Proudly Independent (with some Hobbitses)

First off a quick Hobbit Review: I enjoyed it despite being seated near people who would not shut up at the end of the movie. The consensus among the five of us was fairly positive. A few of the scenes were over-the-top, in a bad way (shades of King Kong, Peter) but most were decently crafted. The party scene was superb and they really managed to capture the riddle game scene down amazingly well. Some of the scenes that did not appear in the book weren’t bad, but the best were pure Tolkien. Hopefully “That’ll do it” isn’t the jumping the shark moment for this Franchise. I am quite pleased so far, but not so much that I fell fully confident that the next two will rock.

Moving on.

As a self-publishing novice, I am always on the lookout for marketing advice. Any tips that I see frequently, from several trusted and varied sources, I take very seriously. Salesmanship is a little bit different than writing and world-building, and it is not a skill that I have mastered, yet (but when I do, you will all pay*). I have a few sources of wisdom from other industries I have worked in, and several friends who run creative enterprises that require marketing, so I am not entirely bereft of lore, but I still like to sit down and search through r/writing and r/self-publish and Goodreads for advice. It is a wonderful world where I can sit down and exchange knowledge with best-selling authors and neophytes struggling to get noticed with incredible ease. I love the internet.

As I noted, if I see a piece of advice come up frequently, from divergent and respected sources, I pay close attention. Most of this advice is useful, such as the idea that writing more books and short stories helps advertise your existing work; or the notion of finding blogs/groups that are likely to enjoy your book instead of just spamming every place you can find. The writing community is quite helpful, moreso than I expected it would be.

There is only one piece of advice that I recieve, over and over again, that I really disagree with. I have encountered this particular piece far and wide, starting with criticisms of my cover for Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale. The basic idea is that as a self-published author you want your book to be indistinguishable from a New York publishing house. Beyond putting out a quality product that is both well written and well edited, I could not disagree more. Briefly, because I desperately want to play a video game and relax, here’s why.

1) You can’t fool the readers: Readers who shy away from self-published books are not going to be fooled. Many of the arguments on blending in are based around the idea that if your book looks like any other book in your genre then people won’t discriminate against it. Bullshit. If a reader does not like self-published books they can find out very easily if you are self-published or not. This is the information age, after all. If they are impulsive enough that they bought your book without checking who published it, then they likely don’t care.

2) Blending in might work against you: If I want a book that is exactly like one that is put out by a big publishing company, why wouldn’t I just buy one from one of their many, many authors? If your book looks exactly like all the other works in the same genre, then why would I risk going with the guy whose name does not ring a bell and who doesn’t have all the cool endorsements?

3) Indy is Cool: As the digital revolution hammers the big publishing companies, they are learning the hard way that their industry is subject to the very same changes that have rocked the other great creative enterprises. Self-published authors often point this out with a certain amount of rebellious glee. However we are making the same mistakes in some ways. In video games, comics, tabletop games, beer, and music, Indy (as in independently owned/created) has become a good association. Many people in these other fields go out of their way to invoke the positive associations of being an independent artist. I feel that as self-published authors become more confident, and their audience grows, that we will see more of them showing off their “indy cred”.

Your book should certainly look as professional as possible, but trying to blend in with bigger authors from titanic publishing companies strikes me as a questionable strategy. Self-published authors are entrepreneurial free spirits who have a right to be proud of what they have accomplished. Self-published authors have more freedom to roam, and have made great strides by not following New York’s e-book pricing ideas, I think they should make more use of our latitude. We should not try to hide our status at all, and instead adopt the label that every great entrepreneur does: Proudly Independent.

*as in pay for my books, with money.


2 comments on “Proudly Independent (with some Hobbitses)

  1. judaidan says:

    Agreed! I wish that people would remember how relatively new the publishing industry is in the history of the written word. One example I love (although there are many fine examples) is of Wiliam Blake’s early version of Songs of Innocence and Experience – which he wrote, illustrated and printed out himself (with the help of his wife). Blake’s profession was that of a printmaker, which was lucky for him because his poetry was quite radical for his time. Would his poems even be considered by a publishing house at the time? Or would he have had to compromise his vision to an editor’s severe pen slashes? Even established authors have experimented outside of the great publishing houses. Stephen King has (and I’m sure will continue) and more recently, Margaret Atwood published a story on Wattpad. It’s an exciting time!
    Publishing houses are businesses like any other and must prioritize what they assume will sell. Of course, publishers do play an important role in authors’ lives, especially in protecting the intellectual property itself and assembling legal teams whenever the inevitable conartists or crackpots decide to sue an author. But the creative process itself is the author’s burden and nothing is ever going to change that.

  2. grimkrieg says:

    Yes. Not all publishers see self-publishing as a threat. Some see it as a good way of finding new talent. I’m betting that this is the way it will settle.

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