Anthony Lee Collins talks about Indie authors and Self-published authors

A Sane Woman by Anthony Lee Collins
A Sane Woman by Anthony Lee Collins

I am so happy to introduce, Anthony Lee Collins, as today’s guest blogger!  He’s a great friend and talented author, and I was so happy that he accepted my offer to become a guest blogger! 

Welcome, Anthony!

First of all, a big thanks you to Emerald for hosting this guest post. I’ve been thinking of writing about this subject for a while, and it seemed right for it to be here because it was Emerald who gave me the idea. Then, right before I could ask if she’d be interested in a guest post, she asked if I’d like to write one. (Of course, I said yes.🙂 )

I’ve been self-publishing since 1990, and I’ve always called it “self-publishing.” And a lot of people still talk about “self-publishing,” but I’ve noticed that Emerald calls it “Indie” (for “independent”), as in this post. I started to wonder if they were two different things, or if the terms had just changed. For example, if you published a novel by yourself when I was young it was called “vanity publishing,” a term you don’t hear much anymore.

When I started self-publishing, there weren’t a lot of people self-publishing prose fiction. A lot of people were doing self-published “mini-comics” (black and white, photocopied, in various sizes: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini-comics), and I believe it was quite common for poets to put together small volumes like this as well. But you can’t self-publish a whole novel by printing it on letter-size paper, folding it over and stapling it.

Well, you can if you do it one chapter at a time. So, that’s what I did, creating little monthly chapbooks of A Sane Woman. That project was not finished at that time for two reasons: 1) Even charging a dollar a book, I was losing money, and 2) I discovered the possibility of getting my writing to people online (on dialup BBSs – the web didn’t exist yet). So, I switched over to that new medium.

I’ve continued to use the term “self-publishing,” both because I’ve always used it and because so many other people seem to. But I don’t think it’s really accurate for what’s going on now. When I was publishing A Sane Woman back then, I was writing, editing, proofing, laying out, copying, folding, stapling, and mailing. I did everything but draw the covers. That’s self-publishing, obviously.

But today, if you’re writing, getting assistance (professional or otherwise) with editing and proofing, hiring a cover artist, having books manufactured by Lulu or CreateSpace, and getting them sold in some form by Amazon or Smashwords or whatever, that’s not really DIY (for “do it yourself,” as we used to say).

At that point, you’re really doing the exact same thing that the major publishers do, in competition with them, and that’s “independent.” For example, that’s what “independent” meant for small movie studios in the 1990s when they became a major force in Hollywood, including the “The Year of the Independents” in 1996 when four out of the five Best Picture nominees at the Academy Awards (including the eventual winner) were from independent studios.

The big-time “self-publishers” today have much more in common with Miramax and Fine Line than they do with the way I was publishing A Sane Woman all by myself in 1990.

Bio: Anthony Lee Collins has been writing fiction for over forty years, and he has been self-publishing in various forms for over twenty years. His first novel, A Sane Woman, is a mystery story. His second novel, U-town, is a gritty, urban, magical realist story. His blog (at www.u-town.com) has been up for six and a half years and is updated once a week. The posts are focused on writing, movies, Robert Altman, and Thomas Pynchon, among other subjects.

8 thoughts on “Anthony Lee Collins talks about Indie authors and Self-published authors

  1. I, for one, am glad I don’t have to worry about the DIY method. I’ve known self-published authors in the past, and don’t have the gumption to do what they do/did. I preferred working with traditional editors and publishers with my non-fiction. But when independent publishing took off, I jumped ship and started writing indie fiction. The bottom line — I’m making the same royalty for a book 1/10 the price, selling more, and I don’t have to worry about being remaindered when an editor moves onto the next best thing.

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  2. I never thought much about the distinction, but I guess that puts me still in the self publishing category. That’s not a complaint, though. I love doing my own cover design, marketing etc etc.. even my Website is a labor of love. Amazon has made file conversions simple (to .mobi), but i did that myself as well.
    In my efforts to turn out a quality project, I’m acquiring a true understanding of the extent of work that goes into the business, whereas a year ago, I probably thought that being an author was just “writing”.
    I think that doing it this way, as Mr. Collins no doubt can attest, gives a greater appreciation for the traditional publishers. Although I prefer the advantages of doing it myself, I can see where the money would be going if i decided to go traditional and had to settle for a contract offering 8% royalties.

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    1. I was getting at the more general point, but personally I think I’m mostly a self-publisher. Yes, I have a book, but that’s an anomaly in a “career” mostly devoted to letting people read my writing for free. Unfortunately, you can’t give hard copy books away (at least I can’t), but everything else is free.

      The biggest amount of effort is getting the words right. And, yes, that is a lot of work, which may be part of the reason that A Sane Woman took 15 years to complete (despite being fairly short).

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  3. There are many art forms one can do and not have to go through the same tiny bottleneck of gatekeepers as one must with writing.

    I can paint paintings and hang them in restaurants, and I have. I can make pottery and sell it on the sidewalk, which I have. I wrote some novels, and emailed some people, and they said no. Ah, but then there was Amazon.

    Ta da! Now I have 3 novels and while they are not in ritzy art galleries (or the literary equivalent), they are somewhere I can share my art with others. Woohoo! Most of us “indies” or “selfies” (see, selfies doesn’t sound right) have incredibly modest dreams, and are so grateful to have the opportunity that today’s technology brings. E-readers ARE revolutionary.

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  4. Another area where it’s easier is music, as I know from experience. Get some instruments, write and learn some songs, get some bar to let you play, and you’re set. And nowadays put your MP3s on the web.

    You might not sell so much, but I knew a lot of bands who bent over backwards for the record company, fired members, rewrote songs, hired producers they hated, followed every order, and still didn’t sell any records. 🙂

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