Thursday, January 13, 2011
Indi Author Choices
There is a movement started by many of the more serious self-published authors to distance themselves from the general rabble by taking on the name Indi Authors -- and like Indi Bookstores, they're saying they are not part of the chain or the system. For many of them, it is a conscious choice to do things differently and they understand that it is not an easy answer.
Many name authors are putting out their older books in this way as well, and that makes it look even more like a legitimate choice to new authors who leap in without considering how these authors already have a fan base. The trick is to help the new authors realize what they gain and what they lose in the choices available. Helping them understand the differences between big house publishing, small press publishing, ebook only publishing and Indi publishing is a difficult task because there is often so much mindless, and sometimes deceitful, rhetoric on either side that all it does is polarize both groups.
The truth is that this is not an either/or world any more. While a single book can go one way or the other that doesn't mean that every book the author writes has to follow the same path, and it's time that everyone become aware of that fact. Authors need to understand that if a book heads down the Indi path it is not viable for other publication -- but no author is ever going to make a name on a single book anyway. The world of publishing is changing and will continue to change along with the Internet and the new opportunities that are opening up with it.
There are good reasons and bad reasons for any choice made in publishing these days. The big trick is still to make certain people understand the different sides.
Yes, I am stepping into the Indi author world, and I've started with some of previously published work -- No Beast so Fierce, Silky and Silky 2 -- and a new book, Silky 3. There will be others to follow. And I was pushed this way by several factors.
1. As I have said several times before, I am prolific. I have more novels than I could see published in my lifetime, even if an agent or publisher took me on. Even limiting myself to the top quarter of what I've written (And why would I want to put out things other than what I consider to be the best quality?), I still have more books than could comfortably find publication, and that's not counting the material that has been previously published and is now back in my hands. What am I going to do with all of this work? I wrote the books out of love of the stories. Even the ones that are not going to make it to publication -- and I don't regret writing any of them. However, there are many that I think others might enjoy. I hope to make a little bit of income from them, but I don't expect to make my fortune.
2. I am NOT writing for the current market. I don't care about who is having sex with whom or the details of how they handle it. There is sex in some of my stories, but it usually is handled in very little detail. I figure if you can't imagine more, then you're likely too young to be reading the details anyway. When it comes to (for instance) a science fiction story about an alien invasion, I'm more interested in the battle against the aliens than I am about how long it takes the captain of the star ship to get the pretty ambassador into bed with him. I see far too many books where the genre setting is nothing more than a hastily painted backdrop -- though not all are that way, of course. And I'm not saying the love story books in any genre are wrong. I am just saying that this is not what I want to write. That being the case, I am out of sync with the market.
3. The last two books I placed with publishers have taken over four years to reach publication. I think one of them has finally made it, though I haven't heard so from the publisher. I'm still waiting on the other one. In both cases, there were reasons -- but if I were even remotely trying to make a living from sales like this, I'd be living on the streets by now. It certainly has not helped in my problems supporting Vision and Forward Motion, let alone myself. I went and rechecked the dates. It was actually SIX years ago. Yes, that is too long and the reason I didn't mind and really didn't notice is because of some drastic changes in my life that took all my attention.
4. I have never been afraid to try something new and different, as long as I can see that it is a reasonable choice. I have been publishing in ebook format with small press companies since 1999. That was far ahead of the curve there. As I said at the time, I didn't see ebooks as replacing print, but only becoming another variation -- hard cover, paperback, ebook, audio book -- and that I suspected they would find their place in the market. Now there is another change. It isn't for everyone, and people who think that leaping into Indi publishing is going to win them fame and fortune better be prepared for even more work than they'd have if they went with an established publisher or agent. This is not easy, people -- but just because it isn't easy, doesn't mean it also isn't worthwhile.
5. And last -- my life has drastically changed in the last three years. I am no longer able to attend conventions and or do many of the things that most publishers (especially in the speculative fiction genres) expect their authors to do. It's just not possible at this point in my life, and I don't see when it will be. That means an extensive area of marketing is closed to me in some ways.
This hasn't been a quick decision on my part. I've watched for years, waiting for the change that I thought might be coming. It was hard to tell -- but I thought eventually some serious authors would start looking at the self-publishing (now indi) market and see the potential there -- and once they stepped in and wrestled some of it away from the 'oh I wrote this fifteen minutes ago, aren't I brilliant' children who throw anything out there without thought of writing well, that there would be a change. I wasn't entirely sure it would happen and until it did, the entire concept remained useless to most authors.
It also required a change in my own attitude, of course. I took the time to study, watch and note what the changes meant and how they would affect me. I urge every writer to do the same before they leap into a plan of this sort. Each of us has our own needs, abilities and wants -- and you shouldn't sacrifice your dream of a book on a shelf in a big store just because this looks easier.
And also remember that just because you choose to go this way with one book doesn't mean everything you write has to go that way. This is the best part of the new world of publishing. There are many different opportunities out there for people who are steady writers. You don't have to be prolific, but do have to realize that no matter what path you take, an author with not make it on one book. Yes, there are the rare few -- but you and I are not going to be one of those. Accept that and act accordingly.