Why Draw Lines? The Us vs. Them BS!

Okay, so I’m gonna probably stir the hornet’s nest a bit here, but there’s something I need to get off my chest.

Here it is: I’m really sick and tired of this “Us vs. Them” attitude in the indie publishing community. I’m also sick of it in the traditional publishing community. It’s a load of crap. Big, stinking, make you choke and gasp, pile of crap!

Why do people insist on drawing lines in the sand?

Now, I know my situation is different than most writers (or not). I have been published by a small press then negotiated my rights back (the publisher was more than gracious to allow this) and have since independently published my novel, DEAD MECH, on my own as an ebook (print to come soon). I have also published my collection of short stories, Bethany And The Zombie Jesus, plus several of the short stories on their own as ebooks. I’ll be publishing a collection of my Friday Night Drabble Party releases, my Scenes From The Apocalypse drabbles and a Halloween collection of drabbles soon. This puts me in the “indie publisher” category and I embrace that.

But, there’s more! I have also written a YA zombie novel (about conjoined twins: one dead, one alive) and have found a wonderful agent that is currently in the process of shopping this to the big publishers out there. This puts me in the category of “traditional publishing”. And I’m fine with that.

I have seen tons of forums filled with nothing but hatred for traditional publishing. The folks posting talk about how big publishing will screw you over and they are dinosaurs that are past their time. They talk about how indie publishers need to stand together and if you dare say anything counter you will be vilified on the spot. I think this is childish and highly unprofessional. It’s totally cool to want solidarity among indie publishers, I’m all for it, but to go after those that still want a traditional publishing contract is silly.

Why is it silly? Because traditional publishers don’t screw you over, you screw yourself. They do not have a gun to your head when you sign that contract. Your family is not being threatened with bodily harm if you don’t take their royalty rates. In fact, traditional publishing could give two craps about you. They have tons of authors they are working with that need their attention (yes, we can debate the definition of “attention”) and dealing with your whining really isn’t a priority.

This persecution myth needs to stop. Really, folks, just knock it off. If you don’t like the contract (and this applies to contracts for ANYTHING) then don’t sign it! Simple as that. Don’t. Sign. The. Contract. It’s okay to do. Many writers walk away from contracts. It’s your right, exercise it!

Oh, but wait, you’re telling me you do want to be published by a big New York publishing firm? But you want them to bend to your will and offer you a contract on your terms? Why should they do that? They have a business to run, and as outmoded and bloated as it may be, it’s their business and not yours! Get over yourself!

On the flip side, all the traditional publishing proponents need to stop vilifying indie publishing as the scourge that will destroy the industry! Stop saying that indie published novels are inferior in quality. Stop saying they don’t go through all the checks and balances that make for a great novel. Stop saying that ALL indie published authors are just throwing out their old rejected crap. Sure, there is a LOT of indie published crap out there. But, there is a TON of traditionally published crap too! That’s just a fact. And I have yet to see a disproportionate amount of crap coming from the indie published authors. It’s pretty much the same ratio as with traditional publishing.

And stop saying that selling novels at $.99 is bringing the industry down! McDonalds sells cheeseburgers for less than $.99 but that hasn’t stopped anyone from going to a restaurant and paying $7.95 for a burger! It also hasn’t stopped McDonalds from being a multi-billion dollar a year company. There is decades upon decades of retail statistics that show this argument is not based in anything even resembling fact. Knock. It. Off.

Okay, so why am I even posting this? Why go to the trouble of pointing any of this out and risk the backlash from either side?

That’s a simple one: because the state of publishing, whether indie or traditional, is in complete chaos and being ruled by fear on both sides! No one knows how everything is going to work out. No. One. What we need to do is pull together and get to a compromise where everyone can benefit. Will that be easy to do? No. But it needs to be done.

Does traditional publishing need to pay higher royalties? Yes. Do they need to get their head in the game when it comes to ebooks as a 100% viable, and soon to be dominant, publishing format? Absolutely.

Do indie publishers need to come down off their cross and realize that they hold their fate in their own hands? Yes. Do they need to stop bitching about being victims in a system that they aren’t even participating in? Absolutely.

