Indie Traitors?

What does the indie community think of authors jumping the indie ship to cruise aboard the traditional one? Curious. Some buddies and I were discussing making the jump. All hypothetical, but questions were asked. Could we be comfortable after calling ourselves indies and totally supporting indie writers? Would others think us traitors? Would we lose a fair amount of fans? Would we be shunned by the indie community? Again, all hypothetical.

My thoughts on the subject focus on what’s right for that individual. For me, I never set out to be an indie…it just happened and I’m grateful for every bit of indie love, support and the fans. To answer the question: Would I sign with a traditional publisher? If the contract was right…You betcha! But if I was, say a best-selling indie author with a heavy fan base, why fix something that’s not broken?

As far as the indie community, I believe strongly that they would continue their efforts of support because for a writer to get published is a huge accomplishment—CreateSpace or Random House. And that’s just the indie spirit, to support other authors. Period. Not to mention, isn’t exposure, sales and fans what most of us strive for or want on some level after seeing our hard work come to fruition?

I get the loyalty part. I’m pretty darn loyal in life, but loyal don’t always mean smart. And if a reputable publisher offered a sweet contract that would more than rival the sales of an indie author’s current margin, I can’t see the author turning it down. If said indie authors exists, let them throw the first stones. Would love to hear their views. Going traditional doesn’t make an indie a traitor, sometimes it just makes them brand smart.

What would you do?

Categories: The Writing Life.


  1. Profile photo of Amy Joy

    This was a question I really struggled last year as my debut YA novel, The Academie, made it to the Quarterfinals for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. The prize was a publishing contract, and at that point (March 2012) I had not only committed to indie by publishing my book, I had just founded The Indie Writer’s Network as well. When I entered ABNA, it really wasn’t with the publishing contract in mind (sorry ABNA). It was to see what kind of feedback I’d get from readers and reviewers. But as the book kept making the cuts, the question loomed in my mind: “What will I do if I’m awarded the publishing contract?” The fact was, I still really didn’t want it.

    More than how strange it would look to have one of the founding members of IndieWriteNet turn to traditional publishing, the question plagued me: do I want to give up the freedom I have to do it my way to do it theirs? As difficult a road as indie publishing can be, a big part of why I chose to go indie was to have the freedom to write and publish my books my way. I enjoy working for myself–even though it means that you may have to find your own support team rather than having one built in. But I enjoy that challenge, and I’ve built my support team (thank you IndieWriteNet members!). I’m not saying traditional publishing is totally out of the question (I’ve learned it really is a good idea to never say never), but the deal would have to be sweeter than my alternatives. 🙂

    What we’ve been seeing in recent years is authors taking more control of their careers because they have more options. As a result, I think what we’ll continue to see more of is a hybrid: authors opting to take a contract on one book or series, for example, but choosing to publish others independently. Also, if we’re smart, we’ll also see more authors retaining rights to those aspects of publishing where we can benefit on our own, such as digital, and giving up those areas where we may be able do better with a traditional publisher, such as print.

    • Profile photo of A.M. Day

      It is a struggle. Lol. Yes, that would’ve been a not so pretty pickle you put yourself in if you did go traditional. You would’ve had to change IndieWriteNet to just WriteNet.

      I think for me it was about getting my words…all that built up imagination put to paper and not having to wait another 18-24 months or longer to share my work with others. Thanks for sharing your experience!

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      • Profile photo of Amy Joy

        WriteNet 🙂 Lol. Yes, I didn’t like the idea of waiting that long either. That was part of my concern with ABNA: I didn’t want to have my book back off the market while they got it ready for print!

  2. Stephen Lonefeather

    Indie writers support each other, but its not an exclusive club, so why would there be loyalty in question? All of us are working to make a living – in whatever capacity proves best.

    • Profile photo of Amy Joy

      Good question, Steve. I know when Amanda Hocking took her traditional publishing deal it caused quite an uproar in indie circles because many had dubbed her a champion of indie publishing and felt she’d sold out. But with a two million dollar contract, who could blame her? After all, this really isn’t about indie vs traditional; it’s about being writers. And for many of us, it’s about making a living from writing. To do so, we have to be smart business people in addition to working hard at our craft.

    • Profile photo of A.M. Day

      Interesting article. Yep, there’s that other side that shows the success of indie authors is on a fast climb above traditional. And so many other concerns about where traditional publishers will even be in another couple of years is a whole other book.

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  3. figuratio

    I would certainly not go to traditional publishing no matter what contract I got. The reason is that I do not support the elitism endemic amongst literary agents and traditional publishers: at least as far as the literary fiction genre goes. It used to be that a writer could send an MS in directly to a publisher and it would be considered, even if it was returned without comment. Nowadays, it has to be sent in through a literary agent, and the first thing they look at is the proposal letter. If it doesn’t contain the words ‘MA Creative Writing’ (or ‘MFA’ in the U.S.) then no matter how good the MS is, it doesn’t get consideration.

