What Indie Publishing Is Not

First, before I go into this rant, a quick note to say that I will be at MileHiCon in Denver at the end of the month.  If anyone is going to be there, feel free to stop by and say hello.  I will be the one you don’t think I am.

So, on to the rant…

Earlier this year I went to Worldcon for the first time.  It was quite the experience.  Full of people and events and (luckily) friends I knew from other events I’d attended in the past.  Not having been to Worldcon before and not being one that particularly geeks out over specific sff shows or books, I checked out the programming before I went to see what might be of interest.

They had a tag for self-publishing.  (Oh good.)

There were only two events with that tag.  (Not so good.)

The first event with that tag was  a panel on fan fiction.  (What the $@%#!)

Indie publishing , self-publishing, whatever you want to call it IS NOT FAN FICTION.

As a matter of fact, trying to self-publish fan fiction is a good way to get your ass sued. Because there’s this little thing called copyright that comes into play and it means that if you don’t have permission to play in another author’s world that you are technically violating their copyright by writing stories that feature their world or their characters.  Sure, a lot of authors turn a blind eye to it because it means someone loved what you wrote enough to want to spend more time in your world and who wants to turn on their fans that way.  But…it is not the same when someone tries to piggyback off your world to make themselves money.

Indie publishing CANNOT be fan fiction.  The two do not overlap.  (And before someone spouts off at me about 50 Shades, please go read both books and diagram for me how that book shares any of the actual world or characters of Twilight.)

That was my first WTF moment.

The second  one came last week when The Book Life Report, which is put out by Publishers Weekly and supposed to contain the latest news for indie authors declared “Authors Guild Membership Now Available to Indie Authors.”  (To be fair, it was a link to an article by Good E-Reader, but they did include it in their newsletter.)

At first, I thought, oh that’s good.  Robert Sawyer gave a speech at RMFW this year where he talked about the value of authors working together so that we have power to negotiate advances and pay-per-word on short stories and he specifically mentioned Authors Guild.  At the time they weren’t open to indies so that suggestion fell flat with a certain percentage of the room, but when I saw this article I thought, look there, they’re taking some serious steps to actually represent all authors.  Good on them.

And then I clicked on the link.

And saw the very large graphic which says “Introducing the New Emerging Writer Membership.”

I bit my lip, rolled my eyes, and took a deep breath before I started reading the details.

Why was I so annoyed?  Because, while I personally do not, I know indie writers who make a million dollars a year from their books.  And far more who make six-figures.

Is that an emerging writer?  No.

No, it is not.  That is a fucking professional at the top of their game.

Are some indies emerging writers?  Sure.

But not all.  You want to be inclusive of indies, you give them access to full membership when they reach a certain level of success.

You don’t slap them in the face by labeling all of them as emerging writers.


Now, I know, that’s not true for all writers.  There are those who show up on a certain writing forum somewhat regularly asking about getting an agent or signing with a press or talk about using the phenomenal success they expect from self-publishing to springboard them to a trade deal.  But there are even more authors on there who shout about how you couldn’t pay them enough money to sign a trade deal because they make so much more publishing themselves.

And I will admit that when I first self-pubbed I fully expected to go the trade route with my novels and that all I put up originally were short stories that had almost placed in pro-paying markets and non-fiction that I knew wasn’t viable for a publisher.

But at this point?  With five novels out under various names and over a dozen non-fiction titles and way too many short fiction titles? No.  I may not be successful, but I am not emerging either.

It’s time that people realized that self-publishing or indie-publishing or whatever people want to call it today (being an author-publisher) is a viable publication strategy that can make real money for those who pursue it.

It’s not going away.  It’s not fan fiction.  It’s not what emerging writers do before they make it.  It’s not a stepping stone to trade publication (although hybrid publishing is a viable and attractive option).

It’s a path that many have taken successfully and will continue to pursue.

Organizations that cater to writers need to understand that and respect that.  We’re too late in the game for these kinds of screw-ups.


About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
This entry was posted in Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to What Indie Publishing Is Not

  1. Joanna says:

    I agree with you, it is kind of a demeaning label. Many indie authors are a great success because they put a lot of work into it and act like professionals.

Comments are closed.