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Episode 9:   Indie Author Manifesto

Learn the fascinating history behind the centuries-old struggle for free expression.  Mark shares how the roots of today's indie author movement reach back to the introduction of Gutenberg's printing press.  Gutenberg's printing press enabled mass communication of the written word, but also led to enormous social, cultural and political upheaval as those in power sought to control free expression by controlling the printing press.  Mark carries the story forward to the present where he explains how ebooks helped democratize book publishing by putting the printing press in the hands of all writers.  He reads and dissects his Indie Author Manifesto, first published in 2014, which describes the ethos and attitudes of today's indie author.

 

Supplemental links (includes fun links not mentioned in episode):

Original Indie Author Manifesto (Go here to download or print the Manifesto)

Dan Poynter on the Future of Books (Smashwords Blog, 2009)

Dan Poynter, The Father of Self-Publishing, Passes Away (Smashwords Blog, 2015)

Gutenberg

Gutenberg and his legacy (University of Texas)

Johannes Gutenberg and his press (Wikipedia)

Martin Luther

The Power of Luther's Printing Press (Washington Post, mentions an interesting book titled, Brand Luther)

How Luther Went Viral (interesting story from The Economist gives Luther a modern spin)

How Technology Helped Martin Luther Change Christianity (NPR story)

Ninety-five Thesis by Martin Luther (Wikipedia)

History of book publishing

Morgan Library (if you every visit NY, and you love books, literature, book history and book art, this is a MUST VISIT museum)

History of book publishing (Encyclopia.com)

Censorship and Free Expression

John Milton and his Aeropagitica

Beacon for Freedom, a database of censorship

Medieval books

Medieval book production by monk scribes

Medieval manuscripts on Twitter (follow these people to fill your Tweetstreem with beautiful illuminated manuscripts):

https://twitter.com/BLMedieval | https://twitter.com/DamienKempf | https://twitter.com/SexyCodicology

DMMAP - links to digitized medieval manuscripts

 

Transcript:

Welcome to the Smart Author Podcast, where you'll learn to publish ebooks with greater pride, professionalism, and success. I'm your host, Mark Coker. Let's get started.

In this episode, the Indie Author Manifesto. 

We'll examine the rise of indie author movement and place it within the greater context of the centuries-old struggle for free expression. All social, political, and artistic movements are grounded in revolution. Often, they're born of struggles for greater equity, opportunity, and fairness. From these seeds of discontent can bloom new perspectives, new approaches, and disruption of the status quo.

A mere 10 years ago, writers were forced to bow subservient to publishing gatekeepers. You needed a publisher if you wanted to reach readers because publishers controlled the printing press and access to retail stores. But to get a publisher, you first had to land a literary agent who would advocate on your behalf to the publisher. Most writers would not survive the gauntlet of agent and publisher rejections.

Self-publishing existed back then. In fact, self-publishing has always existed, even before the development of written language. The first humans to draw pictures on cave walls were self-publishing their stories, fantasies, and wisdom.

Back in 1979, the late great Dan Poynter, the man I consider the father of modern day self-publishing, published a book titled,  Dan Poynter's Self-Publishing Manual. He continued to update the book regularly until his death in 2015.

Dan was an outspoken evangelist for self-publishing. Dan's Self-Publishing Manual taught thousands of writers how to think, act, and publish like a pro.

Yet despite Dan's amazing guidance, wisdom, and foresight, self-publishing 10 years ago was viewed as the option of last resort for failed writers.

That belief was grounded in some truth, but not for reasons you might think.

Back then, the writer's failure was blamed on the writer. There was this false idolatry back then of traditional publishers, a belief that only publishers possessed the divine capacity to identify writers worthy of publication. There was this notion that by rejecting books, publishers were doing both the writer and the reading public a favor.

Publishers and their supporters would point to all the great books published by publishers, all the classics and all the amazing New York Times bestsellers as evidence of the curation value these publishers added as gatekeepers. They published the best books and protected readers from the riffraff.

