Indie Vs. Traditional Publishing: Who Wins? The Reader.

teen paranormal romanceAs a writer, I’m constantly embroiled in and barraged by the border-style warfare currently within the publishing industry. From one side, insurgent/terrorist indies fire ebook RPG’s indiscriminately. While from the other side, authorities mount lightning-strike Caterpillar (the big, yellow earth-movers) excursions through the offending shanty towns to demonstrate who is still in control.

In the name of full disclosure, I’m an indie. A Browncoat to the core, I just can’t stomach extensive contracts with large corporate entities with the power to put pouty teen girls on my book covers. At the same time, I like to think of myself as a reasonable individual capable of seeing both sides of the war.

In my efforts to do so, I’ve come away repeatedly asking myself the same question.

Do readers even notice or care? Should they?

I’m not sure of the answer to the first question. To the second, the answer is yes.

After all, the battle is one of control. Until recently, the traditional publishers (the most important ones known as “The Big Five” or “formerly known as the Big Six”) maintained most of the control. Writers possessed very little. For the most part, we wrote what publishers wanted (or guessed at it). Readers possessed even less power in my humble opinion. They read what was published and placed on display in retail outlets.

Sure, occasionally a publisher would display a certain title that readers simply wouldn’t stomach. But for the most part, the exposure dictated what readers read and therefore what would sell and therefore what publishers would buy. (Sorta’ circular, ain’t it?)

Now, all of that is changing.

Ebook shelf space is infinite. SEO (led by Amazon’s killbot algorythms) is getting smarter at matching books with readers. Readers have a growing selection of titles to choose from. This gives the reader an increasing amount of power.

But, as the old adage says, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” If readers choose to read Shades of Gray, that is what writers will write (oh, the spineless, commercial groveling of us indies!)

I won’t go so far as to say traditional publishing doesn’t care about the reader. Obviously, they do. I think the industry as a whole tends to get a little snooty about its role in educating readers on what they should want to read. With the great publishing tutor being discredited and disempowered, readers have been loosed to read indiscriminately.

The coming years will be ones of growing pains and maturity for the reader.

In the end, readers will emerge with a newly honed power they’ve never known in publishing. Will it be a spoiled one? Or a disciplined one? Focused? Or scattered? Self-aware? Or oblivious? Just because you can read whatever you want may not mean you should. Or maybe that is exactly the sort of laissez faire attitude the written word desires.

While indies and trads lob blame back and forth for the unsettled state of publishing and the written word, readers should be amassing for a populous uprising. The power is yours for the taking.

Indie Artists Going For Broke

now hiring signDuring times of uncertainty the natural tendency is to play it conservative, to cut back. Businesses begin to let employees go and search out ways to trim the vestigial tail (or fat if you want to stick to convention). Some believe this to be the exact wrong response.

These contrarians say the best course of action is to invest more. Instead of cutting personnel, hire additional employees in order to best the competition with top notch customer service and/or new innovative ideas. Seek out soft spots in the market to expand into, etc.

When it comes to self-publishing and indie artistry I’ve been pondering how to apply the same concept. Publishing is in the midst of a 100 year shake-up, and the future is uncertain to say the least. Along the lines of advice I’ve heard everything from “wait to see what happens” to “seize the day.”

I pretty much suck at waiting around, so the basic decision has been easy. I’m going to go for it, Pat. But what exactly does that look like? [Read more...]

Ebooks Encourage Sub-Genres

bookshelfAs a novelist, I’d honestly rather see my books hit the top 100 sci-fi list in the Kindle store than the New York Times for one simple reason–money. I’m a full-time genre fiction author scratching a living from the  aether one ebook at a time. And thanks to things like keywords, tags, SEO, Amazon killbot-algorithms and Facebook I can do so by writing almost any sort of fiction I choose as long as I abide by the new set of rules still being forged in the fires of the briny ebook cauldron. Those rules seem to be guided by a few dynamics (drum roll please).

Shelf Space

In the not so distant past an evil committee chaired by Oprah and staffed by the likes of Big Brother, Rupert Murdoch, and a rogue zerg overlord made all the decisions on what books were allowed shelf space (and thus sales) at the corner Barnes and Noble. For decades the triad has remained romance, mysteries and thrillers. Science fiction has long been accepted with a wink and a nod as the android Cinderella sweeping out the storeroom (where literary fiction camps out on permanent smoke break).

Ebooks have changed all that. Can I get an amen? How about a Qapla? Because this change is a good fortune indeed for the geeky among us, both writer and reader. As any geek knows, things starting in “i” or “e” tend to be improved (an iPhone is better than a phone, right?). [Read more...]

Evolution of an Indie: No Silver Bullet

Evolution of an IndieEntering my third year as an indie, it is my responsibility to impart sage wisdom to the world. (Don’t blink, or you might miss it.) See the series introduction post for more on my saga. But for now, lesson #11 for 2012 (the final installment!):

Don’t expect anyone else to sell your product for you.

Whether you are big six, small press or totally indie, no one will sell your stuff for you. If you want to be a writer in today’s world, sales and marketing are part of the package. (The only exception is if you can afford to pay an agency or individual to do this for you!) [Read more...]

Evolution of an Indie: Sell Everything

Evolution of an IndieEntering my third year as an indie, it is my responsibility to impart sage wisdom to the world. (Don’t blink, or you might miss it.) See the series introduction post for more on my saga. But for now, lesson #10 for 2012:

Publish and sell everything you write.

This is one I’m still trying to figure out. But it connects with the last lesson on being professional. Everything you write should be written at a professional level. If it is written at a professional level, monetize it. If you can’t monetize it, you might be wasting your time and or talent. (It’s hard to believe I’m even typing this! I suppose I need to explain myself a bit further.

I firmly believe that a sale for $0.00 is still a sale.

Sometimes it is neccessary to sell your work for zero profit in order to increase profitable sales. So in my mind, sales and profit are two separate things. [Read more...]

Evolution of an Indie: Be Professional

Evolution of an IndieEntering my third year as an indie, it is my responsibility to impart sage wisdom to the world. (Don’t blink, or you might miss it.) See the series introduction post for more on my saga. But for now, lesson #9 for 2012:

Put professional effort into everything you do, or don’t do it.

Being professional is about doing whatever it is you do for others rather than yourself. A writer can write for him or herself. A professional writer must (to an extent) write for the reader. That is what it means to be professional. I can build myself a house and therefore be a builder. But if I build you a house, I damn well better be a professional. (Unless you’re okay with things like load-bearing posters and remembering to walk around certain spots in the floor.)

No matter how small the job, a builder’s career can be on the hook if he/she slops the hogs instead of feeding the chicks. Indie writers should live by the same rule. [Read more...]

Evolution of an Indie: Delay Success

Evolution of an IndieEntering my third year as an indie, it is my responsibility to impart sage wisdom to the world. (Don’t blink, or you might miss it.) See the series introduction post for more on my saga. But for now, lesson #8 for 2012:

Plan on having no success until one year after the release of your third novel.

As always it is critical to know thyself. If you are more of an entrepreneur than a writer, you may be able to shake your money maker and find commercial success with one or two novels. I’ve seen a few people do it.

On the other hand, if you are like me (an incompetent boob living in a fantasy bubble high off his own fart gas) it will take you even longer. (I’m not even going to go into doomsday scenarios due to the Department of Justice decision in regards to agency.)

If you are primarily a writer focus first on creating more and better content.

But, you will have to make up for marketing and sales deficiencies via adjustments to your writing. [Read more...]