Indie vs Traditional: equal or not?

If you follow my blog (and please do, there’s something in it for ya), then you’ll know I’m a writer. But you know, my labels don’t stop there. I’m always amazed when I’m asked to decide whether I’m a writer or a reader on places like Goodreads or on the Amazon forums or the Kindleboards forum. Why can’t I be a reader? I AM a reader. I’ve been reading far longer than I’ve been writing. I read voraciously at times, and at times, the most I read is my shampoo bottle.

Right now I’m glutting myself on brain candy because my daily mind is occupied by serious thoughts and I need to distract myself. I will admit (and please don’t judge me) to being completely enthralled by the True Blood series of books. It’s not great writing if you’re looking for literature, but it’s a great story for my poor jonesing brain.

It’s not always that way though. I love all kinds of fiction and nonfiction. I have favorite authors like many readers, but since I purchased a Kindle reader, I have a different set of books than normal. I recently looked at my TBR and noticed something in common for the stack of bits and bytes that resided there. None of the books are by traditional authors. They’re indie.

What is indie?

Some might say: unedited, trash, not good enough to get a real publisher.

Why, dear reader, indie can be, and often is, quite the opposite.

Indie is unleashed. It’s nonconformist. It’s genre bending and genre crossing and it’s as exciting as going to a rock concert without a barrier keeping the fans from the band.

Many indies take their craft seriously. We’re writers, after all, and we hone our craft like any writer (let’s say: Alice Munro). The difference is that some writers have found fortune in the traditional sense: someone found them in a stack of papers and pulled them out and said, “Hey, this just might sell.”

An indie may have been the MS right underneath that one.

I’ve found some real gems in the indie world and all for really great prices. I’d highly recommend any of the below:


I really could go on and on because I’ve been reading indies for a whole year, but I think I’d rather let you chime in. Please list an indie that you read and loved this year and leave a title so we can go look them up.

 Squirrel Army Forward, March!


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Thea Atkinson is a writer of character driven fiction.

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23 comments on “Indie vs Traditional: equal or not?
  1. […] Indie vs Traditional: equal or not? ( […]

  2. […] Indie vs Traditional: equal or not? ( […]

  3. J.M. Pierce says:

    Great post! I’m going to link to it on my blog. Take care, Thea!

    J.M. Pierce

  4. LKWatts says:

    I think the stigma will always be there for the self publisher and that is why we have to make sure our books are the best we can possibly make them. After all, there will always be terrible books out there in the indie and trad pub world but it’s better if you can console yourself with the knowledge that you’ve put your best work out there.

  5. Ah, the old self-pubbed/traditional pubbed argument. Honestly, as a reviewer who reads a majority of self-published work, I can say that there both is and isn’t equality. That equality comes at the top. Some books I’ve read—anything by David Dalglish, Helen Smith’s “The Miracle Inspector,” Derek Prior’s “Shader” series, Daniel Pyle’s “Dismember,” Amanda Hocking’s “Hollowland,” and even Thea’s own “Anomaly”—are equal to or better than the majority of traditionally published fiction I’ve read over the years. However, as a reviewer, I receive quite a few requests for books that are severely sub-par. I’ve read some bad tradpubbed books, but none of them are anywhere near as atrocious as these offerings. And there are many of these types of horrorshows out there, too many to count. Heck, even some really well done self-published novels don’t quite stand up to what the publishing houses offer. I’d put my own novels in that middling category, as well.

    Not to say I’m anti self publishing. Obviously, I’m all for it. It’s a new way for authors to gain exposure and find audiences. However, I’d be diluting myself (or simply be waving the sp flag of greatness) to claim the majority is on par with anything Simon & Schuster et al put out. It’s a hunt-and-peck game for readers, and one that can be quite rewarding if the authors plays their cards right and puts forth a proper amount of effort—as in, goes all-in.