Yes, publishers add a lot of value, but the underlying premise of the publisher's role was a farce.

The reason publishers published all the bestselling, best known, most admired, best books is because publishers decided which books were published. Publishers decided what readers could read.

You never hear people blaming publishers for all the thousands of literary masterpieces that were rejected and never published. These books, and all their potential, went to the grave with the unpublished author. We can't measure these books or quantify them, but we know we've lost them. Lost. Gone forever. It's a tragedy of human potential if you think about it. Books make an author's voice immortal. These unpublished authors are dead to the future.

When we look back at those so-called failed writers of 10 years ago and those who came before them, their failure was not necessarily due to their writing skills. Maybe they failed because the publisher refused to give them a chance. Maybe their style or ideas were so ahead of their time that their books couldn't have been appreciated for their brilliance until generations later when viewed through a different lens.

Starting around 10 years ago, several technical developments came together at the same time that set the stage for the publishing industry's eventual democratization and renaissance. These developments were catalysts. These catalysts, all of which are interrelated, would upend traditional publishing and help make Dan Poynter's dream of author-centric publishing a reality.

Let's quickly itemize the four catalysts. I've touched on some of these in prior episodes, though we can now begin to view them in a new light. Here we go.

THE FOUR CATALYSTS OF DEMOCRATIZED PUBLISHING

Catalyst number one: ebooks. Ebooks made publishing less expensive because there were no bits of paper, glue, ink, or cardboard and no fossil fuels necessary to transport these heavy objects from manufacturer to consumer. There was a lot of ebook buzz about 20 years ago, but the essential building blocks weren't yet in place for the rise of the ebooks. My next item is one of those essential building blocks.

Catalyst number two: high quality e-reading devices. One of the first commercially available e-reading devices was the Rocket e-reader, which came to market in 1997. It was priced at almost $500 and it only held 10 books. Yet early adopters of ebooks loved it. Sony was another early innovator, first entering the market in 2004. But their devices were clunky and difficult to use.

Things changed about 10 years ago. In mid-2007, Apple introduced the iPhone, which quickly became a popular e-reading device thanks to its beautiful, vivid screen. Then in late 2007, Amazon introduced the Kindle, which offered convenient wireless downloads of ebooks. I remember sitting under a tree on Waikiki Beach when I downloaded my first ebook over the Kindle. It was a revelation. The Kindle was much easier to use than its predecessors. With Amazon, we had the world's largest online bookseller putting their full marketing muscle behind this new method of reading books.

In those early days, the Kindle was aggressively promoted smack dab on the top of their homepage to all consumers. Then within the next 18 months came other great new e-reading devices from Barnes & Noble and Kobo and others. All these high-quality, affordable e-reading devices made ebooks accessible, discoverable, and enjoyable to new readers.

Catalyst number three: ebook publishing platforms. The introduction of the first ebook publishing platforms 10 years ago, like Amazon KDP (originally called "Digital Text Platform") in late 2007 and Smashwords in early 2008, democratized the means of book production. These virtual digital printing presses made ebook publishing accessible to all writers at no cost.

Catalyst number four: the democratization of distribution. Because ebooks are composed of digital bits and bytes, and these digital bits are easily transmitted, stored, and reproduced at near zero cost, it finally became logistically and economically viable for every retailer to stock every ebook, including the ebooks from self-published authors. Once self-published ebooks gained access to this valuable virtual shelf space, these books started selling.

These four catalysts set the stage for a publishing renaissance. Finally, every writer in the world gained access to the tools they needed to publish and distribute ebooks.

As I discussed in Episode Eight, The Art of Delusion, when I first introduced Smashwords to the world in 2008, my crazy idea of democratized ebook publishing was met with a fair bit of skepticism and scorn.  But Dan Poynter welcomed my ideas with open arms. Dan was one of our most vocal and most prominent evangelists in those early years.

