Chadwick Ginther: Indie Pub as “Viable Opportunity”


Chadwick Ginther responded to our questions by email on January 13.

1) How come nobody uses the phrase “vanity publishing” anymore? 

The practice of self-publishing is more common now, for one thing. Also, I think the authors are trying to, and succeeding in, changing the dialogue around the practice. I hear “indie author” as much as I hear “self-published” these days.

2) Why does the music industry accept and even celebrate “indie” artists, who self-publish their music, while the book publishing industry tends to view self-publication with hesitation or even disdain?

Both industries have their gatekeepers, but in music, there has always been an extra level of fan as gatekeeper that publishing hasn’t had until the rise of self and digital publishing. Music is a performance art and great live shows allow word of mouth to spread and help the artist/band build a reputation, even if they’ve never made a recording. However, no one goes to open mic nights listening for the next great literary sensation and they certainly don’t leave with a new T-shirt.

3) Now that self-publishing in either paper or e formats is so inexpensive, what areas do conventional publishers have to improve on in order to distinguish their products from self-published ones?

I think conventional publishers should work less at distinguishing themselves from self-published works and concentrate on just making great books. Make each book as beautiful an artifact as possible, in every way: cover, design, and yes, the words within too. This is a strategy that’s certainly been paying off for the Canadian small press ChiZine Publications.

4) Do you think professional writers should consider self-publication? If so, under what circumstances?

I absolutely think professional writers should consider self-publication. It doesn’t need to be an either/or proposition.

Self-publication has been, and will become, more and more of an option, especially for the midlist author. If writing is your profession, you should want to make money at it, and it’s foolish to ignore a viable opportunity. Crowdsourcing options such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter allow authors with a proven track record to raise the funds to make a professional product without being out of pocket.

First and foremost, the author should consider their own temperament. It’s a lot of work, and if you wince at the thought of blogging or social media, it’s probably not for you (at least, not if you want to make any money at it). But if you are so inclined, and you have work that has gone out of print or your publisher didn’t pick up a planned sequel to an existing series and you think you have an audience willing to read it, why wouldn’t you make the investment in time and effort? If you have a catalogue of stories, but can’t sell a collection, why not try and collect them yourself, or resell them individually?

5) What do you take from the fact that Penguin recently (before the Random House merger) acquired the self-publishing company Author Solutions?

So long as the two divisions are kept separate, I see no issue with the acquisition. It’s another revenue stream in a cash strapped industry. However, if editors ever start handing out links to Author Solutions with their rejection letters, then it becomes less a case of offering a service and more like predatory exploitation.

6) What do you think the impact and importance of e-publishing in various formats by authors themselves is going to be on literary publishing?

E-publishing, whether through a publisher or done by authors themselves, opens up the possibility of anyone, anywhere having easy access to a work. There is terrific potential there to grow both author and publisher brands. You might even see publishers taking some interesting chances on quirkier books, even if it’s in a digital-only format to start with.

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Chadwick Ginther

Chadwick Ginther latest novel is Tombstone Blues (Ravenstone). He lives and writes in Winnipeg.