For the Narcissist Lover in You…

The Writing Path Less (WAY Less) Traveled…

Indie = Cool

Me and the fam had dinner at a friend’s house last night, and she had a very curious take on my writing.

She referred to the popularity of all things independent these days: indie films, indie music, etc.  Basically, she explained that, for a lot of people, the “mainstream” (meaning Justin Beiber, Dean Koontz, Stephen Spielberg, etc.) is dead.  There is a broad movement toward the “underground”, a sort of Internet/word-of-mouth network of traditionally undiscovered talent.  Indie bands and films are popular, she explained, because they are ignored by the mainstream.  The moment such an entity crosses over into the light of “official” recognition, they cease to have the same appeal with their cadre of underground fans.

Do you see an idea forming here?  She suggested that, rather than joining the legion of wannabe writers clambering to get the attention of a fickle “legitimate” publishing industry, perhaps I should simply embrace my current status as an ironically successful independent author.  Perhaps, many of my readers, despite their best wishes for my success, deserve an author who is “theirs”, and not a branded property of Random House, Little Brown, or Viking.

In short, what if I abandon the idea of traditional publishing, not because it is a lost cause, but because I and my worldwide readers might be better served by maintaining complete control over my writing destiny?  After all, I don’t need to be fabulously wealthy to keep writing.  It might even be a hindrance.  I just need to make enough to do it For A Living.  It is entirely possible that I could sell enough books directly to you, dear reader, to make that happen.  Isn’t it?

What if I became the world’s first indie writer?

OK, I doubt I’ll be the world’s first, but let me keep believing that.  It feels more dramatic.  And really, how many indie writers embrace being independent on purpose?  How many of them merely resort to it as their ego’s last stand?

Furthermore, what if that’s what I am doing?

Either way, it is worth considering.  I am considering it.  Are you considering it?  Would you, dear reader, like it if I was always and forever yours, accessible to you and driven by you, rather than so wildly popular that I am nothing more than a name on the cover?  What say you?

Indie writer.  Indie author.  Indie books.  I sorta like it, I admit.  It lets us fly under the radar.  It keeps us in touch with each other.  It makes the act of writing a very personal, almost intimate thing.  And besides, no publisher would ever allow me to release my books free online one chapter at a time, which is a lot of the fun for me.  If I keep that up, will enough of you actually buy the books to make it financially viable for me?  Can I become the world’s first indie best-seller (and no, “The Shack” doesn’t count)?

It’s going to be an interesting conversation.  Chime in.  I want to hear from you.

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19 responses

  1. Indie writer.

    That’s pretty much what I do, too. The 2 novels that I have written would probably never make it mainstream, although honestly I haven’t tried. I’m pretty proud of them, though.

    But I like writing my way and on my schedule.

    Maybe one day I’ll write something that I think is right to try to sell to a publisher, but for now me and lulu.com will publish hard copies and Amazon and B&N can distribute the ebooks.

    July 14, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    • That’s encouraging, Becky. I suspect there are a lot more of us out there than it would seem. How do you advertise your works? It seems to me that the greatest difficulty with being an indie writer is promotion. I mean, despite the ease of publishing online, I cannot imaging that there is still any advertising more powerful than having a hard copy of your book on a shelf at Borders. Right? Wrong? How do you handle the promotional aspect?

      July 14, 2010 at 3:43 pm

      • I don’t advertise other just by word of mouth. I did mention my books on Kindleboards.com once, but that’s about it.

        I just went over my sales for the past year (173 bought from Amazon.com — over 1000 downloaded from other outlets) and while they are not huge numbers, they make me happy.

        July 14, 2010 at 4:03 pm

  2. Karen E. Warren

    Of course I would continue to buy your books!!

    July 14, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    • I believe you Karen. You have been SUCH a wonderful supporter and encouragement from the beginning. I wish I could give you a hug. Loves!

      July 14, 2010 at 3:44 pm

  3. rick

    I’m singing to the choir here, but, I’ll say it anyway. You are already doing it, Independent that is. The money will come in time, just keep doing what you love.
    There is talk in the industry that writers are trending more toward being independent, you are ahead of the curve and you discovered this on your own. NPR just did a great clip on the subject, if I can find it I will forward it.

    July 14, 2010 at 3:50 pm

  4. Kasey

    I’ve followed you on the Grotto and Facebook since just before JP2 was released but since I’m a member of neither, I just wanted to take this opportunity to say that I think you are a great writer and I love the JP series and GotD. I plan to get RoC when it comes out. So, I say good luck whether you stay indie or break through into mainstream.

    July 14, 2010 at 5:58 pm

  5. Eric B.

    It’s a slippery slope. For those of us who started out writing stories for our friends or even just for our own amusement, we’d never imagined ever publishing anything. Sure, maybe we dreamed but didn’t think about it seriously.