Over at the show notes for this episode, at smashwords.com/podcast, I'll share a link to an interview I did with Dan Poynter back in 2009 at the Smashwords blog. His advice to authors from almost 10 years ago was prescient, and it remains current to this day. I'll also include a link to a memorial I wrote about Dan when he passed away in 2015. If you don't know Dan or never had the privilege of meeting him, you might enjoy discovering his memory now. We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.

Let's go back to 2008. Back then, ebooks accounted for less than 1% of the overall book market. It's fair to say that 10 years ago, most authors and publishers, myself included, were clueless newbies when it came to ebooks. Although the rules for professional print publishing were known to publishers and known to readers of Dan Poynter's Self-Publishing Manual, the rules for professional ebook publishing were not yet written.

Between 2008 and 2011, the ebook market grew exponentially as millions of readers transitioned their reading from the printed page to digital screens. Ebook publishing platforms enabled thousands of self-published authors to enter the market for the first time and gain retail distribution alongside the ebooks from the large traditional publishers.

Unlike large publishers, those early self-published ebook authors didn't have the luxury of million-dollar marketing budgets, neither did these authors possess the decades of institutionalized experience locked within the hallowed halls of those traditional publishers.

But sometimes ignorance and naivete can go a long way.

These scrappy authors wanted to reach readers. They were forced to figure out how to do it on a shoestring, and they made their way with ebooks. They got creative with their covers, their pricing, and their promotional strategies. They use social media to forge direct relationships with readers. They made many stumbles and bumbles along the way, but they continually adapted and learned from their experiments. Some of these early authors started discovering the formulas for success.

By 2009 and 2010, self-published ebooks were achieving impressive commercial success. Amanda Hocking, the first indie author to sell over one million ebooks published simultaneously with Amazon and Smashwords in early 2010. Amanda and other indies like her began hitting retailer bestseller lists and then the national and international bestseller lists. These indie authors' success, both small and large, inspired fellow writers to view self-publishing in a new light.

By 2011, I found myself increasingly impressed by the growing professionalism I witnessed among our authors. It dawned on me that Smashwords authors weren't just learning to adopt old best practices for print publishing. These indie authors were pioneering the new best practices for ebook publishing. The tables had turned. The playing field for ebook publishing wasn't just leveled; it was actually tilted to the benefit of these indie authors.

These scrappy indies could publish faster, smarter, and cheaper. By publishing books that were as good or better than the books from the large publishers and by pricing them lower, indie authors were stealing market share away from the very publishers who just months earlier had refused to publish their books. Now every time a publisher rejected an author, they were creating a new self-published author. They were creating their future competition.

Inspired by the sophistication and success of these early indies, in 2012, I published my free ebook, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, where I identified 30 best practices of the most successful indie authors. I don't know when the term "indie author" was first used, but by 2012, many self-published authors were wearing the indie author label as a badge of honor.

This was an exciting development. The yoke of dependency upon traditional publishing gatekeepers was being cast aside and the movement was gaining strength. I felt fortunate to find myself a front row witness to this unfolding revolution.

To fully appreciate how far the revolution has taken us, we should step back and reflect on how we got here.

The seeds for the indie author revolution can be traced back over 500 years to Gutenberg's invention of his printing press in 1450, and specifically a printing press that utilized movable type. Movable type enabled faster and cheaper printing, which then laid the groundwork for all manners of social and cultural upheaval that continue through this day.

One of Gutenberg's first clients for his printing press was the Catholic Church. The church used the press to print indulgences. Indulgences were like a get out of jail free card, but, in this instance, they allowed parishioners to purchase spiritual absolution for the sins of dead family members so that these family members could make the transition from purgatory to heaven, or at least so the thinking went. God-fearing parishioners loved the peace of mind of these indulgences and the church loved printing money out of faith and thin air.

