Some months ago, I was following the chat thread in an online authors’ group where someone made it clear they did not respect indie writers.
True, they seemed a little confused about what self-publishing was, often veering into arguments more applicable to vanity presses.
They talked about the bragging rights that come from being a traditionally published writer. They spoke about the waste of money hiring editors and cover designers and implied such service providers were scamming writers.
Funnily enough, this same writer had hired an editor herself so she could send her manuscript to a publisher or agent.
Just to be clear, it’s not necessary to hire an editor if you’re submitting to an agent, etc.
The indie authors on the thread were understandably upset at the ignorance and disrespect. They had worked hard on their books. Yet she seemed to take great pleasure in putting them down.
Her criticisms and claims about self-publishers
- It’s not real publishing and there are no bragging rights because anyone with a few dollars can do it.
- It’s like being a child and making your own little newspaper and selling it to your mother for a penny.
- You are not sending your work to anyone to be critiqued, so why bother?
- It’s just a matter of printing out copies of your own work.
- Indie authors hiring editors are being scammed.
- Why would you hire an editor if you’re not submitting to publishers?
- Apparently, you are just publishing your own ‘SHIT’ and then boasting about it.
It became clear very quickly that this would-be author did not understand how indie writing actually works. She seemed to be confusing indie publishing with vanity publishing in some of her arguments.
When the indie authors explained to her that they functioned as publishers and subcontracted work to experts – editors and cover artists – she claimed they were being scammed. She also didn’t see the point, presumably thinking these writers would never be read.
An example of an indie success: The Martian
I posted an example of a successful indie author – Andy Weir. There are many others, but Weir was the one who came to mind first. His self-published book became a Hollywood blockbuster.
If that’s not a success, what is?
He also managed to sell the print rights to his book for a decent amount of money.
Weir originally published The Martian as a serial on his own website and had a lot of fans who followed the instalments. The book was repackaged as one volume and sold 35,000 copies in the first three months.
Funnily enough, the writer who sneered at indie publishing had nothing to say about Weir’s indie career.
What can you say?
That he published his own shit?
That he was putting together his own little newspaper to sell to his mother?
That he was little better than an eight-year-old child?
Check out the amount of science in The Martian to see how child-like the book is.
Indie publishing has evolved since the early years
Yes, some writers have uploaded unedited files and published them online. The freedom of the indie marketplace means that you have the choice to publish unedited if you want.
Some people just want to get their book out and possibly don’t even mind if it doesn’t sell. Publishing a book might have been on their bucket list. They’ve done it and moved on.
There are also others who perhaps have had little contact with writers’ groups and don’t understand the amount of work they still have to do before publishing. I think fear of being judged by an editor might also be a factor.
However, some people are just plain adamant that their work should go out as it is.
All of this aside, many indie authors take their work seriously enough to shell out money for various rounds of editing, decent cover art, and marketing. They are taking control of their own careers and not dependent on industry gatekeepers or the whims of acquisition trends.
And the indie market has grown over the years. In 2018, the number of self-published books jumped by 40%. In fact, the actual figure is much higher since only ISBNs were counted, which leaves out authors using Amazon’s identifier system.
Indie authors have courage too
One of the most disparaging remarks made by this critic of indie authors was that it takes a lot of courage to send a manuscript off to a publisher.
But doesn’t it also take courage to invest in your work, research the right editors and designers, believe in yourself, and go out there and chase success? Especially since there are plenty of people happy to diss the work of others in reviews.
The point of this post is to say that indie authors are real authors. And the gatekeepers of the publishing industry take on the financial risk with traditional authors, which means they can be picky about what types of books they want to accept.
Books that are badly written or that don’t quite make the grade aren’t the only ones rejected. Great books that are difficult to categorise, that deal with difficult topics, or which might be seen to appeal to very small demographics are also turned down.
Traditional publishing is a commercial field. But writing is not just about commerce.
And taking control of your writing career and becoming an author entrepreneur can be the most courageous choice of all.
And that’s before we get into something that is often missed about the power of indie publishing. Some writers are content to produce the words alone, while others have a bigger vision which includes the cover art, audible narrator choices, and the freedom that comes from marketing the book their own way.
One choice is not more valid or braver than the other.
Different writers just have different priorities, aspirations, and motivations. And some are working in less commercial niches. There are still readers out there looking for those books, even if the traditional publishers are not fulfilling their needs.