Friday, August 16, 2013

Writer vs. Writer - Enough Already

There's been a lot of negative light shed on the indie community lately, from a range of sources. I'm not going to source them here, because I refuse to give them the attention they crave for being the ones to "speak out." Suffice it to say I've read the blogs, reviews, articles, and I'm disappointed in both parties.

What I am going to do is give my take on this negativity, and provide my own look into the industry. Please know that any use of "you" or "your" is strictly in the general sense, as it's easier to use that rather than "an author" over and over again.

First, let's take the outsider looking in. I've read many a hate post trashing indie authors. We don't take pride in our work. We don't put time or effort into each manuscript. Writing is sloppy, full of mistakes, unoriginal. We are too lazy to get published the "real" way, or, our writing isn't good enough for the Big Six. Anyone could write a book, so what makes indies so special? All we're looking for is a quick buck.

Let's clear up a few things.

Writing in any form, for any publication preference, is hard work. Some authors put more work into their craft than others, yes, but this is true for those on both sides. There are fantastic indie books and incredible traditional books. There are also awful indie books and horrible traditional books. No one book will please every audience and reader. No one book will be free of errors. No one cover will be considered perfect by all. Get over it.
Anyone can write a book. This much is true. But why does this condescending statement only apply to indies? I can think of plenty of traditional novels where I thought that same thing. Anyone can write a book - and you know what? Anyone who does write a book deserves credit for being willing to put their work out there for the entire world to see and judge - traditional or indie.

Authors can't get published the "real" way. True, some can't. And false, some can and turn down representation due to demands to change their work to fit popular demand. Some authors choose to take total control over their work and represent themselves; others are perfectly fine adapting their books to fit demands. And both ways are perfectly fine. But, let's face it. The traditional publishing industry is failing. To dispute this is to be in complete denial. Something needs to change for it to keep up with the way the writing industry as a whole is growing, and instantly snubbing indie authors as sub-par is not the way to succeed.

Second, let's take the insider looking out. The indie author who can't stand another's success. Famous authors are stuck up. Popular indie authors only write fad crap that sells. Traditionally published authors are just in it for the money and don't understand real passion for writing.

Let's clear up a few things.

It's hard to be an indie author. It takes a lot of work, a lot of money, and a lot of frustration. Some "make it" and some don't, or some faster make it than others. Those who find success have found it in one or many ways, and it doesn't matter what those ways are. The authors do not deserve to be torn down simply because another is still on the bottom rung. Coming up with all sorts of conspiracy theories as to that success (because clearly that author doesn't actually have talent) is juvenile and petty.

Fads sell. It's just a fact. If you (general "you") want in on the cashflow generated from those fads, then write books you know will fit with those particular audiences. If you don't want to write what's popular, then just do you - and know that in doing so, you are willingly putting yourself on the outskirts. That is your choice and not anyone else's, so don't get huffy when your book isn't on the best-sellers list.

Big Six authors are just in it for the money. Says who? Does getting a higher paycheck mean that person is less worthy of respect? To anyone who says yes, I say you're in the wrong business. I'm not sure why so many indie authors take another's success as a personal insult, but again, I say - get over it.

Source: Etsy

So where does this leave us?

It doesn’t matter how you’re published. It doesn’t matter if someone makes more money than you or has more fans or gets more exposure or, god forbid, has a longer line of readers at their table for a signing. You do your job and let others do theirs free of your hate, jealousy, and/or bitterness.

Really, why should anyone care if someone publishes independently, selecting their own editors and cover artists and formatters? Who cares if someone publishes traditionally through the Big Six and has more exposure? Their decision doesn't affect you, unless you let them turn you into a bitter, absurd caricature of today's modern writer.
You are not better than another author because you publish traditionally, edit for the Big Six, represent famous or semi-famous writers. You are not better than another author because you publish indie, market yourself, or make more money than a traditional author. So everyone needs to stop with the "my way is best" mantra in some desperate attempt to prove why indie or traditional is, in fact, the only right way to go.
I’m not saying we all have to be in Kumbaya land where everyone holds hands and supports one another unconditionally. Anyone who knows me knows I'm the last one to subscribe to that mentality. I certainly don’t think we, as authors, have to love every single indie book and act like it’s the next Great American Novel or that every indie author is the best thing since sliced bread. I certainly don't think that traditionally published authors owe anything to the indie community or that they should feel less about themselves and their work.
But no matter what side you're on, if you don’t like an author or you don’t think their book is as great as everyone says it is – so what? That’s no reason to write entire blog posts trashing them, or give them a low Amazon rating just because you can,. Show some respect.
Still with me?
So where do I fall in all of this? I've been published with a house, and now I publish both indie and through a small press. I have my reasons, and they are solely my own. I'm not famous and I'm not completely unknown, so I suppose I'm somewhere in the middle. Overall, I'm probably one of the ones on the outskirts since, I'll be honest, my books can be a little dark and weird.
There are things that disappoint me about both industries. Traditional - the lack of respect for indie, the need to conform books to the market, the willingness to mass produce fad books with the same stories and character types. Indie - the lack of concern for editing, the heavy focus on self-marketing, the way some successful indies refuse to name their publisher or agent for fear of someone else *gasp* succeeding.
There are things I love about both industries. Traditional - the availability of books, the fact that they keep bookstores in business so I can browse endless shelves of intriguing titles. Indie - the sense of community, the incredible range of talents and stories that have kept me up far past my bedtime.
I’ve learned a lot since joining the writing industry, and I’ve learned from both authors on both sides of the coin. That’s what I love about writing – there’s always so much to take in and things to learn that help you constantly improve yourself. And along the way, I’ve met some of my favorite people. Authors like Kristi Strong, Carol and Adam Kunz, Tiffany King, Sarah Ross, Rachael Wade, Elizabeth Sharp, M.r. Polish, Dawn Pendleton, Andrea Heltsley…the list goes on and on!
These people have become my friends, my writing confidants. They get me through writer's block, generate great conversation, and, my favorite, love to talk about writing. We're connected by a common passion and it doesn't matter how different we are because when it comes down to it, we're all in the industry together.
I've never exactly been considered a friendly person, but having that community, no matter how large or small, has meant more to me than any sale. So I'd like to take this moment to say thank you to everyone who has been a part of my writing career, whether you've offered advice, listened to a vent, answered one of my really random or stupids, or simply joined in on a conversation about a character.
I suppose I'll get off my own high horse now. I know nothing will change, and that both sides will continue to be at war with one another. But, hopefully if nothing else is taken away from this, it's one thing - not everyone feels the need to tear others down in order to build their own career. So, find the people who fit you and enjoy what you do.
Don't just read indie. Don't just read traditional. Celebrate books. Be a writer, whatever kind that may be, and be proud of it.

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