Essay–It’s All The Indie’s Fault

Ah, yes. The Hachette vs Amazon squabble continues. Writers are feeling the pinch. How bad are they feeling the pinch? Man, it’s getting ridiculous.

Authors published by Hachette now seem to be refusing to help pimp any Indie who sells ebooks on Amazon. They are turning this into an “us” versus “indie” thing. What these myopic morons believe is that somehow us independent folk are the cause of this mess and we’re all shills for Amazon. What’s hilarious is the great and wonderful hypocrisy–they are shills for Hachette.

And why? MONEY.

When you sign with a publisher like the Big 5, they usually make you sign a contract, in blood, that is about 45 pages long and contains grammar that would drive any English teacher to hang themselves. These masterpieces of convoluted logic are boilerplate and unless you have some serious weight to your name, they are non-negotiable.

These contracts promise nothing besides a royalty rate for the author, a pittance of an advance (if there is one), and the opportunity for the publisher to own said books as long as they keep them on the shelves or in the ebook store. WTF?

Why the hell would you do this? Why the hell would you give your rights away like that? More importantly, why would you hitch your wagon to someone who sets up your contract in such a way that if THEY have a supply problem, your livelihood is affected?

But I digress. By the way, Author’s Guild, suck my balls.

Anyway, this situation is now out of control. Authors published by Hachette are now refusing to help their indie friends pimp books if they happen to use Amazon in any fashion.

Ebooks on Amazon? Fuck you. Use CreateSpace as a printer? Fuck you. You’re obviously an Amazon bootlicker and therefore I’m not going to help you. I’m getting screwed, so I’m going to screw you too.

I would find this funny, except it’s a terrible example of the disrespect we indies get from the traditionally published authors. They treat us like we’re little children at the kids table. They either look at us in disdain or tousle our hair as they pass. We must have cooties or something.

There are many indies that out earn, out sell, and out produce these so-called “real” authors. I’m certainly not one of the successful independent authors by a long shot. And I’m okay with that. I have the rights to my work, I have mobility, I have choice. It’s a wonderful place to be, although it’s sometimes lonely and I have to work my ass off.

I sometimes wonder if the folks that have signed their lives away with the Big 5 are terrified of flying without a net. Instead of even tipping their toes into the stream of the future, they run and hide like terrified children and toe the company line. The publishers own them. There’s absolutely no question of that.

They’re getting hurt by this bullshit. There’s no question of that either. And I feel for them. But for them to somehow take out their rage on those of us who aren’t with a “real” publisher is absolutely ridiculous.

thought we were all in this together. I thought there was respect. I thought this was supposed to be a group of people with a common goal: write, publish, get paid. Instead it’s turned into a cliquish war where we are the kids listening to Rush and congregating together in our basement bars while the cool kids are doing what cool kids do–being cool.

I have friends who are published by the Big 5. But unlike most authors that signed their lives away, these other authors went into their contract negotiations with eyes wide open. Why? Because they started off as Indies and podcasters.

I have turned down two bad contracts in my life. Either one of them would have absolutely destroyed my ability to control my work or make any money off it. And yet, I vacillated before turning them down.  Why? BECAUSE OF THE FUCKING DREAM.

The dream is the most goddamned dangerous thing you can possibly have. The “dream” is to be able to say “I’m a writer. I’m published by X” and for that to mean something. It’s called validation. And it can be the most important thing in your life…if you let it.

Instead of trusting yourself, believing in yourself, you rely on someone else to give you that. Writers and egos are notorious. We’re either manic-depressives who struggle to look in the mirror every day and like what we see, or our egos needs their own zip codes. In reality, there’s a lot of grey. But that dream of validation is there to prove to our friends and family that we haven’t been wasting our lives. It’s also there to prove to ourselves that we haven’t wasted our lives.

You can see the dismissive attitude the Big 5 hold for us independents. They put us in rooms at book conferences that have “aspiring writers” written on the door. The “professional” organizations such as the HWA, SFWA, and etc have very clear membership rules that preclude us. Those rules? “Without publisher, YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”

I could be selling 20k ebooks/paperbacks a month, and it wouldn’t matter to those organizations. Or to the Big 5. I’m still not going to get the respect for having succeeded on my own. It’s sad, but it’s true in a lot of cases.

