Why Indie Authors are dangerous + 3 free books

First, for your Kindle, here are three free books -

  1. The eBook Insider by Editors and Authors at Knopf Doubleday Publishing. Price: $0. Genre: Book Review, Book Guide, Recommendations. It seems to be a bunch of authors like Carl Hiaasen, Chuck Palahniuk, and Nora Ephron recommending books. It has a bunch of previews too – including winners of the National Book Award, the Man Booker Prize, and the Pulitzer Prize. 
  2. How to Make Money Marketing Your Business with FourSquare by Scott Bishop. Price: $0. Genre: Things that shouldn’t exist, Marketing,  Online Marketing. What’s even more puzzling than companies using all this ‘Mayor of Lameness’ stuff is that it works on some people. Leave a comment making fun of FourSquare, and the Gods shall bestow on you the grand title of Mayor of Rationality.
  3. Never Buy Another Stock Again: The Investing Portfolio that will Preserve Your Wealth and Your Sanity by David Gaffen. Price: $0. Genre: Personal Finance, Investing, Department of Succinct Titles. Couldn’t stop thinking – Why isn’t David Geffen writing a book on ‘How Not to Protect Your Entrenched, Sinking Business from the Digital Tsunami’? Then realized it’s an ‘a’ and not an ‘e’. This book has been free in the past (November 29th).

3 free books – Alas, they are all business books or glorified samples.

Why Indie Authors are very dangerous

Publishers like to fixate on ‘how much more polished and higher quality their books are’ and there’s truth to it – An organization that specializes in polishing and publishing books will generally do a better job than an indie author.

However, there are a few other factors Publishers are missing.

Indie Authors are, for the most part, unconcerned about money

If you’re a business – you have to worry about salaries and profits. Your thinking is very different from an indie author.

Consider how an indie author views 2 years spent on a book – A chance to get my work out, and get recognition, fame, and appreciation. Perhaps even some money.

Contrast that with a Publishing House’s view – It’s 2 years of salaries, it’s an advance, it’s a marketing budget, it’s 8 quarters of earnings releases.

What about other opportunities we could be pursuing instead? What about other Authors? Why can’t he finish it in a year?

While the quality factor is undeniably there – so is the Profit Factor.

Indie Authors can stick to one vision

For every bit of positive feedback you get, by having 50 people polish your work, there’s a direct side-effect – a tiny bit of fractionation of the vision.

The Publisher decides the book cover, the title, and the marketing message. There are various experts at each stage which contribute to the vision – or in other words, mangle it beyond recognition.

The artistic control is gone. In some cases, it needs to be handed to someone else. In other cases, it hurts the book.

Indie Authors are unencumbered by past losses and successes

Publishers always have this neat categorization – What works, what doesn’t, what the flavor of the month is, what the evergreen trends are, what markets exist, what markets don’t exist.

This is all invaluable. It’s also based on the past, and not a 100% accurate predictor of the future.

Indie Authors can write what they want to write – without any fear of it not matching some ‘ideal book’ profile lodged in a Publishers’ head.

Pain

Poets need the pain. Authors do too. Any artist does.

Look at some of the best products/works of art ever made, and you have very painful experiences the creators went through around the time of the product’s creation. It’s true for products companies launch too.

An indie author is short of money, short of opportunity, and short of hope (though it shouldn’t be the case given the advent of eReaders and eBooks).

That allows the indie author to try big, risky things, to think differently, and to tap into hidden ounces of creativity.

Publishers often have conflicting goals

Publishers have conflicting goals. Indie authors have conflicting goals.

For a Publisher there’s – making money, publishing great books, increasing credibility, looking good/intelligent/sophisticated, keeping the boss/employees happy, keeping shareholders happy, paying the bills, leading, managing, taxes, long-term vision, short-term vision, strategic partnerships, technology.

For an indie author there’s – making money, gaining fame, paying the bills, finding a job to fund your writing, getting a foothold, figuring out people, figuring out technology.