    • Robert:

      I’m so glad you weighed in. As a reader who gets to see the good bad and ugly, it’s nice to have this rational comment that both defends and amplifies indie writing in all its glory/antiglory

      Just because it’s indie, doesn’t mean it’s terrible; just because it’s indie doesn’t mean it’s great either.

      Sampling can go a long way toward helping readers find those gems.

      And btw: Thanks for your kind comment about Anomaly. It’s much appreciated.

  6. Laura Best says:

    I came over from Diane’s blog, Thea. I just added you to google reader. I’ll be reading. 🙂

  7. kelly says:

    I love the way you’ve summed “indie” up. Many, many, many people adore indie music and music, so why is there a stigma or assumption about indie books? Just because an author is not published doesn’t indicate their worthiness. It only indicates that their time to be found hasn’t come yet!
    I love something offbeat and quirky. It usually takes my brain somewhere completely different than its usual destination.
    I do, however, agree that “fluff” has its time and place. Some days, you just need straight-forward, no thought required reading. Kind of like mindless TV in book form 🙂

    • kelly says:

      ummmm…..that should read indie music and movies (can you see me blushing???)

      • Kelly:

        I assumed right away you meant music and movies. grin. I’m a big fan of indie all around. I’ve found some real great gems from going off the beaten path. Thanks so so much for dropping by and putting your 3cents in. They were very valuable.

  8. Thanks so much for including Vestal Virgin on your list, Thea.

    When I pitched Vestal Virgin to New York agents and publishers the responses I receive included: no one cares about Rome, the book is too dark, the book is too short (86,000 words), we’re dropping historical, etc. What a gift to be able to publish the book the way I wrote it and have readers looking for my next book (coming in December). And it’s been a joy to meet excellent writers like you and Saffi.

    I hope we can get past indie vs trade published in 2012!!!

    • My list wouldn’t have been complete without it. It’s the first indie book I read on Kindle and was wowed by! Thanks for stopping in. Suzanne. I can’t wait for the new book

  9. Thea, this was a great post even before I saw you mentioned Sugar & Spice. 🙂

    And so true. I have a stack of paper books from trad authors – including some of my past favorites – that I simply cannot muster the interest to read.

    Why, because while I know they’ll be good, I also know they’ll be predictable, formulaic and safe.

    When the Amazon sales began I scooped up tons of trad authors at indie prices. But they lay unread on my Kindle while I continue to buy new indies. And I’m hearing this more and more from discerning readers.

    Far from a tsunami of crap there is a tsunami of quality swamping us.

    Isn’t it just wonderful!

  10. Forsaken by Shadow by Kait Nolan; Hush Money by Susan Bischoff; Gabriel’s Redemption by Steve Umstead. And all their other books, too.

  11. daleamidei says:

    Excellent points, Thea. One difference I enjoy from being under contract is the absence of looming deadlines. As a self-pubber, I have goals instead of fixed dates, and quality can be my main concentration. The only pressure I feel is the impatience of beta readers that I clued in too far in advance!

  12. Larry Enright says:

    Thanks for including Four Years from Home on your list, Thea. I’m honored that you think so highly of it. You should put yourself on that list, too. 🙂

  13. Mira Brown says:

    Being an indie myself, I agree with everything you say.
    There isn’t really all that much that I can add.
    Except… 🙂
    I don’t know if you’ve been following the controversy over phone hacking involving the Murdoch family and publications. Well, phone hacking aside, whenever someone mentions ‘unedited’, ‘bad spelling’ etc. all those typical arguments against indie authors, I’m reminded of Sun, one of the most read Murdoch papers in the UK. Their columns are very narrow and their ‘articles’ short. I once checked one of them online because it concerned an event that I was very interested in at the time. A 15-line narrow column contained about ten misspelled words and 3 out of 5 facts that they were supposed to be passing on to their readership were totally and utterly wrong. And that’s happening every single day and copies, about half the price of your typical indie novel, are selling like hot cakes and no one blames the highly paid editors for such contemptuous treatment of general public.
    The logic escapes me.

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