Indies Anonymous

Mystery Man

A piece of common book industry wisdom frequently cited by self-publishing proponents such as myself has it that there's an anonymous cadre of indie authors quietly making millions on Amazon. This popular bit of publishing lore happens to be true.

It also presents indie authors--and the emerging New Scheme of Things--with a problem.

In the old days, when trad publisher mega-fauna roamed Manhattan, the most popular authors actually got to be something like stars. Time was, if you made it onto the A list, you'd get to do TV appearances and movie cameos. You might even get to introduce your own anthology series. Housewives in Lincoln, Nebraska knew your name.

Now the tradpub dinosaurs are dying. Like all entertainment industries locked into death spirals, they're losing the ability to make the people they exploit rich and famous. When was the last time you heard of some fresh-faced young go-getter rising from the slush pile to become a household word? Larry Correia might turn out to be the last SFF rock star.

Successful indie authors will be glad to tell you that the death of the celebrity author phenomenon is a positive development. Who has time for afternoon talk shows and spouting embarrassingly out-of-touch Twitter screeds at the President when you've got to write, edit, format, and market a new title every 30-90 days?

Let the validation-seekers and attention whores chase fame. Thanks to Amazon, it's now possible to pull down six or even seven figures annually without anyone outside a relatively narrow cohort of readers knowing who you are.

There's no question that this new model has advantages. I'd say the pros outnumber the cons. But the anonymous indie millionaire model comes with a price.

There are benefits to celebrity author status, too. Being on TV, having the mainstream media report on your public statements, and having enough clout that people put your words on par with leading politicians' gives you a level of cultural influence that money can't buy.

Tradpub will always have A listers. That's all they'll have after B&N's collapse. Indies might outearn trad authors as a group, but who will have more power to shape the culture?

Much has been made of the need to develop parallel institutions to replace the converged and corrupted ones we're currently stuck with. The truth is, a few guys silently raking in hundreds of thousands or millions on Amazon aren't an institution. They're a group of business enterprises.

Don't get me wrong. Producing new and entertaining fiction without political lectures is necessary to saving Western civilization. It's probably not sufficient, though. To really make headway, we'll need our own film and TV production outfits at least.

Add that to the long list of stuff conservative investors could be doing to conserve the culture but aren't.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier
"...great selling home run after home run..."
                                           - authorJon Mollison


  1. The only reason those authors are anonymous is because the msm is ignoring the indie movement. An author making 6 or 7 figures a year has (by definition) a good sized fan base. That author is in fact influencing culture, just not in a way that is obvious.

    1. That's precisely my point. The MSM is a stadium rock show with a state-of-the art wall of sound and flashy video support. We're a guy on a stool in the parking lot with an acoustic guitar.

      Sure, we play better, more original songs. But we're outgunned in terms of volume and visibility.

      Meanwhile, other stadium owners who claim to be on our side walk by. They don't offer their venues. They don't even stop to throw a buck in the jar. At most they mumble, "Keep up the good work," and go on their way, complaining about how awful the act on stage in the stadium is.

  2. Thing that gets me: getting into the businesses which the current collapsing empires are leaving void should not be very expensive, from a business investment perspective. $100M could get you a pretty decent movie studio and at least a couple movies; there are thousands of properties out there that would make good, non-nihilist movie that could be had for cheap + small cut. Sure you can think of a couple. ;-)

    You'd need some guts and a willingness to make enemies, but money shouldn't be a real barrier to entry.

    There's that story (in Outliers, I think) about how, 80 years ago, Jewish lawyers, who had been kept out of the 'good' law schools and could not get hired by the name brand NY law firms, ended up getting all the bankruptcy and hostile takeover business because the people at the big firms didn't want to sue their buddies from Harvard & Yale. They rode that horse to dominance, because they didn't worry about making enemies with people who were never going to be their friends anyway. We need some angle like that.

    1. You're exactly right. Conservative investors are being handed the kind of opportunity that only comes around once a century.

      Glenn Reynolds is openly asking why conservatives don't buy failing women's magazines and turn them to counter-propaganda purposes--like Bezos did with the Washington Post.

      Roger L. Simon points out that conservatives could use the Weinstein scandal and the catastrophic drop in box office revenues to buy out every single Hollywood studio.

      He also explains why they won't. Because like you said, making those kinds of plays gets you enemies, and the people who are positioned to act are all cowards.


  3. Brian interesting observation. However I do think that those anonymous authors are influencing culture but it's more of a mustard seed
    You don't see until the mustard plant frowns and become apparent
    Still with the growing inexpesoveness for podcasts and streaming it shouldn't present a problem.
    I think the mega movie studio is dead and what we need are micro studios like at the beginning of the 20th century and make short 30 min/ 1 hour serial.

  4. Many of them have already bitten the poison apple of modernism. Christian movie reviewers talking about wanting more "Strong Female Characters" and meaningless diversity, Conservative book reviewers fawning over meaningless lit books written by nihilists because they might relate to the author if you just squint hard enough, it's all like that.

    They've already lost. They've ceded the stage and are happily watching it from the fire exit while clapping and thinking they're part of the act.

    Sad and pathetic.