Thursday, December 6, 2012

Indie Doesn't Equal Amazon

I've spoken a great deal about the indie publishing movement over the past few months.  Obviously, I'm a fan.  However, there are a number of misconceptions about it, mostly from those outside of indie publishing.  I won't deny there are many within the movement who don't fully understand it, but the vast majority of those who don't get it are on the outside and trying to understand a phenomenon that is threatening the traditional publishing world.

Kevin Hanrahan pointed me to this post from Anne Allen, a published author who writes what she calls "comic mysteries."  Anne has made the mistake that a lot of folks from outside indie publishing make - that indie=Amazon.  This is an assumption too many make.

To be sure, Amazon has done wonders for the indie movement.  The Amazon Kindle has made ebooks readily available, and it has increased the ease with which people could get their work in front of readers.  It used to take thousands of dollars to publish on your own, but through various programs like KDP Select, anyone could slap together a book and publish it through Amazon.  And Amazon's status within the marketplace made it the logical outlet.

However, a lot of folks in traditional publishing have been waiting in the shadows to pounce.  Recently, Amazon has changed a few ways it does business - such as with its review algorithm and royalty rates - and that has sent some with limited understanding of the indie publishing movement into a frenzy.  "See!" they'll exclaim with barely contained glee.  "Now that you're a prisoner of Amazon through this pitiful indie publishing thing, they have you by the balls and won't let go."

However, this has never been a solely Amazon movement, and those who are serious about it know that.  Indie publishing, if done right, goes through multiple avenues and does what it can not to limit itself.  Yes, I plan to publish digitally through Kindle, but I also plan to publish through Nook, and the iPad as well, with Smashwords being a great vehicle for such things.  Additionally, I don't intend to limit myself to ebooks - although I haven't yet decided which company to go through, print on demand publishers have expanded that avenue to the indie movement as well.

Those who look at indie and think "Amazon" are showing limited understanding of what indie truly is.  It isn't tied to a specific company or format, but rather it's an idea that bypasses traditional publishers in order to get work in front of an audience.  Yes, lots of folks in traditional publishing, whether they be literary agents or publishers like Random House, still look down on the indie movement and mumble about how the only ones who go this route are losers who couldn't get published through the regular route(that would come as quite a shock to best sellers like JA Konrath or Terry Goodkind).  However, these are the representatives of a dying industry who either truly don't understand what the future holds, or they know and are so scared about it that they feel the need to tear it down in order to try and preserve their own livelihood.  BTW, some folks now think that indie is the way to really breakthrough - just ask EL James.

So, what does all this rambling mean?  It means that indie isn't just about one outlet.  Many hope to destroy one company in the hope that it will crush the fledgling movement before it gets off the ground, but that ship has sailed.  You can't put this genie back in the bottle, and by writing it off as an Amazon fad, some folks are setting themselves up for an epic fall.

I don't begrudge anyone their success, and if you want to go the traditional route, I wish you the best of luck.  But let's take a look at who can make a living off of this in a few years.  If I do it right and don't tie my fortune to a single company, my odds are pretty high.


  1. Great piece Russ. I thought you would find the post by Anne Allen interesting.

    Why do you think many of the indie author sucess stories end up with an agent and go that traditonal route?

    1. Kevin - it's not as many as it would appear. At the same time, I also understand it. Some folks use indie as a vehicle to get into traditional publishing. Also, there are a few instances, like EL James' 50 Shades of Grey, where the book is such a success that one person can't handle the massive increase in stuff that comes with it, so if the money is right, they opt for a traditional route. I have no problem with that.

      I've said on here lots of times that if a publisher showed up and offered me a boatload of money to give them the rights to my work, I'd seriously consider it. However, there are still deal breakers that would cause me to walk away(chief among them being the non-compete clause that a lot of publishers are throwing into contracts nowadays). Kristine Kathryn Rusch has laid out lots of these, and her blog is an excellent source of information.

      To me, it's a cost/benefit analysis/ If the money and circumstances were right, I'd go traditional, but it would take a lot to convince me to give up the freedom of indie for the traditional route.

  2. I've been reading Kathryn's blog thanks to you...lots of good advice!

    I can barely handle work, family and writing so I get what you are saying.