Do Indie Authors Suck?
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. However, it 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.