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You Gotta Serve Somebody

By Scott Nicholson


You know the players.

They have a good thing at home, a sweet and loyal mate who takes care of them and fulfills their every need.

But they can’t resist a little on the side. It’s not even about need, because they are already fulfilled. It’s the curiosity, the dim hope or fear that maybe that side action is somehow the secret awesome soul-mate thing they talk about in books.

Or maybe they are scared to death of exclusivity, because all their hopes, dreams, and book sales are pinned to that loyal partner. And how much do you really know about that partner after all? Huh?

Yes, writers in the digital age sometimes have too many choices. A few short years ago (an entire epoch in technological evolution), we signed a deal with a publisher and hoped it worked it out. We deeply suspected we’d eventually get dumped, and with no alimony, but we couldn’t help but dream it was a love that would last forever. And our publisher was a jealous mate, often shackling us to the bedposts and not even allowing us to look out the window at other prospects.

Now we have all the partners we want. Promiscuous publication. Unsafe text. As many places to sell our books as we can seduce someone into posting. The new indie freedom means never having to say “You’re the only one for me.”

I think that freedom is also a different kind of prison. I’ve even been preaching, “Diversification is the key to survival when everything is changing so rapidly and in such unforeseen ways.”

So we run our books through Amazon, BN, Smashwords, Apple Kobo, Overdrive, Xinxii, and the myriad of small online bookstores that we aren’t even sure exist. Has anyone ever actually sold a Google book? Or a Diesel book?

But what if one good publisher wanted a true partnership and lured you to the altar with dreamy promises of Happy Ever After?

First, dash cold water in your face. There is no happy ever after in publishing. At the luckiest, you will amass enough money to take care of yourself in your old age, but we’ve all been to those writing conventions where they’re holding a charity auction for the old and sick living legend who somehow lost everything, including the rights to their own work.

But that doesn’t mean it might not be worth a shot. Amazon has announced its lending library, and reports say indie authors will be allowed in—with the catch of exclusivity. Yes, your book could only be distributed through Amazon.

On the face of it, that’s a true horror after we’ve fought so hard for our freedom and stormed the Bastille and—oh, wait. We actually did nothing but get lucky. We were sitting right here writing when Amazon launched the indie age for us.

Bob Dylan sang, ”You gotta serve sum-bahd-ah.” At some point, probably soon, we may have to decide which market, or few markets, will be the beds we are making to lie down in. A rental library is not only inevitable, it’s a no-brainer idea that should have happened years ago. Don’t be surprised if every major market, and every major publisher, soon launches some form of a rental library. The wide-open egalitarianism sparked by dozens of markets acting in their own best interests (opening their doors to scads of easy content they didn’t have to develop) may constrict and narrow as the partners get jealous and controlling.

The device wars will likely be over in a year or two, and then the real lover’s spat erupts. It’s ultimately a content war, as Apple demonstrated with the music business (and a nice 30 percent off the top, thank you very much).

You’re going to have to serve somebody. It might be a good idea to make sure it’s someone you love. An even better idea may be making sure it loves you back.


CREATIVE SPIRIT is Scott Nicholson’s revised edition of the 2004 U.S. paperback THE MANOR. Scott is Kindle bestselling author of 12 novels, including THE RED CHURCH, DISINTEGRATION, LIQUID FEAR, and SPEED DATING WITH THE DEAD. Connect with Scott on Facebook, Goodreads, LibraryThing, Twitter, blogspot, website or Amazon page. He’s also written The Indie Journey to help writers find happiness in their careers. It’s available at available at Amazon,, and Smashwords.


(This article may be freely shared, published, distributed, etc. as long as my byline and the ending bio material appeare with the article.)




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