By virtue of being a company, having so many moving parts, and having so many more options, Publishers have more goals and more conflicts than an indie author. No Publisher can deny the increased complexity involved in running a Publishing House.

When Publishers claim that ‘publishing quality books’ is their only concern, they forget to add ‘in parallel with 50 other things we don’t like to bring up’.

Indie Authors can react faster to change

A Publisher is optimized for a certain Publishing world. If that world of Publishing changes, the Publisher has to re-invent itself for the new Publishing world.

Right from the CEO to every ground level person – First, the decision to change. Then, how to change. Then, passing on the message. Finally, executing.

If an indie author feels the future is in the Kindle Store – All it takes is a 5 minute decision. 5 minutes and she can switch 100% of her energies to digital books. It might take a Publisher 5 years to reinvent itself for the digital world.

Furthermore, a Publisher might never be able to change its DNA. It might have hired people with skillsets that just don’t map to the digital world. It might have created a company culture that just doesn’t work with eBooks.

Indie Authors are infinite, in theory

You’re guarding Rome. You have a beautiful city, a huge army, and impressive fortifications.

1,000 Barbarians attack and you sweep them aside. You lose just 25 men and you still have an army of 99,975 soldiers. You laugh at the crudeness of the Barbarians. At how weak their shields are, and how blunt their swords are.

Then, the next day, another 1,000 Barbarians attack. They’re a little more dangerous now and you lose 30 men. You’re still laughing – But a part of you wonders if there’ll be another 1,000 Barbarians the next day.

This goes on for a year.

You’re now down to 90,000 soldiers. You’ve beaten the Barbarians every single time, and yet you know that they are going to keep coming. Every single day – 1,000 crazy Barbarians who are a little stronger than the 1,000 before them.

Indie Authors are willing to blow up profits

This is a trump card indie authors have.

Publishers say the quality of their $15 Hardcover is a lot higher than the quality of the $11 paperback the indie author is hawking. Sure, we’ll take your word for it.

Then, we get digital books and prices go down. Publishers claim the quality of their $10 eBooks is a lot higher than the quality of a $5 indie author’s book. Perhaps.

Soon the comparison begins to break down.

Indie authors are offering their books for free on their websites, and for $1 in the Kindle Store. Publishers are still offering $10 ebooks.

Is a $10 ebook 10 times better than an indie book? Is a $10 ebook infinitely better than a $0 indie book?

How do Publishers compete now? Will they now use the ‘value of your time’ defence (it’s admittedly a good one)?

Readers relate better to Indie Authors

Readers look at an indie author – and they see a struggling author who’s taking his shot. It’s Rocky stepping into the cage knowing he has little chance of winning.

An indie author is someone readers can relate to.

Readers then look at a Publisher – and they see a long list of restrictions. You can’t use text to speech on this book. You can’t get this book for $10. You can’t lend this book. You can’t use it on other devices unless you do our DRM song-and-dance.

A Publisher is this cold, alien entity that keeps saying No. That keeps getting in the way.

Publishers are the equivalent of a middle school bully thrown into high school

It’s a crazy analogy, and it makes perfect sense.

You take a kid in middle school who’s big for his age. You let him be the big bully. Let him get this sense that he runs everything. He’s the gatekeeper. He decides who does what. Then you throw him into high school.

Suddenly everyone is as big, or bigger. Everyone is as strong, or stronger. The Bully has his blinders on, and doesn’t realize it. He’s still being the Bully. He’s still being mean, and telling people what to do.

We have Publishers telling readers – You better not share this book. You better not try to enable the text to speech feature. You better not try to buy it on release day. They’re being a big bully even though they no longer have any control or power.

The kids the Bully is pushing against the lockers aren’t weaklings any more. These kids are bigger, stronger, and smarter than the Bully.

Publishers just don’t realize it yet. For that matter, readers don’t realize it yet. Sooner or later, readers will figure out they’re stronger and smarter.

Very soon, Publishers are going to figure out what happens when you try to bully kids double your size.

