Gina Penn, unabridged.

Advantages to Going Indie

I’ve been holding out on writing this post for quite a while.

Part of me said to write it would be a mistake; I’ve still not stuck my entire foot in the water of the indie pool, only my toe. Scared, I suppose would be the reason for that, because I don’t like branding myself “indie” or “traditional”. If an agent offered to rep me I wouldn’t say no-I think a lot of indies feel the same-and yet sometimes I feel that I would hesitate before saying yes. The writing world is changing, after all, and not for the betterment of agents. Unfortunately, the problem with agents and publishers, is that they tend to back what’s safe instead of what’s good. Money makes the world go round, don’t you know.

There are advantages to both sides of the coin (traditional & indie). When I stop and think of the advantages of being traditional, it sounds very appealing. No stigma, placement in bookstores, professionals backing and believing in your work and talents, etc…  And yet I can still remember the very moment I first learned about independent publishing. At a Writer’s Digest thing a few years ago, this had been. It was a magic feeling of…possibility?

I guess I’m writing this to remind myself that being an independent isn’t as bad or lowbrow as people think, particularly the writers that are vehement about going down the traditional trail.

1.) Rebel – Going indie appeals to my rebellious nature. I don’t immediately dismiss good advice or things that are “popular” just because, however, I do tend to think and consider a little longer than most. I move slower than normal, which annoys the crap out of a lot of people, and I always arrive in my own time. My mother, who was in labor with me for well over a day, will testify to that.

2.) Freedom – Not much needs to be explained here and no matter what side of the fence you’re on, you understand this. There is so much more freedom in being an indie and I’m not just talking about the choices you make for your bookcovers. Your career is yours to cultivate as you wish, like an exotic breed of rose in your own private garden. I don’t have to worry mightily about how something might look to the public. If someone says something I don’t like, I don’t necessarily have to bite my tongue (although sometimes I do, I will admit). I’m allowed to write what I want, say what I want, do what I want. There’s no publicist, agent, publisher, or anyone else there to slap my wrist over a public faux pas. I realize the flip side to this as well, of course I do, but the feeling of not only having wings but being allowed to use them is priceless.

3.) Community – There is a sense of community in the indie world that you just aren’t going to get in the Hollyweird world of traditional publishing. I imagine it’s the same for those who toil under the indie flag in the movie-making world and also the indie music world as well. We’re all in this together. I can recall not so long ago that a traditional author insulted an indie writer and the indie community put the smack down so hard that the traditional author had to issue an apology. Yeah. I kind of like that. Don’t fuck with us. Cause we fuck back.

4.) Trust – It always surprises me how authors are willing to hand over a manuscript that they’ve worked, sweated, cried, and shed blood for rather easily to an almost complete stranger with the “agent” or “publisher” title, and yet we revere our phone numbers and our weight the way KFC locks up the recipe for their tasty fried chicken. Even more perplexing when you consider how many times we’ve never received a formal rejection for a submission, which means our hard work is floating around in the universe of the Internet, for anyone to steal.

5.) No Contract – There is nothing legal binding me or the brilliance in my brain to any particular person or publishing entity for any amount of time. I know we have to click “agree” before uploading our work to Amazon but I think most people know what I mean. I can pretty much quit writing if I so choose-not that I want to-but I like the option of the ability to stop should I go Hemingway and slip a few cogs.

I’d love to hear some thoughts on this. Hope you read to the end. Thx.

18 responses

  1. Hi, Gina. Thanks for sharing this post. I know many are struggling/second-guessing their stances, too. I spent 20 years dreaming of being a writer. I’m still shocked that it actually came to fruition at a time when others might have given it up as a pipedream (I was nearly 40). Everything is changing. Maybe it will take this generation to change the frame of mind. I’m sure recording artists didn’t feel the same, holding their first record in cd form because they grew up with vinyl. I had an e-book for a year before it came out in a softcover. I didn’t sleep with it beneath my pillow, but there was definitely something in the back of my mind that said you’re not a writer until you’ve got that physical book. Very soon the stigma will be gone; if you’ve got a book, you’ll be an author. It won’t matter whether you published it yourself, had an agent or used POD. I suppose we can only hope so, anyway.
    Thanks for offering gifts for comments this week.
    Happy hopping!


