Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why I publish independently

Today is blog carnival day!

What is a blog carnival, one might ask? A blog carnival is when a bunch of different bloggers decide to write upon a particular topic on a particular day, and then do so. Generally there is a host blog where readers can go to find links to all the blog posts about that day's topic. This particular blog carnival was the brain child of Chris Kelly.

Today's topic: Why I publish independently, or as I call it, "How the hell did you become an indie writer?"

Today's host blog: Dun Scaith, Home of Scathach Publishing

So, how did I become an indie writer?

First, let me say right off the bat that until very recently (as in the last couple of weeks), I've never thought of myself as an indie writer or a self-published writer or whatever you want to call it.

I was just a writer. Until a year ago, I had never self-published anything of my own. For years my short stories had found their way into print or online markets, and I have a print contract with a small book publisher for some of my fantasy work.

If anything, I thought of myself as a traditional print writer.

Then along comes Amazon with the Kindle, and thus was born the capability for writers to publish their works directly to a digital audience without having to go through a publisher. It also doesn't hurt that the money is pretty good if you can make sales.

At first I was hesitant. I had some of the fears and concerns a lot of traditionally-published writers still have. Self-publishing is a sign of giving in and giving up. Self-publishing means no traditionally print publishers will ever touch you. Self-publishing means your work sucks.

I remained hesitant for at least six months, trying to make up my mind whether or not I would go ahead and begin publishing my work on Amazon.

Then several things happened over about three months. These were events that forced my hand on self-publishing.

I lost my job.

Okay, so I got another job. Then I lost that job.

And my wife lost her job. She got another job. Then that job fell away, too.

Blame it on the bad economy, if you will. I had been a professional newspaper editor for nearly 20 years, and suddenly not only was I without a job, but my whole career seemed gone. Sure, there are still newspapers out there, but their readership is dropping like flies (literally in some cases since the average newspaper reading audience is older) and the advertising dollars are no longer there.

Of course I kept trying to get another job, but it never worked out. My wife tried, too, but it wasn't happening.

So, call it a matter of desperation, if you want. I call it, "How I pay the damn bills every month." I had already been writing fiction in short and long forms for as long as I'd been a newspaper editor, so why not go ahead and make some money from it?

I've chatted with a number of other indie authors over the last year or two, and many tell me they became indie writers because they wanted complete control or they felt their work was unusual enough that traditional print publishers would never publish them.

That's not me. My newspaper career was over and I needed money. It's that simple.

I still work with print publishers, and will continue to do so on some projects. But I'll also keep right on doing my digital thing, publishing on Amazon, Smashwords and at other online venues.

Oh, and the reason I recently came to think of myself as an indie writer has to do with all the naysayers. Actually, that's not accurate. I don't mind naysayers. The truth is I began to think of myself as an indie writer because of all the "assholes" out there trashing indie writers, many of those assholes being involved somehow or other with the traditional publishing industry.

I don't mind people disagreeing with me. I don't mind people thinking something I'm personally doing is stupid. But to go out of your way to verbally assault myself and others in such a nasty fashion as I've seen done numerous times on other blogs ... that's too much.

So, if you're one of those people who hates the idea of self-publishers and indie writers and digital publishing and the Kindle and everything that goes along with it, you can thank your fellows for adding one more to the ranks of indie writers.

In other words, it's a big F-U to those assholes.

I have bills to pay and mouths to feed. I don't have time to wait six months for a print publisher to decide whether or not they want my latest book, then a year before the book is released, and then perhaps another year for my first royalty checks to start rolling in.

I don't have time to be concerned that someone's itty bitty feelings have been injured over my doing something that has no effect whatsoever on their life, and that they're scared the traditional print publishers are all going to go away or that books will no longer play an important role in the world, economically and artistically.

SCREW. ALL. THAT.

I've started a business. Don't like it? Don't buy my products.

Besides, print books are going to be around, at least for a long, long time if not forever. Far too many people have their panties in a bunch over nonsense that doesn't really matter. To borrow (steal) a line from fabulous paranormal romance indie author Zoe Winters, "We aren't curing cancer or feeding Ethiopian children. It's just publishing."

And as I've said before, "I've seen what happens to the print industry when digital publishing comes along. I was in the newspaper business for far too many years not to recognize the signs. Not this time. Not to me."

18 comments:

Zoe Winters said...

OMG LOVE this post. Especially this part:

I don't have time to be concerned that someone's itty bitty feelings have been injured over my doing something that has no effect whatsoever on their life, and that they're scared the traditional print publishers are all going to go away or that books will no longer play an important role in the world, economically and artistically.

That is SO true. And it made me think of things in a way I hadn't thought of before. How selfish does one have to be to try to physically or emotionally stand in another person's way of making the money they need to make?

In some ways I'm in a similar situation. I can't work for other people for several different reasons. But the bottom line situation is... I can't hold down a job working for anyone but myself. No matter how many times I've tried, it just doesn't work out. (And I've tried 33 times.)

Being an indie author is the first time in my life I've made somewhat decent money. This is the most money I've ever made. Sure, all I've ever had were mcjobs, but that's another issue. I just wasn't ever going to have a "career" doing anything else.

So far this is the only thing I've ever done that has even started to pan out financially. Why the hell would I deny myself this thing I both need and love to do, based on someone else's precious feelings over "how publishing should work to emotionally validate them"?

