Indie vs. Traditional Publishing, and Technology

I put a lot of thought into whether I wanted to be Indie published or traditionally published. Indie publishing gives you complete control, but traditional publishing adds a layer of respectability. Here’s how I made my decision, and the resulting issue I now have.

First, I received a letter from a well-known traditional publisher, wanting to publish a manuscript I’d submitted (for a story I have yet to publish). This publisher, while gushing in a very flattering way about my writing, wanted me to make changes. They wanted one character completely deleted from the story because ‘gay people don’t live in tiny towns’. (I know, I still laugh over that foolishness, too.) They also wanted me to remove all swear words from one character. I refused publication because I couldn’t do that to the characters.

Second, I spied on my friend, author Susan Schreyer. I saw how she had complete control over every aspect of her books through indie publishing. There are good and bad sides to that but it’s not the focus of this post. I liked the idea of control. I liked the idea of my characters allowed to be who they wanted to be.

Obviously I chose the indie route.

But here’s the aspect I didn’t consider – technology in this day and age.

To be successful as a published author you have to be ‘out there’. Platforms through blogs, Facebook, Twitter, your own website, etc. You have to be visible and accessible. That’s very difficult for me personally as I choose to live in that very little town with gay people because I like privacy. I try to balance my desire for privacy personally, with the need to be very public, professionally.

However, my real beef with the social media and technology aspect is the assumption by most that everyone has access. The assumption that every person out there can afford high-speed internet, smart phones, computers, iPads, and on and on.

How does that make one feel, who can’t afford those toys? And when did those toys become so immersed in our society that they are taken for granted and no longer ‘toys’ but ‘essentials’?

Yes, I am entertained by Facebook, although I dislike the amount of writing time it steals from me (I blame Facebook).

Social platforms would be required no matter which method of publishing chosen because traditional publishers don’t do the marketing like they used to for new authors. I’m not sure if the level of being ‘out there’ is the same. And we as a society would miss out on some amazing books, music, art, etc. if there was no indie route along the internet road.

But there are times when I wish I could shut the door.

And even more times when I wish people didn’t assume that everyone was on the same level of connectivity. I actually find that assumption to be, in a small way, prejudice. How difficult life must be now for those who cannot afford, or who don’t understand, all the toys.

And now I’m going to post this publicly, across all social platforms. What a conundrum.

Press This

A friend and I recently talked about indie authors creating small presses for their works.

The cynical side of me spoke up. Along the lines of how authors must still feel a tiny bit of shame that there isn’t a publishing house listed under their title. My friend explained the business sense behind having a press, and I get that. I’m even considering it, talking to another friend about starting a small local press.

But let me be brutally honest here. I would feel more like a ‘real’ author if I had a publisher’s name behind me. Heck, even a small press that I started would make me lose that tiny seed of shame when someone asks me, ‘who published your book?’ I could say the name of the press rather than ‘me’.

Dang that makes me mad. That tiny seed of shame. Why am I less of an author, in this day and age, because I am not under a contract, signing my life away to a big name? The truth is, I’m not less of a writer. My stories are just as valuable. Well, I may need a lot more editing than most, but that’s a previous blog post.

Now that my dander is up and I’m continuing the honesty theme, I think even using the phrase ‘I’m an indie author’ is covering up for that seed of shame. Otherwise I’d say ‘I’m self published’. Yes I know there’s a difference between self publishing and self publishing through a vanity press. Yes I know all the arguments for publishing free of an agent and big name. After all, I researched all the pros and cons before I chose which route to go. But still, there’s that ingrained sense of not being a truly published author yet.

You know what I think the problem is?

Age.

Think about it. I grew up when an author’s dream was to land an agent and get picked up by a major publishing house. All the resources for writers explained in detail how to market yourself to an agent.

These days, younger writers are growing up free from that. They are like my teenage son, who amazes me with his computer skills. Compared to me, growing up with a manual typewriter. These young people haven’t had those publishers held in front of them as the only path to being an author. Options and alternatives are more acceptable.

Guess I need to get with the times.

Think I’ll go start a small local press.

He's also skilled with engines. Not that I'm bragging.

He’s also skilled with engines. Not that I’m bragging.