There was a discussion at a forum to which I do not have access right now, on whether indie publishing means you didn’t “make the cut” for traditional.
Do I have to revisit this? Apparently I do.
If I had the keys to the forum on me – I don’t. I’m away from home and don’t have access to a lot of stuff from this computer – I’d go in and point out it totally depends on what you’re talking about and what you want to do.
Note right at the onset that I publish both Indie and Baen. And that a lot of the stuff I intend to do Indie is stuff Baen wouldn’t touch (for its main publishing house, though I’ll try to sell it to webscriptions for those who read that way.)
What is the reason for this divided strategy?
Would I stop publishing with Baen so I can go fully Indie? Not only no, but h*ll no. And it’s not just because Baen gives me upfront money, though for a woman with two sons in college this is not sneezable-at (totally a word, shuddup.)
Baen has name recognition, and when you’re a wise, (trust me, on this) Latina, with a degree in literature and various odd opinions, you need that little rocket ship on the spine to convince sane people you’re not another feminist glittery hoo-ha of profound boredom.
Baen, to put it bluntly, takes me where I want to go with far less effort than I would have to employ to get there on my own.
This is because Baen – all praise to Jim Baen and Toni Weisskopf as his successor – has taken great care to build a cohesive brand. If you like a Baen book, chances are you’ll like the others. This makes it easy for readers to go “ooh, it has the rocket, I’ll read it.”
Do other brands in science fiction or elsewhere enjoy the same name recognition? Well, for a while bantam had a reputation as being more high brow than the rest but – nota bene – this was a reputation MOSTLY among writers, not the reading public. If you ask the reading public if a book is random penguin or Tor or… they’ll look at you blankly, with good reason.
For several years now, the other houses have made it a point of buying and disposing of in two books writers who didn’t miraculously become bestsellers with no publicity and no support, while cultivating and making artificial bestsellers out of a bunch of things with little natural audience.
What this means is that their print runs have shrunk and their trademark does not encourage anyone to buy.
So, let’s suppose you’re not writing something that fits the Baen trademark. And please, don’t tell me that the Baen trademark is “quality” – yes, it is that, but there’s more to it. Baen is plot driven fantasy and science fiction. It can have characters and worldbuilding too, and it usually does, but the Baen brand means a certain… feel. That’s why it’s a brand. Look, say The Man In The High Castle, which I like is NOT Baen. It lacks the pacing or the clarity of plot. The same for say Dark They Were And Golden Eyed.
As you guys know my random mind can produce Baen stuff and non Baen stuff, including VERY non-Baen stuff: mystery, romance, pseudo-near-literary, whatever.
For years, I gave my non-Baen stuff to other houses (okay sold – waggles hand) and I’m no longer doing that. Why not?
Mostly because I wouldn’t trust them – contracts, reporting, etc – further than I could throw them. I’m waiting till they either pull their heads out of their rearward facing orifices OR go under and something emerges to replace them.
But it’s more than that. FOR YEARS I worked for them and got ulcers. If you think there isn’t a political line, you’re nuts. I had to toe it and keep my mouth shut. Given the force with which my mouth tends to open – explosively – the unrelieved pressure was giving me falling hair and toenails. (You only think I’m joking.)
And beyond all that, let’s be honest here, my indie books net me a lot more money in the long run, if not upfront. So… What are the other publishers not Baen doing that I should give them that 97% of my potential income? I’ve already said that at least in my opinion they have no name brand recognition.
So, what are they doing?
Oh, they’re putting on a cover and putting it on shelves. Um… the first is dubious (is the cover going to be the same for almost every book in the series and make it impossible to find new ones? Because at least one house did that) and the second any more very iffy, because I once had six books out in one year and not ONE made it onto a bookshop in CO, and that was before the current contraction in shelf space. And yes, all these books were by major publishers.
