Professional, Activist or Hobbyist

Recently, I've been discussing various issues related to indie publishing. I've been thinking about them because I am preparing a course called Ridiculously Simple Self Publishing. I hurt someone's feelings I think when they made the comment that they intended to pursue indie publishing "professionally" by outsourcing everything except the writing (which they nearly outsourced by having content editors and book doctors help rewrite). However, they added, that they spent a lot of money, and would not recoup their expenses, but they were proud of the professional job done.

Sorry, folks. It may be a quality job (or not). It may be a polished job. However, a professional job produces a profit. If you are not showing a profit, you are not pursuing a business, you are pursuing a hobby.

There is nothing wrong with doing something for the sheer enjoyment. Nor does it imply a low quality item just because it's produced as the result of someone pursuing a hobby. It doesn't mean someone isn't serious about what they are doing. My mother crocheted afghans that will outlast anything I've bought in stores. She was very concerned about the quality of the materials and the work. However, she never sold any of her work. If she had, she probably would not have been able to get a price that would have adequately compensated for the time and materials she had in the product. She was a hobbyist. A very skilled, very serious person who did a craft for the joy of the craft itself.

Many writers are like that when they decide to go into indie publishing. I say, God Bless them. If they can afford to take a loss in order to turn out some piece of art, that's great. However, they should not deceive themselves or others that they are more "professional" than those of us who watch our costs and produce a product that first the reader can afford and second will turn a profit.

To be professional means you make money on what you do. It doesn't necessarily mean your product is better. Indeed, it might not be as polished. A handmade cabinet done by your grandfather in his shop that took two years to complete, is probably much nicer than one produced by a furniture company. However, his costs would make it a product only a few could afford to buy and unless he lived in a high income area, he would probably not show a profit if he did that type of work all the time.

I know it sounds very noble to talk like we are artistes above the concerns of commerce, but, whether we like to admit it or not, books, even ebooks, are products. If you are an indie publisher, you are a manufacturer of books.

If you are only interested in writing for the sheer joy of it and can afford to outsource all the various parts of your project, more power to you. If you are an activist with a cause to pursue or a message to get across, likewise I wish you well. However, I do have a problem when those who are doing this at a loss advise others who may be pursuing a profession as an indie writer/publisher to do the same. That's bad business advice.

I have been writing a series (and I will return to it this weekend) about self-editing. Why? Because this is one area where an indie publisher can save some money. Even if you do eventually outsource the final proofreading, it reduce the work your editor has to do and, thus, save you money.

If you, like my friend, prefer to "just write" and are willing to take a loss, that's great. I honor that. I just ask that you not make those of us pursuing this as a business to try and do things your way.


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