Elitism always frowns on democratization.
I was reading an article which quoted two well-known mainstream authors, who gave their thoughts on the changing face of the publishing industry. One of them said that the traditional publishing model – with all our familiar and well-loved gatekeepers including literary agents and publishing executives (wait, scratch that “well-loved” comment) – was necessary to, and I quote, “separate the wheat from the chaff”.
This smacks of elitism, does it not?
First, let me say that I am not offended or threatened by that comment at all. People can say whatever they want about indie writers who skirt around the traditional publishing model to fulfill their life-long dreams. I’ll just politely disagree.
Second, I am not chaff. Here are the reasons I am not chaff.
I’m not chaff because chaff flies away in the wind and is never heard from again. Well, sorry, super-talented-top-of-the-line author, but your metaphor fell flat on its face. Indie authors aren’t going away. In fact, you’ll be hearing a lot more from us. Smashwords has predicted that 50% of book sales by 2020 will be from indie authors. That’s sounding a lot like wheat, not chaff. Even if their numbers are a little skewed, the trend is undeniable.
Another reason I’m not chaff: I’m a serious writer. I approach my craft with as much dedication and care as anyone. I may have a day job, but writing is not a casual pursuit. I didn’t become a writer because, “Hey, now anyone can be a published author.” No. I write because I am compelled to write. I write because I am full of stories, and as long as I have stories, I’m going to write them down. Writing is not a vain pursuit. I, too, craft stories, and I wrestle with characters and fret over plots. I think of symbolism and foreshadowing. I have a voice. I have creative thoughts. I have a passion. I am an indie writer.
I can’t speak for every indie writer. I suppose there are all kinds of them who write for a million different purposes. I suppose some wish for fame and money. I would imagine some craft their stories better than others. For whatever reason people write, there is finally a leveling of the playing field that enables readers to have unprecedented choice. This is what is getting the traditional higher-ups all in an uproar.
When Miss Hot-Shot Writer goes to the store to buy something, does she prefer a limited selection or a wide variety? I think we know the answer to this. The book world is no different. Choice is a good thing. It’s the democratization of the book industry. It is putting power in the hands of the readers, and they are, more and more, choosing books which are quality reads at affordable prices. No longer are readers forced to buy $27 hardcover copies or wait a year for the “cheaper” paperback variety. The only people I see complaining about this are those who want you to buy that $27 hardcover.
You can call me ‘chaff’ if you want. I don’t mind. But I’m not the one bemoaning a change. That chaff just might miraculously grow roots and pull off the unexpected. Everyone will be better for it.