Gutenberg's printing press was also used by the Roman Catholic Church to mass produce bibles. Whereas it previously took monastic scribes a year or more to hand-copy, illustrate, and illuminate a single Bible, the printing press brought production times down to a matter of days or weeks. Thanks to the dramatically lower cost of production for these bibles, the Word of God became directly affordable and accessible to more people.

About 60 years later, around 1517, the pope endorsed more aggressive sales of these indulgences. They needed to fund the Vatican's construction of Saint Peter's Basilica. It was a deviously brilliant idea if you think about it. Pay for your sparkly building by striking the fear of God into the hearts of the population, and then give them the opportunity to save their sinful ancestors from the agony of everlasting damnation.

This practice of selling indulgences to fund Saint Peter's Basilica caught the ire of a previously unknown German monk by the name of Martin Luther. Martin Luther viewed the sale of indulgences as a corrupt practice and against God's teaching. He also believed that people should be able to have a direct relationship with God rather than requiring the faithful to only access God and God's teachings through church clergy intermediaries.

He penned a manifesto in Latin, now known as The Ninety-five Theses. As the story goes, he nailed it to the door of his church, which served as the community's public bulletin board. Tacking notices to church doors was a common practice at the time for religious academics such as Martin Luther who wanted to spark academic debates and discussions about contemporary theological practices.

With the help of Gutenberg's printing press, The Ninety-five Theses was soon translated into German, which made it accessible to a broader audience. Within a few years, over 300,000 copies were in circulation.

Martin Luther's single publishing act, which was then amplified by Gutenberg's press, spawned the Protestant Reformation.

Although the church used the printing press to spread its theology, it's fair to say the church had a love-hate relationship with this new technology. The church feared that in the wrong hands, like the hands of Martin Luther and other uppity radicals like him, the printing press could be used to promote heresy. Such heresy could undermine the very power structure of the church, not to mention undermine the funding of a certain construction project.

Gutenberg's printing press also freaked out the secular political rulers across Europe, who feared that such unbridled free expression could threaten the moral and political order of society.

In 1543, the Roman Catholic Church issued a decree that no book could be published without the permission of Rome. Then in 1563, King Charles IX of France decreed that no book could be published without the consent of the king. Soon, other secular rulers throughout Europe issued their own censorship decrees, giving their governments the right to regulate and license all scientific and artistic expression through books.

In 1644, a writer by the name of John Milton delivered a speech to the English parliament to protest England's licensing act, which had just gone into effect the year before. The licensing act gave parliament the right to license all published works and to arrest and imprison any writers, printers, or publishers deemed offensive to the government.

Milton's speech was titled, Areopagitica in which he argued for freedom of the press. He argued that Moses, David, and Paul from the Bible were all learned, and that to become learned, one must read books of all sorts. Milton said this book should include even the bad books or heretical books because we can learn from their wrongs and discover what is true by considering what is not true.

Milton argued that God endowed every person with the reason, freewill, and conscience to judge ideas for themselves. He said so-called bad ideas in a published text should be rejected by the reader's own choice in judgment, not because the text was deemed corrupt or offensive by some political licensing authority. Milton's pleas fell on mostly deaf ears before parliament, but in the decades that followed, his ideas had impact. His passionate and strong defense of free expression in Areopagitica helped inspire others who sought greater freedom of expression.

The 17th and 18th centuries represented a time of reason in Europe. The rights, liberty, and dignity of the individual became hot political issues. There was a greater desire for freedom of expression.

50 years after Milton's speech, in 1694, England allowed their licensing act to lapse. Nearly 100 years after England ended their licensing act, Sweden abolished its censorship laws and introduced a law guaranteeing freedom of the press in 1766. Denmark and Norway followed suit a few years later in 1770. Then in 1787, the First Amendment of the United States constitution guaranteed freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The US' First Amendment inspired greater protection for freedom of expression and served as a new reference model for other western countries.

