some days: the traditional publishing industry, busily running down indie authors and anything they produce and making noise about how they’re the gatekeepers of publishing (otherwise pronounced those that ensure that very little that’s actually new gets published), or on the other side of the coin the (fortunately rare) indie author stating loudly that just because they can’t edit and drew their cover art in MS Paint, it’s still, to nick a Pinocchio line, ‘a real book!’

Yes, I annoy really easily. 

So here’s the thing, publishing princesses and buttercups: suck it right the duck up. (Dear auto-correct: it really never is ‘duck’.)

Trad publishing is a great way to go if you have the time and stamina to send out fifty to hundreds of letters, teasers, synopses, and pitches to agents, publishers, and every stripe in between, and then let someone tell you how to write your story and all future stories (and when to stop writing them) for what adds up to about 5% of the actual profits on the book while you still mostly end up doing your own marketing.

Indie publishing is a great way to go if you happen to be able to write a story, edit the shit out of it (and please, get that part right, or pay someone competent to), figure out either how to make a professional-looking cover or research how to get a reliable and affordable professional to do it for you, and then figure out how to get the whole written, edited, and covered shebang out in front of the public – because you are still going to have to market that shit. Oh yes.

The hard truths

Trad publishing is not a free ride once you sign on the dotted line. A lot more regimented and much better connections, but at the same time your agency in your own book goes way down, and what’s more, if your Precious doesn’t sell sufficiently well, your publisher can choose to yeet that thing off shelves so fast your head will spin.

Indie publishing, and once more REALLY LOUDLY for those in the back – indie publishing is not a great excuse for putting a shit product out there because you didn’t pay attention to where the commas went in school. Indie publishing is where you get all the agency in your own book – and that means if you put a shoddily-edited, badly-covered, indifferently-paced compost heap up on Amazon, you have no one else to point the finger at. That brown smear down your ass was all, completely, start to finish, you.

So, trad people – congratulations, I look forwards to seeing your stuff when I get time to do something I enjoy and browse through a bookstore. If it’s badly paced, the tenth take on the same story I’ve read this year, or there are still editing mistakes in there, after pro dev, copy, and line editing, I am going to call that out come review time.

Indies, being an indie author is not a free ride. Independence, which is what the ‘indie’ in our name comes from, doesn’t mean you get to put a stinking pile out there and then stand on your soapbox and wail about how editing is hard and your book is still just as good as those where people put the actual brain sweat in. Independence means that your end product will reflect exactly how much effort you, and only you, were willing to put into it.

I’ve read some excellent trad books. But, and here’s the but, folks of both stripes – I have read equally well-written, equally well-edited, equally well-presented indie books. It’s possible. And from me, at least, the latter case gets more respect, because that indie author didn’t have a full publishing company corralling their plot holes, trimming their dialogue tags, and making sure they had a cover that might attract eyes-on. That indie author had to do all the legwork themselves, and either learn how to do everything themselves or do research and hoard money to pay other people to do that good a job on their work.

Do I think I’m perfect? Hell no, I do not. I read stuff I think is better than mine from both indie and trad folks on a regular basis. However, I also read much worse from both. I don’t think I’m some kind of ‘artiste, darling!’ because I didn’t jump on the trad wagon when I had the chance. I don’t think choosing to go indie gives me a good excuse not to hold my books to the highest standard I can. 

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