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Do Indie Authors Suck?

August 15, 2013

Recently, the indie corner of WordPress seems to have exploded over this rather vitriolic article, written by one anonnymouse13.  According to anonnymouse13, the independent publishing market is “a little pile of shit, wrapped up in shit, to make a shit burrito covered in shit sauce”.  A lovely image, no? 

As someone who does not hold a personal stake in any of the topics raised, I thought I’d state my own opinions on the matter.

The article, to put it bluntly, is deeply flawed: it is loaded with generalizations and takes a tone that is needlessly hostile, as you could probably tell from the above quote.  Several writers have already made reasonable replies to the post in question; many others, sadly, have resorted to angry responses that are at least as bad as what they are arguing against. Such responses are counterproductive and serve only to add weight to the original author’s claims; if you’re thinking of making such a reply, please don’t. This goes for any similar incidents in the future, too.

Before I go on, allow me to answer the question posed in the title: of course not. Indie authors, as a single group, do not and have never “sucked”. The music and videogame industries are full of independent artists nowadays and it is only natural that this be seen in other forms of art.  People go indie for a variety of reasons, many of which are well-researched, and it can be assured that at least some of these people will end up producing good-quality work.  Howeverit is also true to say that there are a lot of indies on the market who probably shouldn’t be. Even a quick look through amazon will reveal reams of products with ropy covers, poor writing and bad pricing. On this last point, anonnymouse and his critics seem to be in agreement.

Another “however” is that anonnymouse13 clearly knows a thing or two about the business of publishing. Given that he works for a publishing house, this shouldn’t come as a big shock. Underneath all of the profanity, he makes some good points – points which any budding indie author ought to pay attention to.

The most important thing to extract from the article is the need to hire good editors to support you in your work. “Indie” should not mean “solo”. Unless you’re some kind of literary genius, you will need editors if you’re to produce your best work. As the author of a piece, you are always going to be too emotionally invested in it to see all of that piece’s faults,whether you realize it or not. On a related note, you should consider letting someone else do your cover unless you have a good grounding in graphic design. At the very least, you should seek opinions on your cover before you publish. Remember: a feature on Lousy Book Covers is no substitute for a proper marketing campaign.

Another thing to note is the need to keep one’s expectations in check. Most of the very successful indies have something more than luck to attribute to their success.  Some had pre-established connections or markets, as anonnymouse13 has already argued, while others simply worked exceedingly hard to get to where they are today. If you want to become one of the success stories, you’re going to have to put a ton of time and effort into your enterprise –  first in learning and perfecting your craft, and then in presenting and marketing your work to the best of your abilities. If you know all that and are willing to do it, then good; if not, you’re in the wrong profession.

A final thing to take away from the article is that self-publishing, or at least doing it well, is not cheap. Freelance editors and cover artists don’t just pay themselves, after all. This is a factor that you should both be aware of and be willing to accept. You have faith in your novel, do you not? In that case, what’s wrong with investing a bit of money towards that novel’s eventual success?

At the end of the day, anonnymouse’s original post is an inflammatory piece of work which, really, should not have been put up in the form it is in. Its valid points, of which there are several, are drowned in an undercurrent of anger and hostility that was  completely unnecessary. That does not mean that these points should be ignored, though. Rather, they should be taken on board and their author, politely I should add, criticized for what else he has said.

PS: His followup post is quite a bit better and had me smiling long before the end. I’d suggest giving it a look when you have the time.

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From → Blogging, Writing

19 Comments
  1. Honestly, I think the biggest reason that people got so up in arms is because of just how generalized the blogger made his post. While he does say there are exceptions, he uses the ‘all indie authors’ a LOT for his statements and you can’t. It’s like making generalized, statements about the publishing house authors and expecting it to be okay to stick it on each and every one of them.

    As well, though there are good points, they get covered with the harshness of his words. And a place to rant or not, if you want people to listen to actual advice, you can’t get it to them like it’s a dark alley and you’ve got them pinned uncomfortably against the wall in the middle of the bad part of town. And that’s not me saying it has to be sugar coated either, but… there’s a more tactful way to get the point across than how he did it where people would have listened better.

    • I agree with absolutely everything you’ve said. The thing about good points is that they need to be presented correctly if people are to listen to them. That particular article, in the opinions of both myself and several others, didn’t manage it.

      Like I said, I’d suggest reading his followup if you haven’t already; it makes several of his opinions a lot clearer and I found it genuinely enjoyable to read.

  2. The generalization is what is dangerous about the comment…. Some authors, for example the British SF author Ian Sales, self-published a novel that went on to win a British Science Fiction Award (BFSA) and had a very positive mention in The Guardian! So, yes, a lot of self-published/small-press works are horrible, but that certainly does not mean that they all are — and, it certainly doesn’t mean that the a work published by a big publisher isn’t horrible either…

    • Agreed on the generalization: that was by far my biggest problem with the post. Can’t say I’ve ever heard of Ian Sales, though; I went ahead and downloaded one of his short stories, and am looking forward to seeing what I make of it. Thanks for making me aware of him 🙂

  3. Well said! 😉

  4. Kate is permalink

    Absolutely too generalised to take anything he’s saying seriously. It’s a rant.

    • Generalization is certainly a major problem in that article. I can see why people reacted in the way they did.

  5. Reblogged this on sarahremy and commented:
    Excellent points.

  6. kingmidget permalink

    His followup post is still filled with generalizations. That’s his biggest weakness in trying to make any points. The Twilight Effect? Really, everything coming through publishing is an outgrowth of The Twilight Effect as he describes it? He needs to expand his horizons if that’s the case.

    • Well no, far from everything, but Twilight has indeed had a huge influence on the YA market. To be fair, it helps that I rather enjoy reading rants in general. It also helps that I don’t feel as though I’m affected by any of the issues he raised: that’s years away, yet.

      Thanks for commenting.

  7. kingmidget permalink

    He also loses credibility now by being unwilling to confirm and allow negative comments to be published. I posted a scathing one on his About page and a more reasonable one on his follow-up post. Neither were approved for publication on his blog.

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