But this doesn’t even touch what’s really important and getting missed in this stupid argument!

What’s being missed is this: readers don’t give two craps about any of this. They just want to be entertained. They don’t know indie publishing from shinola! They just know when they’ve read a great book and when they’ve read something that was scraped off the bottom of a writer’s shoe. The argument between traditional and indie publishing means nothing to the reader! Let me say that again: The argument between traditional and indie publishing means nothing to the reader!

Are you listening writers? Are you listening publishers? The reader doesn’t care! They. Don’t. Care. At. All.

It’s time for EVERYONE to get over themselves. It’s not about you Mr. Author Person. It’s not about you Mr. Editor Guy. It’s not about you Mrs. Publishing Giant. It’s not about you Miss Agent Extraordinaire. It’s not about any of you. Or about me!

It’s about the Reader. And it always has been!

So let’s erase the sand lines and get back to what we are all supposed to be doing: giving the Reader quality product in the format they want at a price they can afford. That’s just simple business, folks. Simple business…

Posted on March 17, 2011, in What's Up.... and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Well said, Jake. We seem to get so caught up in all that crap that the important people are all too often forgotten, and then we all lose.

  2. Though I haven’t published anything on my own yet, I’ve been doing a lot of reading on both traditional publishing and self-publishing. And you’re right, there are those on either side that vehemently trash the other side.

    You’re also right when you say that we shouldn’t sign a contract if we’re not happy with it. I think writers, actors, etc., get so caught up in following their dreams that they’ll sign anything just to make it happen only to find out later they shouldn’t have because it wasn’t truly what they wanted. That’s not the publishers’ fault. That’s our’s for not taking the time to think it through and look at the bigger picture.

  3. The only thing I take issue with is the notion that the readers don’t care. I think that the large majority of folks only get (and only want) stuff from traditional publishers. The same is true of music/record labels.

    And your McD’s comparison is apt. Sure they’ll buy cheap crap from a well known resource (paperbacks from Harper Collins) before they’ll buy cheap crap from Joe Schmoe.

    Indie’s are essentially one step below Mom and Pop shoppes. We’re the hotdog vendor with our own cart on the corner. The hot dog may be AWESOME or it may give you botulism. Sure you may get food poisoning from McDs, just like you may get a bad novel from HC, but it’s less of a risk.

    Is the risk worth it? I think so as do a growing number of people, but the audience does care about where they’re getting their stuff from.

    • I have to disagree 100%, Scott. Turn around and ask your friends, co-workers and family who their favorite publisher is? I bet only 1% can actually answer the question.

      Who publishes Twilight? Don’t look it up, just tell me. I only know because I’ve been studying YA publishers. Before that I couldn’t say. And I have been an avid and voracious reader my entire life!

      Amazon has leveled the playing field. Readers can browse books by traditional publishing companies and indie authors/publishers side by side. Can you find indies in B&N? Not really. But then I can rarely find the books I want from traditional publishers in B&N when I go shopping!

      I honestly believe (and my small survey “proved” it to me) that readers care about authors, not publishers. And in this day and age, whether traditionally published or indie published, it’s up to the author to get their name known. Once again, the playing field is level.

  4. From my standpoint, I’ve seen two really horrible contracts and when I attempted to negotiate, I was told “that’s just how it is. Sign it or forget it.”

    Perhaps that left a VERY bad taste in my mouth. VERY. I think NY publishing needs to get their shit together. Period. Until they do, I don’t really want much to do with them. I think they’ve been putting out subpar products for inflated prices that people can no longer afford. They have to change their thinking.

    Would I like to see my book published by a big press? Sure. Will I talk to them if they come knocking? Sure. But I’m not going to bend over just to see my book on a shelf. That ain’t happening.

    It’s not an “us” or “them.” It’s a “why don’t we go back to being partners like it used to be?” That’s what I’m looking for. That’s what we’re all looking for.

    But with shrinking or no advances, bad royalty percentages, and a serious screwing on the ebook royalties, I won’t be chasing them.