    While I think it’s a super cool idea to kind of snub the system and go the independent route, I really think that it’s a bad idea in the end. And here’s why:

    I’ll use JK Rowlings for my example. JK Rowlings prior to the Harry Potter craze, was a struggling writer who was basically broke and just trying to scrape by. Because she was published and marketed correctly, her books have went on to be the largest selling series of all time, bringing her fame and enormous fortune. With that fortune comes freedom. Now that the HP series is complete, she has enough money to write exactly what she wants full time and NOT to have to try to hold down a 9-5 job at the same time.

    What I’m getting at is while independent writers can have huge success and “street-cred” for lack of a better term, how long can they really keep it up before their audience or even their medium moves on? Then what back to working a full time job, maybe 2 and trying to squeeze out a chapter whenever possible to a srynching audience?

    If I was in your position, I’d do my best to parlay your current position into something bigger(meaning more money) and then return to indepency when those avenue’s are no longer available. I know to some this may sound like “selling-out” or make it sound like you’re just in it for the money but to be honest, wouldn’t the money be nice?

    July 14, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    • I have very similar thought processes about this, Eric. I am totally torn. Money doesn’t make stories, time and passion do. Unfortunately, time and passion get used up pretty quickly by lack of money. Thus, making some coin by writing is essential to KEEP writing. This is the predicament all us creative types have to confront somehow or other, yes?

      July 14, 2010 at 6:24 pm

  6. Hester

    I am of two minds about this.

    If every artist or composer only produced because they got paid for it, there’d be a dearth of beautiful things to look at and to hear. I do believe in art for art’s sake….really…

    But on the other hand, the money certainly comes in handy and it is often difficult to be creative at 5am or after the kids are in bed. One needs a certain amount of freedom to create. Although you have done rather well compartmentalizing your writing, I am sure it’d be more fun to spend the morning writing because that is what the Muse dictated.

    Personally, I wouldn’t give up on looking for an agent to market your potentially publishable stories. I think it is just a matter of time until that happens. In the mean while, keep on writing… whenever you can and whatever you want.

    July 14, 2010 at 7:45 pm

  7. Samus

    I think it would be great if independent publishing really took off. What I love about Lulu is how the author can have total control over things like layout, print size, cover, etc. (And since you have such great art for your stories, having control over the design of your cover is a big bonus.) And all for a reasonable price. So there’s a lot that I really do love about it. I wouldn’t want to be one of the first to try to get the movement going (it’s going, but it’s not taken very seriously yet), but I’d love to see it happen, I think.

    July 15, 2010 at 3:30 am

  8. Jennie853

    I agree with Hester.
    However the readers that love your work will pass it on to others. I have a friend that borrowed all 3 JP books and GOTD. She is hooked and can’t wait for the next ones to come out. Plus she has 3 little girls that love the HP world so the next generation is already starting on the JP train. Others will come from word of mouth because your readers will spread the word.
    But keep looking for a publisher, we want you to make bank on this awesome writing ability. 🙂

    July 15, 2010 at 3:31 am

  9. I love you’re writing George and really love this post, but I’m curious as to why The Shack doesn’t count?

    July 15, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    • Thanks Marty. Sorry, that was a little snarky (about “The Shack”). My opinion regarding that is less literary-minded and more theological. As a piece of writing, I think it is rather mediocre (but I think the same about the Twilight series), but mostly I take issue with the underlying doctrines presented by the author. It is, in my humble (albeit informed) opinion, filled with a lot of very questionable assumptions and speculations, presented as unchallenged, out-and-out spiritual fact. In terms of the subject of this post, though, while “The Shack” is an example of an independent book that went bestseller, methinks it did not do so because it is an excellent piece of writing, but because it contained a novel (pun intended), perhaps even faddish perspective on God that a load of people became enamoured with.

      If you wish, I’d love to chat more about this offline (or IM).

      July 15, 2010 at 2:29 pm

      • Hester

        Incidentally, it seems the author of that not-so-indie book is having problems with his “publisher”.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/14/books/14arts-PUBLISHERHAS_BRF.html?src=mv

        July 15, 2010 at 3:15 pm

      • Two words: PA and THETIC.

        July 15, 2010 at 6:51 pm

      • Samus

        Oh, I heard something like that elsewhere, too. From the details that were given in that other review, it sounds like it has a lot of questionable interpretations. That’s the danger of Christian fiction, though: the authors have to be very careful to make sure that what they’re saying is true, because even though it’s fiction, they’re presenting some things as fact, and in the context of a story it can be very easy for a reader to just accept it without analyzing it.

        July 16, 2010 at 2:10 pm

  10. ladymirth

    Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Your friend is one smart lady.

    Independents are where its at!

    December 9, 2010 at 11:52 am

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