“And everyone is writing a book!”

“And everyone is writing a book!”

“Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book!”

(Often attributed to Roman lawyer and orator Marcus Tullis Cicero, 1st century, B.C.)

I love science fiction, but not all kinds. Never went for Creature-features, bug-eyed monsters invading Earth and ravishing sexually incompatible busty human females. Also not cheesy dystopian tales mimicking Mad Max, or shoot-‘em-up action-only space warfare stories modelled on WWII aerial and naval combat or first person shooter games but lacking zesty characters or rich alien cultures.

Star Wars managed to give us plenty of combat, yet we love those movies for the heroes, villains, and comic relief characters Lucas kept sending into the game from the deep bench of a truly creative mind.

Having said that, let me clarify: There are Indie (independent) writers producing great dystopian novels, great Earth-invasion scenarios, and great Military Sci-Fi novels, with good characters and plausible, intriguing alien worlds filled with new species who pass the “Yeah, that could happen” test.

Independent publishing has brought the democratization of the book industry.

Until the late 20th century, if you wrote a book and wanted others to read it (not everybody does), you had two choices.

1) Submit your work to a commercial publisher—anything from big NYC houses to five-books-a-year small presses scattered across the country. It was an uphill swim, like salmon trying to breed, that many authors could not surmount. So, an alternative developed, but it was expensive and labor-intensive for the new writer.

2) Hire a vanity press and self-publish—which not only cost thousands of dollars but made you custodian of hundreds of hard copy books that usually ended up stacked in the garage or basement. You had to find your own customers, package and mail the books manually, and go around town begging bookstores to please carry a few copies, or better yet let me have a book-signing event!

Neither of the above worked well for the average writer. Folks like Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlein, and Le Guin did okay. Most of us accumulated rejection slips (so did they when they started) from agents and publishing houses. Bummer. After slogging through a major novel, which nobody will publish, only the dauntless will begin the sequel.

Then, salvation—POD! Starting with fee-based models in the 90s, publishing on demand (POD) made it possible for everybody who wrote a book to publish it. POD publishers prepared your book in hard copy and e-book form from a manuscript you sent to them. You had to edit everything and do your own marketing, but THEY sent the ordered paperbacks for you and posted the e-book form which could be ordered on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. Although you paid a hefty fee up front (I shelled out $750 for my first POD in the 90s), it was still cheaper than vanity publishing. And you didn’t have 2,047 copies of Book 1 stacked somewhere in your house.

With free publishing through Amazon’s CreateSpace, which morphed into and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), anybody could play. And the flood gates burst open. All those people (see quote attributed to Cicero, above) now had the tools in hand to fling their rough-hewn manuscripts into the stream and see if they could swim against the current. Of course, you still had to edit and market. But now publishing was easy and affordable, depending on how much you sank into publicizing your work.

The blessing and the curse of Indie publishing

That’s the blessing and curse of Indie publishing. There are some amazing books out there by little-known writers. But frankly, there’s a lot of junk in the creek, too. An Indie author must get the attention of readers, so everybody tries their hand at self-marketing, for better or worse.

Indie authors who consistently generate good work begin to develop a following. It’s a snowball effect, and you pray the damned thing swells to boulder-size before it melts on the slopes. (Mixed metaphors. All wet.)

So, readers, you are the omnipotent gods of the Indie universe. If you like an author, follow him/her regularly, tell your contacts online, suggest the books to family and friends. Write a nice review at Amazon, Goodreads, or anywhere else you think will help the writer find new audiences. We don’t have the budget of a major publishing house backing our next release. It’s all up to you. (Thank you, Star Lawyers aficionados!)

And let me say, it’s working so far. Both the Star Lawyers main series and the Star Lawyers Origins spinoff have reached Amazon bestseller heights thanks to you.

So, let me get back to Star Lawyers – Book 4 – The House of the Silent Moons and Star Lawyers Origins Book 2 – Bad Moon Rising. See you out there in the Star Lawyers universe!

Tom Shepherd

Tucson, AZ

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