I’m an independently published novelist, otherwise known as a threat to Big Publishing. For some reason, my decision to manage every aspect of my own writing career is offensive. I see blog posts and articles about how I’m embarrassing myself, destroying the industry, and quite possibly even the fabric of society. I must be doing something right.
I just read a book about the history of Hollywood, a big part of which centered around the studio system, and how the studio heads had iron control over every aspect of moviemaking. They controlled the stars, the scripts, production, distribution…everything. There were some who rebelled, and paid the price, but the way movies were made changed over time, and the studio heads lost their omnipotence. These men not only complained loudly as their iron grip over the industry slipped, they often resorted to strong-arm tactics and violence. And yet…both studios and independent producers exist today.
Publishing isn’t really any different. Once upon a time, there were a handful of publishing houses in charge of everything. The editors controlled what went to market, and their work was made easier by agents, who weeded out undesirable manuscripts. This was not a bad thing. But the world changed, technology changed, and the way people shop changed. The advent of online shopping and e-books took the publishers’ omnipotence away, and they reacted as predicted. They first tried to discredit e-books, and then when they overtook the market, they tried to discredit independents who were stealing “their” profits, as if they had exclusive rights to them.
Sometimes, their allegations are fair. I’ve seen many self-published books filled with grammatical and spelling errors, and sometimes just horrid writing. But I have come across those same things in books put out by big-name publishers. A publisher’s imprint is no guarantee of quality, which is just sad. They have no excuse.
If I want my book traditionally published, I have to first get through an agent. Then the agent has to go through an editor, who has to get approval from the publisher. This means that I have to appeal to the taste of one person, who will likely suggest I make changes to my art to make it “better,” which is subjective. When I independently publish, I can go directly to the market without having to be filtered through the tastes of one overworked person after another, trying to please her superiors. Potential buyers can test the quality on their own before they buy by reading sample pages rather than taking an editor’s word for it.
Of course I’m not advocating for the demise of publishers. I’ve been enjoying their work my whole life. They have every right to exist and compete fairly in the marketplace. If they can’t survive, it’s because the market has changed and their refusal to change with it has made them obsolete. The ones that can compete in the new marketplace should and will survive.
I most certainly do not advocate for badly-written and edited independent works, of which there are many. There is no excuse for anyone, independent or big publisher, to market a sloppy product. I don’t care if you “did your best” if your best is awful. Every book should be carefully read and proofed by someone other than the author, and independent authors should use outside resources to ensure a quality product. Many do not, but as one who takes great pride in the quality of my books, I resent the unfair allegations.
If my existence is a threat, then I’ve done my job well.