Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Indie = Dime Novels of 2012?

I had a brain spark a few weeks ago about how indie novels are like the dime novels of the past: inexpensive, entertaining, loved by the masses, reviled by the elites (who later invented the mass market paperback in response).

I lobbed that idea out to my Indelibles sisters, who quickly pointed out I wasn't the first to think of this. Kait Nolan wrote an insightful post about Indie as the New Pulp Novel (and I'm sure people like Konrath have talked about it too).

Dime + Pulp = Indie?

Similarities

Dime novels provided a proving ground, where writers literally learned their craft as they went, but also got paid to do it (similarly with pulp fiction serials, which came later).The best among them went on to be famous authors. I can readily see indie novels serving that same purpose – some authors will fade away after one or two novels that don’t make them rich, but the serious writers will keep slugging away at it. Maybe their first novel won’t be their best (in fact, most first novels won’t be their best). But they’ll get better. And going indie allows them to make money to support their writing career as they go (like dime and pulp novels did). There is a vast writerly community now that serves as a churning learning factory of writing and creation. Add in the indie publishing aspect, and you have writers learning on the job, publishing, writing more, learning more, publishing again.

And Differences

Pulp fiction was where authors started out because it paid less than "traditional" markets (they were mostly short stories), but with indie novels, I think (some) authors are making more money than comparable traditional publishing contracts (and I see some trad-pub authors supplementing their income with self-pub, which is also similar to some of the pulp fiction writers of the past). Although some authors did make a career out of writing pulp, I don't think anyone ever got rich off of exclusively writing pulp fiction (there were no Amanda Hockings of pulp).

Kait Nolan states much of this in her article too, but there's one point she makes that I will quibble with: the idea that authors have to publish works in rapid succession (as some successful self-pub authors have done). I think Kait gets it right at the end where she says you have to produce something lasting, so that readers will still be around, eagerly anticipating your next release, even if it takes 6 mos or 9 mos or even a year. People DO NOT have that short a memory span. In fact, the most common thing I hear from friends when I release another book or anthology or short story is "do you every sleep?" not "why wasn't this out sooner?"


More Differences
Indie publishing isn't a stepping stone to traditional publishing - it's an entirely new form that has allowed a revitalization of short stories, anthologies, as well as less-commercial genres, like literary fiction, to gain new traction. In Japan, huge numbers of people read serialized e-books (very short) on their phones. E-publishing is messing with the whole form-of-fiction, and I think we're just starting to see how this will change storytelling.

Oh and by the way ... 
The price of a dime novel, after 100 years of inflation? $2.31 

Nicely placed between the 99cent and $2.99 price points of most self-published novels.

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p.s. did you notice the new blog banner? *pets the pretty* D. Robert Pease of walkingstickbooks.com (who is also my cover designer) made that gorgeous thing! I highly recommend him for all your art-related needs!


27 comments:

  1. Very cool! I love the new banner! And I love this new opportunity we have.

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  2. Great article! I agree completely. I love the fact that with technology has come a way for writers to learn and grow and become better at their craft. It's sad there isn't a learning curve within the traditional industry. Maybe there is but from all the, "this is good but the number of books I can take on right now is so tight," agent replies out there it seems taking a risk on a new voice isn't a priority.

    I've also pointed out in my own blogs that there was a point when I realized I wasn't even sure if 1. I could do this and 2. did I want to make this my "career?" Indie/self-pub allows me to go at my own pace and dip my toe in. It's not that I'm not serious but there has to be a starting point. Honestly, I'm okay with not starting at the top.

    Thanks!

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    1. Thanks for the great comment! Self-publishing is so flexible that it allows a full range of opportunities for authors – to dip their toe in or jump in cannonball-style! Most of all, it allows authors to decide what path their career should take: what books they should write, how they can improve their craft, and what efforts are worth the reward. I think we’re just beginning to see the impact of this empowerment on the writer.
      Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. I hadn't thought of that comparison. That is so interesting!

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  4. What a fascinating comparison. I think it is helpful and healthy to look at business models of the past and take lessons from them.

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    1. I agree! We need to know our past to fully understand our present and prepare for the future. :) Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. That is a nice banner! *feeds the pretty a bone*

    And yeah, sometimes the new stuff isn't as new as it seems...

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  6. I have to agree with all the other comments and say that it is a great idea to compare and contrast the old dime and pulp publishing of old to Indie publishing of today. It's very interesting how they are similar, but it's equally interesting how they differ. I didn't actually know that Dime publishing and Pulp were just stepping stones. Anyway that's all I have to say.

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  7. I saw the new banner and stared at the pretty for a bit. Then Iremembered I was here to read as well as be mesmerized by the beautiful new banner.

    Great points mentioned. Appreciate the references to the subtle differences as well.

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  8. I'm personally going through a rapid paradigm shift with all things publishing, and particularly with indie/self publishing. This is more food for thought. Thanks, Susan!

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    1. I know what you mean about a rapid paradigm shift! It’s amazing the transformation to our thought processes that this brings. I definitely didn’t see that coming! Thanks for stopping by!

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  9. Susan - Great post! I can totally see indie as the new pulp fiction. Many of the successful indie authors I've read about churn out high volume of product in a short span. It's light, fun entertainment at low cost. I do think that readers today expect follow-up books to get released quicker. The 'I want it now' mentality, plus people are used to marathoning shows/movies on netflix or online.

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    1. I do wonder if people "save up" books like they do with TV shows. Sometimes the fun is in the anticipation, and sometimes, people can't be bothered until all the books in the trilogy are out. I've heard that trilogy sales go up once it's complete! Interesting food for thought ... Thanks for stopping by!

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  10. I love the new banner! It's a great look for you and your books :)

    Love the comparisons between the indie an the dime novel!

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  11. Great post, Susan. So many good points. :)

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  12. Love that banner! And, as always, you say some thought-provoking things, especially about a proving ground to learn the craft. I love the price for inflation note. :)

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  13. The new banner is beautiful! Interesting post. I bought a dime novel for about $50 a couple years ago. :)

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  14. I love the new banner!!!

    I've never heard of dime novels and I've never read pulp fiction.

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  15. Your new banner is mesmerizing. Fascinating connection between pulp and indie.

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  16. I'd never thought of the connections between dime novels & indie, but that makes a lot of sense. Also, the banner is very awesome!

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  17. That's so cool! I'd never, ever thought of it that way before, but now I totally see it!

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  18. ooo... i do love your new banner! Very nice! This is an interesting thought.... very encouraging to hear!

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  19. On the reader's attention span, I've recently began searching the internet for books I've read when younger. I read Patricia C.Wrede's Dealing with Dragons when I was 16. I'd borrowed it from the library and then forgot the title and author... I found it a few months ago on a book blog and will probably buy it for my little brother as well.

    I've also found some other books I've read years ago and still remember and love. Long attention span, but sadly I was a bit lazy :P

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