I’ve been all sorts of author in the fifteen or so years I’ve been doing this. I’ve climbed in and out of boxes again and again. So far, I’ve been:
An Aspiring Author
I was writing things, but nobody was publishing them. This is an awfully depressing sort of author to be, but I was young enough to be carried along by enthusiasm.
A Small Press Author
My stories were being published by small presses without much in the way of distribution, selling to a predominantly ring-fenced readership of genre enthusiasts.
An Independent Press Author
See above. People running small presses took umbrage at the connotations of the word ‘small’, because it became a byword for ‘amateur’. They decided they were ‘independent’ instead. There was no difference at all between a small press and an independent press. As should be obvious to all, it isn’t scale that distinguishes amateurs and professionals, it’s attitude.
An ePublished Author
A decade before the Kindle, a first wave of reading devices emerged, and my novel Cuckoo ended up being sold in those formats by an ePublisher. This did not count as being a ‘proper’ author, for ages.
A Professionally Published Author
Pushing it here, as my longer work has not yet ended up being published and distributed to the mass market (read ‘chain bookstores’), but my short stories have. Big, traditional publishers with the resources to reach readers offline, turn you into a professionally published author.
A Self Published Author
Since 2010 I’ve published novels myself, for the current wave of reading devices and in paperback.
An Indie Author
For a long time it was considered bad form to self publish, and the term became a byword for poor quality (sound familiar). The solution? Self-publishers became independent – or indie – publishers. There is no difference at all between a self-published author and an indie published author (aside from possible pomposity).
A Hybrid Author
Some of my stories are published by traditional publishers, and at the same time I also self-publish some of my stories myself. Apparently this requires a special term. Hybrid author, mysterious and exciting though it sounds, is somebody who does just that.
At every one of those stages I’ve been deafened by arguments about definitions. Noise, noise, and more noise. It continues today. For a long time those who are Traditionally Published Authors (ie they use a publisher to get their stories to readers) angrily denounced self-publishing and all who partook of it as being improper and inferior. These days, as it becomes increasingly clear that there are currently huge advantages to self-publishing if you’re prepared to do a lot of work, it’s become common for self-publishers to look down their noses at the poor, backwards thinking traditionally published people with their tiny infrequent royalty cheques and archaic contract clauses.
Noise, noise, noisy noise noise.
While I’ve been all of the writers I list above, none of it has changed what I do. I sit down and write stories. Everything else? A way to describe how those stories reach readers. There are lots of good reasons to work with a traditional publisher, if you can find one who wants to work with you. There are lots of good reasons to self-publish, if you’re prepared to do the extra work to get it right. Why is any discussion about this so full of self-serving noise from both sides? Why are there still sides?
A self-published author isn’t different from a traditionally published author. They write stories. Their success depends on whether people like their stories. End of… um… story.
I followed a link to another author’s website yesterday as their blog looked interesting. The title of their website was: Named Person: Hybrid Author. I stopped there. This is a person so wedded to arguments about a preferred system of distribution that it’s the only way they can think to define themselves to new readers. It’s an incredibly pointless thing to brag about. It’s like describing milk according to delivery method.
Milk float milk! Van milk! Bicycle milk! Lorry milk!
None of these are terribly useful description for the connoisseur of milk. Descriptors like skimmed, semi-skimmed, full fat… well, you get the idea. Those are things that the milk buyer wants to know. Delivery method? As long as it gets to where it should be on time, and no kittens are killed? Worthless.
We may as well start categorising authors by height. We could shout at each other about that for years.
Readers don’t care, because it’s the book, stupid. Good books win. Bad books lose.
I have never finished one book and said to myself “hmmmm…now I’m in the very mood for a story written by somebody who chooses to distribute their books both in the traditional manner and by using the new model of self-publishing”.
That’s how boring and meaningless these arguments are, outside of publishingland. I’ve fallen into these silly traps myself, but I’ve finally become incredibly bored by the conversation. The facts – how to, and what opportunities might present, and where the industry is going, and what might work for me – still interest me, of course. That’s the business side of things, and if you’ve been following The Freelance Leap you’ll have heard me discuss it all. That’s where it belongs. It’s a business decision. The ill-informed, noisy conversation, in which writers and publishers argue publicly about things that nobody else cares about? Boring. I’m bored.
Don’t be Hybrid Author. Don’t be Traditionally Published Author. Don’t be a Distribution Based Prefix. Nobody cares, except for the other Distribution Based Prefixes who want to get into a fight about whose Distribution Model is the bestest. Books can be good or bad. Distribution models are just stuff.
Just be an author.
Whoa… actually, I’ll step away from that one too. I’m with Tom Monteleone. I have never sat down and wondered what I was going to auth next. When I open the laptop up, it is never to do some authing. I have never consciously authored in my life.
Can I just be a prefix free writer now, please?
Currently reading (novel): The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman
Currently reading (novel): Fear of the Dark by Trevor Baxendale
Currently reading (collection): The DIamond Lens and other stories, by Fitz-James O’Brien
Currently reading (anthology): The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stores, edited by Anne and Jeff Vandermeer
Currently reading (non-fiction): The Anatomy Murders by Lisa Rosner