C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

How serious is the hate for indie authors?

I’m feeling a tad depressed. I just read a bunch of posts in a forum from The People Who Fun Forgot. They were looking for ways to avoid even looking at indie authors’ work. Any indie exposure, it seems, might burn like a spicy plutonium chalupa with battery acid sauce. Some people held on to some perspective. For others, art was something to grumble at and be protected from while searching for “real” books from “real” publishers. How dare self-published authors offer something someone else might enjoy? Perhaps it’s promotion fatigue, but some people seem to think that just because they don’t like something, it’s automatically spam and valueless to anyone! Someone even suggested the establishment of a censor board to decide which indie offerings are worthy. I had to reread that several times. I’m still not sure if the intent was satirical. Gee, I hope that was a joke, but I don’t think so.

These angry posts and censorious efforts sound far more narcissistic than anything a self-publisher has ever done.

It’s a book, not  a crime. And if it be a crime, it is not a crime against literature but against personal taste. As in “individual”, one person’s taste.

As in, “Get over yourself, Butch!”

Another complainer said she was especially picky about offerings that were inexpensive. Wait! Wait! Why not be more picky about the much more expensive ebooks from traditional publishers? As John Locke says of his 99 cent ebooks, he doesn’t have to prove he’s as good as the traditionally published. Trad authors have to prove their books are ten times better than his for the prices they charge. Many of his readers certainly don’t want him censored. They’re grateful—happy, even— to receive such cheap entertainment. I eat 99 cent books like Tic Tacs. A 99 cent book isn’t a risk. It’s a Tic tac. If you like one, have more. If you can’t afford a 99 cent ebook, what the hell are you doing with an e-reader, anyway? If that’s the case, read at the library. In the job search section.

Being super picky over indie books doesn’t make you a connoisseur of literature. It makes you the sort of person whose company you wouldn’t tolerate in a stuck elevator for more than five minutes without considering how you could make strangulation look accidental. (If this is you, please consult your therapist. Next session’s topic: “Why do I feel such a need to be a petty bully over small things? And why do I feel such joy kicking the crutches out from under people?”)

I’m not for low standards, per se. It just seems absurd to insist a 99 cent book reach a higher standard. Every ebook gives readers a sample. If you don’t like the sample, you don’t have to buy it. And no, your time is not that precious. The President of the United States has time to read fiction for pleasure and you’re not working on a cancer cure, so get over yourself and read a few reviews on Goodreads if you need some help with your book shopping, for Christ’s sake!

You know what I love about the break from traditional publishing? The range of price and the freedom of choice. The “flood” of new books is not something I’ll drown in. I revel in the onslaught. The hunt for a good book is part of the joy of reading. (You even get to read while you hunt, which was frowned upon when the prey was deer.) The search is part of the fun, like wandering through a bookstore and dipping into samples to see if I can find a treasure. And, it bears repeating, just because a book is traditionally published is no guarantee it’s going to be any good. Yes, they’ve got typos, too. (And remember all those books “by” Sarah Palin?)

What of all those indie authors who were traditionally published last week but decided to abandon that enterprise for greater creative freedom and the other allures of independence?

Are they to wear the scarlet letter, too?

I was shocked that people who you’d think were book lovers could be so down on free thought, cheap books, free speech and more choice. All those good and happy things were just too damned inconvenient for them, obstacles in their search for stuffy books only semiotics enthusiasts might approve. (And by semiotics enthusiasts, I mean people from 1980s English departments who worshipped structuralism and used literary criticism as a weapon to stab writers in the parts of the brain that connect expression to entertainment. They pretended to love literature and creativity that was a mask. They may have started out as readers, but by their third year, the joy of reading and literary escape was shamed and beaten out of them. Now they only read to tear writers down to feel good about themselves through petty power plays, bad reviews and the destruction of the world, one idea at a time. You know. Like Bond villains. With herpetic lesions on their anuses.

I don’t think these curmudgeons and snobs are the norm. Are they…?

If they are…I have to go make toast in the bathtub now.

