Indie writers go through a growth arc as they learn and apply new skills in their writing and in the many other aspects of book production. We don’t have the luxury of passing a manuscript off to Emily, the bright-faced publishing house intern, who will take it from there. Being independent means being responsible and engaged with every aspect of book production.
Nobody comes out of the birth canal with all the requisite skills and knowledge. We each have to learn the intricacies of the business for ourselves, and this can be challenging. Fortunately, the indie author community is remarkably good about sharing information. It is a rare thing indeed to run into an indie author who is not willing to talk (sometimes at great length) about tips, tricks, scams, strategies, or shortcuts they have learned along the way.
I like to think Indies Unlimited is also a great help to indie authors. This site has a tremendous repository of information available at no cost whatsoever. We also have a few handy reference books available at pretty reasonable prices (ahem).
But through whatever means, individual writers will either figure it all out themselves or connect with peers who provide some helpful mentoring. Maturation does occur and the product is an accomplished and skilled author.
In a general sense, that which applies to the individual applies to the movement as well. Just as a single author struggles through the growth arc, so does the independent movement.
There are any number of ways to characterize the phases of the growth, but I figured, since writers are human, why not use the phases of human development as an analogy?
Babies can’t really do anything for themselves. They managed to get born, and the rest is up to someone else for a while. Mostly, they cry and slobber and burble and coo and spit up and make frequent stinkies. Just so, the indie author movement managed to get birthed, but otherwise mostly just annoyed the party guests who in turn offered bland pleasantries and hoped we would soon be put back in the crib.
Walking, teething, and talking come about in this stage. We got noisier; some of us managed to knock over a cookie jar or two. There is still the occasional stinkie to deal with, but we are beginning to express ourselves in unique ways. We color outside the lines. The grown-ups put some of our “art” up on the refrigerator.
This is where we really begin to irritate the grown-ups in the establishment. We’re hanging out and playing with the other kids. There are scraped knees and climbed trees and lots of big dreams. We hear stuff, learn stuff, ask too many questions. We are not satisfied with the answers. Our arguments are based on the issue of fairness: Hugh Howey wrote a best-seller, why won’t you let me? Mostly, the answer is an exasperated variation on Because I said so!
These are the rebellious teen years. Oh, Mr. & Mrs. Bigink don’t like this at all. There is a lot of sass and back-talk. This is the part where they begin to fear us. We’re doing everything they told us not to do. They’re concerned with the company we keep. I don’t want you running around with that Indies Unlimited gang – they’re nothing but trouble. If you want something to do, why don’t you go to over to the Author Solutions teen center?
I think that is about where we are collectively. The next phase is adulthood. What will that be like? Who knows? We’re here because of the failings of big ink. We may be their unplanned and unwanted children, but we are here nonetheless. Mainly, we we don’t want to grow up to be like our parents.
I worry about that, though. I look around the neighborhood and see indies playing author guild, building their little clubhouses. I see indie publishers playing dress-up. I still see little indies crawling into that unmarked van with the stranger who offers them candy.
Overall, I think we’ve grown a lot. I think the future is promising. There will always be challenges, but we will find a way. We’ll make it.