Making Room For Indies At The Table

A Publishers Weekly article today focused on how indie authors need to learn about "positioning." The piece says it's "imperative that indie authors do their research and spend time learning how to think like an industry insider, or hire outside people who have industry experience to maximize their chances for success."  Traditional publishing, says the story, is delighted with the surge of new voices (**cough, cough**) but indies can only fit in by acting like industry insiders. Oh, and indies should also throw money at the poor, downtrodden insiders who've been trampled by the indie revolt.

According to PW,  to properly position their work, indies should "angle" their work to readers, using genre, subgenre, the title, subtitle, the blurb and keywords. Indies must position their titles to ensure their "commercial viability in an overcrowded market." The article also recommends the following:

Positioning decisions can also downplay a certain theme by highlighting another that’s more saleable. For instance, addiction sells better than sexual abuse, so a memoir that has both might be highlight the addiction—in its title, subtitle, descriptive copy, and blurbs—and underplay or not even mention the abuse narrative, even though it’s there.

Funny, I've always believed that if I write the book I want to write, and give it a title, cover, subtitle, blurb and keywords that honestly describe the work, then readers will angle themselves in my direction, if my work is their "cuppa."  And it may not be because different strokes stoke different folks.  Nothing's wrong with that a'tall.  But if you're not naturally inclined towards the oddities of a duck lady who writes love over-the top for m/w and m/m, then I'd prefer you didn't spend your hard earned money for my work.  I gather that traditional publishing feels differently, and if they can angle their high-priced stuff into your wallet, they'd like to do it.

Traditional publishing still considers the sale the thing and the only thing.  Most indies, including this one, want their work to be read and appreciated, and sharing that experience with readers is more important than the bottom line.  That, I think, more than anything accounts for the indie revolution. We respect our readers too much to lure them into reading something they'd never choose to buy.

I haven't gambled in quite a while because too often the "new economy" doesn't cover all the basics, let alone the luxuries.  But back in the day, when the dollars flowed, Mr. Duck and I would take an occasional trip to a casino.  I stuck to the slots but Mr. Duck liked the tables.  Blackjack was one of his favorites.  Blackjack players hate to see a newbie sit down at the table.  Why?  Because a newbie doesn't know or follow the traditional rules about when to hit or stay or when to double down. The unpredictable play throws off the table and takes dollars from the experienced folks.

Indies are the newbies at the publishing table.  We haven't been following the rules so the traditional insiders can't predict our play.  Our daring honesty and respect for readers is taking a lot of dollars out of the formerly well-lined insider pockets. Now, traditional publishing pros are trying to "counsel" indies to learn the rules. What rules?  The ones set by traditional publishers to benefit traditional publishing, of course.

Sorry publishing pros, but I'm not interested in "positioning" readers because, unlike you, I think they're much more savvy than sheep who can be herded.  I'll keep angling with honesty and hoping readers enjoy my work. It all boils down to the difference in goals - publishing pros are in it for the money and indies are in it for love of the written word.  Maybe that's the biggest reason more and more readers opt to go indie.  Readers can spot a fraud at less than a hundred words. You might angle them once, but next time, they'll go indie.

And a crazy duck lady will welcome them with honesty and respect. Those are the values that create repeat business, whether we're talking about publishing, an insurance agency,  a car dealership, a restaurant, a big chain store or the corner market.