Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Trad or Indie - All Argued Out

Recently I got involved on The Writers' Workshop in one of those arguments which as Jane Austen has it, is too much like a dispute. It was over whether self-publishing is a viable alternative to traditional publishing. The blog owner, Harry Bingham, asked me to write a post, which you can see here. The definitive article on the subject has already been written by Robert Bidinotto: 10 Reasons Why You Should Skip Traditional Publishers and Self-Publish Ebooks Instead.

Today I came across a new site, Write-Connections, and blow me, what were they discussing on the forum but: Self publishing or traditional publishing?? A topic so hot it demanded two question marks. My mind reeled away at the prospect of the same old points being made, the prejudice and ignorance, the denial and defensiveness. And I realized I'm all argued out. Plus it doesn't matter what anyone says, publishing has changed with the advent of digital, is still changing, and will never be the same again.

If anyone wants to turn a blind eye to what is happening, that is his prerogative. I will in future wander past, smiling. I might even pat him on the head, if it wasn't stuck beneath the sand.


  1. Lexi,

    I think you're right - there's no need to belabour the point any more. The war is won, it's just that some people haven't quite realised it. I'm not an author, but simply as a reader and amateur reviewer I've bumped up against the same anti-self-publishing prejudice from some of the big cheese review bloggers. They're as wrong as Gary Gibson. He made three points which I would disagree with:

    Quality I love this idea that traditional publishers are gatekeepers, selecting only the finest quality work to be presented to the public. It's complete nonsense. They eliminate a certain number of no-hopers, it's true, but they put out a fair proportion of badly written, derivative, unreadable nonsense, and they miss vast numbers of gems. The corollary, that all self-published work is poor quality, is equally untrue.

    Successful self-publishers are outliers This may actually be true, but successful authors are outliers too. The vast majority make very little money from their writing, no matter how it's published, and at least (as you point out) self-pubbers keep a higher proportion of their sales fees. Romance writers are leaving mainstream publishing in droves to self-publish for that very reason.

    Bad self-published books will deter readers Oh, dream on. I started reading self-pubbed books because they were cheap, and I stayed with them because so many of them are wonderfully original, quirky, intelligent and just great reading. A self-published book comes to the reader direct from the creative mind of the writer, uninfluenced by commercial considerations, and I love that.

    Traditional publishers have had the industry in a stranglehold for generations now, and they really don't like the amount of choice and freedom that authors and readers now have. They just haven't noticed that they're almost irrelevant. We live in a wonderful age, don't we?

    Pauline M Ross, Nairn, Scotland

  2. I say go out and enjoy the weather!

    Take care

  3. Agreed, Pauline, it is a wonderful time for readers and especially writers, who may end up earning a fairer slice of the pie than the measly portion publishers allotted.

    Kitty, I have just been out in the sunshine to the Post Office, and bought three tops and a pair of sandals at Peacocks for the bargain price of £34 total. Woohoo!

  4. Lexi, as you say its all done and dusted. More important things to do like writing more books.

  5. I agree the topic is now old hat. Indie publishing is here to stay. Readers read what they want, they are not stupid.

    Publishing is moving in the author's favour and I love it!

  6. Completely agree. We need to clear that moldy old topic from the table and concentrate on matters of substance. For instance I don't think we ever truly resolved the One Space or Two After Full Stop controversy.

  7. Alan, you will not get me to charge that red flag. We all know it's one space.

    Mesmered, you are right. I'm away to wrestle with the WIP.

    Glynis, readers are always right, in the long term if not the short.

  8. Okay, then how about the relative advantages of writing whilst sitting or standing?

    Pen versus keyboard?

    And for the pen folk, blue versus black ink? Oh, there has been blood shed over that one, yes indeed.

    How about a response to those who claim that the effort required to work a manual typewriter inherently produces tighter prose?

    Or the raging battle between the old school advocates of Times New Roman and the Palatino Linotype insurgents?

    Darn it all, there must be something we can get all het up about.

  9. Luckily, I have the answer to all these tricky questions.

    I doubt it.
    Times New Roman.