With censorship-mitigated,  mainstream commercial publishing entered a full bloom. Commercial publishers came to prominence in the 1800s in Europe and America, aided not just by relaxed censorship but also by a rising standard of living, the rise of a literate middle class, and continuing technical advancements in printing presses that enabled ever lower production costs. By the late 1800s and early 1900s, the US was a hot bed of book publishing, driven by a rapidly growing population and rising literacy, thanks to government-mandated public education.

When the Great Depression hit the global economy in 1929, book sales plummeted as unemployment rose and disposable income disappeared. To encourage retailers to stock more books, US publishers in the 1930s change their return policies to allow stores to return unsold books to the publisher for a full credit or refund. That approach continues to this day.

In 1935, while the global economy was still mired in depression, British publisher Penguin introduced the paperback, and a new revolutionary book format was born. The paperback offered high-quality printing on cheap paper. With massive print runs, it drove down production costs and allowed these books to be priced as impulse buys. This lower cost option for books made them more affordable to more consumers. If you think about it, just as paperbacks represented a new format for consuming words on paper, ebooks represented a new format for consuming words on screens.

The book publishing industry continued to grow dramatically up until the 1970s. Over the last 40 years, however, the growth of book publishing has slowed. The primary reason for the anemic book sales over the last few decades is the growing competition from other low cost and zero cost media forms. I'm talking about other forms of entertainment and knowledge-building, like television, the internet, video games, and social media. I heard the other day that people watch over one billion hours of video each day on YouTube. Imagine if even half of those hours were spent reading books instead.

In the 1970s and 1980s, faced with slower growth and a glut of too many publishers, there was a wave of consolidation in book publishing. Larger publishing houses acquired smaller or weaker players. By merging operations, large publishers could eliminate competition, fire redundant layers of the acquired company staff, achieve greater cost savings and scale and gain stronger negotiating leverage against authors and retailers.

These gatekeepers, despite their love of books, were effectively censoring books they deemed as less commercial. But if we judge books on commercial merit alone, won't it lead to more books by celebrities like Kim Kardashian and fewer books from writers like you?

Then there's the dirty little secret in publishing. Most of their books are commercial flops anyway. They throw their best spaghetti against the wall and wait for readers to decide what will stick.

Writing, like most artistic endeavors, has rarely paid well. Most writers, lucky enough to sell a book to a publisher, still had to maintain a day job to make ends meet. This meant that writers were subsidizing the business of publishers.

Now let's turn our attention back to the year 2014, which brings us to the title of this episode.

By 2014, I was so impressed by the rise and rapid evolution of the indie author movement that I decided to write and publish the Indie Author Manifesto. I wanted to help document, distill, codify, and celebrate the attitudes and motivations behind this new breed of author. I found inspiration from previous manifestos, including the Bible's 10 Commandments, Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses, and the US Declaration of Independence. I published the Indie Author Manifesto on the Smashwords blog on April 23rd, 2014.

A few days after I published it, author and graphic artist Derek Murphy turned it into a beautiful infographic, which you can find and download at the blog. Derek, by the way, also designed the artwork for the Smart Author Podcast. Thanks, Derek. I'll put a link to the manifesto on the show notes.

After I published the manifesto, it sparked immediate discussion, not all of which was positive. Most indie authors loved it. They found it inspirational. Many printed it out so that they could post it on their wall as a daily reminder of the importance of their work.

But others in the publishing industry weren't so pleased. Some objected to my ideas of author equality. There were also some who believed that the manifesto was anti-publisher. A major writers organization even demanded that Smashwords not distribute copies of the manifesto at their conference. Ironic. Censorship remains alive and well to this day.

I'm going to quickly read the Indie Author Manifesto now, uninterrupted and without comment, so you can hear it for yourself. Then, afterward, I'll dissect it line-by-line to share my thought process with you. Here it goes. With a tip of the hat to all indie authors and manifestos that inspired it, I present you the Indie Author Manifesto.

