Saturday, 17 July 2010

Ending the Stigma of Self-Publishing

This is a fairly interesting blog post from over on Free Kindle. The author asks the question "What is a book?" He has a valid point. If the book is the physical thing, then an e-book isn't really a book at all. Neither is an audio book, a podcast or anything else.

This is the way I approach it, too. I see myself as a storyteller more than a writer, which is why I'm as happy directing as writing. Films, books, it's all just about a story at heart.

Here's another free kindle post about what readers judge a book by. Publisher isn't in the top 5, interestingly enough. One reader comments that he (or she?) only reads books that are like books by authors he (she?) likes. This reader doesn't know how to search out other books.  I keep getting the feeling that there should be a way Indie Authors can come together, because only collectively can Indie Authors outshine the NY Publishing Houses.

Until there is a way for Indie Authors to work together, there will be limited individual successes (yes, okay, like Zoe. Zoe who?) and a huge amount of people falling into obscurity. Yes, there is crap produced, but there are some real gems out there. I feel there needs to be a way to get readers to more easily find Indie Authors.

I read a lot of Indie Author blogs. You'll find them down the side of my blog, all except Zoe who (lol, again) for some reason I can't link to from down there. I'm always finding more Indie Author blogs without even looking thanks to the gem that is Google Alerts. I have various alerts set up but the important one just now is "Indie Author" including the quotation marks.

A lot of these author blogs I read are geared at other authors. Very few make a conscious effort to blog for readers. I don't either, but I don't have a book out yet so I doubt readers are interested in me.

This isn't an Indie Author thing. Of all the blogs I have read by authors, only 2 have been strictly for readers. Neil Gaiman posts a "this is what I did, this is what I'm doing, this is what I'm going to be doing" style blog here. For a blog that's fun, interesting, and all about the readers, try this one: Patrick Rothfuss. The reason I think this works so well is because he wrote a magazine in college. His blog posts are college-magazine like.

So what can Indie Authors do? I don't really like offering advice because my book isn't out yet. I am kind of side-lined, but it is getting unbearably close to being ready. Like standing at the tip of the diving board, staring into the water below, people behind getting impatient. I did that, once. Was terrifying all the way up the ladders, and just before I jumped I lost all fear. It was about 30 ft above the water and I was doing a life-jacket test.

Indie Authors all seem to see themselves as being alone. But that won't work. When a NY published book comes out it comes out without the stigma attached to self-publishing. It comes out with the backing of literary gatekeepers. Yes, as Zoe Who episode 2 points out, that gatekeeper might be a 19 year old fashion school drop out, but it's still a gatekeeper.

Right now is the best time to be an Indie Author. Right now the publishers are killing themselves, they are literally in their death throes. I really do think they will re-invent themselves, be reincarnated in a new form. But right now they are dying. They are collapsing where they stand. And there are so many reasons for this, way beyond the obvious reasons. You want to know one of the major reasons the publishers are dying? J A Konrath is murdering publishers, or at least he has the potential too.

He is showing that mid-list authors with backlists and fans can do a lot better on their on, without publishers. When this news gets about, as it will, more will follow. When they do, publishers will be left with noobies and big guns. With only debut authors and giants and nothing in between, and every few years the noobies reaching the point where they are better off on their own, the publishers will die.

That's not the only reason. This is another one, and the agency pricing model another, and the obsession with dead tree books another. Now is the best time to be Indie, but to truly get passed the self-publishing stigma, I think that Indie Authors need to work together. There needs to be a grassroots community of Indie authors that readers find easy to navigate. There has to be a way of finding other books readers will like.

It has to be aimed at readers. It has to be directed at the people we are directing our work at. It has to be honest. If we recommend something shit, it damages our reputation. By finding a way to highlight the gold we can widen other indies readerships even as they widen ours. Books are read faster than they are written. By bringing Indie Authors together and sharing fans everyone's readership will grow, and we will lose some of that stigma that self-publishing has.

If a reader picks up an Indie book they might think "Wow, I thought all self-pubbed books were shit. Guess this is the exception." If they Stumbleon the grassroots community of Indie Authors where every book is quality, then their whole opinion must be revised. A self-publishing author isn't news. A grassroots, word-of-mouth community of authors that have turned their backs on Publishing because someone left a wardful of idiots in charge might be news.

For the benefit of all of us, Indie Authors need to come together. I'd love to hear other people's views on this. Leave a comment below.


  1. Very interesting article - more and more book publishers are now using twitter, the way social media is being employed seems to be changing the marketing landscape for how books are reaching the reading public.

  2. Thank you.

    I'm on twitter myself, and almost everyone I follow is a writer. They tweet about writing, they tweet to other writers. They don't seek to engage readers.

    I do think twitter is an excellent marketing resource, but I'm not sure if twitter is the best resource for this.