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Strength in Numbers: How ALLi Members Are Changing Minds about Indie Publishing

Human pyramid showing strength in numbers

Photo by Sofia Colado

“I know quite a few authors who have put an e-book out,” said the piece on the Writers & Artists website, “but there are a lot fewer that have taken the plunge into actual hard-copy print.”. 

What’s more, the reporter seemed quite astonished that her interviewee, thriller writer Mel Sherratt, had made a decent job of it.

Hang on, I thought. I know plenty of indie writers who make good print books. Some of us, me included, started in print before ever embarking on an e-venture.

I fired off a quick tweet to congratulate Mel for grabbing their attention, then turned my guns on Writers & Artists. I’ve always had a big appetite for correcting misconceptions.

Setting the Record Straight

“Enjoyed your piece,” I tweeted, “but you might be interested to know that many self-publishers have published credibly and creditably in print.”

Then I put a hood on Hootsuite and started work.

Come lunchtime, Writers & Artists had replied: “Interesting. Got any examples?”

I rattled off a list of tweeps I knew had print books, but knew I could do better. So I threw it to the ALLI Facebook group:

“Does anyone publish professional-quality print editions as well as e-books? If so, go and tell Bloomsbury’s Writers & Artists website…”

The response was immediate.

“Cheeky blighters,” said Dan Holloway.

“Been doing this for years,” replied Jessica Bell.

“Triskele displayed print editions at the London Book Fair,” said Jane Dixon-Wright, who should know because she’s their house designer.

Pretty soon, tweets were flying and Writers & Artists were telling their 4k+ followers about the lovely indie-produced print books they were previously unaware of. And we’re now all friends. Result!

The Power of ALLi

With the Alliance of Independent Authors, we have a terrific resource. Not just for our own learning and development, but for proving the diversity of our expertise and talents – both to publishing folk and to readers. Especially, as must happen in such a volatile environment, when a columnist makes an erroneous assumption about indie authors, what we publish and why we do it. Writers & Artists have responded with curiosity and interest, but there’s a lot of negativity from the traditional publishing sector, and we, by sheer weight of numbers, have the means to change minds.

One of my own bugbears is the assertion that indies write only genre fiction. If I respond as me, I’m just one literary author in a huff. But if I go to the group, I can scramble a whole squad of literary mavericks to prove it isn’t so. If someone says “indies only write ebooks”, we can deploy a posse of accomplished print self-publishers.

How many more assumptions can we challenge?

  • “They want help with the work of publishing?” We can field writers who do, writers who don’t, and writers who welcome all the hybrid approaches between.
  • “They’re rank beginners.”‘ We can muster authors with backlists, awards and decades of publishing knowhow.
  • ‘They’re burnt-out has-beens.” We have phoenixes who’ve lit fires under new readers and newbies who are investing serious effort in their art and career.
  • “They cut themselves off from foreign deals, subsidiary rights and bookshops.”‘ We can produce writers who go everywhere their traditionally published counterparts have.

We can prove what indie authors are really made of.

But more than that, we can make sure issues are discussed sensibly and in a balanced way. We can show where authors are struggling, even though the world is brave and new. We are all part of a publishing industry, and we need it to thrive so that we can continue to make books and have places to sell them. By speaking up when we see these misconceptions, we can contribute knowledgeably and usefully to its evolution.

Roz Morris, indie author

Roz Morris, Author Member of ALLi

Roz Morris’s books have been on the bestseller lists but not under her name – she ghostwrote for other authors. She is now coming into the daylight with novels of her own. Her first is My Memories of a Future Life, and her next, Life Form Three, will be released in winter 2013. She is also the author of two writing books – Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and how you can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence and has just released Nail Your Novel: Bring Characters to Life. Roz also has a writing blog Nail Your Novel. Connect with her on Twitter at @ByRozMorris and @NailYourNovel.

