I have had the good fortune to get to know over the last year or two, indie writer Zoe Winters. Zoe is a vibrant, very very funny woman who is incredibly passionate about the indie publishing movement. Over time, we’ve had a lot of friendly conversations about her theories and methods and exactly why she’s choosing the indie route over the more traditional one of querying big name publishers. A lot of people have not been so friendly in those discussions.
In assorted public forums where the topic of indie publishing or self-publishing comes up, there have been so many people who just don’t get it. She’s been accused of being anywhere from naive, stupid, attempting to defraud the reader, dishonest–and recently there was something about a baboon erection from one particularly vitriolic opposing party which made me laugh out loud and shake my head at how poorly some people behave on the internet.
This is a subject that all parties seem to be passionate about, and they have no trouble debating it–heatedly.
Some of the traditional publishing supporters act as if this somehow belittles or demeans what they want to do. It doesn’t.
Some of them make the (erroneous) assumption that Zoe wants to go independent because she doesn’t want to do the work or because she somehow wants to circumvent “the way things are done” or because she’s a no talent hack like so many illiterate, unedited vanity press published people. In fact, she is very talented, works as hard or harder than 90% of the other writers I know, and has no interest in the traditional model of publishing.
Because she’s a publishing geek.
Well, I’m a forensic psychology geek. I like to read journal articles and bought myself a copy of A Practical Guide to Homicide Investigation for a past birthday. Clearly this is something that a lot of people don’t get, which I don’t care.
Zoe is a publishing geek. She likes wearing the hat of both author and publisher. She loves doing layout and wearing the business hat and following numbers and all the heinously boring stuff the rest of us hate. I don’t pretend to understand it (personally, the idea of having to do all that AND write makes me want to shoot myself), but I get that that’s the attraction for her. Publishing is her geek area. She gets as much pleasure out of being her own publisher (as in with registered company name, business license, etc.) as she does creating her stories.
And I admit, there are definitely some perks. She never has to fight with anyone over her title. She has full say over her cover art. She doesn’t have to make any massive changes to her book to please someone who thinks they know the market. Those are pretty powerful incentives.
And lest anyone think she’s putting out poorly edited crap–she recruited a number of other writers to help edit (myself included, and copy editing is one of MY geek areas), proof the layout, etc. Clearly readers are responding. Since the end of November, she’s had over 5,000 downloads of her novella in the last few months and maintains a ranking in the top 2,000 in the Kindle store (where she offers Kept for a very reasonable $0.80 since they won’t let her give it away). She listed Kept on Scrib’d for free just two days ago and has already had over 1,000 downloads. And other than the first couple of months, she hasn’t done anything to push or promote it. It’s growing by word of mouth. And no, she hasn’t made huge bucks. This is a publishing experiment. The idea was to try it out and see how much of a readership she could build. She knows all about stuff like conversion rates and can probably tell you a lot more than the average writer about what’s truly making a difference (except for possibly someone like J.A. Konrath). And I’m willing to bet that when she does the actual print release of the novella with it’s 2 companion novellas later this year, she’s going to see a big difference from having done this little experiment.
That’s something that even those of us who prefer the traditional publishing route should pay attention to. She’s a good example (among others) of the power of giving away cheap/freebie reads to build a readership. That benefits everyone. Readers get to try something out for cheap or free. Writers, be they published or unpublished, get to build a readership. And those numbers help when we DO talk with traditional publishers. Hey look, I’ve already been working on developing a readership and my platform. People read my stuff.
It’s definitely something to keep in mind.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to steer clear of these debates because I see enough of people behaving badly IRL. I don’t need to be exposed to it on the internet too.