When indie authors rock so hard they succeed after traditional publishers have turned them down, they sometimes get news coverage or, naturally, blog about it. Then some people accuse said authors of gloating. I recently read a complaint that the tone of those indie author success stories are always, “Neener! Neener! Neener!” Here’s…the truth? Well, here’s what no one else is saying anyway that I think needs to be said:
1. When you’ve been turned down and kept down and toiled for little or no money and then you win, some gloating is in order! You get to be happy when you prove your doubters and detractors wrong. No need to name names or burn down anybody’s house, but we inspire others to aspire when we tell them the truth of our success stories, defy the status quo and flip the power differential from institutions to individuals. Some people get pissed at Konrath for his aggressive tone, for instance. I notice the people who get really angry at him often lack facts to back their complaints. It appears they are mad, not because he is wrong, but because he is right. You don’t have to be Mr. Spock to see that’s a bad reason to be angry.
2. Consider: Not everyone who is supposed to be an expert is; not everyone wants you to keep trying; not everyone acts professionally when they reject a writers’ work; and there are a lot of people who aren’t happy when you’re doing well. A friend began a pitch to a famous New York agent. Nearby diners were startled when, not one sentence into the pitch, the agent shouted, “Spare me!” That author found success with that same book elsewhere, and continues to, with his subsequent books. The big New York agent isn’t so big anymore. In fact, I don’t think he’s in the business anymore. What a loss.
3. What? We don’t get to celebrate our successes but you, in traditional publishing, do? There’s an appropriate two-word response to that assertion. The second word is “you”. The first word is not “thank”. Of course, not all of trad publishing hates indies. When I hear people in traditional publishing trash successful indies, I suspect that’s a vocal minority who are wary of change. It’s not even about the indies, per se. According to a recent survey, most traditionally published authors aren’t happy with their publishers and many plan to self-publish in the future. Only 37% of authors want the status quo of 2007. That’s okay. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone and doing it all by yourself is often a drag. (You will figure out who is bitter or behind the times pretty quick when you hear the words “vanity press”, though.) Many indies would still take a traditional book deal if the terms were sane. It doesn’t have to be either/or. It can be both. I hope traditional publishing not only survives but perseveres. Book proliferation is good for the human race.
4. As a newspaper and magazine reporter, I looked for the interesting angle on any story. You have a new book coming out? So what? So do lots of people. You have a new book coming out that agents and editors all turned down several dozen times and now it’s a bestselling series? And an editor and an agent was abysmally rude to you along the way? Bonus! Now there’s a story people will read. The “Neener-neener!” tone may well have been determined long before the reporter called up the indie novelist for the interview. That’s not the novelist’s fault. (And if you turned down the bestselling book and were rude about it, that’s your fault.)
5. If you begrudge indies their success after you turned down their work, you didn’t just make one, forgivable error in judgment in a subjective business. Now you’re revealing yourself to be a petty person, as well. Doubters will note a defiant tone in this post, but I’m not pushing. I’m pushing back. I do value civil discourse and keeping exchanges classy (Caveat: Except in self-defence where humour disarms and on those occasions when mean is funny and the target deserves it.) What I’m reacting to is the flack indies get for choosing independence. Amazon changed the equation and we’ve all got to get used to the new math.
So here’s a link to a happy self-publishing story. If you are of a certain mindset, you’ll read it as a bitter tale of “Vengeance is mine!” If you’re of another mindset, you may well think, here’s an inspiring story of self-determination, self-reliance, perseverance and success. This is a test.
- Indie publishing is getting better (chazzwrites.com)