Thoughts on The Indie Path

Over on Pimp my novel: Prithee Convince Me, The blog poster wants self-published authors to “convince him” that self-publishing is a viable alternative to trad publishing. Now this is not the first time this blogger has declared open season on the self-publishing industry and self-published authors, but I can’t really understand why, since the blogger’s bio states that he works for a traditional publisher. He’s got his nice little job in the “real” publishing world, so why does he care so much about what we are doing?

This topic has generated some interesting discussion, and I decided to chime in over on Zoe Winter’s blog. Why her blog and not his? Well, I will let my comment to Zoe answer that:

“Convince him?” Oh now that is rich. We will never be able to convince him or anyone in the traditional publishing industry that’s it’s a viable option, and the reason why we can’t possibly convince them is because they do not and cannot understand that “we” True Indie Publishers do not want the same things that those seeking traditional publishing want.

As an aside to that discussion, I wanted to take note that traditional publishing and authors struggling through that process need a bit of a reality check as well. It ain’t all green grass over there, either. In this article, Lit Agent Julie Barer tells trad authors to keep their day jobs: “I know it’s somewhat of an unpopular opinion, but I think it’s unrealistic to expect that you can support yourself solely as a writer in this economy. Most of the writers I know teach, or have other day jobs to support themselves, so the best way to avoid eating ramen noodles is to not rely completely on your book advance to pay your bills.”

Our values are different, our goals, and our ideas about what success means are different than theirs, and they just can’t understand why we don’t want the same things they do.

And frankly, we’ve got better things to do than waste our time trying to convince people who are only going to mock us anyway. We are happy with what we are doing, and we don’t need to “convince” anyone.

Check please.

Now sure, I can agree that many self-published authors walk into the process completely delusional, with little to no knowledge of the craft and theory let alone an understanding of what being an Indie means, so yes, there is a lot of badly written, badly edited crap out there, but it’s not like the traditional publishing path is delusion/crap free either.

Anyway, We shouldn’t even be having this debate. Neither is viable. It’s not like traditional publishing or self publishing are making millionaire authors every day. Authors are working their asses off in both industries, there is no job security, and but a rare few are making money hand over fist, let alone, writing for a career. Sure, if you want to become a mega-millionaire best selling author, your odds are better in traditional publishing, but the odds are still a long shot. Sadly, that’s not even the point here. The point is that I am so tired of the “If you don’t do it like I do it then you are doing it wrong” mantra. (Our society, in general, seems to be stuck in that mindset for some reason.) That’s just insecurity talking half the time. If you know what you want, if you have educated yourself on the process, and the process and the end result make you happy, then you are not doing it wrong. Sure, there are plenty of ways to “do it wrong” but if you are putting out a professional product, well edited, well designed, well written etc. and you are happy with it and your readers are happy with it, then what’s the problem? Fact check here: There is no problem except the one certain people have created in their own minds to justify why they chose the path they chose. It’s all because they think if we are right then they must be wrong, and that’s because they don’t understand that the word “conventional” does not mean “right.” It just means different. Same with unconventional; it doesn’t mean “wrong.”

Just because my vision is different than theirs and my methods are different than theirs doesn’t make me wrong, and it certainly doesn’t make my art less worthy or less arty than theirs. And on the flip side, if someone needs validation from a publishing house to feel they are a good writer, ok, that’s what they need, fine. Doesn’t mean they are wrong either, and we all need to keep in mind that not everyone needs that, and by no means does wanting or not wanting something make someone wrong or right. Art has always been about anarchy, rule breaking, and spitting in the face of convention. If it weren’t, we would all be matching our shit to the drapes.

Happiness isn’t a best seller or a million dollar book deal. When happiness becomes about validation and monetary gain then it’s time to rethink the priorities. Success is happiness and success comes in all kinds of forms. Success is the idea. It’s the job well done, and “well done” has a lot of different meanings. So, if you are happy on the Indie path, then you are successful, and if you aren’t happy, well, then try a different path. If you are not happy on the traditional publishing path for whatever reason: lack of creative control, royalty rates that are not satisfying, too much “face” time taking away from the writing, the query process is impersonal, confidence stripping, and seemingly futile, and you think you might die of old age before you ever see your manuscript in print, then maybe it’s time to try a new path. If your sense of self-worth requires that you be “accepted” by anyone but yourself, then you might need a new outlook in general.

There are leaders, and there are followers, so you can either get busy waiting or get busy doing. It’s a choice: individual choice. Neither one nor the other is right or wrong; It’s just a matter of choosing the one that is right for you. My reasons are my reasons. They are unique to me, and I don’t have to convince anyone of their validity. Both methods of publishing have their place, always have had, and as long as art is free from constraint, then everyone benefits. Society benefits. I don’t want my art stamped “fit for consumption” by any corporate or governmental agency. That’s just me. I think it’s fine for Food and Drugs, but not for art. Other authors need the stamp of approval, and that’s fine too, and art lovers (readers in this case) are smart enough to decide for themselves. If they want something to match the drapes, then fine, if not, at least they have a choice. When we clutter things up too much with rules, fashion trends, and bureaucracy, we diminish it’s potency, we objectify it, and take away it’s freedoms. Freedom of expression and independent thought, that is. Art is subjective; let’s keep it that way.

As for choosing a path: Traditional Publishing works for some people, and self-publishing works for others. Making the choice has nothing to do with anything except your own reasons for choosing one over the other, and really, you don’t need to choose either. You can do both at the same time, and believe me, both take just as much hard work.

The art this week is Braque: Woman with Guitar 1913

Cross-posted from the Pod People Blog by Cheryl Anne Gardner