My recent experience with Kindle Scout got me to thinking about a few things. One of those was how blurred the line between Traditional and Independent Publishing has become.
Here’s how I would define the two:
An author writes something. They then,
A.) Submit it to an agent who thinks either: This is great! I can sell it! (to a publisher); or, This is crap. But, I can sell it! (Because, yes, there is a market for crap. My wife perceptively calls it “click-bait.”); or, This is really crap. Forget it. Finally, there’s the peculiar This is good. But it’s not marketable. (Which is where I fall, as I’ve been told by agents, and one publisher.)
B.) Submit directly to a publisher, where their manuscript ends up in a slush-pile of unsolicited material. If their work happens to be selected by an acquisitions reader, the same considerations of our imaginary agent above are made.
On the rare occasion A.) or B.) leads to a deal for the author, the publishing house edits the manuscript, designs a cover, handles promotion and marketing, and distributes to booksellers. The extent of how much is done depends on the perceived viability of the author.
The author does everything: Writes; hires an editor; designs a cover or pays someone to do it; uses any number of self-publishing platforms to produce a print and/or e-version of their book; and promotes the you-know-what out of it! As I talk about in my blog post Another Writer, he or she becomes an “authorpreneur,” if you will. To be truly independent, a writer can publish via IngramSpark, set up by the world’s number one book distributor, Ingram.
The Dividing Line
The chasm between these two paths has been crossed in the past, and greatly narrowed and blurred in recent years.
There are writers (Sherman Alexie and Harlan Ellison come readily to mind) who are known to work closely with Small Presses in the design, layout, and marketing of their work. They form relationships with independent booksellers and self-promote, as well. And this is after years of free-lancing their stories to magazines and journals.
Since the paradigm-shift towards e-books and e-publishing, many best selling Indie Authors turn to traditional publishing houses to print and distribute their successful books.
Then there’s the Kindle Scout program, a kind of hybrid between the two. Here, works are selected for publication by the number of nominations they receive from “scouts”, and KS’s personal review. If chosen, Kindle Press offers a contract and handles much of the marketing. However, the author has to provide a finished (edited) manuscript, and a cover.
The results of Kindle Press’ choices are mixed. On one hand, there’s Sean McLachlan’s The Last Hotel Room, a tenuous tale with substance about a man who holes up in Morocco with the intent of eventually ending his life. On the other hand, there’s The Billionaire’s Bodyguard Bride. (I kid you not.) Quintessential click-bait! Do yourself a favor and read Katy Waldman’s article Which Bad Novel Is Perfect For You? written in 2015, shortly after Kindle Scout was launched, for more about The Billionaire’s Bodyguard Bride. (I’m serious. That’s the title.)
You might sense I’m a little bitter about my experience with Kindle Scout. A little, perhaps; rejection always stings. But I’m an independent, self-publishing writer, an authorpreneur. I’m slowly building an audience, and as long as I keep writing and publishing to the best of my ability, that readership will grow. Who knows, maybe somewhere down the line I’ll claim further independence and work with IngramSpark. Or, I’ll get noticed by a major publishing house and go a more Traditional route.
Either way, I’ll always be an Indie Author at heart, and by necessity. Because, as I’ve been told, I’m good, just not marketable.