Saturday, 11 June 2011
Mainstream versus indie authors
...or, the farmer and the cowboy should be friends.
Last week Robin Sullivan, who successfully runs the indie small press Ridan, was banned from AbsoluteWrite with this message from the administrator:
"You have been banned for the following reason: Just get the hell off my site. You're relentlessly snotty, rude, and you're a fucking bald-faced liar. I'm done with you.
Date the ban will be lifted: Never."
Nice. Robin's offence? To politely argue the case for indie publishing on AbsoluteWrite's forums on this thread. On AbsoluteWrite, they don't like self-publishers. Mention that some indies have done rather well, and you are likely to be ignored or disbelieved. The majority of members are wedded to the way things are currently run in the publishing industry, however much evidence accrues that it is broken.
Why are they quite so vitriolic? I have a theory. It can be pretty discouraging, being a writer. You toil away on your own for years, learning how to write, then you reach stage one: submit to agents. Suppose you get an agent (and only a handful of writers I know have achieved this) she will submit your book to publishers. They take their time to reply, and you may find after a year or so your agent has used all her contacts and failed to place your book.
If you are lucky enough to find a publisher, you will wait eighteen months or more to see your novel in print. As a new author you are unlikely to get much of an advance (I know of two exceptions to this, Guy Saville and Elspeth Cooper). With little of the publisher's money invested in it, your book will not get much hype or a favourable spot in the bookshops. 90% of new authors sell fewer than 1,000 copies and don't earn out their advance. Unless you sell surprisingly well, after some months your unsold books will be returned and pulped.
Anyone committed to this dismal system, accepting repeated rejection with gritted teeth and the mantra I'll write another book, is likely to be touchy with those she sees leaping over the gatekeepers and making their books available to readers within weeks of finishing them. It makes it even worse that some of these writers are doing rather well out of it. Stockholm Syndrome kicks in.
The most clued-up authors think that a mixture of indie and traditional publishing is the best way to go. Being hostile to writers who have chosen a different route is pointless - and anyone who subsequently switches sides is going to feel really foolish.
Not the bigots at AbsoluteWrite, though. They know what they think, and you'd better agree with them if you go on their site.
(I choose not to, myself.)
Posted by Lexi at Saturday, June 11, 2011