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Opinion: Why We Need the Publishing Trade to Open Up More to Indies

Opening up to Indie Authors by ALLi

Debbie Young, co-author with Dan Holloway of ALLi’s guidebook Opening Up to Indie Authors, sounds a rallying cry to continue our #publishingopenup campaign – with a striking example of why it’s still necessary.

The Story So Far

In 2014, ALLi published a guidebook with three objectives:

  • to equip self-published authors with the information and attitude they need to collaborate successfully with other players in the book trade and literary environments
  • to tackle the challenges of incorporating self-published books into literary organizations and events
  • to raise awareness of the high quality and professional standards offered by the best self-publishing authors and encourage their inclusion

Fair treatment for all authors must surely be in the best interests of the most important party of all in this scenario: the reader, who doesn’t care how a book is published, as long as it’s a good read.

Encouraging Progress

Three years on, there have been enough encouraging developments to necessitate updating the book completely. The new revised edition will be launched as part of our BEA #IndieAuthorFringe event on Saturday 3rd June.

More Work to be Done

Yet there is still much work to be done, as indicated by this example that turned up in my inbox last week. The Mslexia Women’s Novel Competition is now calling for submissions from new writers as follows:

The competition is open to women of any nationality from any country, and welcomes 5,000 word extracts of completed, unpublished novels of at least 50,000 words in length (not including the title). As well as the top prize of £5,000, the winner and four finalists will receive manuscript feedback, and introductions to agents and editors, at a special event held in London.

Hmm, sounds good, I thought – nice and inclusive, with a  decent monetary prize. Then I clicked through to the small print and nearly fell off my chair when I read in the Eligibility section the following points:

  • Self-published manuscripts are eligible.

Whaaaat?!!! So self-published, on Planet Mslexia, means unpublished.

So what they’re saying is: this novel that I have in my hand, written and produced to professional standards, in paperback, available for bookstores to order through their usual suppliers, also available from all the leading etailers, amassing great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, with a cover endorsement by an internationally bestselling novelist, isn’t actually a published book?

Well, you could knock me down with a Birnam Wood twig (spot the pretentious literary reference – and beware, another follows shortly…)

To me, Mslexia’s line of reasoning echoed Macbeth’s false confidence that he could not be harmed by “man of woman born” – only to be killed by Macduff, who was “from his mother’s womb untimely ripped” i.e. born by caesarean.

Ahem. Just because a baby has been born with surgical intervention, rather than in the traditional way, doesn’t make it less of a baby.

photo of baby in black and white outfit

Exhibit A: my self-published (caesarean) baby – captured in black and white

Just because a novel has been self-published doesn’t make it any less a novel.

How You Can Help

Clearly we still have work to do here, and there are some easy ways for you to help us move things along:

  • Please use our campaign hashtag #publishingopenup when tweeting about relevant matters
  • Please share our blog and social media posts on this topic as far and wide as you can
  • Please sign our petition to pledge your support for its principles

Open up to indie author petition

  • If you have read and enjoyed our guidebook, please help us raise its profile by leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads
  • If you find great examples of sectors of the publishing industry truly opening up to indies, please let us know so we can share the news
  • Also please advise us of any bad practice you spot so that we can help change the minds of those responsible

Don’t forget to join us for our free #IndieAuthorFringe conference on Saturday 3rd June when we’ll be launching the new edition of Opening Up to Indie Authors, which ALLi members will be able to download for free (one of many benefits of joining ALLi) and non-members will be able to order online.

Why the publishing trade still needs to open up to indie authors #publishingopenup Click To Tweet

POSTS ABOUT SOME #PUBLISHINGOPENUP SUCCESS STORIES

Writing: The Thrill of Belonging to the SFWA

Writing: RNA Admits First Indie Author

Who’s Opening Up To Indie? ALLi Campaign Update

ALLi Book Launch: Opening Up To Indie Authors

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2 Responses to Opinion: Why We Need the Publishing Trade to Open Up More to Indies

  1. Heather B. Moon May 21, 2017 at 8:38 am #

    I totally agree Kevin! I really don’t care what ‘the old industry ‘ thinks any longer. ( love that phrase by the way!) I published with a small American publisher in 2013 but even though I had to do all my own marketing I was not in control of giveaways for promotion.
    After submitting to several traditional agents/publishers, using all their petty rules and regulations I decided to Self Publish. I am now in control! My book is a success, there’s another on the way using my time scale and I am in charge of price, royalties and any freebies for promotion. It’s fun, it’s hard work but no harder than being at someone’s beck and call. A bonus point is meeting some lovely peeps in a similar situation.
    Good luck to all indies out there!

  2. Kevin McLaughlin May 19, 2017 at 2:10 pm #

    Three years later, I think the biggest question remains: “should we care what the old industry thinks?”

    Writing orgs are now actively seeking out indies. They’ve recognized that indie writers are the dominant force in publishing today, and are responding accordingly. At the 2016 RWA nationals, via a show of hands very nearly 100% of attendees were either all indie or some variation of hybrid. SFWA is working very hard to update their own membership in similar fashion.

    Bookstores? Hmm. With less than a quarter of US fiction still being bought in brick and mortar retail sites – and that number dropping by the year – indies are forced to ask “is it worth the trouble?”

    Old guard contests, while neat, rarely factor heavily into successful indie writer business plans.

    The times have changed.

    The old groups and industry bits which haven’t updated their views on self-publishing are already slipping into irrelevance and will fade into obscurity over the next few years unless they change. Success and longevity for any writing organization, contest, or publishing tool is now directly tied to how relevant it can make itself for indies.

    We are the future for all of these groups. It’s not a matter of “if”, but “when”. They will adapt or die out and be replaced. The simple fact that most writers have already moved on from old publishing to new ensures that.

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