When self-publishing got popular five years ago, it was seen as a way for marginalized author’s stories to be finally heard. We indie authors finally had a seat at a table that was denied to us. Yet, as we as industry evolve into a time that self-publishing is becoming more and more mainstream and the stigma that it once had faded away the gatekeeping has only strengthened with it.
You are probably wondering what do I mean about gatekeeping. The definition:
When someone takes it upon themselves to decide who does or does not have access or rights to a community or identity.
Yet, let me get a little more specific. In the realm of indie publishing, they are three different tiers. On the top of the list are authors that are published on Amazon. For a lot of professional organizations and author groups, the only valid way for you to be an author is to have a book published on Amazon and for you to have an Amazon author page.
And if you choose to not publish on Amazon, they automatically see you as a lesser author and your book is less than Amazon authors.
The next tier is Indie authors who publish in places like Barnes and Nobles, Smashwords, or Lulu. Again, you are not as good as Amazon published authors (even though they are plenty of Amazon authors who go wide and publish on these platforms) but at least you got a book up for sale. And again, in this capitalistic hellscape, it’s not the quality of the book, it’s how many books you have sold and how much money you make that matters.
Then we have the final and the lowest tier of indie publishing: The free content writers. Those rank amateurs with minor talent or the beginners cutting their teeth on writing. No, I don’t believe that, but there are so many indie authors who do. Hell, mainstream author organizations do not see these people as actual authors. We are not even talking about fanfiction authors who are usually writing the vanguard of romance and erotica but are looked down on and it does not protect their work under the law.
These Wattpad, Inkitt, and Radish authors are not considered published authors even though a lot of those supplement their income by enrolling in these platforms paid programs or by third-party apps like Patreon.
To most of the publishing industry, they are not “real authors” unless they have books published on sites like Amazon or Barnes and Noble. The indie authors who publish this way are not protected by organizations like the Romance Writers of America. Even though, by definition might be romance and erotica writers.
So the question now becomes, what can we do to change this situation?
1) Ampifly and Support All Indie Authors
Do some inner work and look at your biases against non-Amazon published authors and free content authors. Then I want you to buy their books or supporting them financially by paying them. I know this is a lot more work than one-clicking a book, but this is necessary if we are to level the playing field. If you don’t have any money, amplify these authors by sharing their work on social media or with free content creators leave a reply and rate it on Wattpad or Inkitt.
2) Advocate For All Indie Authors
Speak up when you see injustices perpetrated against Indie authors, especially free content authors who are often the most vulnerable of our community. If you see someone reposting a story without an author’s permission, don’t just email the author, but email the perpetrator and hold them accountable. Don’t just subtweet: Name and shame them. Make sure they have the space in which to hide. They are way too many professional top-tier authors who have been preying on free content creators by polarizing their works. Also, contact the company that is publishing these books and let them know. This can be the easiest way to rectify the situation.
3) Keep Informed!
I can’t say this loudly enough, but one of the most important parts of any activism (and don’t get it twisted, this is activism) is keeping yourself informed to the issues related to your activism. Publishing does not exist in a vacuum and there are plenty of toxic policies in gove1rment that are hamstring indie publishers of all tiers. Right off the bat, the FOSTA/SESTA laws that make it harder for anyone who creates sexual explicit content to make a living. Let’s be real: they are some genres that are tangentially related to sex work. Also, get involved in your author’s organizations. Keep your ear to the ground about publishing scammers and con artists and above name and shame them.
These are three very easy actionable steps that can make the Self-publishing industry equal for everybody.