Friday, March 18, 2011

I'm Not Indie

ot to put too fine a point on it, I’m not an indie writer and I don’t like that adjective. The term ‘indie’ has mindset connotations--whether right or wrong, I don’t care!--that I’m not comfortable with. First is the Malevolent Gatekeeper argument, the thought that a monolithic ‘Traditional’ (or ‘Legacy’ or ‘Old’ or ‘Grandfather’) Publishing is acting as a wall keeping out good writing. Second is the Everybody’s Screwing Writers argument, the thought that ‘Traditional’ Publishing is organized to cheat writers, specifically the self-described indie writer. I reject these two arguments with two simple questions: “What other options were available?” and “Who made you sign the contract?”

Thus, having won the War on Straw and being financially uninterested in further debate, I come to the real questions. “What options are available now?” This question was one of the topics of my 200 Days writing blog, and was fairly answered, as you can see by the many ePublished works I have available. “What am I?” This question has two answers: I’m a writer and a

Bootstrap Publisher

I’m a publisher operating on a start-up budget, and investing any profits back into the business. My only writer is me, and I do all publishing tasks myself. My emphasis is on getting as many stories completed as I can with minimal distraction coming from the publishing side and seeing how sales do with a more robust bookshelf. Projected Endpoint for this phase of business is April 1, 2012.
The third real question, then, is “What will I be?” I’ll be a

Small Publisher

I’ll know I’m a small publisher when I have an actual, sustainable budget to work with, which will allow me to increase the quality of presentation of my bookshelf simultaneously with being able to focus even more on expanding it. As previously indicated in these articles, I’m willing to spend money on specialists if it frees up time for me to make even more money by pursuing my specialty. Here are some specialists that I’d employ.

So that I could save tons of time typing in the words I get while I’m wandering around talking into my voice recorder. Whether this ends up being an actual human being or a sufficiently advanced technology, I’m not sure yet. I can set up VLC to transcribe, but it doesn’t work very well. Research is ongoing. It’ll probably turn out to be less time-consuming to just find a human.

Cover Artist
Clearly useful, not too expensive. I want people and/or spaceships and/or dragons and/or romance on my covers, dammit! As a Small Publisher, I’d deploy pro cover art on series first, then work my way through upgrading key individual stories. It’ll pay for itself, and give that extra bonus classy that I like to keep around any of my projects. To justify wearing the business suits with the writer hat.

Copy Editor
Find some non-Creative who loves spelling, descriptivist grammar and chewing on words and let her go for it. I don’t really trust Creatives to find spelling errors anymore. As I’ve become a better writer, I care less and less about text and more and more about ideas. Still, it’s embarrassing to get caught out. 

POD Layout Guy/Interior Artists
Print-On-Demand will be the next big adventure, and I’ll need somebody who knows what the heck she’s doing with print cover art and design. My research thus far suggests that it’ll be affordable, especially considering that an ugly print book blows the bonus classy capital. I’d also like interior art, but that’s just because I love interior art. Presumably my cover artist will know other artists.

Web Page Design Guy
At some point along the non-bootstrapped way, I’ll get a proper website and set up a simple webstore for ePub’d books, just to have that option available. Depending on how complicated that turns out to be, I might get a guy to set it up and show me how to do the maintenance. 
All of those combined would mean I’m churning out stories at the speed of pulp, and presumably making a decent half-living. In all that, though, I’d still be the only writer, until I became a

Medium Publisher

I’d know I’m at this point if other writers were being published under one of my publishing imprints, whatever those evolve to be, churning out material and collaborating on collections. With that much material and complications, I’d need a few more employees.

Graphic Designer
The Cover Artist, POD Layout Guy and Interior Artist Guy, possibly rolling up Web Page Design Guy all in one convenient package. Presumably a company (or several similar companies) with a menu of services, this would reduce the paperwork and e-mail and contract shenanigans I’d have to go through. Whenever I needed something done, I’d shoot them an e-mail with the specifications, and the previous working relationship would keep everything going smoothly. 

Publishing Attorney
Obviously important, so enough said. Paid by the hour when I need to check that nothing stupid is being done.

A professional, freelance editor or editors. A non-Creative whose focus is on enhancing the voice of the Creatives who employ him. I don’t trust other Creatives with my voice, because they’ve got their own. I trust Creatives to evaluate my ideas. I use the word Editor for brevity, but think of this guy as a dedicated first reader, copy editor, and continuity checker, not as someone with any sort of editorial control over what gets into my bookshelf.

Marketing Guys
Hired by campaign to do whatever the campaign is, whether that be sending it out to review sites, (strictly white-hat) SEO, doing a short-term ad campaign, running a Twitter page or something. I don’t know, I’m making this up as I go. Nothing fancy, just some guys. There’s got to be a use for all those “social media experts” you see hanging around on the street corners. 

At that point I’ll be making a decent full living at writing, which brings us to

The Limit of My Ambition

I suppose next would come Large Publishing and Mega Publishing, my preferred words for ‘Traditional’ Publishing because it emphasizes the only real factors that distinguishes them from ‘Indie’ Publishing: Size and Cash. It will always be with us, so long as bringing together big piles of cash for maximum business efficiency is with us. And so it should. I’m not fighting it, I’m not in competition with it, but I’m also not really interested in that level. Allow me a Grand Vision of my future: 

Decentralized Publishing

All that publisher talk up there has lead me to think that I’m best served forming what is essentially a creative co-op, based around a core group of writers who happen to like the same group of contract creative services employees. Each writer would write what he wanted to write, and the decentralized publisher would contract that team of employees to format it up and then the publisher would put it up online and in print and distribute profits accordingly. Imprints would evolve or die, kept in line and managed by the writers themselves, and the general profit pool would be used to invest in better employees and marketing and the rest of the support staff that Creative pulp writers need to produce a quality product without the necessity of giving up control of their Creativity. I can see this future now, in this Internet Age, it’s just a matter of building the team. I’m not independent, I’m decentralized.

I’m not Indie, I’m Decent.

This version of Professional Edition will last until April 6, 2012, updating every Friday. Site design subject to change as I learn by doing. Like what you see? Spot something unprofessional? Feel free to comment!
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