Last night I read through Mark Coker’s predictions for the indie publishing industry for the next year. If you don’t know who he is, he’s the founder of the excellent eBook publishers and distributors, Smashwords, who I used to publish A Grey Valentine’s. If you haven’t read his predictions for the next year, I recommend you go do that now.
Honestly, they don’t make for cheery reading. He points out some bright spots in the months ahead, such as audiobooks and podcasts look set to increase in popularity, but the overwhelming theme is that we indie authors are slowly losing our independence. The major culprit he points out is Amazon. More specifically, KDP Select.
Obviously, Coker has a vested interest in disparaging KDP Select as Smashwords, despite supplying them, is also in competition with Amazon, but I believe he’s right. KDP Select is limiting author’s choices while every day making it harder to resist joining. If we all become dependent on Amazon to sell our books then our power to control our pricing, as well as what we publish will be severely limited. If you don’t earn much from your books, or your income doesn’t depend on them then this might not seem a huge deal, but if you were struggling to support a family or trying to make writing your full-time job then the problems are a lot more evident.
The great thing about self-publishing is the freedom it provides by taking control away from traditional publishing. There’s little point if we’re just going to calmly hand over that cherished control to a corporation that clearly doesn’t care about books or authors. At least traditional publishers have checks to prevent the market flooding with poor quality books. Amazon has nothing of the sort and total reliance can only mean hardships for all. Except the people getting rich off it, of course, and we all know that’s not the authors.
It can be hard to see how to turn the tide in the face of such a well-organised attack on the indie author community, especially when it’s the author’s themselves who enable it. As Coker says, we’ve been unable to put together a sufficiently organised resistance. I doubt this post is going to be it. Nevertheless, I’ve put together a couple of ways we can all help the upcoming year be the best it can be for indie authors.
- Don’t use KPD Select. Don’t sign away your book, don’t buy from those who have. I feel bad saying this because I don’t want to punish authors who are just trying their best and I know nobody has ever signed up thinking ‘muwhaha, this will help erode that pesky independence,’ but the only way we could ever reverse this progression is to hit the company where it hurts – in the pocket. If authors see KDP Select isn’t helping them, they’ll bring their wares elsewhere.
- Read indie books. Leave reviews. Tell your friends. Interact with the authors online. Help each other out. If you can’t afford to buy the books yourself then try your local library. Show indie authors that they don’t need exclusivity to be successful.
- Be willing to pay. This is a tough one. Nobody has a lot of spending money. But don’t force indie authors to devalue their books. They worked hard on it and the story is worth your money. And if you’re an author, do your best to stand your ground.
- Keep producing top content. Keep writing those great books, keep updating that awesome blog, keep taking those gorgeous pictures. Build up the indie author community. Make sure everything you release into the world is the best it can be. Convince people we can and do produce quality work.
- Branch out. Try your hand at something new. Coker tipped audiobooks as growing in the next year. Maybe you could produce your own. Why not start that YouTube channel you were thinking of? Write a weekly serial story for your blog? Write your own author manifesto? We need to find every viable avenue for indie authors and make the most of it. Spread out, take as much control of our work as we can and refuse to let anyone sweet-talk it away from us.
I don’t know how much things will change over the next year. I’m not an expert, but I think these ideas could help us all a little. It’s worth a try surely. All we have to lose is a little time and money. All we have to win is our publishing independence and our dreams as writers.