I am not going to talk about which is better – whether you self-publish your book or traditionally publish the same is your choice. If you want to know which is better in the Indian scenario, let me know in the comments and I’ll make a separate blog post on that. For now, I want to talk about the growing enmity between indie authors and traditionally published ones.
NOT ALL INDIE BOOKS ARE BAD & NOT ALL TRAD BOOKS ARE GOOD!
Let us first accept and understand this statement. Around ten years back, there was no choice. If you write a book, you need an agent (literary agents are still neither popular nor compulsory in Indian publishing Industry) or a publisher to accept your book and publish it. The agents and publishers are like the bouncers you encounter in a discotheque. If your manuscript is not well turned out, you can expect to be kicked out of the party. Sometimes, certain bedraggled characters (Nepotism, Red-tapism and favouritism are rapid in this industry!) do slip their notice and enter the party. So, not all traditionally-published books are excellent. However, you had no choice. You need to wait in the queue patiently, allow yourself to be examined, either enter the party or get kicked out, redress the issues and get back in the queue.
Nowadays, with the advent of Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and the emergence of online print-on-demand services, you don’t need these bouncers to evaluate you. If they do not allow you to enter the party, you start your own party! Some of them start their party without even waiting for a chance to get invited to the big party.
Attending a party and hosting a party are two different things. When you attend a party, you can relax (publisher runs around getting the book printed, distributed and marketed), enjoy the surroundings (book launches, book tours, meeting other authors), get VIP treatment (The popular Indian literary festivals do not celebrate self-published authors – it is not fair but it is the truth!) and concentrate on getting ready for the next party (I mean, you get enough time to write the next book). However, when you host the party, it is your responsibility to make sure the snacks are of good quality and sufficient quantity (the editing and proofreading in many self-published books is minimal or non-existent) and that you spread the word about the party all around (you have to market and talk about your own book! Believe me, that is pretty embarrassing and could be a turn-off to those who receive the message.) Still, many authors choose to self-publish their books because it gives them freedom and better revenue.
While there are all kinds of case studies in both the scenarios, what I cannot understand is the reason why there is such a huge rift between indie writers and traditionally published writers in India. The trad-writers look down upon self-published authors as if they are the lowest rungs of the literary ladder. Why? What is so wrong about self-publishing a book?
At the other end of the spectrum are the indie writers. Despite all their best efforts, they know that they are not given the respect and recognition that they deserve. Crippled by this sense of inferiority complex, they direct their anger not at the system but at the helpless trad-published authors.
Writing is neither a remunerative nor a fame-gathering occupation. We willingly take on the struggle and strife because each of us has a story to tell. The least we can do is to stick together and help each other as all of us are climbing the same ladder. Stamping those beneath you or pulling down those above you could be the stupidest thing to do. Rather, it would be better to shut down, buckle up and keep climbing your own ladder, the one God has destined for you.
Keep Calm & Write On…