What am I? people so often ask. Really, as a first-generation American, it’s a question I’ve gotten too often. I’ll be honest: I generally find it annoying. My answer to people seeking to hear about my nationality, is this: I’m American. Even more salient a point: I’m a human being. I occupy the same earth you do, and its wellbeing affects us all.
Similarly, for those wanting to know whether I consider myself Indie or Trad, I generally feel the same way: Why are we segregating ourselves? We are all writers and authors. Why do we need labels? Why do we need to draw lines in the sand?
I’ve been published now for going on 28 years, which means that my publishing roots are 100 percent Trad. But I don’t consider myself either Indie or Trad. If you really need a label, the term Hybrid author most applies to me, but I dislike the word as well, because it’s just another label.
The next question I sometimes get, is: Why did you go Indie? Were you unhappy with Trad? People seem to expect an outcry. It ain’t comin’ folks. Okay, sure, I found frustrations. But I also learned a lot, and I have truly loved all my editors (I was lucky that way), and learned a lot from them. I wouldn’t trade the experience, and, yet, I have no regrets about my current path. The great news for writers is that there are more great choices available to writers than ever before.
Essentially, I don’t believe there is any one right path for an author to take and under the right circumstances traditional publishing is still a fabulous option. For me, I came to a point in the late nineties that I no longer enjoyed what I was writing. That, and life got in the way, so I took a hiatus from writing. When I came back to the industry, it was a different world, and I was determined to love writing again. For me that meant telling the stories I most wanted to tell and that was easier to do as an indie author.
In the simplest terms, I chose indie when I returned, because I’m a control freak. (It’s true; just ask my husband.) I love being a part of every aspect of publishing. But there was always a certain part of this business that we were not privy to, and I hated being in the dark. I love, for example, my current relationships with vendors, and feel extremely fortunate to be able to send an email to them and say, hey, this is working well, but how can I make it better? I’m thrilled to be able to cultivate these relationships. I also love being able to control which cover I use where, and I love having the ability to grow my presence in audio and foreign markets.
All that said, I have come full circle to write for Lou Aronica, whom I first met during my stint at Avon Books. Lou is a fabulous editor/publisher/writer, and while he’s also someone I consider to be a dear friend, he’s a fair-minded business partner who has a vision of a publishing experience that is not divisive in its makeup. It encapsulates the industry as a whole, and works symbiotically to promote a healthy marketplace and a better reading experience for readers. What does that mean? Well, more simply put, we’re all in this together, folks: Indie, Hybrid, Trad. Therefore, we should make no decisions that would devalue ourselves OR our fellow writers, or undermine the industry we hope to keep thriving well past our own lifetimes. As I determined upon coming back from my hiatus, I want to love what I’m writing, I want my readers to love what I’m writing, and I want to be doing this for a very long time.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, since we are all in this together, we should start acting like it. Amazon is not our enemy. Trad publishing is not our enemy. Amazon is a business, and its greatest concerns are its customers and its bottom line. If they can help us out in the meantime, great. But they are not necessarily our allies. Neither are traditional publishers. They too are a business, and they, like Amazon are concerned with their bottom line. Some of them realize that nurturing their authors is good for their bottom line, and some of them haven’t figured this out yet. It’s up to us to do the research to determine where we best fit. But, I do believe this: We do have potential allies in this business, and they are also our competition. Only the day we wake up and realize we are the masters of our own fates, and it’s not our competition that will break us, it’s the decisions we make, we’ll be better suited for success. Write the best book you can. Take the path that will suit you best. Then build up your fellow authors and the market itself rather than tear it down.
This blog isn’t necessarily speaking to everyone. Some of us seem to get the principle of building up our friends and peers (where possible), instead of tearing them down, because as a whole we offer more to the world together. Does that mean you won’t sometimes be overshadowed by someone who is temporarily shining brighter? No. Does it mean we are assured a place in a very competitive market? No. But the answer to these questions is still “no” if you decide to take a scorched earth policy and firebomb the world to get ahead. Because, hey there, Mr. or Mrs. Nuclear, guess what? You might shine for 15 minutes, but you’ve created an environment where your star will cease to shine at some point, and then what?
It’s time for writers in this industry to stop segregating ourselves, and start bolstering each other. I love this quote from George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones (Yes, I’m a GoT freak, and you knew it would come up eventually), “when the cold winds blow the lone wolf dies and the pack survives.”
I wrote this post because, in the wake of the latest RWA controversy, with rumors that this person resigned and that person resigned because of Indies, and, on the other side of the fence, “Trad authors know nothing” (like Jon Snow), and Indie is the way to go. [Notice significant eye roll here] To me, this all sounds no different than other divisive propaganda. So, let’s all get back to loving the craft, AND the industry, because it is the ultimate symbiotic relationship.
You really wanna know what I am? I’m an author, who is fortunate enough to have lived long enough to write under many circumstances. I’ve written for Avon Books, Harlequin, Kensington, and now for The Story Plant, and I’m so grateful for each of these experiences. I also continue to write under my own imprint, because, well, I can, and because my readers seem to want me to. But one thing I can promise at this point in my life, and hopefully it’s a promise my readers will take to heart. I will write as long as I love it, and I will write with passion, from the heart. And maybe, if I’m lucky, and I feel that way at 90, maybe I’ll still be writing the stories you want to read.
Photo credit: Stolen from Glynnis Campbell, whom I met in Dallas Texas, and with whom I shared an agent. Glynnis and I are still friends, and bolster each other when we can. It’s been a great ride, Glynnis!