But whatever. The Hachette v Amazon thing is going to get nastier before it gets better. The only question I have is how many friendships are going to be ruined while the pigopolists throw nukes at one another and play chicken with people’s careers.

I’m not an Amazon apologist. I’m not a shill for them either. Nor am I going to kiss the pimpled gangrenous ass of the Big 5 or any author published by them. The average consumer needs to know the score. This is not a one-sided battle. This is Godzilla and King Kong duking it out and destroying everything in their wake. And who will foot the bill? Most likely consumers and non A-listers.

As I said in my last post, if you like an author who’s being hurt by all this? Purchase their book somewhere else. Like at a bookstore. Or Powell’s. Or Books-A-Million. If you love an Indie and their wares are available from their site? Purchase them there. If they’re published by a small press? PURCHASE THE BOOKS FROM THE SMALL PRESS.

Regardless of whether you’re published by the pigopolists or you’re an Indie, you should get your fair share according to how your books are selling and the patrons you have cultivated over the years. Consumers? Don’t let the pigopolists ruin that.

And for those of you published by the Big 5? Perhaps it’s time you took matters into your own hands. Look around. See what other possibilities are out there. Or you’re going to get bit by this again. BTW–you have your validation. Now move the fuck on.

Posted in Essays
3 comments on “Essay–It’s All The Indie’s Fault
  1. Terry Mixon says:

    Dammit. How can I possibly succeed without James Patterson pimping my shit? I’m doomed.

  2. I personally love indie authors because they retain the creative control from soup to nuts over their work. Being with The Big 5 (6) is really only beneficial to the top 3% of those they have signed; the other 97% (on a gradient scale) have less benefits and put more green in the publishers pocket than is proportionally going into the pocket of the creator. Basically, those signed at the bottom of the pile pay for the infrastructure for the company to better promote and support those at the top if the pile. However (and it’s a big-ass HOWEVER) I don’t think anyone who wants to be a prolific writer should ever stay in one camp or the other exclusively. There IS still some prestige in being signed to a big publishing house that can be leveraged from a marketability standpoint. No indie author should turn their nose up to that; instead, limit the terms to cover 2-5 book and only those. Work in the process. Take your licks. But above all learn everything you can while you do your slaves dues. Then walk away with that experience do the “indie approach”… or a blended approach. It’s a balancing act… Prestige and exposure from the big publishers and creative and financial control from being an indie. Why not do both (if one can)?

  3. Aleleeinn says:

    Ah!! a return to classic “sharecroppers” vs. “former slaves”. Yes, put the two groups whose poverty contributes to the wealthy staying wealthy at each others throats. Some exploitation tricks never seem to go out of style.

    I read this and your previous essay. IMHO you have the thing right, but history is against you. What you are seeing is what happened to radio and music. Find an independent ratio station not on a college campus. Yes, there still are a few, but very few. Find multiple stations, in the same market, spewing the same bland redundant content–they are everywhere. Yes, radio has eaten its young(future). I is merely a bland marketing tool for bland over marketed trash.
    The same economic model that predominate radio is the same model that Mr. Pond described in his comment. Only the few percent benefit; while the rest pay for their extravagant deals.

    So music and literature are now only really creating in the realm of the independent marketplace. But I like the idea of the artist doing it all themselves. The bad news is that some excellent art will never make it to market because the artist lacks the skill-set that being an independent requires.

    I see that business sense growing among independents. Perhaps this whole trend will breed a generation of renaissance man and women. That is something that the big corps do need to fear.

    I must also agree with the fiendmaster as to what is driving this empty minded standardization of art. It is GREED and nothing more. Well, maybe some profound ignorance of art and literature, and a total lack of judgement of what is worthwhile. But mostly it’s greed.

    So like music and radio and nearly every field of creative thought and endeavor–short term greed ruled by ignorance is the norm.

    Woe, to the creative ones in a totally scripted “reality”. I’ve live much of my life on the fringes. I like it there. You don’t get bored and are still allowed to think.

    Viva la independents! That means you Paul and Scott.

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