Is it time for writers to drop the "indie" label?
April 16, 2012
There is an old joke about a blind golfer who approaches a touring PGA pro and asks to compete against him in a match. When the blind man will not relent from his request, the pro agrees to the competition.
“When do you want to play the match?” the pro asks him.
“Any night will be fine,” the blind golfer says.
What does this story have to do with the label “indie writers”?
It may be that the time has come to turn the tables on the big boys from NYC.
As far back as most of us can remember, the giant traditional publishers have played the book business with a home field advantage. Even as indie writers have made gains in the market, they have continued to buy into the categorization of authors as espoused by TP, allowing the big boys to dictate the rules of the game and continuing to focus their efforts on convincing readers that they, too, are “real” writers. By adopting this strategy, indies have at least tacitly agreed with the TP mantra, i.e., that TP writers occupy first class while indies hope to at least find a seat in coach.
Nowhere is the true state of affairs, not the one espoused by the big publishers, more evident than in the Department of Justice’s recent actions against Apple and several of the other big boys for illegal ebook pricing.
On April 11, 2012, U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke about the DOJ suit in a press conference. Here are some of his remarks.
In recent years, we have seen the rapid growth – and the many benefits – of electronic books. E-books are transforming our daily lives, and improving how information and content are shared. For the growing number of Americans who want to take advantage of this new technology, the Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that e-books are as affordable as possible.
As part of this commitment, the Department has reached a settlement with three of the nation’s largest book publishers – and will continue to litigate against Apple, and two additional leading publishers – for conspiring to increase the prices that consumers pay for e-books.
What are the terms of the settlement with the three large publishers?
If approved by the court, this settlement would resolve the Department’s antitrust concerns with these companies, and would require them to grant retailers – such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble – the freedom to reduce the prices of their e-book titles. The settlement also requires the companies to terminate their anticompetitive most-favored-nation agreements with Apple and other e-books retailers.
In addition, the companies will be prohibited for two years from placing constraints on retailers’ ability to offer discounts to consumers. They will also be prohibited from conspiring or sharing competitively sensitive information with their competitors for five years. And each is required to implement a strong antitrust compliance program. These steps are appropriate – and essential in ensuring a competitive marketplace.
So, the situation has been that large publishers have used the notion that their writers are the only real writers to maintain an artificially high pricing structure for their authors’ ebooks, a pricing structure that cannot be legally justified and has been nothing but a shakedown of American ebook buyers.
This means that we are about to see a wide-ranging downward shift in ebook prices for books published by the settling TPs. None of us knows yet where the price points for ebooks will stabilize. We will have to wait and see, but we won’t have to wait long.
In other words, there are no more first class seats. We’re all in coach together, the unwashed peasants rubbing elbows with the aristocracy.
The digital publishing world is the greatest example of democracy that has come along in the U.S. in a long time. It is eliminating the class structure in publishing.
And it is eliminating the class structure among authors. Soon we will no longer have “good” ebooks priced at $12.99 and “second class” ones priced far below them. Rather, we will have an equalized price system for all ebooks, whether they be TP books or indie books.
In such a world, the distinction between TP authors and indie authors has no place. We will just have authors. Authors the public will judge on their merits, not on the basis of a class system.
So, in this world that is now on the verge of becoming a reality, I ask again: Has the time come for writers to drop the “indie” label and refer to themselves simply as authors?
I would love to hear your thoughts.