 

THE INDIE AUTHOR MANIFESTO

By Mark Coker, originally published 2014 at the Smashwords Blog

We indie authors believe all writers are created equal, that all writers are endowed with natural creative potential, and that writers have an unalienable right to exercise, explore, and realize their potential through the freedom of publication.

  1. I hold these truths to be self-evident.
  2. I am an indie author. I have experienced the pleasure and satisfaction that comes from self-publishing.
  3. I have a right to publish.
  4. My creative control is important to me. I decide when, where, and how my writing graduates to become a published book.
  5. Indie does not mean alone. I choose my partners.
  6. I shall not bow beholden or subservient to any publisher. In my business relationships, I will seek partnership, fairness, equity, and mutually aligned interests.
  7. We indie authors comprise diverse writers, unified by a common purpose to advance, empower, and celebrate writers everywhere.
  8. I am a professional. I take pride in my work and I strive to improve my craft to better serve my readers, myself, my fellow indie authors, and the culture of books.
  9. My writing is valuable and important. This value and importance cannot be measured by commercial sales alone.
  10. I celebrate the success of my fellow indie authors, for their success is mine and mine theirs. Together, we are pioneering a better future for books, marked by greater quality, creativity, diversity, choice, availability, affordability, and accessibility."

Okay, there you have it. Now let's dissect it.

In the first sentence I wrote, "We indie authors believe all writers are created equal, that all writers are endowed with natural creative potential, and that writers have an unalienable right to exercise, explore, and realize their potential through the freedom of publication," here I found a lot of inspiration from the preamble of the US Declaration of Independence, which states that all men are created equal and all men deserve the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

My critics said, "What do you mean all authors are created equal and all authors have a right to publish?" Yes, I believe that. Now I don't believe that all writers are of equal talent, but I do believe that all writers have something valuable to share with the world. Then they should have the right to publish it for the judgment of readers. I believe it's not anyone's place to put one writer over another, or to decide what readers can read. Censorship and restraint of publication is almost always a bad thing.

In the spirit of the US Declaration of Independence, if it makes a writer happy to publish, then, gosh, darn it, let them pursue their happiness and publish it.

Now on to the next part, the part the begins with, "I hold these truths to be self-evident." I used the word "I" and not "we" here because I wanted to allow writers to make the manifesto their personal declaration of publishing independence. Then following that line, "I hold these truths to be self-evident," I list the 10 points.

Item number one: "I am an indie author." I viewed these simple five words as the ultimate affirmation of independence. Considering where the world stood a mere five years earlier, back when self-published authors were subjected to ridicule and shamed, today's writers are wearing the indie author label as a badge of honor. A new generation of writers view self-publishing as their option of first choice rather than as their option of last resort.

Now to item number two: "I have experienced the pleasure and satisfaction that comes from self-publishing." If you're already self-published, you've experienced this. But even if you're preparing to publish your first book, I'm sure you can relate to it. Number two speaks to the pleasure of creative expression and the opportunity to control your own destiny. It also speaks to the heart of the human experience.

We are social animals. If you lock a person in solitary confinement long enough, they will die. We humans thrive on social connection and communication. As any writer can attest, there's a joy in creative expression and there's no deeper or more intricately complex or capable form of human expression than this amazing magical vehicle we call the book.

Now to item number three: "I have a right to publish." I touched on this in the preamble of the manifesto, but I thought it deserved its own affirmative statement in the body as well. This was a radical idea when I started Smashwords in 2008, and it was a radical idea when I wrote the manifesto. Even today, it's not a universally acceptable or accepted idea, this idea that every writer has a right to publish, but you know and I know that you deserve the right and the freedom to publish.

Now to number four: "My creative control is important to me. I decide when, where, and how my writing graduates to become a published book." When I talk with indie authors and ask what they love most about self-publishing, creative control is almost always at the top of their list. They can publish their book their way. They control how they write what they write, how they price, how they distribute, how they engage with readers, how they do everything.

