Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Making indies less indie...

Yesterday I read a curious piece in The Bookseller online about author and former literary agent Orna Ross's plans to set up a 'non-profit body representing the interests of self-published authors' called The Alliance of Independent Authors. Members will pay a fee to join.

And how will writers benefit from tAoIA?

Orna Ross says: "We will be speaking up on behalf of independent authors, and making links with booksellers, wholesalers, agents and legacy publishers, so people have an idea of what our creative needs are. It requires a change of attitude both in writers and in other players. In the past, the author was a resource to be mined, but indie authorship is about meeting the publisher as a partner."

Right. I've always yearned for booksellers, wholesalers, agents and legacy publishers to be aware of my creative needs. Whatever they are. I wonder what they'll do once they've worked them out?

And "indie authorship is about meeting the publisher as a partner" - well, stone me, I'd always thought indie authorship was all about going it alone without a publisher. Shows how little I know.

At the moment, it's Them and Us. The publishing industry is unhappy about the hordes of self-publishers cluttering up territory that hitherto they have managed to keep fenced and gated. They are cross with Amazon for letting it happen. They look back nostalgically to the time when they had a monopoly of distribution and bricks and mortar bookshops were the only outlets; when self-publishing meant a garage full of books and nowhere to sell them; when an author they rejected stayed rejected. And we don't like them much either - why would we? Most of us have had experience of being ignored or treated with contempt by agents and publishers.

If Orna does somehow organize that meeting between unlikely partners, I'd love to be there and take notes. 


  1. Goodness, is that attitude I detect, young lady?

    Orna (never heard that name before, although I must say it lacks music) is just trying to make a buck the same way so many publishing "professionals" have done lo these many years, by fleecing gullible writers.

  2. Yes, that's what it was, Alan :o)

    Anyway, we all get tetchy and snippy in February - no point fighting it. I was reading a blog post on the topic only the other day:

  3. I like most people I know in the publishing industry, and I have nothing at all against the publishing industry as a whole. I'm just not quite sure what it has to do with me.

  4. Yes, Dan, but then you are an indie's indie and have not (I believe) expended time and spirit attempting to get a traditional publishing deal. I had nothing against the publishing industry until I wrote a publishable book and tried to get an agent for it. It was, I admit, a souring experience.

  5. yes, I absolutely get that. The single word that comes most readily to mind is "patronising."

  6. that was nme, btw - sorry for the random blogger

  7. Tartra, I guess that agents, receiving up to fifty submissions a day, get jaded and regard new writers as one of the more tiresome parts of the business. It's no excuse for rudeness, though.

  8. I put "professionals" in quotes because I was referring to the folks who simply see a way to make money without offering anything of value in return. Shame on them. After having the read same article, my take is that Orna is among them.

    Like Lexi, I have had unfortunate experiences with the big publishing houses and my admittedly biased opinion is that they collectively suffer from Limited Vision and even more Limited Courage. Receive enough "Love the story, characters and writing but don't know how to market it" rejections and it's tough not to form that sort of impression. But I have also met, either through correspondence or in person, a fair number of people in the industry who really do seem to care about what they do, want to bring Good Stuff to their customers, and are often frustrated by the constraints imposed by the bean counters and marketing committees. I can't blame them for trying to protect themselves, we all do that. But the landscape is changing and there is no denying it. The Big Six are still damned big, but now there are alternatives. We just all need to be aware of the opportunists out there trying to take advantage of the rapidly and somewhat confusedly changing world of publishing.

  9. I think that vague term about "meeting the publisher as a partner" is the giveaway about what's going on here. I think Orna sees all indie authors as Amanda Hockings, best sellers with an extremely popular product but lacking the editing/design/marketing elements that a partner publisher would provide. Presumably the moment that these indie authors go into 'partnership' with a publisher she'll no longer be asking them for a fee to be members of her indie organisation!

  10. I'm not sure. Orna was trad published, and is now self-published. Sounds more to me as if she misses the publisher's input, and assumes we all do too. Maybe she envisages publishers acting as a kindly uncle, patting us on the head and giving good advice, without of course actually publishing our books.

    But everything she is quoted as saying in that article is so woolly you could knit it into a matinée jacket.

  11. Your post, along with the latest issue of the New York Book Review, inspired by own blog post. There is a whole industry out there, ready and willing to make money off writers while offering little of real value in return.

  12. My mum asked me to say that New Writers UK is a real, genuine forum and support group run for and by indie authors. It respects absolutely the fact that people want to publish their own books in their own way. This can be a lonely road and NWUK is a welcome oasis of encouragement, self-help and cameraderie. Many of the members have been slapped down by literary agents and publishing houses and have no wish to repeat the experience. No wonder its membership is growing rapidly. Nice to know that there is one outfit not trying to rip off or patronise self-published writers. Quite a lot of them like dogs, too.

  13. Cassie, I'd never heard of New Writers UK: I've been and had a quick look, and will return when I have more time.

    I saw a dog on television who taught himself to skateboard tonight. I wonder if you'd like it?

  14. Oh, wowee! Wouldn't that be great to try! Wouldn't mind learning to ride a bike too. Better not tell my mum, though. She'd pull her hair out.

  15. Lexi, I love the way that you blaze a trail, leading from the front.
    And with nearly 50k sales behind you, the words carry some weight!

    I heard a rumour that B&N in the states is now in trouble, struggling to match Amazon.

    If so, e-books may soon completely dominate the book market, with paper gradually disappearing from the high street.

    It won't bother me too much, but I will be sad not to be able to browse through books in stores and lovingly caress favourite novels. Guess its progress!

    I just read your short in 'Hearts and Arrows' and loved it.

    Watch your back Nora Roberts! LOL

  16. Me blazing a trail? Q, I think that's my new biker boots I got in a sale. The website told me I would stride down the runway of life in them.

    Though ebooks are the future (unless civilisation collapses) there will always be print editions. Expensive, though.

    Glad you loved Donna's Date :o)

  17. The only time I'd be interested in an "Indie Association" if it had group health insurance.

  18. Ms Kitty, difficult though it is to be quite clear what will be on offer, I fear that group health insurance does not form part of Orna's plans :o)

  19. Sorry to be so late with this. I should come here more regularly.

    I share your misgivings about Orna Ross's intiative. I'm not with those who think she's just out to fleece the naive and the ignorant, but I do think she's misguided.

    Self-publishers have to go it alone, and aside from such matters as legal advice on copyright (which can easily be googled), there's not much of value that her organisation will be able to do.

    Self-publishing is about two things: writing and marketing. And you really have to do them yourself. Membership of a group which exercises no quality control is about as much use as ringing a bell and shouting "Unclean! Unclean!"

    By the way, did you see Agent Orange's response to your post at The Bookseller: "do you ever wonder if your willingness to sell your own books at 99p - because this is is a hobby for you - is helping push publishers and independent bookshops out of business by driving down the price of books and directly contributing to their loss of revenue?"

    Publishers and independent booksellers are going out of business, and it's your fault. Bad girl!

  20. You are a prized visitor to my blog, Iain, if an irregular one :o)

    Agent Orange more or less told me to go and sit in a corner and reflect on the error of my ways. I hope you read my response?

  21. Yes, read it now. I was confused (as I often am) by the fact that most recent comments appear first. Looking below Agent Orange's post and seeing nothing from you, I thought you hadn't responded. Sorted it out now.

  22. You can toggle Bookseller comments between Oldest, Newest and Most Recommended. (I've just noticed one of mine is the most recommended - gratifying.)