For a long time, I distributed my writing for free. It was the usual routine: I wrote a story for fun (and because it got me hot), gave it a cursory once-over, then plastered it on Literotica or — and I fully admit to this — WAY back in the day, on Fanfiction.net. (Yeah. Legolas was my guy in those heady days of the early 2000’s…) Anyway, at that time I considered myself an amateur. And I was; an amateur, of course, is someone who does something for the love of it, and nothing more.
I ceased to consider myself an amateur when I began investing more concentrated time (and money, too) in perfecting my work. I connected with beta readers, hired a proofreader, designed book covers, wrote and polished blurbs, edited, revised, and rewrote until I was sick of my own work. All of this was through a desire to make my writing the best it can possibly be. And in the process, I realized it had value. Real value: the worth of my time and effort.
So now, I consider myself an artisan. This is not the same thing as a professional. Professionals make their income from their work, whatever it is. Probably they have invested a large chunk of their life into their career, specializing in a profession, taking workshops and focused trainings, putting their nose to the grindstone and climbing the ladder. I do that, too, in my professional life. This is something I separate from my art, however.
Get it? Profession = professional; Art = artisan. So, unless you happen to be signed with a big publishing company, who pays you regularly and buys your work in advance, you, too, are an artisan. (There are professional artists, of course. My grandparents were; they struggled their whole lives with it. Hence, my preference for keeping art and work apart!)
Think about cheese – one of my favorite things! You can buy tasty cheese from professionals. Say, Tillamook. No matter where you are, you can get a nice brick of cheddar, knowing it has been made in a large, reputable plant, wherein they have been producing quality cheese for generations. Tillamook is a professional cheese-making business. They make TONS of cheese and maintain a level of quality we expect from professionals
Now imagine you’re at the local farmers market. Cheese can be found here, too, but this time it’s artisan cheese. You might find a small-batch herbed chevre, or fresh mozzarella. It’s all been lovingly made by hand, the product of individuals or small groups working in quite a different system than the big companies. Oftentimes artisanal cheese is delicious, far richer and more tempting than the grocery store variety. Other times, alas, it is less than amazing. In any case, it is likely to surprise you.
Lots of people say artisan is better, for this reason. Others prefer the consistency of professional products. Neither is right or wrong; they’re just two different ways of producing, buying, and enjoying cheese.
Keep that in mind when buying indie books. Self-published authors are artisans; we don’t work for any big company or publisher. There’s no safety net. We just quietly producing our work — our art — in the hopes that customers (that means you, gentle reader!) might prefer to buy a small, artisanal product rather than a predictable grocery store bestseller. Just know that, whichever you choose, there’s an artist behind it. But when you pay that artist directly, more of the benefit stays with them.
So buy from artisans! Shop at your local potter, beekeeper, couturier, farmer, bakery, woodworker, candlemaker, art gallery. Support us Indie authors, too. We may not sell at the farmers’ market, but we are artists and craftsmen, just the same.