Friday, May 18, 2012

A Newbie's Perspective On Indie Publishing

In his most recent blog article, entitled "Exploited Writers in an Unfair Industry," the champion of indie publishing, author J.A. Konrath did a tremendous job summarizing the state of the traditional publishing industry in terms of its precedents for the treatment of writers and how it has been straining and struggling since the rise of the modern ebook markets. He paints a broad but also telling portrait of a world in serious flux and uses his insights and understanding of the industry to shed much needed light on some of the basic principals at work.

Another thing, J.A. or Joe Konrath's post did was remind me how very new I am to this whole long and laborious dynamic that has spanned more than a century in this country alone. His description of traditional publishing was stark and meant to illuminate how the relationships between authors, literary agents, and publishers have varied over the years. In the six or so years I've been paying attention to the developments in this new era of publishing and finding a place for myself in the midst of it. It's been challenging and ever-evolving.

Thinking Back

My own understanding was catapulted forward when I decided to establish a publishing company with my wife back in late 2009. Up to that point, I dabbled and dreamed about publishing, played with some of the new tools of self-publishing that were coming online such as Lulu. That was about 2006. Before then, was a long period of pining over the old ideals of getting a book into traditional publishing--a fact difficult to grasp since I was still laboring over a single novel I had started long before I became a part-time freelance writer. I had always had the dream of publishing and designing my own books. The establishment of Founders House Publishing was the first genuine step.

The next big jump came after I'd published two books. I hadn't considered what of role the Kindle would play in ushering in all of these changes in publishing. I was woefully ill-informed of the sea changes that were just bubbling at that point. The Kindle seemed like a novelty to me even in last 2010. I just wasn't aware of what had already been going on. Hadn't even heard of Joe Konrath.

Then in April of 2011, Founders House published its first ebook for the Kindle. I've was trying to get a grasp of my role as the publisher while looking for more book projects. A few months later, I stumbled on to Kristine Kathryn Rusch's post "The Business Rusch: Writing Like It's 1999" on Kevin J. Anderson's blog, which was followed swiftly by the discovery of Dean Wesley Smith's blog. The information I gained from their blogs has been revolutionary. It has changed my thinking and given me the biggest boost to date. They've helped me think more like a publisher than anybody else.

Since Then

The more I've studied publishing the more I've learned about its past, its present, and its future. I've consciously sought knowledge from those who've been in the business throughout its various phases, the authors, editors, agents, and publishers that have formed the fabric of the industry. The present state of publishing is most clearly on display since so much is happening to upset the balance and new visions of publishing's future are birthed every day. New complications arising from the digital era are reverberating in every quarter. Voices like Konrath's are loud and unyielding in their insights as well as their criticisms about the status quo and how the tides of change are consuming those players who aren't nimble enough to react.

Joe's latest post was just the latest warning shot to traditional/legacy publishing. It was also a warning for writers who have been sold on the myths that established old guard publishers perpetuate to protect themselves in such turbulent times.

There are a few things I've been trying to keep in my mind as I go forward with my own publishing endeavors. Certainly a good knowledge of the current battlegrounds and flash points in the industry can only help me if I heed that knowledge. I can't afford to be stupid. Publishing is a business. And so is writing. In fact, this new era merges the two in an amazing synthesis but one that should be taken very seriously. Joe is right. Writers have been exploited for a long time. Even with my experience in freelance web writing, I've faced that truth. If a business can get away with paying a writers pennies, they often will. It takes a certain type of business owner to recognize the value of a writer and compensate them accordingly.

Writer And Publisher

I'm still working on this mix of professions. It's the only one I want to be in and I truly want to be good at it. So I persist, and take some chances, I never stop learning, and I must never be afraid to ask for help from those further down the road. I want to thank Joe for being an advocate for writer empowerment. And he's not the only one. Thanks to Dean, Kris, Jeff, and many others.

The path of indie publishing is not one set in stone right now. There are too many things happening in technology to be certain of much. Ebooks are here and they hold out so much potential right now. Yet despite the forecasts of some, I have a small diamond-hard faith in paper. As much as I am striving to play in the electronic markets I will not abandon paper. As a publisher, I'm playing both fields since it makes good sense.

As a writer, I have the freedom to write whatever kind of story that I want without answering to the sales departments and current trends of a publisher that will ultimately cost me much grief and loss of income and the rights to my work. I'm an indie writer as much as I'm an indie publisher. I've taken my place among the ranks of thousands doing the same thing. Those other writers are not my competitors. They're my compatriots.

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