The Blog Nobody Wanted to Publish (Except Indies Unlimited)

I’ve written a couple of articles for a local newspaper over the past few months. They have a large circulation, and they’re a cutting-edge newspaper, so it’s been very cool to see my name on their site. After attending a self-publishing fair recently I submitted an article to them. They passed, and so did one of their competitors. It might be the quality of the content or it might be the content itself. I’ll let you be the judge. Indies Unlimited stepped up and published it and I’m very thankful to them. Here it is in its entirety.

I spent a rare sunny Vancouver Sunday recently in one of the meeting rooms at the Vancouver Library. The BC Federation of Writers organized a one day Self-publishing fair. I’m a member of the Federation, so I went. It was billed as a “how-to of self-publishing”. It wasn’t. I should have stayed home and walked the dog.

I’m one of those self-published, or Indie, authors. I’ve published two books and the first one sold almost 30,000 ebook copies and became a bestseller on Amazon. I write for one of the top Indie author, I speak at writer’s groups about my self-publishing experience and I’ve been mentioned in Publisher’s Weekly and Forbes online. Amazon even called me one of their success stories of 2012. And, in Canada, the Globe and Mail did a full page story on me last year. So, I know a little of what I speak. The folks at the fair last weekend unfortunately did not. And, I say unfortunately because there were a lot of new authors in attendance trying to find out more about self-publishing and the information given to them was incorrect.

The traditional gatekeepers of publishing, the literary agents and publishers who for years controlled what makes it to book form and what doesn’t have been bypassed in the last couple of years by writers like myself. It’s now easier than ever to reach potential readers by uploading your work to websites like Amazon or Smashwords and selling your book as an ebook. There have been lots of Canadian success stories, authors who either couldn’t get published traditionally or decided to publish their work themselves, and in doing so found readers who wanted to read their books. Some of the successful authors who are working within the self-publishing industry even live in Vancouver. None of them were speaking at the fair. The whole mentality or mantra of self-publishing is that you do it yourself. Instead of using an outside firm or company to release your work, you make the effort and put out your own quality product. I stress quality because there are some things you shouldn’t do yourself. For example, I pay for editing and cover design. I do everything else solo. I know how to social network and advertise my novels online so I don’t need help with that. There are free programs online that will format my work (format, not edit) so that it will upload to the sites where I’m going to sell it. And, I can utilize an online print on demand site such as Createspace or Lightning Source to produce print versions if I want them and they don’t charge any upfront fees. So, as you can see, other than editing and that’s something that you should always pay for professionally, you can get your book out and into the market very quickly and efficiently without going through a middle-person, or a gatekeeper. When I talk to groups of interested authors about self-publishing, I stress the things you “can do” as opposed to the things you “can’t do”. Unfortunately, this was not the message at the fair.

I’ll give you some examples. One of the best known names in the Indie publishing revolution is Mark Coker. Coker founded Smashwords, a website that distributes ebooks to Itunes, Barnes and Noble and Amazon. His name is synonymous with self-publishing. I know him because we’ve emailed back and forth and I’m involved in the industry. I wouldn’t expect the authors at the fair to know who he is but the keynote speaker should have. She didn’t. She quoted from an article he’d written, and mentioned that she’d never heard of him and asked the assembled authors if they had. This was the keynote speaker from the BC Federation of Writers. I should have left at that point and taken the dog to the park. I didn’t though. I kept listening.

The Fed of writers introduced a company who for a fee will get your self-published print books into bookstores. The master of ceremonies told us first thing in the morning that bookstores won’t accept self-published books without going through a third party. Again, this is erroneous information. Locally, my first book is available at Black Bond Books (in fact I’ve done a book signing with those good folks at one of their stores), some of the Save-On-Food stores, and in lots of bookstores across the line, including Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, who bill themselves as the largest bookstore in the world. I had to knock on some doors to make this happen, but again, I’m a self-published author, and that’s how this thing is supposed to work. There were other errors in the information presented to the authors who sat there on that beautiful Sunday but the most glaring of all was from a presenter who had written and self-published a novel. I checked her novel on Amazon while she was speaking. It was ranked at 560,000. That equates to about a sale a month, maybe. Based on this expertise she’s written a series of books designed to help Indie authors self-publish and sell books. She spoke about the impossible. She said it’s impossible to sell tens of thousands of ebooks a month with only one book. She’s wrong, I’ve done it and so have many others. She actually scared the living crap out of me when she spoke about the pitfalls and all the terrible things that can happen. She talked about writing erotica and inadvertently releasing it in a country where you might be put on trial for obscenity. She talked about improper copyright pages and she spoke about all the things that can’t be done and then she talked about classes she offered on how to avoid all these calamitous circumstances.

