Maybe We Need A Slogan

20131123-104444.jpgSo 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. 

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14 thoughts on “Maybe We Need A Slogan

  1. Wow, Cam, what a great idea! One that I’m ashamed I never thought of. Of course we indie authors are no different than a small business, right? I have spent this morning lamenting the fact that after five days of the Kindle version of my book being free, there were only 12 downloads (some by people who already have the paperback!). I made every effort to let almost 800 people know about it and even pointed out that the Kindle app is free for just about any device. Yes, we need an Indie Author Day.

  2. You have always excelled at the rant, and I can go back a good 30 some years! That said, I agree with you, and those of us who love the idea of small business Saturday should be buying our book gifts from all the amazing indie writers out there, who put their heart, soul and, usually, hard earned cash into their published works.

  3. You are a true and valued advocate for all of us indies, Cam! It feels so good to know our little community is there and cheering one another on. An Indie Author Day, or Week, sounds great. And lots of hoopla when one of the tribe publishes. Knowing your friends and colleagues will wave the banner is very bolstering! Any of the great writers you mention, including your own wonderful self, can always send me publicity for their work, and I’ll share it as much as I can.

  4. There’s a lot of money right now in trying to preserve the old rules of publishing. Somebody is spending A LOT of public relations dollars to foster the notion that indie writers aren’t real writers.

    And, that is just blatant bullshit.

    I went on a NY Times bestselling author’s website yesterday, and she had a grammatical error on her About Me page. The last traditionally published book I read had several typos, formatting errors and grammatical errors.

    This whole thing is about the control of the money. Plain and simple.

  5. Cam, I’ll admit this post really has me thinking.

    I do not have an e-reader or an iPad (am I the only one?) but I do have a computer (obviously!) and a smart phone. I’ve always used my phone for texting only (it’s a hand-me-down from my husband) and have been behind the technology-curve for a long time – mostly because when I do step away from the computer I enjoy the break and when my family is home, I put away my phone completely (to set an unplugged example).

    But I’m sad that this ends up being un-supportive of VERY TALENTED writer-friends whom I admire and want to encourage. I try to tweet and share links on Facebook, but I realize now there’s no substitute for the real thing. I’m so sorry!

    I promise to do what it takes to get on board this train because you (and the indie writers you mention in this post) ABSOLUTELY deserve my full support. I am incredibly proud of you all –

    J

  6. For a country that claims to value the freedom of expression, our people certainly get snooty about what constitutes “the real deal”. I could speak volumes about my dislike of anything that Maya Angelou produces, or the technical faillings of that author who wrote that vampire series (Can I say that vampires should never sparkle?), but here’s the kicker: it’s just my opinion. I’ve got a myriad reasons why I think their works aren’t fit for human consumption, but I would never fault them their successes or attack their hard work and dedication to their crafts. It’s not easy and they deserve all the winnings people are willing to give them.

    It’s easiest to see the craftsmanship between a handmade quilt and a mass produced one. We can pass our judgments instantaneously based on what we see. Craft honeys, farmer’s market candles: what we can smell and taste right then. I mean, who cares that the beeswax taper leans to the left. It’s locally sourced and doesn’t dump a ton of chemicals into the air around your dinner table. Win-win.

    Books are different. Readers have to invest time to get from point A to point B. As indie authors we ask them to sacrifice not only their hard-earned entertainment monies, but set aside a significant chunk of their could-be-playing-with-the-kidlets moments. You get a reader who doesn’t understand the work that goes into a novel, couple it with narrow-minded opinions about how their world should be, and then inform them that the book you bled into existence is “homemade”, all they may be willing to notice is it wasn’t written by Stephen King or doesn’t give them the same taboo thrill that Fifty Shades gives them.

    That is a ton of prejudice to overcome, prejudice that’s supported by very deep pockets and the bad apples that keep proving our bad name.

    It boils down to independent readers, thinkers, writers like us, the ones who are very secretly or not so secretly rebellious, and it becomes our responsibility to change the public perception of our craft. To continue to support our contemporaries and offer advice and assistance whenever we can. To bring value and quality to a quantity flooded market.

    A slogan to change the world? That’s no small task. But we gotta go big or go home with this. And I for one, an avid supporter of all things Cameron, will be glad and count myself lucky to stand shoulder to shoulder with you in this revolution.

  7. Excellent thoughts. And for the record, I agree with what Andra said up there, it is all about control. Everything in the publishing industry is shifting and while the old guys seek to keep thing the way they were, other players are shuffling and grabbing and trying to make their way be the new way. The authors need to step up with a solid voice because if they don’t the new system, what ever it ends up being, will be as bad or worse than what we left behind.

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