What would make a writer forego the traditional road to publication? Why would an author entrust his/her hard-fought creation to the Great Unknown that is the indie publishing industry? The answer, if we’re honest with ourselves, is because indie is the only ones who will have most of us at this point.
The above statement is in no way a reflection on the quality of the works being created by indie authors across the globe. I’ve read many self-published writers that seriously rival traditionally published authors.
The problem is with the middlemen. I’m talking about the agents and publishers who anoint themselves the all-knowing gods of the written word. Agents turn down most manuscripts that cross their desks. They cite this reason or that, making claims that nobody is interested in your sort of story. Maybe if your switch the characters, make them vampires or warlocks, just maybe there might be interest.
An agent is a catch basin for the big publishing houses. The agent will stop any and all garbage from slipping through the cracks. So the agent is the one who holds all the power within the publishing machinery. An author can create a true masterpiece that will never find its audience simply because some agent in a stuffy office has deemed the work unworthy of being sent to a publisher.
Publishers are worse than agents; they won’t even accept your manuscript without agent representation. Why? Well, because these publishers know exactly what readers everywhere want to read (or so they believe). Besides that, they don’t want to be bogged down by piles of pages from hopeful authors looking to be the next big thing, the latest shining discovery of the literary establishment.
But in the words of Bob Dylan: Oh, the times, they are a-changin’. Writers are no longer beholden to the whims of a fickle publishing industry. The need to court the trend setters and decision makers no longer applies to us writers. There are numerous outlets available, each allowing us a reach into the worldwide marketplace. Sure, it may lack the prestige of signing a contract or being able to tell anybody who’ll listen that you’ve got an agent. But keep this in mind: You own your work. You reap the lion’s share of the royalties—which is fantastic if you’re fortunate enough to sell a few thousand copies. Most importantly, you are a published author with a product that’s available to the world, right alongside Stephen King and James Patterson.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a catch basin in the indie world, which means garbage seeps through, tainting the market with its toxic odor. A reader must wade through piles of poorly written tripe in order to discover the gems that most assuredly lie just beneath the surface.
So here’s the question each writer must answer for him- or herself: Are you writing for prestige or are you writing to be read? If the prestige of an agent and a major publisher drives you, then, by all means, hold out for that prize. It might take a while, sure, but there’s also the possibility it may never happen. However, if being read by those who appreciate a good story is your true motivation, then self-publishing in the indie world just might be right for you.