So, I bring out my non-Baen stuff indie, and some of it I admit might be Baen stuff, but it’s experimental “let’s throw it at the wall and see if it sticks” stuff like Witchfinder, but marginal enough that I don’t want to metaphorically clog the pipelines with it. I prefer to send to Baen the books I KNOW they’ll be interested in, like the sequels to DST, or MIGHT be interested in like The Brave And The Free, or MIGHT be interested in like World War Shifter (Hurray for the Red Dragon.)
“But Sarah,” you say “You are a professional. You sell other novels.”
Guys, the truth is that there are novels of mine I couldn’t give away for love or money and that only sold after my first novel sold. And then they sold professional. BUT until I had contacts I couldn’t give them away.
It’s not just QUALITY that sells a book. It’s hitting at the right time, when you have the book they want. I have at least one series that didn’t sell to a given publisher because they’d just bought a “similar” one. If I’d sent it a week before, the other author would have been disappointed.
And I can tell you that the people I’m mentoring now, I recommend they don’t even SUBMIT traditional until they have the kind of book Baen might like. People like Kate Paulk, or Amanda Green or, yes, Cedar Sanderson. Or, oh, yeah, my sons. Because NO ONE deserves the “traditional publishers” (which Baen never was) right now.
In the future, maybe. But right now are the big bumblers (the big four and the boobsie twins, random-penguin) worth signing away your book for ten years, maybe forever? Oh h*ll no. I wouldn’t let my worst enemy sign up with one of the traditional.
But Sarah, you’ll say, isn’t it true that all self-and-indie published books are drek?
Eh. No more than traditionally published books are all drek.
First of all drek is a highly subjective measure. Second this is why Kindle (and most of the others) give you samples. You download the sample. The ABSOLUTE drek in indie, like the absolute drek in slush announces itself on the first paragraph in horrible spelling and terrible formatting.
“But Sarah, I’ll have to go through hundreds of books to find one I like.” Um… not in my experience. Look… Most of the really bad ones don’t stay up there long, or have so many one-star reviews you would only download them for funsies.
So, of the indies you might consider – not all uniformely one star reviews – and in whatever you’re reading at the time (Oh, please. Sometimes you feel like an elf, sometimes you don’t!) you might have to look at three or four before you find one you want to read and settle in.
Are you going to stand there and tell me to my face that you NEVER in your life went through that many while browsing in a bookstore? Lying is a sin, you know?
It’s just now the browsing is in your house and in your own time. And yes, sometimes you’ll buy a dud. Of COURSE you never did that traditional right? Which is why there aren’t book-shaped indents on the walls. (Of course you can’t throw the kindle. It gets expensive.)
So, is indie all uniformly drek? Smile when you say that. A lot of my friends and relatives are mostly indie, or will be (younger son.) And I think it’s the best decision for them. And I will read (and finish) their stuff.
Besides, writers like Larry Correia went indie first. Before anyone bought him. Does that mean he was Drek?
Oh, please tell him so, and let me take pictures while you do it. Better, let me take the movie of what Mrs. Correia does to you. Just YouTube hits would be worth it.
Seriously – if a writer is so lazy he will uniformly cast a lot of good books by the way side because one of the clown car publishers (and no, that doesn’t include Baen) didn’t pick them up… they deserve to be deprived of decent reads.
I yield to no one in my devotion to the Baen imprint both as a writer and a reader. And maybe someday Baen will publish the world, including Romance and Mystery. Until then, there’s indie. And for those odd SF/F that don’t quite fit the Baen imprint, there’s indie.
And this is why I walk between worlds, and I refuse to look down on those who don’t fit the Baen imprint and are making their own way. They might not be Baen-style, but it doesn’t make them bad quality and heaven knows as a very eclectic reader I find room for them in my reading list.
I completely understand if your ENTIRE reading list is taken up with Baen – a vast portion of mine is – but if you have room for other books outside that particular rubric, consider indie. There are gems out there, waiting to be discovered.