Help starving artists like Matt Damon by reading the work of indie authors

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Last week I spoke to a great group of readers for the Friends of Mirror Lake Library in St. Petersburg. Much of the discussion was about indie publishing (read about it on their blog.) I asked the group how many people knew the name Hugh Howey. One or two hands went up. Die hard sci-fi fans know him, and even more people will know his name when Ridley Scott adapts his Wool series to film. Howey is not only a prolific self-published author, he isn’t shy about jumping on author message boards and offering writers good advice, debunking myths, and opining on the shifting sands of Amazon’s KDP program.

Then I asked the group if they’d heard of Andy Weir. Again, a couple of hands. The film version of his book The Martian became the top movie at the box office last week. That movie starred a fellow named Matt Damon who, once lamented the lack of decent scripts available to him, and wrote himself an Oscar winning screenplay called Good Will Hunting.

"The film version of the self published novel The Martian is #1 at the box office. How do you like them apples?"

“The film version of the self published novel The Martian is #1 at the box office. How do you like them apples?”

People might snicker at E.L. James’s 50 Shades of Grey, and the subsequent movie. Perhaps it wasn’t literary greatness – but rarely does literary greatness pay the bills quite so well. The point is, whether you are a DIY writer/publisher, or have a nice contract with the Big Six Five, matters less and less. Or, according to Author Earnings, it doesn’t matter at all. You are no more or less likely to toil in obscurity or become a household name.

The good books will rise to the top.

It’s not that it’s harder for an indie author to get noticed. They just skip that years-long process of getting a traditional publishing deal. I have a friend with a proper book deal with an academic press. The book is popular non-fiction, not some dry thesis, and in our writing circle we’re very excited for her. The process is taking years and years, and that is just how it works. She started writing her book before Andy Weir began the Martian. Hers hasn’t hit print yet, and Andy’s walking the red carpet. (Sorry redacted, we’re still proud of you.)

One last comment to tie this all together. Last week I had a little fun with Lorraine Devon Wilke’s article imploring self-published authors not to write four books in a year. Well, Lorraine (can I call you Lorraine?) is super cool and she tweeted my blog post and we had a nice “hi-how-ya-doin” in Twitter-ese. She’s a bona-fide pro whose novel After the Sucker Punch was turned down by a bookstore because it was printed by CreateSpace (that’s Amazon’s print-on-demand arm that does a better job of printing books than many capital “P” presses.) The quickest way for bookstores to (continue) to hurt their own relevance (and lose the battle with Amazon) is to shun the work of up-and-coming authors.

Thanks for reading. Do you have a question or a comment that you don’t want to leave for the entire world to see? Drop me an email at jkilewrites@gmail.com. I post once every week or two so sign up on the left and never miss a post.

-J.K.

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