 

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17 Responses to Strength in Numbers: How ALLi Members Are Changing Minds about Indie Publishing

  1. David James January 28, 2014 at 8:51 am #

    Only just caught up with this thread, but on the subject of contempt for indie I have a couple of examples; 1) My local Waterstones failed to deliver on a promised signing. 2) A nearby Smiths said they got enough ‘local authors,’ and refused to display or offer a signing. In addition two local libraries declined displaying a poster because they didn’t believe in encouraging ‘commercial’ enterprises. Moving to Roz’s comment on the misconception that we indies are merely genre ebookers, this is so laughably wrong when a glance at our ‘list’ would show that. we have scores of hard copy literary authors producing quality work. As for the lack of Literary Fiction dig, that surely is a grotesque calumny. Anyway, if I may put in a ‘commercial’ plug, this will be soundly refuted by the current launch of The Quagga Prize for Literary Fiction promoted by and solely for independent authors. http://www.quaggabooks.net

  2. Kate Frost June 4, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    It’s very encouraging to know that Writers & Artists responded with ‘curiosity and interest’ and hopefully that negativity that publishers seems to have towards self-published writers will be swayed by not only the sheer number of indie authors but by indie authors doing it well – producing first class ebooks and printed books.

  3. Penelope Silvers June 3, 2013 at 8:32 pm #

    I guess I’ve always relished doing things backwards. I was more inclined to get my books up on the digital marketplace first, then I will set them up for print on demand. When you look at the numbers on Amazon, most of the ebooks are far outselling the print copies, but it is always good to have the print and audio version available as well.

    • Roz Morris @ByRozMorris June 4, 2013 at 9:45 am #

      Certainly it takes less time to get an ebook ready than a print book. With my last, once I was satisfied with the editing, it was a simple step to get the ebook into circulation. Preparing it for print had to be done afterwards, with the various tricky bits of formatting, designing a back cover. Then there was the turnaround to get a proof.
      I think readers these days don’t mind if there’s a small delay before the print edition is available. But with my books I find the print sales catch up so it’s definitely worth doing.
      I haven’t done audio, though, Penelope. Who did you use?

      • Penelope Silvers June 5, 2013 at 1:39 am #

        Hi Roz, My e-book is not yet in audio, but I am considering ACX.com. A fellow author actually set up an account to be a reader, and read her own books, as well as the books of others. I’m still looking at the options!

  4. Steven O'Connor June 3, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    ‘actual hard-copy print’ Hah! The reporter was probably thinking ‘proper book’ as they wrote those words – as some friends still say to me … ‘But have you published a proper book?’

    It’s not about format. It’s about good writing. We can all have our format preferences, I enjoy print books too. But the delivery mechanism of the writing does not determine if its a book.

  5. Melinda Field June 3, 2013 at 2:00 am #

    Of all the writing sites supporting indies yours is the BEST…excellent article here and I will mention it in my next blog post truemelindafield.blogspot.com Yes! Wake up trad publishing we work hard for our quality liiterary accomplishments…

    • Debbie Young June 3, 2013 at 7:28 am #

      Thanks, Melinda! And thanks for the mention too. I love the cover of your book, by the way, currently on the front page of your website.

    • Roz Morris @ByRozMorris June 3, 2013 at 9:00 am #

      Thanks, Melinda! Yes, they often don’t realise what’s happening in their midst….

  6. Philippa Rees June 2, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    I mostly seem to come first to the comment party, like one of those irritating guests who get at the nibbles while the host is still trying to ensure the whole meal will make it to the table, and she will be dressed to receive as well.

    The evidence you quote is both varied and plentiful (that self published authors are of all stripes, abilities, genres and reasons) yet the divide is undoubtedly there between the old guard ( and they are becoming increasingly entrenched) and the struggling ‘I can do this, watch me…’

    There will have to be a reconciliation because the latter need the skills of the former and the former still need the work. Writers can now publish without publishers, but not the reverse. If any publisher should not need this lesson spelled out it should be Bloomsbury whose fortune has been made by a one time struggling ( and nearly missed) JK.

    • Roz Morris @ByRozMorris June 2, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

      Hi Philippa! You certainly are the early bird but it’s always nice to see you.
      You’re right, some of the old guard are digging their heels in and will continue to for some time. Just look at the recent high-profile article by Ann Patchett, and the puzzling adoption of Neil Gaiman as a talisman for this year’s Digital Minds conference at the London Book Fair. They aren’t representative of the majority of writers or the prevailing attitudes in publishing. They are attempts to reassure the industry that the old order hasn’t changed.
      Anyway, we don’t need to convince them. We need to make sure that writers know they have far more options than certain parts of the industry would like them to know about. And particularly that nobody who self-publishes to professional standards should feel stigmatised or second best.

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