On the flip side of this, if you're a writer who wants to focus all of your attention on writing and delegate the rest of your publishing business to someone else, then maybe self-publishing isn't for you. That's okay, too. Self-publishing is not for everyone.

I love self-publishing, and I think every writer should consider it, but I also want to be completely straight with you and remind you that although publishing is easy, reaching readers will always be difficult. Self-publishing requires a lot of work. The great news is that it's your choice. You're in control. You can choose to pursue self-publishing or pursue traditional publishing or you can pursue both.

For number five, I wanted to get across the idea that independence does not mean all alone. Most indie authors realize it takes a village to professionally produce, package, and market a book. Sure, an indie author can do everything alone if they choose, but the most successful indie authors partner with others to help their book reach its full potential. These partners can be an editor, a book doctor, a professional cover designer, a distributor, a retailer, a publicist, or even a traditional publisher. To a great degree, much of your success will be determined by your skill at selecting the right partners.

Now to number six: "I shall not bow beholden or subservient to any publisher. In my business relationships, I seek partnership, fairness, equity, and mutually aligned interests. Number six is where I caught flack for coming across as anti-publisher. If "bow beholden and subservient" sounds a little like a master-slave relationship, that's because that's what it was. Sure, in the old days, you could publish without a publisher, but if you want to reach readers, you have no choice. You played by the publisher's rules or you didn't play at all.

If you listened to the prior episodes of this podcast or if you've read any of my other writings over the last 10 years, you know I'm not anti-publisher. I love publishers. A great publisher is one that can do things for you that you cannot do or don't want to do for yourself, yet we can appreciate publishers and still call them out for past transgressions and current inadequacies.

For example, most traditional publishers pay ebook authors only 12% to 17% of the list price, whereas indie ebook authors typically earn 60% to 80% of the list price. It's completely fair for authors to believe that they deserve greater compensation for their traditionally published ebooks and it's fair for them to believe that they deserve greater control over how publishers price and promote their books, or that they deserve more equitable rights revision clauses in their contracts if the publisher doesn't meet certain sales threshold. It's also fair for the publishers to pushback, to disagree and argue their case for why their terms are fair and equitable given their value add.

My main point of number six is that authors and publishers can have great relationships and great partnerships, but to achieve this greatness, both the author and the publisher must work together to achieve mutually aligned interests. My biggest criticism of traditional publishing is that due to their business model and absolute domination over print production and distribution they've developed long ingrained attitudes that aren't always as pro-author as they should be.

Publishers have long practiced a culture of no. Their business model requires them to say no to most authors and to view most writers as unworthy. It's in their business model that you serve them and they serve themselves. It's in their business model to judge books based on perceived commercial merit.

Now you're the author. How do these long ingrained attitudes and business model limitations make you feel? What author wants to be treated as a powerless lackey by their business partner? The power dynamic isn't balanced.

In my view, the key to publishers' future success is to change their attitude and recognize that publishers are service providers to authors, and not the other way around. The best publishers will treat you like a partner. Although publishers have had the power to say no in the past, today's authors can say no to publishers. Many authors now turned down publishing contracts in favor of self-publishing. In the show notes, I'll share a link to an interview I did with New York Times bestselling author Jamie McGuire on this very topic.

Now to number seven: "We indie authors comprise diverse writers, unified by a common purpose to advance, empower, and celebrate writers everywhere." For number seven, I wanted to underscore that the indie author movement has brought together a diverse universe of writers, all with different backgrounds and experience levels but united by a shared purpose: to advance and support their fellow community of writers. It's always heartwarming to witness indie authors giving back to the community and standing by their community. There's power in unity.

Now to number eight: "I am a professional. I take pride in my work. I strive to improve my craft to better serve my readers, myself, my fellow indie authors, and the culture of books." I know number eight resonated with a lot of indie authors because these authors know how much sweat and sacrifice they've devoted to pursue this crazy dream of authorship.

