(This is an excerpt from my Indie Author Survival Guide, available on Kindle and Nook.)
You Are Free, Act Like It
My writer-friends’ empowerment was fueled by their experiences with indie publishing.
That empowerment – expressed as a willingness to challenge conventions, write different stories, try new strategies, as well as an intolerance for “rules” of traditional publishing, including excessive wait times and bad contracts – was something I felt early on, when I first self-published. And I’ve seen it in other newly-indie-published authors. There’s a sudden flush of freedom, of liberation from constraints you didn’t even know were binding you.
In this rush of new-found artistic freedom comes the assumption that everyone realizes this Brave New World is upon us. Sadly, this is not true… yet. The next phase, the one that’s slowly starting to show its face but is far from fully realized, is the one where everyone in the publishing ecosystem has adapted to this new age of the empowered writer.
I see the beginnings of it in the freelance artists and editors and narrators I work with, who respect and look forward to creative collaboration with writers – a collaboration based on a balance of power where either party can walk away from a situation that’s not working for them. This is creative work as normal commerce – where both parties engage in an activity (creating a cover, editing a book, narrating an audiobook) because they see mutual benefits (money, finished product). I’m a big believer in the free market, and this is free market at its best – allowing for individuals to trade goods and services to their mutual benefit.
It is a far, far cry from the publishing system as it has historically existed – and as it is, still, today.
There are some agents and editors who get it. But we still have a long ways to go before most (or even many) people in the industry realize the power balance has well and truly tipped. There are too many (and I include any company who thinks Author House has acceptable business practices, see How To Not Be Eaten By Sharks) who think writers are people to be taken advantage of, not worked with. Or at the least, disposable. Because if one writer isn’t willing to sign that contract or accede to those edits or wait for months and months for an answer on a manuscript, there are still legions of other writers lined up behind them, willing to sign up for the bad terms and give up their power.
But this doesn’t actually concern me.
All it takes is one toe dipped in the cool waters of indie publishing, and that writer will feel the empowerment for themselves. And they’ll tell their friends. And another will try. And another.
It’s a slow, but inexorable, avalanche of transformation. And I’m patient.
For me, personally, I continue to discover the effects of the transformation. As I mentioned to my husband once, the longer I’ve been indie published, and the more I understand how bookselling in the digital age works, the more clearly I see the inflexibilities that hinder large publishers. For example, Amazon just recently changed its categories, as well as the way they are assigned. This is something that every indie published author (who is aware of it) is scrambling to take advantage of.