I mean WTF? Seriously? STFU! (not you) :)

Ty Johnston said...

Zoe, I've come to think of it sort of like baseball.

Let's say I'm a minor league player for one of the independent leagues, not even a farm team for one of the major league teams.

If I have a season setting all kinds of pitching records, is a top Yankees pitcher going to drop by and give me grief over it? Of course not. He wouldn't even know about my season, as Patterson and King and Rowling and whomever don't know about my real-life writing and publishing. It doesn't affect them.

So why in the world do so many folks have to get upset over indie writers and indie publishers?

It's silly, and it shows how little and petty some people really are, especially when what I'm doing will have no effect at all upon them.

My god, it's like politics, but even less meaningful.

Zoe Winters said...

I totally agree. And they claim they aren't "threatened" by us. Well, they clearly are, or they would STFU and leave people to do what they want to do.

Dude, I don't run around yelling at people who are happy traditionally publishing and telling them they're "wrong" and need to do it my way.

I don't are how anyone else publishes or doesn't publish. What difference does it make to me? Am I getting part of their royalty? Are they getting part of mine? No.

I think if trad publishing for those on the midlist was all it was cracked up to be, there would be a lot fewer people concerned with how we're publishing.

Zoe Winters said...

don't *care (stupid typos)

Andrew Mocete said...

Great post. Just as inspiring as Zoe's from a completely different point of view.

It reminded me of the smear job traditional radio gave satellite when it was new. It's like there's enough cake for everyone, but the biggest kid in the room can't stand it that the little guy is enjoying some.

Levi Montgomery said...

I've been seeing your comments on Joe and Zoe (why don't those rhyme?)'s blog for some time, but it took a carnival to actually get me here, I guess.

I, like Zoe, had never really thought about the selfishness of the naysayers.

Charles Gramlich said...

Necessity is the mother of invention!

Ellen Fisher said...

"The truth is I began to think of myself as an indie writer because of all the "assholes" out there trashing indie writers, many of those assholes being involved somehow or other with the traditional publishing industry."

Me too! I get more and more attached to the indie label, the more those people mouth off.

Claire Farrell said...

You had me at "assholes" :D

We all have our reasons for self-publishing and as long as it works for us then who cares what other people think we have given up. Whenever anyone disses the indie thing, I smile, because I think lots of them will eventually go down the same route. It's just a matter of time . . . and money.

For me, I'm not waiting around for anything to be handed to me. I'm going to see if I can get it for myself. It's not easier or better, it's just different. Big fan of different. :)

Ty Johnston said...

Levi, welcome aboard my blog! Come back any time you want. I love comments.

Charles, you've got that right.

Ellen, yep, the more I'm told I can't do something, the more I'm going to try to do it. At least in writing. Base jumping is another story.

Claire, I feel much the same way.

J.A. Marlow said...

Why is it that making a living at writing is such a sin? We produce using our talents, and to have a just compensation for that in a timely manner is to be expected in any other field. Writing is supposed to be different? Why, because it's 'art'?

As an artist, I also expect to be compensated, so I don't buy that for a moment. (excuse the pun)

The "Don't quit your day job" idiocy was the subject of my carnival contribution. ;)

Congrats on getting your work out there and making money off of it. Yay for indie writers!

M.T. Murphy said...

Congrats on your success, Ty.

I think stories like yours are the very reason indie publishing keeps popping up on the trad publishing radar. More and more writers are refusing to bow to the negative consensus about independents and doing their own thing.

What the "big guys" do has no effect on us, but what we do sure seems to annoy them, and that amuses the hell out of me.

Here's to rocking the boat!

Scathach Publishing said...

It annoys them cos they see the seesawness of it. Right now they are the heavy weights, but as more and more of us make a success of this the seesaw will very slowly balance. Just as it balances all the trad pub author hanger-ons will rush to self-publish and the seesaw will tip the other way.

Great post. Sorry you've had such a shitty time with jobs. Its hard just now.

Moses Siregar III said...

Epic.

The Daring Novelist said...

I find it interesting to see what makes each of us angry in this kind of situation. I totally empathize with this (even though I have somewhat different reasons for going Indie), because where I do have similar feelings, it has as much to do with being fooled by these people as anything.

I see it even within traditional publishing - most people actually make a breakout when they they realize that they're being held back by "common wisdom" that's really BS.

So it's ironic, that Indies are criticized for moving forward and BEING professional (i.e. making a living) by those who in the end are sitting back and posturing.

jesscscott said...

"I have bills to pay and mouths to feed. I don't have time to wait six months for a print publisher to decide whether or not they want my latest book, then a year before the book is released, and then perhaps another year for my first royalty checks to start rolling in."

OMG YESSSSSSSSS! I read on an agent's blog that you have to add 5 years to whatever you have in mind (when dealing with the publishing industry). How such a slow-moving industry has stayed alive for so long defies all logic.

Levi Montgomery said...

"How such a slow-moving industry has stayed alive for so long defies all logic."

Because it was all there was.

Was. Past tense.

Welcome to tomorrow.

Edie Ramer said...

Very well said! I'm about to become an indie writers, and I've had one "friend" mouthing off about the badly written digital books. I told her how I felt once, but she still continues on the same vein. Now I ignore her. Her opinion doesn't matter to me; only mine does.