Here’s The Thing: Neither Side Has It Totally Right Yet

I have a lot of thoughts running around for this particular topic, and it’s been a bit of a challenge trying to figure out how to cobble them together into a coherent post. Here’s my best shot.

It seems to me there are three groups in publishing right now:

  1. The ones who are hardcore traditional publishing
  2. The ones who are hardcore indie publishing
  3. The ones in between – either in practice or mentality – who we’ll just categorize as “hybrids”

For the sake of this post, hybrids doesn’t just mean those who have published books both traditionally and independently. It means those who recognize that both forms are viable, that both forms offer different risks and benefits, and that it entirely depends on the book and the author.

More and more people are drifting into the hybrid area every day, and I’m fucking ecstatic about it. I think this is publishing’s future. Not the epic, crumbling downfall of the Big 5. Not the book industry collapsing under the weight of “all that self-published crap.” But an open-minded mindset that embraces the possibilities of both avenues and stays flexible.

What frustrates me is when I see the hardcore groups lashing out, refusing to admit that the other side is doing anything right. Because they are, guys. Each side is doing something right.

I'm gonna be honest - this gif doesn't really apply. I just love Avatar.
I’m gonna be honest – this gif doesn’t really apply. I just love Avatar.

Hardcore traditionals: Can we step up and recognize that indie publishing has the pace and flexibility to keep up with the new marketplace? That they’re being nimble and adaptive in a way that’s making you look like a dinosaur? That the more control you take away from the author, the more you’re hurting yourselves?

Hardcore indies: Can we step up and recognize that traditional still does some great things? Like pulling in people with different skill sets to help make the book better? Like taking a little bit of time to plan, invest, gear up marketing strategies and build buzz?

The fact of the matter is that the authors who are willing and able to learn from BOTH sides of the industry are the ones who I believe are going to rise to the top. Yes, traditional publishing needs to break out of its old models, but indie publishing can learn a thing or two about promotion and quality.

When Amazon initially kickstarted the indie craze, you could get by with throwing a book out there with very little prep, a cheap cover, maybe editing but probably not, and yeah – sometimes those books still sell. And no, I don’t think indies need to dedicate two years to producing and marketing one book at a time – like I said, the nimbleness of this path is one of the best things about it.

But continuing to encourage writers to rush books onto the scene, books that aren’t ready? To throw together a “decent” book with a “decent” cover and call it good enough?

Seriously? Fuck decent. Decent is limp. Decent is passive. We’re worth more than decent.

Yes, I believe the best indie authors are those who release books often. No, I don’t believe that you should just put all your book-eggs in one book-basket. But I also believe you can stay flexible without shortchanging yourselves and your readers on things like editing, editing, editing – oh, and also packaging and maybe even a little bit of promotion. You can be prolific without totally sacrificing quality.

If indie publishing wants respect, it has to fucking earn it first.

And in case you think I’m just bagging on indies here – hardcore traditionals? It would help if, instead of throwing away all indies away as “self-published crap,” you could get your noses out of the air and recognize that a lot of indies are working their asses off and producing killer stories.

We’re starting to filter to the middle – hybrids are slowly becoming the name of the game – but there are still so many people drawing dividing lines where lines don’t need to be. We all want to give readers great stories.

And the best way to do that is to learn from both sides and move forward.

11 thoughts on “Here’s The Thing: Neither Side Has It Totally Right Yet

  1. I don’t see this as so very different than what happened to Newspapers a decade ago or network television thirty years ago.The internet created alternative sources of news-content so they lost readers; it also created cheaper ways to advertise so they lost customers.

    Many traditional journalists derided bloggers and the feelings were recipricated. Now the term journalist and blogger are largely meaningless because the best are both.

    Ultimately, news consumption increased, effective price dropped, and the traditional media outlets had to be become leaner. Several went out of business. I would expect something similar. Over the next decade, you’ll see consolidation in the big publishing houses, improving quality in the Indie market (but like blogs, there will be really good and really bad) and probably a bit of a drop in quality from the traditional publishers as the try to compete with the speed and price points set by the indie market.

    Quality content will still rise to the top, but the definition of quality will be defined much differently than before, that is to say by a broader, less “insider” audience. Authors will have much more control/responsibility for succeeding financially– and also much more opportunity to fail.

  2. Go you! I’m in completely agreement. I think it’s pure snobbery or jealousy which keeps those in either camp, refusing to explore both. Good luck to ’em. But also, sod em. 🙂

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