    October 26, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    • Thanks for your comment! I’ve had much of that stigma myself, it’s especially strong when I’m surrounded by writers that are die-hard traditionalists. It’s something I must learn to endure and get over.

      Have a great day!

      October 27, 2011 at 8:50 am

  2. Very good post! The #1 reason I chose the Indie route is the subject matter and style of my writing is not, strictly speaking “saleable” to the “masses” – I’ve submitted work before where I’ve had commentary such as make Heroine X “sexier” or “spunkier” blah blah – and no. I’m glad there’s an alternative to the status-quo and the Independent community is it. Be it musicians, writers, film-makers. It’s about marching to the beat of your own drum.
    Bravo, Gina!

    October 26, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    • That’s one of the biggest reasons I picked the indie path. I don’t write subject matter that’s “safe”. I’ve received little notes with my rejections saying “Please submit again! Your writing is very good, just not a story we’re accepting at this time.” Horror is very niche but I’m not going to write a paranormal romance with vampires and werewolves just because that’s what’s selling. I won’t do it.

      Thanks for visiting my blog!

      October 27, 2011 at 8:53 am

  3. GIRL! I *love* this post. You know how I feel about traditional publishers, so we are of like minds on a lot of your points. I especially like what you said about the community. Hell yes! Don’t fuck with us. We will totally fuck you back! LOVE THAT!

    Off to Tweet now. 🙂 You rock!

    October 27, 2011 at 8:07 am

    • Thank you! I had a feeling that this post would appeal to you. It’s actually been in the “drafts” phase for quite some time and I just hadn’t finished off the list until recently. The close-knit community of indie writers is one of my favorite things about it. It’s a very supportive atmosphere. I go through phases where I hate writing and want to quit but I’m always bombarded with folks telling me not to give up. I wish I would have had this type of encouragement in college! xoxo love ya, girl!

      October 27, 2011 at 9:04 am

  4. Great post! I like this line in particular –

    “Unfortunately, the problem with agents and publishers, is that they tend to back what’s safe instead of what’s good”

    How true! And as a result, we get a downpour of, say, vampire romance novels (no disrespect to people who write those stories, but they seem to be all the rage these days).

    Just before turning 30 this year (in fact, five days before), I published my first short story. I just thought, “fuck it, I’m not going to be slaving away sending submissions/queries galore, just for the one person who read it, not to like, and reject it. I’ll let the readers do that.”

    October 27, 2011 at 8:15 am

    • Hello!

      Agents and publishers (and even contests like WD) DO back what’s safe and not what’s good. I understand why they do this but I don’t feel it’s right. Just another gatekeeper telling us what we can and can’t read. Who are they to judge? What makes them all-seeing and all-knowing? A lot of great books were rejected at one point because it wasn’t what was “safe”. Thank goodness for people actually willing to take a chance.

      Have a great day!

      October 27, 2011 at 9:07 am

  5. Yup, yup, and yup. Hell, I saw this day coming five years ago… even before the Kindle existed. It’s still kind of spooky to watch it arrive. I loved a recent comment by Switch11 on the blog: “in the 4 years it took Publishers to march from their castle to the town walls, Amazon found/built/expanded a secret passage and took over the castle.”

    Either route — indie or trad — involves a lot of time and work though. It’s ironic that publishers have made it easier to choose indie though, by dropping a lot of the work they used to do (beta reading, promotion) back on the authors. And for all the trash talk I hear about poorly-edited indie work, I’ve sure seen a lot of typos and howling print errors in so-called professional books of late… so maybe publishers are expecting the authors to handle the editing too?

    The Big Name authors aren’t feeling any pain yet, but mid-listers are getting killed out there. Those are the people I really feel sorry for.

    October 27, 2011 at 8:53 am

  6. Hi Gina – found your blog via the Coffin Hop.

    Hop you don’t mind me pimping my own blog too, but I wrote about this quite recently. There’s a lot of rational, logical reasons to self-publish (which you’ve covered well) but I think there might be some more subconscious reasons lurking underneath:

    October 27, 2011 at 4:10 pm

  7. Jason Darrick

    You know how I feel, I got one absolutely ridiculous rejection letter from a publisher and said “never again.” That’s not to say that I slag trad-pub authors at all, because I firmly believe that everyone finds the business model that works for them. I’m glad to see this post from you, now you just gotta pimp The Dark Layer.

