Mainstream vs indies…

I’ve never really wanted to get into the mainstream vs indie argument that has waxed and waned over the Net for the last couple of years. To me all writers are just that – writers.

How they are published is immaterial. What matters is if either have readers and if they can entertain. But this is Read an E-Book Week and somehow it seems appropriate.

Today I read a comment from a highly respected mainstream author, one of my favourite writers. It said that it is possible to write your first novel and publish it on Amazon Kindle  without any idea of intrinsic weaknesses within the work. Whilst it might not be construed from the comment that there is an anti- indie sentiment, I looked at the statement and wondered about my own process.

I, like that writer, have written stories since I was a child. As I’ve often said, I kept writing through my life just like an artist sketches. It was an interest, something that took me away from myself. As a corollary I was and remain a devoted reader. At the end of school, I won a state-wide prize for a short-story. At sixteen, I wrote my first novella, a spy story based in Europe. Whilst I still have the prize-winner, sadly I can’t find that first longer story although I remember it well.

As a mother, I had little time for more than a short-story or a page of prose. But the urge remained and I always had a pile of paper, a pen and a folder close by and managed to write three childrens’ stories.

Finally time was mine and I completed a writing and editing course and then wrote a YA fantasy trilogy. That story was my trial by fire and I still have it. I worked at it, learning, re-shaping, having it professionally assessed. I submitted it and had positive feedback, something that is rare from mainstream editors. But I knew it just wasn’t me, it didn’t fit. I needed my book to feel like a well-worn coat.

And then I wrote The Stumpwork Robe. I worked with a leading UK literary consultancy as it developed and was contracted as one of the Hot 25 Writers they felt had enough élan within their work to sell on. I came close rather a lot … one agent loved my work but after hard thought declined to take me. Then rang the consultancy back later in the week to say that she knew she’d kick herself for the decision she’d made.

Nice words. But they were just that … words.

A day after I was notified of this, I received an invitation to POD the novel which had accrued perfect comment on a peer-review site. By this time, I had been writing seriously for ten years and was approaching a milestone birthday. I realised simply that if I kept to that narrow mainstream path, my chances in my lifetime, despite all the reports and the praise, were slimmer than nothing. Editors told stories of slush piles being thinned cruelly with little care for merit and that some work was signed or not on grounds as subjective as bad-day PMT or a hangover.

POD meant I could take charge of my writing life and I thought, why not? Give me one good reason why not?

So I did … using professional services such as assessments, editing and cover design. A niche following ensued. With additional titles, my readership grew. Nothing world-shattering, just comfortable and steady.

So you see I am a writer, an indie writer.

Does it matter that I or any other writer is independent, not mainstream? Does it make us second rate?

In this day and age, many readers have become tired of paying high prices for mainstream work. They can go to any of the online suppliers and find truly brilliant authors that may have been bypassed on a PMT day and whose books are a fraction of the price – authors who rank #1, 2 and #3 for weeks on end.

So I guess what I am saying is that there may well be writers who throw their first ever piece of work on Kindle. Unless they are totally gifted, they are probably just a little silly but given time they might be #1.

What I am also saying is that I wish that there were no ‘them and us’ attitude between mainstream authors and indies, that they could read an indie author quite happily, the way we read them.

That we could all just exist comfortably in the knowledge that we are all writing for the same reason – to tell stories and entertain.