Human nature, it seems, drives us to draw lines between ourselves. Race, religion, social standing, sexual orientation, size, shape, appearance, education. We divide, categorize, label and pen people up into nifty little minorities. Often we don't even mean to do it.
A new line has formed over the last few months. It's a line between self-published or "indie" authors and traditionally published authors. I don't think we really meant to draw this line, it just happened. It's in our nature.
I have a great many friends in the publishing industry. Many are authors. Some are traditional, others are indie. We all use our vast imaginations, our experiences, and large amounts of our time to create stories we hope people will enjoy. We really aren't that different when you boil it right down to basics.
Traditional authors get their stories published through a tried and tested publisher. If they're lucky, it's one of the big 6. Many of these authors have spent a good number of years writing books, querying these books, and dealing with hundreds or even thousands of rejections before finally catching the attention of just the right editor at just the right time. They get passed through what's usually referred to as a "gatekeeper" to the publishing world. Traditionally published authors are almost guaranteed space on bookshelves in brick and mortar stores, have marketing teams and publicists behind them, and editors to make sure their work is free of dreaded typos and many other writing mistakes. But they work hard for this, and I have the utmost respect and admiration for these authors. Some of my best writerly friends are now traditionally published authors.
Indie authors bypass the "gatekeepers" and publish their work directly to the distrbutors, either electronically (through Amazon KDP, KoboBooks, Smashwords, etc,) or through Print-On-Demand services (like CreateSpace, Lightning Source, etc.). This seems at first glance like the easy road. I assure you, it's far from it. Indie authors are responsible for putting up all financial backing for their books. They take all the risk, but typically take home a greater reward as well. Indie authors must write, edit, format, illustrate, market, print and distribute all of their own books, all by themselves, or pay for such services out-of-pocket. This is a tremendous amount of work, and it's ongoing.
The line between indie and traditional authors has been drawn by one phrase I think, and it's one that bugs me any time I see it: "Paying your dues". In the publishing industry, the process of submitting your work and dealing with the countless rejections is referred to as "paying your dues" to the publishing industry. There are some authors out there who feel that if you haven't paid your dues, then you are not a "real" author, thus the line drawn between indie and traditional authors.
I'm on the indie side of that line. The Time Weaver is self-published by me under the imprint DragonWing Publishing. I didn't turn to the indie side of the line out of frustration, but out of choice. I've never submitted a single query to a traditional publisher. Not because I don't think my book is right for them, but because I don't think I am right for the traditional process.
There have been many times that I've doubted myself for the choice I made, but recently I had some validation. I attended a convention recently, the London Rogues Sci-Fi/Fantasy Convention 6, to do a book signing. I had hoped to sell more books than I did, but what I took home from this convention was so much more: acceptance. Many of the people I talked to were very supportive of the indie route I chose, even commending me for the immense amount of work involved in publishing my own book. I shouldn't be surprised by this; the sci-fi/fantasy industry has always been more open to independent work.
I'd love to wipe the line away. To have indie and traditionally published authors coexist in a friendly atmosphere. I have great respect for both sides of the line, and if confronted by a traditional contract from a publisher, would likely have no qualms with taking that contract if the terms were right. I chose my path because I felt it was right for me. I fully expect each person to do the same. At the end of the day, I know I made the right choice.
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