    October 27, 2011 at 5:22 pm

  8. I recently got hooked up on LibraryThing & have read a lot of great books by self-published authors that probably would never see the light of day if they had to rely on getting accepted by one of the big publishing houses. Seems to me that anyone wanting to test the waters of publishing, would be foolish to not consider going this route.

    drainbamaged.gyzmo at

    October 27, 2011 at 5:43 pm

  9. I’ve seen this discussion pop up a lot with writers. I asked Tom Picirrilli what he thought and others. I got mixed responses. Some authors think that you are selling yourself short and it’s not as legitimate. Others think that it is a good way to gain exposure for yourself. Personally, at this time I’m not self-published and am going to stay that way. But I might change my mind in the future. We’ll see… I think both are fine. You can be Indie and a great writer or go with an agent and be a great writer, but I think having an agent and publisher to work for you saves you, the writer, more time marketing, etc. If you go Indie, you have to really market and do it well. Otherwise, it’s not worth it.

    Coffin hopping today …

    I write dark fiction too. Have an interview with Ellen Datlow up this week on my blog. Hop on by!


    October 29, 2011 at 8:29 pm

  10. Great post. I wrote one myself a few months back and shared many of the same feelings you did here. Going indie has made me part of this amazing group of writers–it’s like a secret society, and I love it! 🙂

    October 29, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    • Thanks! The one thing that I’ve noticed is that indie writers don’t judge. They don’t care what path to publication you take. On the flipside, ones that go the traditional route are so mean and full of judgement. I’m not down with that. Giving credit where credit is due, some trads are cool but most of the ones I’ve encountered approach the idea dripping with disdain. I suppose maybe the bitterness is because they’ve dedicated so much time to one set of rules, only to have the rug pulled out from under them? Maybe. I only hope that one day we can all hold hands and sing around the campfire together, in peace. LOL. Might sound corny but it’s a picture I like to envision.

      October 29, 2011 at 11:41 pm

  11. Great post, Gina! And your points were expressed nicely.

    October 31, 2011 at 2:01 pm

  12. It is the feeling of possibility that you mention that convinced me to go indie. I finished my novel and was dreading the agent query cycle. I hate the feeling of begging to be given a chance when there is the opportunity now to make my own chances. I don’t think going indie has to be less ‘legitimate,’ especially if you are willing to take the time and money to produce a quality book. I trust readers to decide if my book is worthy of their time.

    November 6, 2011 at 9:16 am

  13. This was a great post. I found it via luck and absolutely loved what you had to say. Now, where’s that “subscribe” button?

    I recently finished a novel and have been submitting it to some agents. Rejections abound, of course, but that was expected. I’m relatively unfazed by rejection. It’s like being part of a club.

    What bothers me, though, is knowing that my story is likely to be rejected right off the bat because of length — about 142,000 words. It’s science fiction, which is naturally kind of long, and I don’t think there’s a lot of dead space in there. It meanders a bit, but that’s purposeful. Likely, there’s stuff that a professional editor would cut, but I think — content wise — it’s about where I like it to be.

    But everything I’ve read about querying and trying to publish a novel by traditional means tells me that an agent will never go for a book that’s more than 120,000 words. They are too long, cost too much to print and prove the author can’t edit his or her own writing. It’s completely disheartening to know an agent will look at that word count and toss the thing away.

    So, the more I think about what I’m trying to accomplish as a writer, the more I realize that I’d probably be happy publishing through CreateSpace or something like that. In fact, it’s only the stigma inherent in self-publishing that gives me any doubts in the first place. I’m not looking to get rich or famous or anything like that; I want to write what I enjoy writing, regardless of the market, and let other people who are interested in the subject matter read it, too. That’s what matters to me most of all.

    The more time that passes, the more excited I become about self-publication.

    Thanks again for the great post. Many thumbs up…the most giant thumbs you can find.

    January 9, 2012 at 5:07 pm

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