The Indie Versus Traditional Debate is Getting Old
Last month we had a rip-roaring debate on Facebook revolving around whether independent publishing was ruining the industry or not. The usual arguments were made about gatekeepers and free markets, sloppy work and professionalism.
It’s time to move on. Independent publishing, like independent music production and film production, is here to stay. Instead of fracturing into an “us” and “them” mentality we need to grow a vibrant, thriving, inclusive publishing industry.
Why We Shouldn’t be Afraid of Unprofessional Books
Think of uploading a book onto Amazon like throwing a pebble into a pond. Skilled pebble throwers can skim a rock across the surface all the way to the far side. The less skilled hop a rock once or twice before it sinks. The unskilled’s go straight to the bottom. The tiny splashes they make don’t hurt the pond one bit.
Not only that, but while skimming rocks might be a novelty for a while, most people tire of it quickly. If all their rocks are sinking like stones, it becomes a discouraging pastime. Generally, these pebble throwers take up archery, or whittling, or some other hobby.
Mistakes are an Essential Part of Any New Endeavor
There are those who get hooked on skipping rocks, however. They watch the pros, practice their techniques, and try and try and try again. Until they get it.
Most writers write lots and lots of awful stories before they publish and even debut novels aren’t their best work. It’s the truth. There are outliers, and they’re always famous, and lauded, and blah, blah, blah.
They are the exception, not the rule, but they give rise to a dangerous notion. That notion is that only a chosen few geniuses were meant to publish, and the rest of us hacks should take up carving wooden ducks.
The truth is all skills take practice. When you hear interviews with the rising stars, you find it generally took them ten years to become an overnight success.
What Does This Mean to Us as Writers?
We need to ask ourselves the question: Are we playing around? Tossing a pebble into the pond and hoping it will somehow magically pop to the top like styrofoam? Hoping we are that outlier, that undiscovered genius? Or, are we ready to roll up our sleeves?
Regardless of how you plan to publish, traditionally or independently, it’s hard work. It’s a business. There are rules to learn, ladders to climb, mistakes to be made, and messes to clean up.
While it’s possible to publish our first NaNoWriMo novel without the benefit of beta readers, critique partners, and editors, should we? If we’d only played piano for a year and had never taken a composition class, would we upload an album of original songs to iTunes?
In this writer’s humble opinion, the argument isn’t traditional versus independent. Both sides of the industry have published amazing books and terrible books. Both sides skip pebbles all the way across the pond, and both drop bombs.
The Discussion Should be About Attitudes and Expectations.
In my experience the more professional a writer’s attitude, the more realistic their expectations. There have been multiple painful and humbling lessons in my short career. This is true regardless of publishing path.
If independent publishing was the exclusive territory of unrealistic attitudes, agents wouldn’t be inundated with unprofessional query letters for books that aren’t ready for prime time.
Publishing, along with the rest of the entertainment industry, is going through growing pains. The Kindle gold rush days are over, and those who are looking for easy fame and fortune are quickly disappointed.
Those of us who are ready to humble ourselves, learn, make mistakes and try again will be around when the industry matures into whatever it’s becoming.
What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Go ahead. Comment. I can take it.
Greta Boris is the author of A Margin of Lust, The Scent of Wrath, and The Sanctity of Sloth, the first three books in her 7 Deadly Sins domestic suspense series. Her nonfiction work includes the Amazon Bestseller The Wine and Chocolate Workout – Sip, Savor, and Strengthen for a Healthier Life and PUBLISH: Take Charge of Your Author Career. She’s also the Director of O.C. Writers, a community of over 1,000 published and aspiring authors in Orange County, California.