Gig publishing is clogging up the indie publishing space.

Is it just me, or is self/indie publishing having it’s midlife crisis tech bro moment? You know the feeling, that kind of free spirit, antiestablishment, but also somehow extremely gatekeeps underrepresented authors and editors in the industry?

I can’t put my finger on this feeling, nor can I quantify it. I can’t even articulate it to my satisfaction, but it seems as though huge swafts of the indie publishing space leaned in very hard to, well, a combination of gig economy utopian gushing and publishing LLM nonsense and touting platforms instead of their own websites or blogs. It just feels off to me, like it’s a grift that I just don’t understand how to take advantage of.

Not that there’s anything wrong with being anti establishment because, well, hell, my whole existence is antiestablishment, but there’s just something about this new kind of indie publishing, gig publishing, Let’s call it, that just feels gross to me and it makes me roll my eyes so hard the earth orbits Venus incorrectly.

I’ve seen it before but this past weekend it really was in my face. Firstly, there was a generalizing viral article about how nobody buys books anymore, get it? Because the younger generations are just so cool and hip that they’d rather watch videos than be smart and buy books and we’re just old fuddy ditties? Do you get it yet? Do you get it yet? No? Let me break it down for you some more.

You see, only normal people buy books. Publishing will completely be disrupted in a few days, and you’ll be left behind if you don’t hop on the newsletter grift—I mean platform grift—I mean the self-sustaining model of charging for blogs and articles rather than those boring things people call books that don’t even have a subscribe edit field where you put your email address.

I’m sorry. I can’t take these people seriously, partly because I actually think they’re just as bad as traditional publishing. Hell, in some respects, I actually think they’re worse than traditional publishing, and trust me, that’s something to make you do a double take.

So that generalizing article went viral. That spawned a bunch of think pieces like this one that you conveniently have to pay for to read, even though it says it’s free at the very top. I can assure you, nothing on Sub stack or in any newsletter is worth paying for, especially when you can get fun books at the library for free or via piracy websites and you never have to give an email address to turn a page, or to pay a monthly sum just to wait around for the author to make something else.

I guess, when you really break it down, the reason why I’m so disinterested in everything these grift publishers are putting out is because almost all of them conveniently forget about libraries when they publish their books. They don’t offer free blogs to read. They don’t offer anything of value but overly priced seminars that you can find elsewhere by listening to writers talk at panels and events.

I understand the need to be paid for your work. I’m a small-time indie writer. I barely make money on my writing. I get it. I’d love to have more money and, frankly, more opportunities to write. I truly get it, but there’s a subsect of the indie author space that’s just grifting readers, and it really, really, really, bugs me. It’s a very different vibe than, say, the community of indie writers that come together to publish a book or to help promote one another. It doesn’t have the same community joy that Fan fiction has. This grifting/gig publishing wing of indie publishing is giving readers a very false view of the independent publishing landscape and it’s leading other writers astray.

I’ve never paid for a Substack. I never will. I’ll continue to buy books though, even though, according to these people, I’m out of touch because I don’t want to give them my email address just to start chapter one. In this case, I’d like to buy a singular product, or a series bundle, or whatever, because it’s a simple transaction. I buy this product or check it out at the library. I read, free from terrible layouts and registration banners and other distractions that try to capture my data. As a result, I’m enjoying a story. I’m loving characters. The writer is allowing me to spend time with them for hours without anyone else around. That’s far better than getting newsletters, in my opinion.

In fact, before I’ll even think about buying one of their books or take any of their courses, I’ll read amazing Fanfiction. Speaking of Fanfiction…

Part 2. Why Fanfiction is amazing!

I’ve got a confession to make. I’ve been writing FanFiction for years and have amassed quite a following. This isn’t the post where I reveal who I am on Archive of Our Own, but, yes, I do write there and have been doing so for years now.

Some have guessed I was the writer of My Immortal, the best FanFiction ever created, in my humble opinion. I can assure you that I’m not that clever, nor am I that funny.

Side Note, The Wiki entry has some amazing dramatic readings of My Immortal. Find all My Immortal related pages here.

I’d like to compare my private writing with my public writing and kind of illustrate why I write where nobody knows who they’re really praising. Of course, if you eyeball enough stories, unfortunately, my style gives it away. Editors and readers, I know in real life have assumed it was me, and, of course, they were right but other friends have talked about me in third person, exclaiming how this writer is amazing on AO3 without knowing it was me at all.

In this wave of marketing sludge, buried deep under hype where all kinds of technology will innovate our lives and will, well, something, the best compliment I could have ever received is after hearing people talk about me in the third person, forcing me to read work I created myself, it’s a humble feeling.

