My career, my job, is an author and independent publisher right now. And I STILL get people asking me “well, don’t you want a traditional book deal though?”
So, first off, if you are asking this question you are implying that one is better than the other. I see them as two completely different paths. One isn’t the back-up to the other, one isn’t the fall-back. So stop and think before you ask this question. Maybe instead say, “what made you want to choose that option? Isn’t that a lot more work?”
Second, I’ve always had a weird relationship with this question. In the back of my mind are these dreams of being the big-name phenom author like Margaret Atwood and Stephen King. The idea that a certain level of success can only come from a traditional deal has been deeply ingrained in my mind for years, even though I am a full-time author and I create enough money to live on. When friends or family or podcasters have asked me this question in the past I always tried to hedge my answer. I didn’t want to say anything that could one day come back to haunt me if a traditional deal was offered so I always said, “never say never.” Right? I know I would still be on the hook for marketing. I know at this point the only way a deal would be offered is if my books really take off, at which point I may question what added value the deal would bring. But in general, I can’t see into the future. I didn’t want to say something I couldn’t step back from.
It has been long known that the traditional publishing industry needs to do better in terms of the voices they “permit” to be published. These are the mega gatekeepers and there was a visible trend in who was and who wasn’t getting through the gate. Over the years that I have been self-publishing and listening to industry news, I’ve become more aware of this problem. The problem has been there, I’m just now noticing it.
But then, traditional publishing didn’t make any changes. And then American Dirt happened (https://theconversation.com/american-dirt-fiasco-exposes-publishing-industry-thats-too-consolidated-too-white-and-too-selective-130755). And then Barnes & Noble’s Black History Month classic covers were announced (https://www.amny.com/education-2/barnes-noble-fifth-avenue-to-launch-sales-of-classic-novels-with-new-covers-promoting-diversity/). And then Little, Brown happened. (https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/82609-hbg-staffers-stage-walkout-over-woody-allen-memoir.html)
And let me tell you, loud and clear for the people in the back: I DO NOT WANT THE VALIDATION OF A TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING INDUSTRY WHOSE PRIORITIES ARE THIS FAR ASKEW.
Self-publishing and indie publishing has allowed for a democratization of books. When the publishing industry news sites report on the demographics of authors each year and point to how white and how male they are: they are looking at traditional publishers. Well, guess what, come and look over here in the indie space. That is where the voices who were kept out of traditional publishing are thriving.
So, would I ever want a traditional book deal? No! Why would I want to affiliate my brand with an elitist institution that has shown no intention of changing their ways?
Drop your comments below. And give me an “amen” by clicking the like button. I’ll be back next week once this tea has cooled off.
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