So many of us talk about Small Business Saturday, and are turning more and more to local artisans and craftspeople, to Etsy shops and neighborhood boutiques. We talk about supporting the people who make the things we buy.
We are told to assume that handcrafted food or drink, a small harvest, or a one-of-a-kind piece of fine art, jewelry, or fiber art is automatically better than it’s mass-produced, industry vetted equivalent, and we buy and share and gush over the new find!
Unless, I sometimes feel, that craftsperson, that artist, is an author who chooses to publish independently. The blanket assumption of quality for indie writers, I feel, is that we are not better or more worthy of consumer dollars than our mass-produced and industry vetted equivalents.
Maybe it’s true. But maybe it’s not…
Increasingly, the more time I spend with professional authors who happen to publish independently or through small indie presses (which I will lump together for the purposes of this ramble), I see more interesting writing, more daring, genre-crossing thinking, and more collaborative spirit than I’ve seen in most of the mainstream writing I’ve read in the last couple of years. The indie publishing community exchanges services, supports one another, and is constantly learning and evolving to stay competitive. If you ask me, that’s pretty impressive.
I see indie authors writing manuscripts, hiring or bartering services with editors, learning graphic design or hiring indie artists, and then boning up on marketing practices. They assume these pre-production costs and efforts up front with no guarantee of royalties on the other side. And they keep their purchase prices under $10 a book. Well under. The average cost of an indie ebook is about $2.99.
You can pick up my entire digital catalog for less than $17. And that includes collaborative efforts which also support somewhere in the vicinity of 40 other writers.
So, why are we not lauded with the other entrepreneurs? Why is there still this stigma? Why must the indie author struggle so hard? Why won’t consumers make a leap of faith that costs less than $5 or $10 and (at Amazon anyway) can be returned?
And yes, I know there are a lot of truly awful self-published books out there. But the industry’s vetting isn’t foolproof either. $14.44 for a Kindle book. Really?
I read a launch post yesterday that really got me thinking about this. Author Dan Conover says it better than I:
But the real news today isn’t that Xarktopia LLC has published four ebooks via Amazon. It’s that beginning today, I’m asking everyone I know to please browse around and buy some of them.
That’s in part because when you buy one of my ebooks, I get paid. But it’s also because writers need readers. And now that the new economy has bypassed the foundering mainstream publishing industry, the relationship between writer and reader is both personal and immediate.
It’s also more affordable than ever. Even if you don’t own a dedicated ebook reader, if you own a smart phone or tablet, you can download a free Kindle app that will let you read all this cool stuff.
All these things can be said about my books, about Marian Kent‘s earthy, joyous poetry, about Angela Amman‘s atmospheric short stories, Eden Baylee‘s marvelously smart and sexy writing, about every Write on Edge author I’ve had the privilege of publishing in Precipice, about Eric Storch‘s intense mix of fiction and memoir, about Kameko Murakami‘s dreamy and often chilling prose, about John Dolan‘s tight, insightful thrillers, about Elizabeth Yon‘s rich, inventive storytelling.
I consider them all colleagues and friends, yes, but I stand by my assessment of their work, and I’m promoting them because I want to, because it makes me happy to further the interests of those who are in the trenches making books for readers, not for editors in a Manhattan skyscraper.
Maybe we need a slogan… Maybe then the shoppers would take us seriously.
And as a reward for slogging through this rant? Leave a comment, and I’ll put your name in a hat to win a copy of my upcoming Christmas story, Twelve Days Til Christmas.
All Amazon links up there are affiliate links. Any revenue accrued from your clicks will go first to feeding, clothing, and housing my family, then to my publishing efforts. Just saying.