The problem with her presentation and most of the others was that all the things the presenters said cannot be done actually can be done, and more importantly, is being done, every day by authors all over the world including right here in Vancouver. There’s a revolution going on in publishing. If you’re a writer and your content is good and your presentation is professional you will find readers, and there’s lots of assistance out there to help you achieve your goals. Check out or join an Indie Authors Facebook group. They’ll tell you how they got their work out to readers. For the most part, the community of Indie authors is more than happy to let you know what’s worked for them and what hasn’t.

As I finish this article with the dog snuggling up against my leg I realize she doesn’t remember last Sunday and the sunny walk we missed out on, but I do, and now that I’ve said my piece I’ve made a decision. I’d never try to give information or hold a fair that dealt with how to find a literary agent or be published by a traditional publisher. That’s not my area of expertise. I tried and couldn’t get in that door. So, like many others, I bypassed the system and found another way to reach readers. I know how to do that. The speakers at the fair did not. Just because you’re a writer or a member of a federation of writers doesn’t mean you’re knowledgeable in all facets of the publishing industry. In fact if you don’t know what you’re talking about you’re probably better to leave it alone. I’ll take the dog for an extra long walk tomorrow, even if it’s raining, and when the renewal notice comes in for my membership I’ll let it lapse. They won’t miss me, in fact they probably don’t even know me or any of the other Indie authors who are doing all the things, by ourselves, that they said can’t be done.

Martin Crosbie is the author of two self-published novels, a grateful contributor to Indies Unlimited, and a soon to be ex-member of the BC Federation of Writers.

Author: Martin Crosbie

Martin Crosbie is the administrator of and writer of seven published novels. His self-publishing journey has been mentioned in Publisher’s Weekly, Forbes Online Magazine, and Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. You can learn more about Martin on his Amazon author page.

76 thoughts on “The Blog Nobody Wanted to Publish (Except Indies Unlimited)”

  1. Telling people what they cannot do serves no purpose in the creative world except to enable those naysayers to stand on the backs of those who listened to them. This is a big world and there is plenty of room for success for those who do their best and are willing to invest time and effort in their work. How many wonderful pieces of fiction or poetry have we lost because an ‘expert’ told someone you can’t do that?

    1. Well said Lynne. I think Martin was being too polite to connect the dots in his article but it’s hard to see those examples as anything but self-serving.

  2. Good article, but seeing how much of a beating you gave the BC Federation of Writers, I can understand why a newspaper would not publish it, even if at the end of the day, this is an opinion piece. Sounds like all they had was a sales pitch, and sadly one that a lot of startups will fall into. The nature and freedom of being an “indie” works against us. To use your dog analogy, with all the great services available to us now, like Smashwords and Createspace, it’s like someone has opened the door to the backyard and we’ve bolted out at a million miles an hour, running around in circles, back and forth, panting and worrying about getting there fast, only to realize after it is all said and done, that we are right back at the door, tired and exhausted, just then noticing that the backyard gate was still closed; freedom was just a fantasy. Information and self-education are the new gatekeepers.

    1. “Information and self-education are the new gatekeepers.”

      Great line, Silvano, and very true.

      Still liked your post, Martin. Someone (I think it was Lin) did a post on how people sometimes don’t really know what they think they know. Especially in publishing these days, those with the most years are especially subject to that. The same potentially goes for anyone with a lot of time in any field that has changed a lot.

  3. You’re right, Jo. Rejection actually motivated me, so, yeah, bring it. Tell us we can’t do something and then stand back and watch us do it. Thanks for your thoughts.