    • Exactly, Paul! You had a choice and you made it with both eyes open and haven’t looked back. Have you said some harsh words about traditional publishing? Yes and you stand by them and for you they are true.

      The main difference between what you are doing and what so many indie authors/publishers are doing is that you aren’t making excuses! You aren’t taking the victim role and acting like you’ve been persecuted (or are still being persecuted). Your statement “Would I like to see my book published by a big press? Sure. Will I talk to them if they come knocking? Sure. But I’m not going to bend over just to see my book on a shelf. That ain’t happening.” You haven’t drawn a line in the sand, you’ve just said “I think NY publishing needs to get their shit together. Period. Until they do, I don’t really want much to do with them.” Once they are able to do that then you are willing to work with them. You haven’t drawn a line, just taken a stand.

      My issue is the extremists that say, “Traditional publishing is bad, bad, bad and anyone that works with them are fools!” Konrath spouts this a LOT.
      My other issue is publishers that say, “Indie published authors aren’t up to our quality and just fill the market with sub-par material.” I have one word for that: Snooki. If that’s the bar then I think every writer I know has nothing to worry about.

      My main point is for everyone to get off their high horses. That’s all. No more Us vs. Them from either side. Make your decision, stand by it and act professional about it.

  5. Scott is half-right about readers wanting something from a big publisher. They don’t necessarily want a book from Simon and Schuster, but they DO want to buy their books where Simon and Schuster are sold: grocery stores.

    Think about it. You walk into the most dirty, nasty, illiterate looking guy’s house and what do you still see? Mass market paperbacks. And when were they purchased? During regular trips to local bookstores or on the monthly Amazon order? Nope. They pick them up when they’re buying groceries. Aside from the oddball ebook millionaire stories, people living fat off writing have books on the shelf at the big grocery stores.

    • Oh, I agree with this. But, that isn’t where the battle is being fought. The battle being fought is online, and more importantly, with ebooks.

      What you’re talking about is distribution, not publishing. Apples and oranges.
      You can argue distribution all you want, but that’s a retail business model issue across the board. Same issue with people that make furniture or clothes or raspberry jam. But, you don’t hear Ethan Allen saying, “Hey, you, Handmade Rocking Chair Guy! You’re bringing down the quality of furniture making as a whole!” Because that’s just not true. You also don’t hear Handmade Rocking Chair Guy saying, “Big furniture makers are dinosaurs and need to get with the independent producer program!They’re bloated pigs and their time is over!”. That isn’t true either. They both know their place in the market.

      It wasn’t until ebooks, Kindle specifically, came along for the masses that everyone got their panties in a wad. Why? Because it’s new and scary for everyone. Because now indie authors have a voice and so many of them are using that voice to bitch and whine. And publishers are using their voice to try to keep a lid on something that can’t be contained.

      Everyone needs to knock it off and just realize they each have their own place in the market and if the reader chooses to buy a $.99 indie novel or a $9.99 big published novel there is nothing anyone can do about it.

  6. Oh Fine. There really is no need for the trash talk, but sometimes it’s fun.

    You know I agree with you on all of this, though I think Scott is right though my take is this. I think there are some who don’t trust the indie publishing model and think that the only way to get “quality” is through traditional publishing.

    • Sure there are some that believe this, but I do not think anywhere close to the majority of readers have a clue what is traditionally published and what isn’t. If that were true then there wouldn’t be a single surviving small press in this country. Yet there are plenty of small press publishers. I really think the industry as a whole, traditional and indie, are overestimating their worth to the reader. Every instinct in my body is telling me that the “publisher” issue is a non-issue with the reader.

      Just ask anyone you know the reasons why the bought their latest book. I can almost guarantee you that no one will say, “the publisher.” Further, go to the Amazon Kindle top 100 and look at those authors. Are they listed as “independent” or “traditional”? No.

      Everyone can argue all they want, but the numbers don’t lie! Readers do not care who publishes a book! If they did then the top 100 wouldn’t have a single independently published book any where on it.

  7. Jake……. This is a very well stated POST, absolutely it is about the reader which is the bottom line.

  1. Pingback: Guest Blog Post – Oh, The Whining! « J.R. Murdock

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