The Bane of Indie Publishing

The Epic of Gilgamesh, the most popular indie book in history

One of the things that I’ve been recently encountering is a certain amount of hostility for Indie publishers; and by that I mean, independent authors. Some of the noise that is being made revolves around the sole fact that indie books are not professionally published, ergo, they cannot be considered, “real books.”

Some have criticized the advent of the indie publishing phase as a death-blow to either the publishing industry as a whole; good literature as a whole; and a means for people to make a fast buck off of swindling others into buying their fifteen page self-help book on how to make money writing and independently publishing a book.

To the first two of those, I can only say, “Phem!” The written word has been around long before the modern critics were a cosmic speck in sands of time; and I have no doubt that the written word will exist in some form long after they are gone. As for the last part of their complaint, I can see their point; writers that write a book just to mislead others into buying their swill are nothing more than scoundrels and crooks. But I’d like to take a look at this practice of writing and examine some of the claims that indie writing is wrong, and what constitutes a book.

To do this, we have to take a look at a person called, Gilgamesh. He was a King of Uruk in ancient Mesopotamia (2700BC), whose exploits were written about on tablets about 600 BC, by a man called Sin-Leqi-Unninni; and have since been the subject of many revisions, rewrites and has pretty much fallen into the accumulated annals of antiquity. The Epic of Gilgamesh as a story is probably in the top five oldest written books ever. Granted, the story wasn’t written on paper, it probably didn’t have a proofreader, it was not edited for correctness, and it didn’t get taken from publishing house to publishing house in an attempt to get a sale. But no student of literature, mythology, or ancient writing can say they’ve never heard the name of Gilgamesh.

One of the things that I’d like to point out to anyone reading this article, and is a book reader—not a writer—is that the definition of a book has really been altered in the past decade, now, you don’t need physical pages for something to be considered a book. Digital media has been accused of harming the physical media industry, and yet, I don’t see any decline in printed paperbacks and hardbacks whenever I wander into a Barnes & Noble book store.

Having said that, I’d like to address some issues.

Issue 1: Independent books are not real novels.

That is more of a matter of opinion than fact. It’s true that we’ve been coerced into accepting that only books that have big name publishing houses are actual factual honest to goodness books. But when taken against the centuries of written word; I’d call that a fallacy. Surely some have argued that if our books are all that good, then why didn’t we take them to the publisher and get a book deal; why self-publish? The answer is different for different people. For me it was a matter of creative control, indefinite editions, and creative freedom.

Issue 2: Independent writers are not real authors

Now, that one just kind of hurts. I’ll admit that there is a fine line between “writer” and “author”, but to simply put your foot down is ridiculous. That’s the same as saying you have to be so tall to ride; you have to have a publishing house behind you or you don’t count. Well, I beg to differ. The only real difference I have ever seen between an author and a writer is that writers just write—which we all do—and authors get paid for it. From where I’m sitting that means that if one person paid me a dollar for something that I wrote, then I’m an author.

Issue 3: Professional books are better than Indie books

Again that’s a matter of opinion. There is no point in really arguing against that, since the stigma of ebooks/self-publishing has really tainted a lot of readers who fear that their “good books” are going to be encroached by bad pulp. I won’t deny that there are bad ebooks out there; some of them are so bad that I cringe with embarrassment for the writer that published it. On the same coin though, there may be some readers that just don’t care, and would happily accept this bad book, and read it anyway. There has never been, and there never will be a set standard for what people want to read or like to read. That is solely up to the unique relationships between author and reader.

Now once again, to make a point. Just like there are bad ebooks, there are just as many bad professional books. Many of which are looking to cash in on the craze of summer bookbusters and success stories. Teen novels are at an all-time high, and I can’t peruse a book store without being bombarded by cheap imitation knock-offs of The Hunger Games, and Twilight. Readers are quick to get the ban-hammer on us indie authors for trying to be original, but never bother going after the real trolls in the caves.

In conclusion, I’d like to say that while there are many people that find indie published books a blight on the literary market, I have to point out that it shouldn’t be up to a company to decide who can write a book. The liberation of indie publishing isn’t a breath of fresh air that is hitting the book world. It’s also hitting other areas of entertainment. If I was to walk up to Matt Thorson, the developer of the indie game, TowerFall and tell him that because he chose to release his video game project on the OUYA Micro-Console, and didn’t go through regular game companies that his game wasn’t a real game, then he’d probably laugh me to scorn. I’ll bet, that if you asked him what he did for a living, he’s say he is a video game developer.

Well that’s where we the indie publishers are. When asked what we do for a living; I tell people that I am an author, a novelist, a writer. I’m not ashamed of what I write. I’m not looking to score some cash by cashing in on an already old name in entertainment. Hell, I’m not even all that competitive, I don’t cram my books down people’s throats on chatrooms, and message boards looking for a hand-out. But what I will do, is write. Whether or not that’s okay with you.

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