    There are perhaps exceptions that I don’t know about. But when you send off to a literary agency and the reply is this: ‘We have read this with great interest’ and the very next line says ‘However, after careful consideration we are afraid that we are not able to offer you representation for this’ then one really has to wonder. Especially when the M.S. sent in, ‘has in abundance so many of the qualities that many aspiring writers struggle for years to master. It has the potential to be truly exceptional.’ (From a professional manuscript assessment I obtained for the first draft. And I addressed the issues raised by the reviewer more than adequately for the second draft which was sent in to 23 different agencies. Rejection slips all round.)

    When you read some of the books published by traditional publishing, and see that your own work is often much better in comparison, you start to think something else is going on. And this traditional system has been the ‘gatekeeper’ of fiction writing: merit doesn’t come into it, and what is published is dependent on what ‘qualifications’ the writer has. As if having actually written a novel is no qualification, but having done a 15,000 word creative writing piece for an M.A Creative Writing thesis is! (It might be different in the U.S. but that’s what it is here, in Australia.)

    A degree does not necessarily equal creative talent.

    We should stick together and refuse the temptation to cross over to a system which is not merit-based and is therefore (ultimately) detrimental to the freshness and innovation of good creative writing. What is really needed is for us Indie writers to get together and form our own publishing company, and publish the very best of our writing, as judged by independent judges: and monetary proceeds used for advertising on Amazon (or wherever) the individual books that are the best of what we have to offer.

    Better that, than being cynically used by traditional publishing as just another slush pile.

  4. I don’t believe Indie publishing and Royalty publishing are mutually exclusive. I know authors who’ve done both. The first analogy that comes to mind is cars: maybe you use a Toyota compact to commute to work, and a Ford truck to tow your boat on the weekend. Each brand is better suited to a different task.

    I can’t see myself declaring loyalty to a business model. Our loyalty is best given to literature and to one another.

  5. ladyjaguar

    Okay, I think a bit of perspective is called for here. I’m not sure many people would turn down a £300,000 deal by saying “sorry, I cannot except because my creative integrity is at stake.” After all, how many people got into indie publishing by choice? How many of us have struggled to get a publishing deal, with no dice, and decided to do it anyway? Self publishing is not an easy option, whatever people might say, but apart from the INCREDIBLY successful indie authors (and I’m talking an indie Tom Clancy or Adele Joanna Harris equivalent) most of us would bite a publishers hand off if the deal was right. And that’s the crunch. IF THE DEAL IS RIGHT. So a good business brain, as well as a creative one, is handy in this situation. As for selling out, please, can’t we just be supportive of each other? An author is an author, after all, good, bad and ugly, and it isn’t anyone else’s business how we make money out of our work.

    • Well, I have already declined any future offers by indicating that I would not want any offer of literary representation if my book wins the 2013 NextGen U.S. Indie Awards. (There was a box to tick on the entry form.)

      I certainly would not criticize any fellow-writer for deciding to do what’s best for him/her-self and family. We all have a responsibility to ourselves to do what we personally think is best, given our circumstances and backgrounds. I understand this, and we should respect and support each other as writers. I harbor no enmity towards those writers who have been published by the big publishing houses. They are fortunate to benefit from the large advertising funds that traditional publishing have: funds that ensure that their books are more readily ‘visible’ to the buying public.

      For myself, declining a future offer is the decision I have made, in support of the principle that good writing should not be discriminated against simply because the author is not part of a traditional ‘system’. My point is that the only decider should be merit, and as I see it now, that does not appear to be the case. (Of course, who decides what has merit and what doesn’t, is entirely another question.)

      Perhaps only 1 in 1,000 indie writers have written something of real merit. But how many of these potentially great works are being let slip through the cracks because in the eyes of the traditional publishing ‘establishment’ they are not ‘qualified’. (I’m talking about fiction here.) And that is a great loss to our literary culture. I would have thought that writing, with its freedom of expression, would be the last domain to be ‘controlled’ in such a way.

      Traditional publishing complains that they are swamped with submissions. Yet if an agency were receiving say, 100 submissions a week, all fiction narratives, how much time would it really take to see if any were good?

      Most times, one only has to read the first 500 words of a book to see if the writer can write properly or not. So for a forty hour week, and at a reading speed of 200 wpm, a submissions reader could do the lot in a little over four hours. They would not even have to look at what’s in the proposal letters. (Yet they tell us that if the proposal letter isn’t ‘good enough’ it means the writer can’t write. This is a specious argument at best. At worst, it is a thinly disguised means to discriminate.)

      Far better, to simply read the first 500 words of the actual manuscript…but that’s apparently too much work; too much consideration to give the ‘wannabe’.

      If the Traditional System were to amend their websites to make it clear that ‘unqualified’ writers were not welcome, then I would consider any offers/advances they might make to me. At least there would be nothing misleading then – no meretricious ‘trinkets’ to hold before the eyes of young aspirants. And it would set in place, some interesting discourse: based on fact, not supposition. But of course, I doubt Traditional Publishing would actually have the courage to do this…

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