Dear “Indie” Mid-Lister…

It amazes me sometimes how a community that likes to blast the trad publishing industry for only being interested in bestsellers seems to so readily exalt those who are bestsellers. It’s sort of like neurotic teenagers who bitch and moan about the cool kids, but then fawn over the cool kids when the cool kids pay attention to them.

It’s cool to be indie right now. So cool, in fact, that some of the trad published “cool kids” are jumping on the indie bandwagon. So we have this influx of previously trad published authors joining the indie community and embracing the indie flag. And that is all well and good. I’ve always considered myself a fairly inclusive sort. We can break out some folding chairs for the newbies. Order some more pizzas. Maybe send someone to the store to pick up more beer for everyone.

But what is irking me is that these pseudo-indies have become the new messiahs of indie publishing. Every other day, a former trad author is writing a new blog post on how great indie publishing is and then going into writer forums to plug his blog to be fawned over. Just today, I got the following response to a post from one of these mid-lister “indies” who was cheerleading for the indie team:

“But just as a wild guess, would it be true that you do not have direct personal experience of being an author with a Big 6 publisher? that doesn’t invalidate your comments, of course.”

Apparently, the experiences of an actual INDIE AUTHOR who has been self-publishing for ten years hold less weight than those of a former trad author who just joined the indie side.

Well, Mr. Mid-Lister, let me tell you who I am.

No, I am not independently wealthy. I’ve never gotten a $100,000 book advance. I’ve never sold a million books. I’ve never been invited to talk on Oprah. I still need my day job. That puts me on the same page as the majority of authors out there.

No, I have never had a contract with one of the “Big Six.” But I have plenty of friends who have. I know plenty of folks who work in big publishing houses and small ones. And no, unlike you, I do not feel the need to demonstrate how very special I am by name-dropping. They are my friends after all, not neon signs to hang up so people think I am important.

What I have done, however, is taken my love of writing and turned it into an ability to support the things that I love. I sell enough books that I can afford to drop several thousands of dollars of my own money organizing and running an annual charity writing contest. I sell enough books that I can afford to invest in a quarterly magazine that actually PAYS its authors instead of telling them to work for exposure.

See, I’m not indie because I think the trad industry is out to get me, or won’t give me a chance, or because I think I can make more money by cutting out the middleman. I’m indie because it brings me joy. I love taking a project from start to finish. I loved learning about new technologies and experimenting with new techniques. I love getting emails from authors who are so proud to be included in an anthology or a magazine issue. I love working with my authors and helping them take a good story and make it great.

I’m indie because I don’t need to get the approval of a committee before deciding to set up a fundraiser. I sell enough books that I have the resources available to just do it. And while I don’t sell enough books to get on a bestseller list, I do get thank you letters from charity organizations thanking me for my efforts.

Ten years ago I turned down a traditional publishing offer to try my luck self-publishing. The result was gods-awful, but I learned an enormous amount about publishing and about myself in the process. While you were working with your trad publishers looking down your nose at the self-publishing community, I was busting my ass to get rid of the stigma that kept you away…until now. Yes, the stigma regarding self-publishing is fast disappearing. You have ME, and the thousands of other real indies like me, to thank for that. We real indies are the ones who laid the groundwork over the last decade that attracted titans like Amazon to the playing field in the first place.

You are nothing more than a Johnny-come-lately who is benefiting from all of the effort the rest of us already put in. And now you are going to come into our house and tell us how to succeed at it?


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