  4. Lynne, when the revolution is over I’m going to make you a general or a colonel. Whichever one is higher-you’ll be it.
    And, yes, I agree, there was an agenda there methinks.

  5. Great post Martin, It’s a shame that the people that needed to hear this probably won’t. I just hope some of the folks at the BC Federation of Writers catch wind of this.

    Don’t know who Mark Coker is? Really? Not that everyone should, but the keynote speaker, phew. I’m off to share this with many of my PNW friends, maybe it will find its way across the border.

  6. Silvano, I thought I’d done well by not mentioning any names but you may be right, maybe that’s why the papers passed on it.
    And yes, we can run around the backyard chasing our tail or we can learn about the industry we’re in and treat it like the business that it is. My point was that the information is out there and we CAN do a lot of things ourselves as opposed to paying outside firms.
    Appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

    1. Ah, you did great. I just think that newspapers will be wary of posting a criticism of something they may even have vested interests in (crazy speculation on my part). You are absolutely right, it is an industry, a business meant to make someone money. People and companies are often popping out of nowhere to vulture in and capitalize on the deer-eyed new self-published author who thinks s/he just birthed a Hollywood movie script or New York Times Bestseller. It is a very sharp double edged sword that the internet gives us access to many tools and information to do it right (or to the best of our ability), which a lot of people also abuse to try to make a quick buck.

      New authors need to be wary of services, “contests”, review sites, bloggers, and sometimes even other authors that offer something too good to be true.

  7. Thanks Al. I left the fair thinking that either I knew way more than I thought I did or the organizers didn’t know anything. The truth is probably somewhere in between.
    Thank you for commenting.

  8. You’re bang on, Yvonne. They had a great turnout. There were lots of authors there or folks who just wanted to know more about self-publishing, and they left without knowing where to locate the information. Way too many “can’ts” instead of “cans”.

  9. More applause, Martin! This is fabulous, thank you. So much misinformation and ignorance going on out there. It’s truly frightening.

  10. The problem, in my humble opinion,is a plethora of information out there about self-pub. We don’t all have the same filters…we don’t all have the nose for a scam. What we do all have in common, is hope and it’s a damn powerful aphrodisiac. Enough that it can make person overlook a little roguish behavior, only to realize later that it was intended malice. IU and sites like it are taking up the mantle by publishing truth…example, articles like this. And I humbly thank you for it.

  11. Thank you for writing this. I actually ended up going the indie route after being discouraged by all the reference material telling me about the impossibilities of getting published traditionally–before I had even really tried. I am glad I went this route, but I have to admit that after listening to a string of self-proclaimed experts stating the impossibilities of reaching an audience, I do sometimes start to believe it. So I find your experience encouraging and your message spot on: It’s hard, and it’s work, but it’s possible.

  12. Well I attended my first “author oriented” presentation ever with Yvonne Hertzberger back in March at the Stratford Public Library, which was featuring Mark Lesie of Kobo Writing Life… and in that short period of time i learned a ton about self publishing, including Smashwords… but then again that is why I attended. I would not even think of standing up and speaking in that forum as I knew nothing about the subject…i was there to learn. Mark was a treat and is returning in May to speak further about ebook distribution and I can’t wait to hear from him again. I’m glad you spoke up Martin, because us newbies feel at times like we are dipping our toes into shark infested waters. I will be watching your blogs, you are on my radar now! Thanks for the review, even if i wasn’t in attendance…now I will go walk my dog too… lol

  13. That’s really nice of you, Jacquie, thank you. And, I suppose that’s true isn’t it. I might recognize which path is the quickest route but not everyone else would see it. I had just expected a little more from the organizers. Good luck, and keep hoping, it’s a great motivator too.

  14. You got it, Krista. It’s hard work, just like building up any small business from the ground, but you’re right, it is possible and we see examples of that every day when we look at Indie authors reaching lots and lots of readers.
    Thanks for your thoughts.

  15. Great article Martin. I’ll be spreading the word on my blog because we are the lucky Indies. We’re the ones who found the right information at the right time. With that BC Federation kind of misinformation being spread about out industry, it’s now our responsibility to put the facts straight, as much as we can.