10 Responses

  1. My Kindle 2 is not receiving updates to your blog! Can you have this reviewed please! LA

    • Yes, will do that.

      Could you please try a few things in the mean time –

      1) Turn wireless on and off. In the Menu choose ‘Sync & Check for Items’.
      2) Check the Manage Your Kindle page to see if the subscription is still active.

      If possible – cancel and re-subscribe.

      I’ve never gotten in touch with them about the blog subscription before so not sure how long it’ll take them to respond.

  2. Thanks for this one:

    The eBook Insider by Editors and Authors at Knopf Doubleday Publishing. Price: $0. Genre: Book Review, Book Guide, Recommendations. It seems to be a bunch of authors like Carl Hiaasen, Chuck Palahniuk, and Nora Ephron recommending books. It has a bunch of previews too – including winners of the National Book Award, the Man Booker Prize, and the Pulitzer Prize.
    Looks very interesting with potential.

    Your argument leaves out the editor role, which I think is invaluable. Of course, some authors do not take editor’s advice and some editors must be lousy. So what are we to do?

    Certainly there are books that are well-edited and others that are not either because the author would not take good advice or because the editor was lousy. Thomas Woolf’s Man in Full is a good example of book that the author would not work with the editor to suitably condense it. The publication deadline is probably what defeated the author and editor.

    Same holds true for translation. Translating a foreign language book into a lyrical, literate, understandable, and enjoyable book is most definitely an art that is neither universal nor mechanical. Shadow of the Wind, Out Stealing Horses, The Housekeeper and the Professor, Cries in the Drizzle and Brothers by Yu Hua, and The Book Thief come to mind as beautifully written and translated books. The Man from Beijing, All the Girl Who thrillers by Larsson, and all of Haruki Murakami’s books show strong evidence of an excellent translator’s hand as does most of Balzac’s, Camus’ and Franz Kafka’s works. On the other hand, I am not sure that 2666 could be salvaged.

  3. oops, forgot to subscribe

  4. Publishers like to fixate on ‘how much more polished and higher quality their books are’.

    I wish that was true. Too many of my eBooks from major publishers have words run together, and obvious errors that a human proof reader would have caught. Additionally, chapter markers and table of contents are often lacking. These are for eBooks that cost $7.99 to $9.99 range from major publishers.

    • Errors in ebooks are only to be expected since the quality in print books has been decreasing for years. One book was received in the library where I work missing all the letter Ws for at least a couple of pages. Common problems include the same proof reading errors that a human should find if they are using them for even print copies and pages falling out almost immediately. I give indie authors a lot of slack for many errors because frankly the publishers can be just as sloppy and have much less excuse. I have nothing but contempt for them and much of their ebook pricing. In my view 5.00 is too much for many classic authors that they are essentially reprinting after reprinting and reprinting for years like Stout or Christie but I would pay that – unhappily but I would – I won’t pay more especially when those prices are ranging from almost 7.00 to 9.99. I love my ereader and would love to have everything I read on it but I will continue to haunt used bookstores and library sales before I pay more than I think a title is worth.

  5. Not sure what world of “indie authors” you deal with but in my world they want to make money, they have all the same neuroses, needs, wants, and career conflicts as other authors, and many of them are naive about the business of publishing in so many crucial ways that they are sitting ducks for the vast army of schemers, scammers, lousy publicists, vanity presses and others who prey on the avidly aspiring writer. As for us evil, evil publishers, we invest mucho skill, experience, management know-how, money and acquired talent in the books we handle; skills that few if any authors can match and many don’t even WANT TO LEARN. You continue to hypothesize about some version of the publishing world that isn’t recognizable to anyone who’s actually in the business of publishing books, whether at a Big 6 pub in NY or out here in the trenches of the small presses.

  6. [...] one and this one, just to point out two) the publishing houses are the Bad Guys (as an example, the latter says, “The Publisher decides the book cover, the title, and the marketing message. There are various [...]

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