I wish upon an Indie

Author J.K. Rowling reads from Harry Potter an...

Author J.K. Rowling reads from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone at the Easter Egg Roll at White House. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Author: a person who writes a novel, poem, essay, etc; the composer of a literary work.

That wasn’t hard to define now was it? Ah, but these days the word is so much more complex, no? What sort of author are you, they ask. Genre? What does that tell us? No, sir, what I meant to ask is: are you indie? Are you self-published? Or are you an author?

It’s harsh, and think in no way would I ever honestly address it as such, but the fact is: many do. Publishing companies, certainly, would like to draw the lines there—and then work their best to weed out the ones that don’t meet the latter’s definition.

So what’s the difference?

An “author” in such terms are writers vetted and published by established companies—usually referred to as the “Big Six.” Visibility is at its highest point for this select breed, as the publishers work to get the books mass-produced and mass-distributed. Yet it is also the route that sees the least return for any “author.” An agent if often advised as a go-between, while low percents to the writers, high percents to the publishers means minimum wage rewards, generally. You need to sell a lot (and I mean a lot) for this to equal any sort of earnings.

Not that most of us are in this for the money, of course, but it’s still something to consider.

In the past decade, however, we have also seen the rise of indie authors. Now, for all intents and purposes, both indie authors and self-pub authors are technically “indie”, but generally the term refers to those published by smaller, (you guessed it) independent companies. Distribution is less here–more focused–but the percents are typically greater, and the company still tends to provide an editor.

Amazon Kindle wordmark.

Amazon Kindle wordmark. Public Domain.

Then there are the self-pubs. It means exactly what it says—the author has taken it upon him/herself to publish their book without any company’s hand in the matter. Amazon has truly pushed the advent of this in recent years, as has the e-book revolution sweeping the literary world, but in many cases these people still face great scorn—not just from established literary circles, but from all corners of society. Which is a real pity, when you think about it. Many of them, after all, are writers fed up or terrified of the old guard—men who determine, year after year, the certain type of literature that can fit the mould, and the certain number of those books that can enter the market (I refer you back to the Big Six). Even some very well-established authors, such as J.K. Rowling, have begun to go this route.

And why not? If you can make it work, the rewards are at their greatest for the actual author. The burden of distribution and marketing and editing are all on them too, however, and therein lies the issue.

Many think self-pubs are just giving up. That they haven’t struggled—if they couldn’t convince a publisher, why should they waste our time? It’s nonsense, really. There are many talented authors out there that could never get their works published that way—not with the surging slush piles and increasingly stringent restrictions at the publishing companies. Should they simply sit by and let their works gather dust, than?

Well, the issue is that these people must combat, in such a system, with the (many) people that honestly shouldn’t be published. Those who cannot be bothered to edit, put no effort to organization and, so sorry, simply cannot write. They swarm the self-published scene and drown the image of the rest—while simultaneously swallowing most attempts to find them.

See the conundrum?

Personally, I believe “indie authors” are key to the system—they are a necessary and legitimate response to the failures in a rather chicken-with-its-head-cut-off styled industry. But even so, they do need some sort of guidance, some oversight. The authors that truly try—they do not demean the industry as some claim. However, the mobs of unedited, uncaring scribblers do.

Time adjusts all things, but this is a situations that requires care. Truly, it comes down to the question that’s been at the heart of democracy itself from the oldest of days…

How do we guarantee the freedom, while still providing the security?

What do you think? Because personally, I’m growing tired of standing on this precipice.