Indie Novels and Cheap Wine
As I approach the second anniversary of the publication of Diary of a Small Fish, I’ve now had more than three years to observe and participate in the discussion about the distinctions between traditional publishing and self-publishing. Despite the monumental changes that have occurred in the fiction market, and the meteoric speed at which they’ve taken place, the arguments haven’t changed that much on either side. The evidence (pro and con) changes, new examples arise, success stories are one-a-week, it seems, on both sides. No matter how robust the indie market, trad pub still seems to be doing fine, if their numbers are right (if ANY numbers are right). Very smart people are discussing this at great length, I learn a lot from them, and I applaud them for their leadership in this industry. It’s fun to watch, and it’s fun to be a part of it all.
But I have to say, I’m getting a little tired of this singular focus (not only by trad industry stalwarts) on the sheer numbers of “free” or “underpriced” self-published novels that meet the critics’ definition of “dreck,” or [pick your own pejorative], as though that is reason enough to discount the whole indie fiction market.
After much masticating, I’ve found the proper metaphor to put the “cheap is bad” meme to rest.
My wife and I honeymooned for nearly a month in Portugal, in November of 1984. Back then, the dollar was strong, the Portuguese escudo was weak, and modest Americans could travel the countryside in royal fashion. The best hotel rooms were under a hundred bucks, and better yet, the best bottle of Aguardente could be had for under $25 (less than half its equivalent French product).
Elizabeth and I covered the countryside in our tiny Deux Chevaux, following a rough figure 8, beginning in Lisbon, traveling southeast through Evora to the southern port of Faro, west to Portimao and Sagres, up to Braganca in the northeast corner, west to Braga and then Porto, and south along the coast to Aveiro, Figueria da Foz and eventually to the Costa do Sol and the casinos of Cascais. We made a point of stopping in a lot of the smaller villages to buy bread, cheese, sausage, fruit, and of course, wine. You know, honeymoon picnic stuff. We ate by the side of many a country road, watching flocks of wild turkeys, or shepherds driving their sheep, or cork harvesters, while we ate local food and drank local wines.
Each little village had its own Vinho Verde or Vinho Tinto, and they would cost a maximum of $2, usually less. So, being good consumers and generous contributors to the local economies, we would buy 2-4 bottles at each stop. We’d open one and sample it. If it was good, we drank it. If it wasn’t, we poured it out and moved on to the next one. (I know this appears to be an admission of drinking while driving, but we were very conscientious about moderation. *cough cough*)
So this is how I’ve found sampling indie-published novels as well. Like the village wines, most of them are inexpensive, and it doesn’t take much of a sip to decide if it’s worth consuming. If it isn’t, it’s deleted from the kindle and you move on to the next one.
I’m an avid consumer of very good wine, and I know my stuff better than most. My ancestors produced some of Burgundy’s most famous Clos De Vougeot long ago (Chateau Morin, Pere et fils). But I hate wine snobs, and while I certainly can appreciate the difference between a Romanée Conti and a mid-range Oregon pinot noir, I am happy that so many excellent quality wines are accessible to the wine drinking masses! Just because you run across a lousy bottle of wine every once in a while, you cannot condemn all moderately priced wines. Even Two Buck Chuck is potable.
The same goes for fiction. I majored in English lit, read most of the greats and a lot of the highbrow literary critics of the day. There is a lot of great literature produced by the “Domaines” of traditional publishing. The reading it rich and full-bodied, like an elegant old Bordeaux.
But viniculture has evolved. Good wine can be produced inexpensively and efficiently today. It doesn’t have to stay in a musty cellar for 15 years any more.
And good fiction doesn’t require 3-5 years of lead time between completion and publication.
Epublishing is the new viniculture of fiction. Grab a few bottles, get yourself a baguette and some Gorgonzola, and check out some of the unknown brands. You might have to pour a few out, but you’ll find some good drinking, too.
If you’re looking for a recommendation, why, this one is a good place to start.
Filed under: Book Marketing, Indie | 20 Comments
Tags: cheap wine, indie, portugal, small fish, two buck chuck, vinho