Sunday, February 24, 2008

Toward An Indie Author Movement

Bottom Line It For Me, Baby Version (200 Words Or Less):
Big publishers are run like movie studios, only interested in prestige titles, potential blockbusters and genre fare that earns predictably. When quality, affordable DIY tools became available, aspiring musicians and filmmakers jumped at the chance to go indie. Why haven’t aspiring authors likewise turned to ebook and POD technologies? Conventional publishing industry wisdom states ebooks and POD are merely new forms of vanity publishing for inferior manuscripts, but do readers share that opinion? I intend to find out. I'm releasing two of my novels exclusively for POD and Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader using only Amazon technologies, though not in a bid to attract publisher attention, as many others have done before me. I intend to bypass publishers and brick-and-mortar stores entirely, and remain independent. The experiment is thus far succeeding, as my Kindle-edition novels Snow Ball and Adelaide Einstein are selling well and garnering good reviews. Both will be released as Amazon POD trade paperbacks in March. If sales and acceptance continue, mine will be the first totally indie author success story.

Go On An' Run Yo Mouth, I Got Nuthin' But Time Version (can't promise it won't go on forever):
I'm an agented novelist who's been struggling against the 'gatekeeper' system employed by the publishing establishment to locate new talent. Books are a matter of taste. I don't enjoy every bestseller out there, and neither do you. Yet if my agent, the publishing house editor, or the publishing house marketing department rep simply isn't "passionate" enough about a given manuscript, any one of them can put the kibosh on its further progress for the time being.


Big publishers are run like movie studios, only interested in prestige titles, potential blockbusters and genre fare that earns predictably. When quality, affordable DIY tools became available, aspiring musicians and filmmakers jumped at the chance to go indie. Why haven’t aspiring authors likewise turned to ebook and Print On Demand technologies?

Conventional publishing industry wisdom states ebooks and POD are merely new forms of vanity publishing for inferior manuscripts, and that brick-and-mortar bookstore presence (which is denied to virtually all POD books) is a prerequisite to a successful career in authorship. These suppositions are widely accepted as gospel among aspiring writers, largely due to a bizarre sort of Stockholm Syndrome fostered by the publishing industry: aspiring writers have come to not only accept the industry establishment's absolute control over their future careers, they've come to believe there's inherent value in that control and will even defend it.

Not long ago I would've been right there with them, because until recently the publishing establishment had a complete monopoly on publishing. There was simply no way to get your book to market other than via established publishers with established supply chains. Along came vanity presses, but they were quickly discredited and dismissed, and far too expensive for a typical aspiring writer to afford besides. Now, at last, ebook, POD, and online viral marketing technologies have leveled the playing field such that anyone with a modest budget, some basic computer skills, a little time and a lot of passion can duplicate or approximate almost every service offered by a big publishing house. I say almost because the establishment still has a stranglehold on that one, last piece: supply chain and distribution to brick-and-mortar bookstores.

However, with Amazon the #2 bookseller in North America and perhaps the largest international bookseller, I believe we've reached a tipping point. Brick-and-mortar bookstores may have become marginalized to an extent where bookstore presence is no longer a required piece of the writing success puzzle. If I'm right about that, then the publishing establishment truly has nothing to offer me.

They reserve their promotion and marketing budgets for their prestige clients, bestselling author clients, and celebrity clients. Unless you come with a built-in 'angle', you're on your own to publicize your work whether you self-pub or not. They can't compete on the money front; author royalties on self-pub titles tend to run about three times the standard percentages offered by major publishers. And as for the 'prestige' factor, it's irrelevant to readers. No reader gets pulled in by jacket copy or a free excerpt, then rejects the book after a glance at the publisher details, exlaiming in horror, "Why, this book was published by Joe Bob's Falafel Hut, Bait Shop and Press, not a legitimate publisher at all!"

So, I'm putting my authorial money where my mouth is in an attempt to blaze a trail for truly indie authors. I've released two of my novels exclusively for POD and Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader using only Amazon technologies, though not in a bid to attract publisher attention, as many others have done before me. I am bypassing publishers and brick-and-mortar stores entirely, attempting to reach the same level of sales and success as a typical mid-list author through online sales of ebook and POD editions only.


I've rambled on quite long enough for one post, but stay tuned to this bat-station for future posts with details on what I'm doing, how I'm doing it, and how it's going. For now, you can check out my Kindle-edition novels: Adelaide Einstein and Snow Ball. Support the indie author movement!


2 comments:

Andrea said...

Thank you for saying what I've been thinking for some time now! I've known many indie musicians and a couple of indie filmmakers over the years. The level of success they experienced was directly related to how much effort they put forth. Most were quite talented as artists. But if they didn't know how to market their work to make a splash, their project became another dust collector.
I've always thought that taking this into my own hands would be awesome- especially if I succeed. Thanks for the inspiration and the practical advice.

Kevin said...

Great post!! Who are you planning to do POD through?