  16. I told Martin he should have been one of the speakers – turned the whole thing on its ear with the possibilities. Granted, most self published and even many traditionally published authors don’t make the numbers that Martin and writers like him do but that doesn’t mean that a writer shouldn’t aim for that success!

    At least I got to see you and meet your beautiful lady.

  17. Excellent article. Such a shame an outfit that calls itself a Federation of Writers doesn’t have the common sense to know its own business. I’m not surprised the newspaper wouldn’t print it, lawsuits being so popular, and I’m glad that Indies did.

  18. Great post, Martin, and is truly sad people out there with no much experience is trying to teach those who have not or very little….basically the same the one trying to do the teaching. I saw the writing on the wall in our post that the author was just basically drumming up some other business for her because she isn’t making it writing yet. Sadly, too, there are a lot of blogs out there selling their little classes about how to do this or that because obviously they aren’t making it in writing books.

    1. Yes, and was said earlier, we don’t all have the filter to see what we need and what we don’t need. Indies Unlimited is a good place to start. Thanks for commenting, Jacqueline.

  19. Great post, Martin! I’m including a link on my blog back to this. It’s amazing how much crap is out there. It’s why I always steer new writers to IU. At least here you’re going to get folks who have actual experience in self-pubbing…

  20. Hey Martin,
    Wandered over here from Google+ and of course, know your story from Master Koda where I haven’t visited in a while. Great folks there. Felt like vomiting after reading this, perhaps because the same happens in the US. There is a women’s writers guild in NYC that is self-serving as this federation was and it is tragic. I am glad that you went though so you could share this article and information reminding us of what is and what to watch out for. I believe that traditional media including publishing can no longer call the shots. That’s why they are fighting to create harsher laws to penalize folks like Aaron Swartz who continually challenges them and they are attempting to put into place a new version of the old SOPA and PIPPA called CISPA. All to censor the internet and curtail innovation which can only benefit writers, bloggers, e-zines, etc. But too many are onto them; it will fail. If traditional media/publishing continues to attempt to control with its oligopolies, it is going to lose. Unless they start to embrace mid list authors through “unconventional” byways they will continue to lose market share as Amazon, et. al grows because they are so tied in to innovation. Traditional media/publishing can’t even attempt to compete in the new paradigm…it only knows destroy, isolate and conquer. That is why your generosity with writers and authors is so appreciated. Thanks for sharing this. We rely on social media, author/writer support and a free exchange of information. We rely on encouragement and uplift. Thanks for reinforcing the solidity of the new paradigm and self-publishing. You’ve once again inspired me and provided that needed jolt.

  21. Martin, good for you! Someone needs to say it. I’m sorry the paper didn’t have the courage to publish you article. The problem is much bigger than the BC Federation of Writers. The information at many writing sessions and conferences is oversimplified or completely misleading with regard to indie authors. My 17-year-old neighbor is an indie author who has had book signings at several regional Barnes and Noble stores. When he and his mother asked my advice, I said, “go indie.” He did, and he’s had tremendous success. It’s hard work, but if you think and act like an entrepreneur and write great books, you have as much if not more of a chance than a trad published author. Unfortunately, as several people commented, these sessions and conferences are often more about making money or building a reputation an an “expert” than offering substantive material. Yes, there are groups that “do it right,” but they are the exception rather than the rule. IU does a tremendous job of educating authors and I’m glad they had the guts to publish your post (though not surprised). We, too, would welcome a guest post from you at Thanks for “tellin’ it like it is” Martin. Bravo and bravo to Indies Unlimited as well!

  22. This was very timely, Martin. I’m printing it and will wave it around at a workshop on self-publishing I’m giving mid-year. Not in Canada, in Western Australia, but many similar things happen here. Thank you.

  23. I wonder if the negative approach has something to do with the stigma that is still attached to self publishing. Many writers’ organizations seem to be trying to deter writers from going that route.

    I am both self published and traditionally published. I work just as hard at promotion for all my books but make less money on my traditionally published book! (I did get a great cover and editing without having to pay extra though.)