    Lexi Revellian the Omniscient

  10. On first glance it seemed you had fallen into the deep and very dark hole of "I've Got It All Figured Out". A dangerous place to be for a human being, much less a writer.

    But then that lovely little five letter word shone out and my fears were allayed.


    A beautiful word that leads to one even better.


    There I go again, off on a tangent.

    Alan Hutcheson the Never Quite Sure About Anything But Trying To Move a Step Forward Whenever I Can Even Though That Inevitably Leads To Being Less Sure Wanderer

  11. Oh - so you don't think I should start my own political party after all, then?

    I was all set to go...

  12. One of our objectives as writers, however obliquely we may approach it, is to constantly challenge the politicians and all others who perpetrate the All Questions Answered Here crime. So far I think you're doing a pretty good job.

  13. The proof of the pudding is in the reading ... or ... The customer is always right! LOL

    The customer doesn't seem to feature very much in these debates even though the reader will ultimately decide what is best.

    I have discovered some superb Indie writers who charge very reasonable prices (see for example Linda Gillard or Lexi of course)

    I Think that Trad published authors are being forced to reduce prices and in many cases are now offering freebies.

    Whatever the outcome of this debate, the future is bright for readers!

    You give em what for Lexi! *smile

  14. Agreed, Q, the revolution will be good for readers, and authors too. Even writers who have grown accustomed to their chains, love their jailers and fear the sunlight will benefit in the end from the actions of bolder writers.

    8% of the price of a paperback going to the author? That's just not good enough.

  15. Came here thru chuck wendigs blog, 3 sentence flash fiction contest, and yes, I liked yours best.

  16. Mark, you have brought a smile to my face. Thank you :o)

    There are some good entries there. A lot of sudden death. Yours is rather sad - I could take sad endings much better in my youth than I can now.

  17. It's true.

    The indie/traditional debate is all over but for the shouting.

    And some people will be shouting for a very, very long time.


  18. You could be right. Or maybe soon there'll come a tipping point when enough mid-listers have successfully self-published rejected or backlist books, and a lot of writers will go quiet and thoughtful...

  19. I'm a veteran who worked in Big Publishing. I recently encountered a young sci-fi writer who was working on his first novel. He had sought me out, and I regaled him with stories of the bad old days and how fortunate he was that he could steer his own course, be master of his own ship, and how so few people even now appreciated the real edge social media gave them. I went on at some length in this vein, figuring he was already steeped in this stuff anyway and that all I was really conveying was that I got where he was coming from. To my surprise, he could care less about the opportunity before him to captain his own ship. All he wanted was to 'network' in the various Sci-Fi writers' clubs and secure a relationship with a 'traditional' publishing house. I was taken aback, but in truth I see this everywhere among indie writers who do NOT want to do what it takes to build a stable and successful career. What they want (shudder) is to be recognized (for their innate genius, I guess), and 'taken care of'. When these riches and fame fail to manifest themselves, it seems there are always an abundance of people ('too much competition') and institutions ('that damn Fox News') to blame.

    Hey, indie publishing DOES entail a lot of time and effort. I can understand why a writer might want to buy into the seductive lies of big publishing. Looked at coldly, though, the real risk is not in self-publishing - not if you're savvy and willing to work. The actual risk - and really, I should say the near-certainty - is that big publishing will use up and spit out a writer, leaving him/her bone-dry of whatever initiative and drive (s)he once had. Sure, you can sign on and even believe the lie for a few years, but for most writers, in the end, it crushes them. I've seen this time and again.

  20. Hi Jeff, thanks for dropping by. I'd love to have overheard that conversation.

    I can see a lot of people don't want the responsibility of self-publishing; it's scary going it alone. (It came easier to me as I'm self-employed and a single mother, so used to doing everything myself.) Also, as you say, it's hard. But then so is traditional publishing, which has less to offer as each week goes by.

    I'm amazed when intelligent writers say they want the 'validation' that only the publishing industry can give them. An industry that is currently scouring fanfic sites to discover the next Fifty Shades of Grey.