So there’ve been big doings in the indie publishing world in the last week. Barry Eisler turned down a half million dollar deal with legacy publishers, choosing to self-publish instead. Another traditionalist defects. And the indie world cheered.
Amanda Hocking accepted a $2 million deal with legacy publishers for a four book series. And the indie publishing world is FLIPPING OUT. Holy schnikes, Batman, what is UP with all the cries of SELLOUT? I am really pretty ashamed of the vitriol some members of the indie community have spewed Amanda’s way.
Here’s the thing, people. Amanda never set out to be the darling of the indie community. We put her there. She did not set out expecting to make millions. All she did was write a bunch of books and make the brave step to put them out there, hoping to make some strides toward making a living so that she could quit her crappy job (a job I know full well is crappy because it’s the same one I had when I first got out of college, before grad school). So the fact that she has to justify taking a $2 million advance (which she does with considerably more grace and poise than most of us could manage) is positively ludicrous.
This backlash against her is a sign of the sordid underbelly of the indie publishing movement. Because out there are a lot of people who are under the misguided impression that the indie publishing movement is some kind of mass rising against The Man (legacy publishing)–as if it’s a formal revolution and anybody who does anything else is a defector to the wrong side.
Is legacy publishing broken? Hell yes. I’ve said it often enough, and I believe that they are struggling to prop up an antiquated business model with practices that are going to sink a lot of them before things truly change. That is part of why I, and many others, chose the indie path.
But here’s the thing about the indie publishing movement. Everybody has different motives for doing it. Some don’t want to deal with the stress of the query system. Some have work that doesn’t fit the mold of what publishers find acceptable. Some don’t want to give up creative control over things like cover art. Some even WANT to BE publishers themselves to have total control over every aspect. The only guaranteed commonality we all have is that we want to make a living doing what we love–writing. This is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. So to treat it as such and criticize someone for making a choice that’s different from yours is not only rude, it’s stupid (and I challenge anybody to turn down $2 million–that’s more than 99.99% of the population will ever see in their lifetime).
There have been people who’ve been kind enough to say I’m an inspiration and a role model. I can’t tell you how flattered and humbled I am by that. I would hope that the example I’m setting is one of professionalism, high quality work, and paying it forward. These are the things I strive for, the things that I believe are really important. These are the things that helped me land an agent, even though I wasn’t looking. They are the things that have helped move me along the path closer to my end goal of making a living as a writer.
But I want to make it very clear that I am not eschewing legacy publishing in totality. I have an agent who is very eager to shop my work and use my indie success to nail me a bigger advance and more favorable contract terms. She is also very supportive of me continuing to pursue indie publishing projects. In short, I will ultimately be both indie AND traditionally published because I believe that is the best means to achieve my ultimate end of quitting both my evil day jobs and writing professionally.
I don’t want to catch that same backlash when I announce future traditional deals, so I’m stating it plainly now. My accepting a traditional deal in no way undermines what I’ve done as an indie author. It doesn’t mean I don’t believe in the indie movement or that I will stop putting out work on my own. It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop supporting others who choose the indie path. It will mean that for some of my work a publisher will do a lot of the stuff I have zero desire to do myself–editing, copy editing, layout, some of the marketing, etc. That leaves me more time to do what I want: WRITE. Because I don’t WANT to be a publisher. I want to be a writer.
We are in the midst of a massive paradigm shift in publishing. There’s no way to know how things will ultimately turn out, except that I believe it will place the author into a position of greater power. The best thing for all of us to do is to use good business sense and take the path that gets us closer to our goals. That path will be different for everyone, and it’s our job as professionals to respect that, congratulate our colleagues on their successes, and continue on our own journey–even if it’s a different one.