Friday, April 08, 2011

Independence: Have we forgotten the meaning?

Gadsden Flag It happened again.

I was introduced to someone writing his first novel the other day as an author. He asked if I had books out. I answered that I have 5 novels and a children’s book available. He appeared duly impressed until he asked how I got into the industry, since what he found looks daunting. I told him I publish myself.

At that, he gives me that “Oh. Never mind, then.” look and changes the subject. I could have told him he was shooting himself in the foot for brushing me off as though I could no longer be helpful to him. I could have told him he should try to READ my work before dismissing me so easily. I didn’t bother. I have plenty to do. I get plenty of calls for advice or assistance. I’m not looking to handhold someone who brushes me off so easily. It is actually his loss, as I have been studying publishing issues since around 1999, while in process of my own first novels. I pay attention. Just because I don’t use a publisher, that doesn’t mean I don’t have valuable information.

More importantly, just because I publish myself, it doesn’t mean my books don’t stand up with traditionally published books.

In fact, I just picked up a clearance Danielle Steele a couple of days ago. I’ve never read her. I kept thinking I should since I’m so often asked if my books are like hers. Since I’ve heard she’s steamy, I’ve said I don’t think they are, but I like to be better informed than that. So, I’m 1/3 way through Jewels and … I’m skimming. I keep thinking: “This is the ‘great’ Danielle Steele?” Has anyone read several of her books? Is Jewels typical of her writing? To be honest, I find it rather sophomoric and horribly repetitive and much more telling than showing, not to mention she jumps POV right and left and up and down. Ugh! Now I understand why so many romance readers start thinking, “Hey I can do this.”

Yes, generally that’s a fair assumption if she’s the standard and since editors will help to tighten your work before they publish it. To be fair, I am still reading. I do like the hero and heroine well enough to keep following their story. And it won’t take long, since I’m skimming over the repetitious prattle-filler.

I once had a fellow author say she usually skims books and skips part of the narrative, but with mine, she has to read every word for fear she’ll miss something. A huge compliment and one I won’t forget. Why waste time writing scenes readers will skip over?

Anyway, I’m getting off track. The point was that I don’t understand the turn-off of independence these days.

The other day I read Nathan Bransford’s blog where he questioned who had the right to use the term “indie”: authors or small publishers. It seems no one understands what Indie means. Hm. It’s short for Independent and it is that simple.

Contracted authors have … well, contracts. They submit their work for possible publication and if accepted, that company formats, publishes, distributes (aka PAYS for) the book. In return, the author gets a set amount of royalties and gives up her rights to that book for some specified amount of time. Note that if a publisher buys the rights to your book and doesn’t bother to put it out, there’s not much you can do about it since you signed the contract. I had an author tell me it happened to her, years before, and she was still fighting to get her rights back. Ouch.

Independent authors don’t have contracts that give any rights away to their work. They do sign printing and distribution agreements, but if they’re smart enough to do that with the right company, they can revoke that right at ANY point just because. In short, they pay their own way for their book to be on the market. They don’t ask permission to be published. They can give the printing/distribution rights to twenty different sites/companies if they wish and pull them at any time. (Be aware that with ebooks, any copies sold cannot be retracted if you pull your book from the site! Readers have rights, too.) Independent. Paying their own way. Indie.

So, authors paying their own way are Indie Authors, regardless of who they pay to help them format and cover design and edit and distribute. It’s their money. It’s their own name (or their own company name), for better or worse. They aren’t relying on a publisher name to help them sell. They rely on the quality of their work and their ability to market themselves.

In the same vein, small publishers not affiliated with the big guys, who use their own funds to publish authors, are Indie Publishers. This is the same as independent bookstores owned by those who pay their own bills and run the store under their own name.

If you pay your own way and use your own name, you are indie. It is that simple. (Being published by an indie publisher does NOT make you an indie author. They are paying; you aren’t. You are contracted to them.) 

Why do we have such a grudge against independent-minded entrepreneurs? Because some big company started the idea that you must go through them to establish quality? Please. We all know that all big companies put out very “non quality” products often. Look at all of the recalls. Look at some of the books coming out by the “quality” big houses. Reality stars? Is that quality literature? No. But it is big money. That’s what they’re about. Don’t confuse the two.

Bigger doesn’t imply better. Or it shouldn’t.

I’m an Indie Author (which I’ve been saying since 2005, before I heard anyone else use the term) for the same reason my ancestors helped to fight for America’s independence. We are do-it-yourselfers not afraid to go it on our own and pay our own way and earn the right to keep the profit of our labor. I’m not asking anyone else to risk their funds on the hopes of making money from their risk. I’m not giving away my rights to my own work. I’m also not taking the easy way out. Trust me: being indie is the hard path, particularly when you’re trying to do it as well as you can and make a quality name for yourself.

I’m not afraid of hard work. I’m not asking for help or handouts. I’m a qualified DAR who still believes in the independent spirit of standing on your own two feet and working for what you want instead of asking for it.

I see nothing wrong with that. Give me liberty..

and don’t stand in my way.



karabu said...

I read a comment a little while back (it was in regards to the Jacqueline Howett fiasco) where someone said that an indie and self-published isn't the same thing. Aren't they? I didn't know what to make of that remark.

LK Hunsaker said...

Yes and no. I started saying indie instead of self-published because "experts" say if you use a formatting/distribution company and don't own your ISBN, you are not self-published. They say actual self-publishing is buying your ISBNs and taking your book to a printer and distributing it yourself to each different place.

I think at this point, that's a rather old-fashioned view. But if they want to be that particular, then separate it out and to where if you're paying someone to help format and distribute your own work for which you are not contracted, then you may not be "self-published" but you are indie.

I don't see their big objection, since you still have to pay the printer, unless you decide to set up your own printing press.

Indie is a wider term that includes self-publishers the way "they" define it.

I am now buying my own ISBNs but I pay one company to distribute my print books and give a small percent of royalties to another to distribute my ebooks. In my book, that's smart business sense, since I can use that time for writing instead, and that's still my main goal. I can't say whether "they" would say I'm now "self-published" or not, and I don't care. My work, the stories I need to write regardless of what is currently IN, is getting out there. I guess they can call it what they want. ;-)

Maggie Toussaint said...

Some people just don't get it. The industry is changing so quickly.

You rock, Loraine!


Mona Risk said...

Loraine, thank you for explaining how indie authors publish their books. As for Danielle S. I read one of her books and couldn't read another, although my mother adored her books.

liana laverentz said...

I had to stop reading Danielle Steele's books when I started writing, because she did everything all the writing workshops told us NOT to do, and it got quite confusing. Readers love them, though.

LK Hunsaker said...

Maggie, thank you!

Mona and Liana, I do think writers are more particular about the "how" of books than many readers who just want the story, and I know I can be a hard reviewer. I ran into a girl in her early twenties who was picking up D. Steele books and talking to someone else about them. She said she used to not be able to read them because sometimes they were so graphic it bothered her. Now she's learned to skim over those parts. The one I'm reading is not graphic, so far, but I always thought it was the steam that made people read her, since that's what you most hear connected to her name. ;-)

Dorothy said...

"..I’m not afraid of hard work. I’m not asking for help or handouts. I’m a qualified DAR who still believes in the independent spirit of standing on your own two feet and working for what you want instead of asking for it.
I see nothing wrong with that. Give me liberty..
and don’t stand in my way. "

I LOVE this!

LK Hunsaker said...

Thank you. :-)