Friday, March 04, 2005

Indie lit?

When filmmakers decide to do it on their own instead of going through a large/conglomerated studio, they're considered smart and edgy. Indie film is where it's at.

When rock bands do it alone--indie rock--they're the coolest. How often do we hear that so-and-so did their best work before they sold out to Geffen?

But indie lit? Self-pubbed novels?

Losers. Nothin' but losers.

You are all of the folks who couldn't get an agent or whose agent couldn't sell your book or who got brushed over by even the smallest press. That memoir about the guy who collects chewing gum from under school desks was just picked up by Algonquin but your story of barely surviving Lupus gets a big shrug.

But something is changing. It seems the midlist and the POD list are starting to become parallel. Am I suggesting all the POD titles? Please. Because, as we all know, the large majority of POD titles suck harder than a fleet of Dirt Devils.

But not all of them.

On the flip side, I know of two debut titles that were purchased for near six figures by major houses and one has sold under 1000 copies in four months and the other has sold just over 700 copies in nearly a year.

I also read that one of the National Book Award nominees for fiction had, before the award was announced, only sold 240 copies of her book. What's really sad about that story is that she couldn't muster 240 family, friends, neighbors and associates to nudge toward a sale. Most POD titles sell around 250 (on average--and likely to friends, family, yada, yada, yada) so that puts them in good statistical company.

In any case, the top end of the POD market and the majority of the midlist market are starting to mimic one another. And I can't see why two lists would ever need to exist. How long before the big New York houses reduce their products to proven authors? We're closer than we think.

Why do I care? Because I am a midlister.

I'll give you some personal nuggets here: I've sold, as of March 1, just over 8,000 copies of my book and I've got some distance before earning out my advance--not much, mind you, but a distance nonetheless.

What happens to the midlist concerns me. And it should concern publishers, too.

Instead, it confuses them.