  24. Martin, thanks for putting this so succinctly. I listened to a “Blue Sky” program on CBC radio a couple of weeks ago, and it was apparent that neither the host hor his guest were at all up to date about the growth of indie publishing on all fronts. My inquiry re possibly being interviewed on “The Next Chapter” (also CBC radio)with regards to my experience and knowledge of self-publishing was politely turned down with the pronouncement that “the topic wouldn’t be a good fit”. Traditional media is, in many cases, so far behind on the topic of self/indie publishing and where it’s at now, that it’s just painful to try to bring them up to snuff. Thanks for trying!

    1. Yes, I agree, Dianne. I tend to forget that there’s a huge section of the population that doesn’t realize what’s happening, and that’s because I’m here with you guys and we are all part of it. But, when I was at the fair with all those authors taking notes as the speakers gave their presentations it really hit home. We’re in the minority and the message still isn’t out there, yet.
      Thanks for your comments, they’re very much appreciated.

  25. Well done – this is a big wave in the rising tide of indie authors who are setting out to drown existing publishing! Here in NZ there are plenty of hidebound literary people and organisations who refuse to recognise the new options now available, but the tide is turning and many writers have been empowered to produce their own books. I’m loving the chance to bring hope to competent writers that their books CAN be shared with the world and it won’t cost them their first-born. Indies ROCK!

  26. In every field of endeavour there are exponents whose whole life’s work can be negated by new waves such as the one we see in publishing. So we mustn’t be surprised to find great resistence.

    There are people whose whole careers rested on the sustained “stigma” of self-publishing, and who understood that if the dam broke, there would be little to hold up all the mores and norms. Funnily enough, there are less people whose careers have been radically changed perpetuating the shattered myths than peripheral characters who seem sadly out of touch.

    1. Yes, but doesn’t it make the little victories and brief shining moments all the more pleasurable when we break through the resistance? And, the real victory is this-where are the readers? They’re right here, and they’re reading our work and enjoying it and there are more and more of them finding our work every day.

  27. I visited Vancouver in September, and was so envious of those folk, (such as yourself), to see a writing fayre/conference to take place after I left the country. I said to my son, I was tempted to stay on longer, and attend, as I don’t get those opportunities in Cyprus. Boy, am I glad I did not if it is anything like the one you attended, Martin.

    Thank goodness for intelligent readers who ignore who published what, where, and so forth. Good article, thanks for sharing. Hope the dog enjoys the extra walks, beautiful place to do so, and relax. 🙂

  28. Excellent post, Martin, and I tend to agree that vested interests would be the reason those ‘cutting edge’ newspapers didn’t want to publish your article.

    I’ve never been one to suffer fools or hypocrites but I find that as I get older I am becoming even less tolerant. It wasn’t exactly the same reason, but similarly a couple of years ago I voted with my feet in regard to a state wide writing group. Power to you my friend.

  29. Thanks, Martin. I have family members who are writers and graphic designers, so I’m very fortunate to have accessible editing and cover design. I know how lucky I am!

  30. Brilliant. And congrats on your success with your book. That’s what we are all dreaming of, and it’s good to hear that it does happen.

    So many people are doing it for themselves. We all have skills that are transferable. I’m a magazine sub editor and I’m busy transferring mine as are loads of indies. I’m shocked at the person who had not heard of Mark Coker. Faint!

    I hope your pooch got a very good walk in the end and his owner a very rewarding pint… or something just as refreshing.

  31. Hummmm, I sit here pondering. Wonder if the Federation (cough, choke, gag) ever heard of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, because that is who Mark Coker is to Indies. Never heard of him? Realllllllly? Me thinketh pants were on fire! This sounded way to much like a seminar in Vanity Press to me. Keep ’em away from Smashwords, they’re thinking. Index fingers crossed in front of them as if warding away an evil vampire. Tsk tsk. It won’t work, guys! We Indies talk to one another. Give us 6 months and we can have these guys squirming as we take our well-earned royalties to the banks.

  32. Thanks for your no-nonsense article on self-pub. I’m trying to learn all I can about it. You will enjoy Writer’s Digest (May/June issue). Their article a self-published Hugh Howey is a winner.

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