Having *That* Conversation: When Good Friends Reject Indie Publishing

Maybe it was coincidence, or maybe not.

Yesterday, I made it official (well, as official as these things get) — I posted on Twitter and Facebook about my commitment to indie publish my novel Rock Star’s Heart in 2018.

And yesterday, I had *that* conversation again. Maybe you know the one. A good friend said he “just can’t” when it comes to reading “self‑published” books (he won’t call them indie).

“So, ah, I shouldn’t bother then?” I asked. Well… he thinks I should send my manuscript to a real publisher. He thinks it’s good enough. Otherwise, my book will just be a raisin in a bowl of rat poop.

Image of a ripped heart — Having *That* Conversation: When Good Friends Reject Indie Publishing

I’ve never thought about it as a question of “good enough” — the decision whether to choose indie publishing or traditional publishing for that first book is multifaceted and hard to make, and I’ve looked at all the different reasons to go one way or the other. Ultimately, right now and for this particular book, I want the hands-on control of my own project. After all, I do e-book production, I’ve been involved with a small press, I’ve purchased cover art for other projects… it’s not like I don’t know what I’m doing.

And here’s a good friend, a dear friend, telling me that I need to sacrifice control and royalties to get external validation from a publisher — or he and a vast army of people like him won’t even consider my book.

Whether you’re a writer or a reader, you probably have people like my friend in your life. The ones who probably also say “I only read award-winners” or “I only read New York Times bestsellers” — “I have to be selective” is a common refrain in *that* conversation; “my reading time is precious.”

It’s a tough conversation, because there you are, trying to reconcile all your trust and warm friendship feelings with stunned disbelief. Your point of view is not being heard. Your feelings, and intelligence, are not being considered. Books — maybe some of your favorite books, maybe your friends’ books, and potentially your own books — are being compared to rat poop. And the person you’re talking to is saying this with love, and genuinely wants to save you from wasting your time reading indie books or contaminating yourself by publishing them.

Rationally, I know there’s no point in arguing that there are high-quality indie books being published, or that I have several solid reasons to go indie myself. When someone’s mind is already made up about indie publishing, debating it only prolongs the pain.

So here are the five things I try to hold in my mind when *that* conversation pops up:

  • This person cares about me and means well, but that doesn’t equal being right.
  • I am not a child who needs to be taught the difference between “good” books and “bad” books (either by my friend or by the branding of a publisher or award).
  • I know what I like to read, and I don’t need to have my opinions and preferences validated by anyone else; I’m quite capable of deciding not to finish reading a book that doesn’t keep me hooked.
  • Likewise, I trust the readers of the world to make their own decisions about my writing — my tribe will let me know how I’m doing, and I’ll sink or swim at my own risk, taking on this adventure with my eyes open.
  • Anyone trying to have *that* conversation with me can have a valued place in my life, but doesn’t belong on my launch team.

And I breathe. And I let it go, and change the subject.