Sunday, August 24, 2014

Too Big Of An Ego?

I don't think it's any secret my belief in the indie publishing movement.  Several writers - from Hugh Howey to JA Konrath to Sarah Hoyt - have shown that it's not only possible to make a living on the indie scene, but it's possible to make a damn fine that can be better than most traditionally published writers.  Therefore it may seem odd that I issue this word of caution...

...don't get cocky.

Cocky is what is resonating off of a lot of indie writers right now, and with their recent successes, coupled with the arrogance of those in the traditional world who said indie/self publishing was a desperate route for the untalented, it's hard to blame them.  Indie writers feel themselves to be that underdog sports team that knows it's more talented than everyone but can't seem to get any respect.  They swagger and brag about how they're "coming to get" those on the other side of the fence, and nothing will stop them.

Whoa there boy - slow down a bit.

As much success as the indie movement has had in recent years, the traditional publishing world still rules the roost.  Some of it may be the mentality prevalent among a lot of writers that still need validation from that world, but the actual dominance is hard to dispute.  Traditional writers dominate the bestseller lists, as well as the market share.  That's not to say that a lot of traditionally published writers are doing anything more than scraping by, but the method of publishing and distribution is still on top, and indie writers are fooling ourselves if we think we've prevailed.

One day, perhaps, that will change, but indie must work several angles to overcome the advantages inherent in the traditional world with regards to the market.  Obviously, traditionally published books still dominate placement in bookstores, aided by a number of them who won't even stock indie works.  Perception among the general public - those who might buy a book or two a year - is also with the traditionally published world.  Ebooks are on the rise, and the success of authors like Amanda Hocking will help, but let's be honest - until an indie writer has the success of someone like Stephen King or John Grisham, and stays in the indie world instead of grabbing a traditional deal as soon as the dollar signs get large enough, indie will always be seen by most as second tier, no matter how much we may scream about it.  That might be unfair, but it's still the truth.

I know I seem like a downer, and I believe the trend is in indie's favor, but the indie movement doesn't need to exaggerate its position.  We need a breakthrough, a major breakthrough, in order to truly claim a spot on top of the mountain.  Indie writers will continue to make a good living - most of them better than in the traditional world due to profit margins and royalty rates - and we should always believe in ourselves, but that doesn't mean we should descend into self-delusion, and, by extension, arrogance.

After all, it's always been our scrappy nature that has gotten us this far.  If we can hold onto that drive, it can take us further.


  1. I think a break through will definitely happen for indie authors - I also do book reviews on my blog and have gotten the occasional indie book which has left me a tad cynical and questioning the process of indie publishing. Since you mention cockiness, it makes me wonder whether overconfidence can lead to "too soon publishing." I highly recommend any author - myself included - getting an onslaught of reviews - and finding that one person who will tell you like it is no matter how hard you cry - before publishing. The process will always be hard, no matter what path you take.

    1. Completely agree with the "too soon publishing" comment. Far too many indie writers think they can slap together quality and everyone will love it. A true professional submits to critique and review by others because he or she knows that it isn't the writer that determines greatness, but rather the audience. Reviews and rewrites are a critical part of the process.