I’ve been thinking about audiences and writing. I, of course, know I’m writing for an audience when I write books or novellas or similar. But on AO3, I can just create worlds and backstories to side characters and force people to reconcile with this thing I’ve created, rather than mistakes I’ve made or my opinions or, well, my looks. It’s a kind of power that few writers get to experience. Publishers dictate how public we are. Contrary to popular belief, we lose the right to privacy in many eyes because we put art out into the world. It all goes back to this constant devaluing of writers and devaluing art. Our agency is always removed when it comes to marketing and publicity because, well, it’s all part of the game.

Don’t get me wrong. There are certain aspects of the game I like. Interviews, for one thing, when I publish something public, like, through a publisher of some kind. I like collaborating with a team. I like collaborating with people to bring my creation to life and getting it into people’s hands,

But I don’t know why I enjoy this whole other side of FanFiction marketing more. It’s purely word of mouth. It’s all emotions about the story, good or bad. The debates are about the stories rather than the brand. Of course, some drama happens within Fandom spaces, but, for the most part, it’s that separation of writer and brand I really like.

Publicly, I must be a brand, as much as I absolutely hate that word. Any problematic thing I do is at once attached to my brand without chances for redemption. In the Fandom community, it’s just me and my fantasies, and people loving my fantasies.

It isn’t just publishers that have willingly forced us to give up our agency. I’d argue readers had a part to play as well. Certainly not as much as publishers, but, again, society still daily devalues writers. In societies eyes, we don’t deserve any ounce of privatization because we’re forced to be brands instead of authors. Instead of the publisher doing what they are supposed to do and promoting our books and marketing our books, the responsibility has been shifted to writers. Indie publishers are guilty of this abuse too. They claim they don’t have marketing budgets. While true, they can still do things like talk about books from their backlists for releases more than four years ago. Indie publishers can engage in unique ways if they want, but they also force writers to become brands. This is why I adore my private corner of the web, where I don’t have to be a brand, I can just indulge in my fantasies and publish my fantasies and possibly aid someone else through my angst and happy endings.

You might ask, why not just publish stuff under a pen name. The problem is, I’m really not smart enough to keep a professional pen name going. I guess I could start writing under the pen name mister WaggleNose, but then, ah yes. Taxes will come around. People will inquire if I know my pen name. It will get very convoluted, very fast. And, Let’s be real, I’m too egotistical to stay professionally hidden forever.

That being said, FanFiction isn’t a joke, nor should it be taken as one. In fact, it’s been the best free writing class I’ve ever attended. It’s helped me improve my spelling, well, somewhat. It’s helped me become a much better critique partner. It’s helped me become a better development editor. It’s even helped me when reading criticism. While I’m the most thin skinned person you could ever meet online, no, seriously, I fume at other people’s social media posts and book reviews of books I’ve fucking loved to death then wished they’d get crushed under an avalanche of ice cream cones, unable to escape the wrath of yummy Rocky Roads, as they beg for relief under a mountain of gooey chocolate and vanilla.

I started writing FanFiction because I want to have a space where I don’t have to be a brand, where I can just make stuff and have people hate it without hating me, if that makes any sense. Again, no, I’m not the My Immortal author.

My audience is far bigger in Fandom than in real life. Maybe one day, I’ll reveal myself. That won’t be today. There’s an aspect of FanFiction I can’t get enough of and that’s the aspect that things you’re supposed to do as a writer usually don’t apply. I, for one, actually love reading author avatars and author inserts in stories because I love understanding how a fellow Disabled or other marginalized person would navigate this world. Oh sure, there are always going to be negative reviews, but still, because there’s no career expectations, publishing doesn’t carry weight like it does when you’re publishing outside Fandom.

FanFiction allows me to wrench back my privatization and just create whatever. I’m a writer on AO3, not a brand. Readers can’t force themselves into my space because they know who I am, so, therefore, they just automatically assume that they know my name, Robert Kingett, they believe they deserve full access to me. I don’t know how publishing trained readers to think we’re brands instead of authors, but it was very clever. If we’re brands, then any failure we have is our fault. It isn’t the fault of our publisher that has bucket loads more money than we will see in our lifetime. We’re just bad at marketing. We suck at making connections. It’s all our fault.

On AO3, it’s just our existence we’re responsible for. There’re no expectations at all. That’s what I like best about the Fandom space. It’s a community many will never be able to understand. We’re supporting each other and, yes, sometimes getting sucked into drama, but overall, we’re populating the space with our words rather than things we should hype.

Of course, I’ll never stop publishing professionally. I’m too narcissistic and egotistical! Just kidding, or am I? I can do both. Of course, this is why my FanFiction takes a backseat sometimes but I’m glad I dove into FanFiction. It’s the best writing class I could ever take. You should try it. You’ll be surprised.

Thanks for reading, support me financially and or Send your reply link via email so it can appear on my reply page.