Rage Against the Indy

Posted On Jul 23 2014 by

Indy WriterA few years ago I read an article about The Small Corporation. I wish I’d saved it. The jist of it is this: We’ve reached the end of the age of giant corporations. The future is for small companies and individual entrepenuers.

The reasoning is simple:

Before the 19th century, the individual was fairly self-sustaining. We grew and hunted our own food, built our own homes, and there was really little else we needed. We could trade or sell our excesses to buy the things we couldn’t make on our own.

Starting with the Industrial Age, the invention of the automobile, electricity, etc., there were far more things we needed and far too many people needing them. So we solved the need of mass production with the assembly line. Men worked at one particular task, were paid, and used their money (or better, their labor) to buy the things they needed.

That will probably never go away. But two interesting developments have changed the overall structure of our society:

1. Automation has led to far fewer people making the same number of products.

2. This same automation, along with computers, the internet, and low cost equipment mean that many jobs can now be done by one person or few people from their homes or small shops.

One man or woman with a computer and a CNC cutting machine can produce thousands of small parts per year.

Sewing machines, some as high tech as the CNC cutters, can be all the equipment one needs to be a one-person clothing manufacturer.

And, of course, a writer can sell millions of copies of his book without ever printing a single piece of paper.

This move toward the small company or one-man business has been going on for a while. Lately, we’ve dubbed ourselves “Indies,” or the independent entrepenuer.

It is not attack on big corporation or big publishers. They were all needed when there was simply no other way to get our products and talent in the hands of paying customers.

But that’s no longer the case. The trend away from publishers and toward the indy is a natural shifting of economic tides. There is no stopping it, not unless you can shut down the internet today.

Naturally, there will be those who rage against the indy. They’re comfortable with “the way things have always been.” I can’t blame them. It takes decades to build a business and a career. No one likes to be told that they cannot continue to do the thing that has always made them succesful.

But again, that is the nature of a free market. Men and women have always been forced to change jobs, careers, or even entire industries since Adam had children and an economy was born. We’ve all sat in some sort of economics class and heard the tale of the buggy whip factories at the turn of the 20th century.

We’ll always have buggy whip factories. Right now, the ones we are most interested in are the book publishers. We have friends there. We share their passions. We love books. We love reading them. We love writing them. I have faith that our friends will figure out how to survive in this new economy. There’s always a new need. For us, the needs are editing, cover design, dealing with foreign translations, movie rights, etc.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that every single person currently employed in a big publishing house has another opportunity waiting for him or her. Eventually–soon I think–they’ll work out the numbers and realize it’s time to make a change. They’re smart people. No one really goes down with the ship around here. In fact, most of the ships will probably just change their business model and find other ways to be useful.

Everybody wins. Most of all, people who love to read win. They’re getting quality entertainment at a very low cost again. As it should be.

So there’s no reason to rage against the indy. Or against the publishers. When it comes right down to it, the only thing separating us is a company name. And those come and go.


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Last Updated on: July 22nd, 2014 at 12:37 pm, by Ron

Written by Ron

Just about everything I believe has been shaped by the written word. But books don't force a belief; they stir the imagination so that you, the reader, eventually draw your own conclusions. We grow richer in spirit when we read, deeper in our understanding of the universe and our role in it. That's why I read. That's why I write. To offer you a bit of myself. Come along on my journey, won't you? There's plenty of room.

2 responses to “Rage Against the Indy

  1. Ron –

    I left my former career as an editor for a small publishing company because I realized the future of publishing is changing. Many of the authors I connected with though were self-publishing, and they wanted quality editing. At the time I was freelancing on the side, but that is not an easy gig (especially since I am also a writer). So I had the skills from my apprenticeship, but I had a choice: move on to a bigger publisher, or continue to refine those skills by working with the pool of authors who were now asking for my help. It was a big risk, but I’m glad I made the choice to “go indy” as an editor; I think this is where the future lies, not just for writers, but editors and marketing gurus as well.

    And, as you put it, there’s no reason to drop the wisdom learned from the assembly line era. We are becoming the small corporation and can learn from and utilize everything the giant corporation has used and still uses today; the availability of information, thanks to the Internet, makes it possible to access what we need to keep on the cutting edge, should we choose to. The writer can access information about trends in fiction so that the work he or she is producing is not outdated. The editor can absorb information from his or her peers and can access references all from a computing device, without a need to go to meetings or sit in an office all day. The author production can operate and distribute online, without the need to get in bookstores to reach readers.

    Consequently, we’re seeing a rift in the self-publishing world. Mom-and-pop operations like the careless rush-job publications that have made “self-publishing” a term to cringe at, versus the professional, well-researched publications that are standing out and are nearly distinguishable from titles produced by the giants.

    Indy. That is a good word, and I am optimistic it will not suffer the fate as the term “self-publishing”, but will rather come to represent, in the common mind, a trend that changed the world and not only redefined fiction, but preserved the same quality as its predecessor; in fact, in the future, I think that quality, as the conglomerate breaks up and disintegrates, will rise to the top, and shine brighter than ever before.

    Write on, my friend!

    • Thanks John. And you’re right, the quality of the indy writer will improve (already has, in fact). The best indy writers will outshine the entrenched old-school writers. Of course, we’ll always have that bottom 98%. These are the ones that would have never gotten out of the slush pile at a publishing house. They’ll write one badly written book, get discouraged, and give up. It’s still hard work and we have to be persistent. We didn’t make our lives any easier by going indy, we just took back some control.