Wednesday, April 27, 2011


When I started this journey as an indie author, I went reluctantly.  I even avoided the subject, hoping no one would out me.  Why?  After all it was my choice.  I'd turned down a book deal to go indie.  Here's why.  Remember when indie publishing was called self-publishing?  I do.  As recently as a couple of years ago, announcing yourself as a self-published writer was the equivalent of going to a singles bar, walking up to a pretty girl and saying, "Hi, I have leprosy.  What's your name?"

Why is that?  And what's changed?  Well, it began in the music industry when bands like Death Cab for Cutie and Modest Mouse decided to get their music to the public directly, via their website.  Cut out the middle man and let their listeners decide if they liked the music.  It worked.  Many other bands have tried it since without as much success.  Why?  Because they weren't as polished.  It didn't resonate, so it didn't become popular.   

Then, once iTunes came into play, bands with record contracts like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails decided they'd put out their music directly as well, without the record company's meddling input.  They were lauded for their creativity and innovation.  Radiohead went as far as to allow the listener to choose what price to pay for the download. 

The same thing is happening now in the publishing world. Writers like Blake Crouch, J.A. Konrath and David Morrell who were well established authors within the literary world have decided to forego the traditional route for the indie path.  Is this safe?  Probably not.  Is it working?  You bet.  Their sales are enormous.  Especially with eBooks.

Which brings me to my point.  When the Sunday New York Times lists the top eBook sales for the week they completely ignore any indie writers, even though they are clearly outselling traditional writers with publishing contracts.  This week for example, Michael Connelly's "The Fifth Witness," was rated the #1 bestseller for eBooks, yet when you go to Amazon and look at the top 100 eBook bestsellers, "The Fifth Witness," isn't even in the top ten.  It's being outsold by at least two indie authors.  Don't get me wrong, I like Michael Connelly.  A lot.  This has nothing to do with established authors with established writing contracts.  This has everything to do with an old system which needs revamping.  

So why is the print industry afraid to acknowledge the success of these fine indie writers and their growing number of fans?  I think you know already, don't you.  They see the future and that's not a pinhole of light at the end of the tunnel, it's a train.  And it's coming fast. 

So let's all agree there are indie authors who don't exactly have polished material.  They lack certain editing skills and literary muscles to create a good book.  But that doesn't mean we should ignore the writers who are out there publishing fantastic work on their own, via Amazon or B&N.  And as far as the New York Times goes, you might want to step aside before that train gets there.  Or at the very least send a journalist to report the damn thing.


  1. Well said Gary!

    Ultimately they'll pay the price for this kind of reporting. A percentage of their readers are buying indie books and loving them. Then they're seeing this list in the paper and wondering where the integrity is.

    We could argue all the way to claiming this is propaganda. Or ask, are the Big 6 financing this list through kickbacks?

    Speculation abounds...

  2. Great post Gary. It heartens me to know that the landscape is changing. Here in Australia, traditional publishing has been such a "club" that emerging authors could hardly get a look in. That has all changed now and it will further change as the eBook and POD options take off more and more.

  3. It is all interesting to me as I see self-pubbed authors getting into traditional publishing and traditional authors getting into the self-pub arena.

    I did an article on my blog a couple of weeks ago on this weird "grass is greener" phenomenon. Still, I am intrigued about more stories from both camps.

    I'm not sure I buy into the term "indie author" though, from a semantic point - as I think "indie" has already been coopted commercially by independent publishing houses not affiliated with the big publishers, but that's a semantic game for me and a self-identification adjective for you, so I'm not passing judgement :).

    Anyway, always intrigued to hear how it is going on both sides of the fence. The landscape is definitely changing. Not sure better, worse, or indifferent. But definitely changing.

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed your piece on the ever-changing landscape of publishing, Gary.

    Today, established and emerging writers are embracing the new technology, namely e-books, and are able to compete in the once dominated world of mainstream publishing.

    The future for people who want to be read is looking more positive than ever before....

  5. Thanks you guys. Yes, thanks Stuart, the one thing I forgot to mention is how good this is for readers. And since we're all readers, we benefit as much as anyone.

  6. The NYT is a dinosaur in several ways. Add in their cozy relationship with Big Publishing, and that pretty much explains it.

    I can understand concerns over quality control, but good authors will watch that even when they're on their own. It's often not much better in traditional publishing, where that part is taken out of the author's hands. I'm reading a hardcover that has over 300 errors in it. The author himself said so. Even for 1100 pages, that sounds a bit high to me.

    As for the quality of the writing itself, let the readers be the judge.

  7. Just as an author must fear obscurity the most, a news organization must fear irrelevance. The NYT risks irrelevance when their list is so biased and far from the truth.

    And John Locke having what, 6 or 7 books on Amazon's top 100 list isn't worthy of being included in NYT's list? Of course, we all know what a small and obscure outfit that Amazon company is--they are totally going nowhere fast, no? :P

    Nice posting, Gary.

    Kate Madison
    Coming Soon: Empty- A Post-Apocalyptic Romance for Young Adults (With Zombies)

  8. These comments are so good they must all be professional writers, so I'll just say thanks to Gary Ponzo for not only keeping us entertained, but having such a fine site to generously showcase say nothing of good, solid articles such as this one. Very insightful. Thanks!

    ps...and when do we look for the "Deceit" sequel? And how will it debut? Or is that all secret? Am I nosy or what?

  9. WOW. This is fantastic. I've been moving towards the idea of ebook-publishing for a few months, but hating the phrase "self-published author." Indie Author? Yes, please. I just put my first novel up on amazon yesterday, still waiting for the cover photo, etc to catch up to it. But it's OUT THERE. I'm scared and excited, but I feel I'm doing the right thing for me. Thanks so much for this. I needed it.

  10. You bet Tamara. Good luck. Stay tuned for more Indie info.

  11. Liked this post - There are some writers who might not have the polishing skills, but their stories are so raw and compelling that it doesn't matter (doesn't happen often, but it does happen). So why stop them from publishing?

    I am so excited about this new wave of publishing.

  12. As I've watched the Amazon Kindle rank for one of my books rise each week to as high as #118 this week, I don't really care if I ever make the New York Times Bestseller list.

    Because they have chosen to ignore the success of self-published authors like us, the significance of their bestseller list will continue to erode.

  13. The new cover looks so unbelievably amazing!!!

    Well done Gary, well done!

    Can't wait to read it.

  14. yeah in the last years Indie people has improved their skills in this theme, and I have to say that a real good achievement, congratulations for all your Indie people keep working in that way.