The Indie Publishing Debate

A recent Forbes article by David Vinjamuri has highlighted some key points among writers in the self-publishing vs. traditional publishing debate. The topic is fascinating to me, not just because I’m a writer, but because the opinions of each path are so varied.

But before I get into Vinjamuri’s piece, let me first say that I have chosen to pursue the traditional path. For me, it’s the challenge that is enticing. I know getting a contract as an unpublished fiction writer is difficult. There are many gatekeepers. But for me, writing in itself is not easy, so why should getting published be? In my mind, I’m just the protagonist in my own hero’s journey of sorts. Just as stories are unique, each writer’s path to publication can be just as different.

Vinjamuri’s opening paragraph made me jump head-first into the Forbes article, because I also shunned e-reading devices. I love the feeling of holding a book, of having shelves piled every which way with favorite titles and those I have yet to read. And then my job took me quite far from my home each day, giving me lots of time to read in the carpool. Suddenly, my iPad was the best purchase I ever made.

At first, I purchased Kindle versions of traditionally-published authors I already knew, and reference books I knew I didn’t want to lug around. Then I started look for more. Hugh Howey, who was interviewed for the article, is an author I discovered through Amazon’s recommendations. I immediately became engrossed with his Wool series and am a fan of his writing.

True, Howey is one of the good ones. Like any medium, there are self-published works that are well-crafted and there are those that are prosaic or just plain crap. But I still think there’s room in the market for everyone, despite, as the article point out, what some bestselling authors believe.

Why do mainstream authors dislike Indie publishing to the point where some even disagree with the coined term “Indie”? It comes down to worldview. Bestselling authors who are talented and hard working – like Thor and Grafton – are inclined to believe that publishing is a meritocracy where the best work by the most diligent writers gets represented, acquired, published and sold.

Ahem. Right now, Snooki has three books listed on Amazon. Now I must admit I have not read a word of any of her books, but I’m willing to bet that they don’t merit being published because of her writing excellence. And what some people outside the publishing world don’t realize, is that non-celebrity authors who DO get a traditional contract can have their publishing dates bumped in favor of pushing a celebrity title through.

Not to mention, the publishing machine takes a LONG time and the work isn’t done once you hand your manuscript over.

Publishing is different from other creative industries because the machinery has not yet adapted to the profound technological shift it is undergoing. . .These authors feel less beholden to publishers and more independent. They have been forced to become entrepreneurs, but are not rewarded commensurate with their contributions.

While I don’t think that the publishing industry is necessarily broken, I do believe that the success and persistence of indie writers is giving traditional publishers a much-needed wake up call. It’s time to adapt and change. Perhaps publishers will begin to take more chances with new authors by releasing titles as e-books first to seed the market and create buzz. Whatever the future of publishing will be, I must say I can’t wait to see what happens next. As writers, we certainly do live in exciting times.


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