In number eight, I wanted to draw an important distinction between amateur and professional. For writers who adopt the Indie Author Manifesto as their own, the mere act of speaking these words out loud, of feeling these words, "I am a professional," serves as a personal declaration of professionalism. You're making a commitment to strive for professionalism.

Many people out there still consider self-published authors as amateurs. Most people don't believe in you. Anyone can be an indie author amateur. These are the lazy self-published authors who don't bother to learn best practices or who don't bother to professionally produce a product that will make their readers proud, or who remain willfully ignorant to the reasons behind their inability to reach readers.

Indie author professionals, by contrast, approach self-publishing with pride and professionalism. Professionals honor their readers with the best possible product. They know it takes a lot of work to create that product. Professionals understand that success requires equal parts skill, perseverance, and luck.

Now to number nine: "My writing is valuable and important. This value and importance cannot be measured by commercial sales alone." For number nine, I state a point that I've repeated multiple times here on the Smart Author Podcast. Indie authors and traditional publishers have widely divergent views on how books should be valued. I wanted to remind authors that the value of their writing transcends monetary measures. If your book has the potential to bring a smile to a single reader, your book is important. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, your book has the potential to change lives and maybe even save lives. What can be more important than that?

Just because your sales suck doesn't mean that you're not worthy. Most writers' sales suck, whether they're traditionally published or self-published. Most writers will have good months and bad months, good years and bad years. If you only measure your success by money, you'll probably burn out and quit, but if you develop other measures of success, like finding joy in the creative process or making your next book better than the last or finding joy in pressing the publish button when you're finally ready to share your soul with the world, then you're more likely to continue writing and publishing. Therefore, you're more likely to eventually emerge from your obscurity to achieve the greatest commercial success.

Now to the final item in the manifesto, number 10: "I celebrate the success of my fellow indie authors, for their success is mine and mine theirs. Together, we are pioneering a better future for books, marked by greater quality, creativity, diversity, choice, availability, affordability and accessibility." Boy, that's a lot of abilities.

This final item is packed. This idea of shared success, which I touched on in the last episode (E8:  ART OF DELUSION), is a common characteristic that I observed in the most successful indie authors. They work hard, they fight to earn and deserve every reader, but they recognize that their gain is not someone else's loss and someone else's gain is not their loss. Every time an indie author pleases a reader, it benefits all fellow authors and it benefits all of book culture. It becomes yet another reason to celebrate indie authorship.

Number 10 also gets across the idea that, as a movement, we indie authors care about something greater than our own selfish interests. In fact, we realize that our selfish interests are inextricably linked to the fate of the greater movement. We care about books and we care about the culture of reading. We care about diversity of thought and expression. We abhor censorship in all its forms. We care about serving readers and making books accessible to all. We will all sink or swim together.

That concludes Episode Nine on the Indie Author Manifesto. I trust now you have a greater appreciation for the pivotal role you play within the indie author movement and how your contribution fits within the greater context of the centuries-old struggle for free expression. If the Indie Author Manifesto resonates with you, make it your own. Visit the show notes at smashwords.com/podcast for links to where you can read it, download it, print it, and share it. I'll also put links in the show notes if you want to further explore the history of book publishing.

Looking ahead, for the next six episodes I have a special treat for you. Earlier in the podcast I mentioned I've got an updated edition of the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide coming out. It provides an expanded checklist of over 60 book marketing ideas that will help take your book marketing to the next level.

I've decided to serialize the new marketing guide here on the podcast first. It'll be like a podcasted audiobook. I'll present it in six logical chunks of approximately 30 minutes each.

After you hear the final installment, I'll release the complete ebook everywhere for free.

If you're enjoying the Smart Author Podcast, please share it with your friends.

Working together, we can change the world one indie ebook at a time.

Until next time, keep writing. I'm Mark Coker.  

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