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Filed under: authors, book reviews, censors, e-reader, ebooks, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , ,

22 Responses

  1. laurieboris says:

    YES! Exactly what I’ve been thinking. I think I was on that forum, too. The sanctimony! Wonder if any of them write. Yes, haters. Write a novel. Then we’ll talk.

    • Chazz says:

      I’ll have to keep that reply in mind. “Write a novel. Then we’ll talk.” I like that. I’ll probably always have to keep it in the holster until someone actually says something to me in person. I read something yesterday about how we should never reply to a bad review. That’s true. But when someone sniffs at an indie book when we’re face to face, then I think I can have your suggestion ready. Thanks for reading!

  2. jessiebincr says:

    Fantastic post, hear hear! Insightful, with just enough snarkiness to make it fun, but still completely logical and well-stated. Very funny and completely on-target. I’m a fan! Thanks for such great words!

  3. For the general public, there seems to be the misconception that good writing will earn one a traditional publishing deal. The truth is, lots of good writers starve for lack of readers–lots of good traditionally published writers starve along side their indie brethren.

    Indie publishing gives the writer an outlet to reach the public directly, to find an audience that appreciates his or her work, and to do what they love without going through the treadmill of corporate publishing. The great thing is, an indie doesn’t have to conduct market research, perform profit-loss analysis, or otherwise tailor their vision to appeal to a mass audience. They can write unadulterated, for good or bad, and the only people they have to answer to is their readers.

    The general public, however, doesn’t understand that nor do they care. They just want the next “good read”, and they’ve been trained to think that good read will come from one of the Big Six. They’ve also been trained to think that if it doesn’t come from the Big Six, then it’s the literary equivalent of a trashy drive-in B-movie. Ironic, since some of those B-movies are the movies people remember most today (or, at the very least, they influenced quite a few of the A-movies that people remember most).

    I say, this too shall pass. Readers will catch on, and start to find books they like that aren’t Big Six corporate productions. Until then, the best indies can do is keep getting the word out, and keep selling their work one book at a time, and keep waiting for the tide to turn and the readers to realize that there’s really a lot of great books out there if they’re willing to dig a little deeper for them.

    • Chazz says:

      “For the general public, there seems to be the misconception that good writing will earn one a traditional publishing deal. The truth is, lots of good writers starve for lack of readers–lots of good traditionally published writers starve along side their indie brethren.”

      Yes! Right! I like your optimism. I just ran across the forum that shocked me last night, so the wound is fresh.

  4. jaurquhart says:

    I was depressed for days after perusing a customer discussion thread on Amazon (perhaps the same one you saw?) devoted to trashing Indie authors. As I recall, there were over 2000 posts on that thread–some of the comments breathtakingly sanctimonious. Surely the new freedom of choice you reference should be cause for celebration amongst readers? As for the clunker texts those customer posts lament–what’s new about that? Those books and authors abound, as they always have — sometimes comfortably ensconced at the top of mainstream bestseller lists. PS: Thanks for listing my post (on the same subject) as one of your related articles.

    • jessiebincr says:

      I thought of you when I was reading this earlier!

    • Chazz says:

      Yup. That was the forum. I found your link after I’d written this post and I think we’re of one mind on this. And as evidenced by the comments here, we are not alone, either. The indie community that showed up to say hello makes me feel a bit better about the conundrum.

  5. eden baylee says:

    This indie bashing wave must be hitting the people I follow as yours is the 3rd or 4th post I’ve read on this subject, and each one has gotten me more riled up.

    Firstly, to those who say indie authors are not “real” writers or like to brand all their books as sub-standard – I’d like to articulate a big “F*ck you” to them. I think that whether they read indie or not, they should at least understand those two words.

    Secondly, if I’m feeling less antagonistic, perhaps I’d ask to see their latest traditionally published book, and what their publisher has done for them lately, as in, how much have they been promoted, marketed, and which exotic city did they visit on their last book tour.

    If they can’t answer the above because they are still querying traditional publishers — fine…good luck, hope it works out.

    If they can’t answer because they haven’t written a book… then may I suggest that everyone stand back. There’s going to be a smack down, and it isn’t going to be pretty.

    And Chazz, to answer your question, I don’t think these curmudgeons and snobs are the norm, but they are dinosaurs in their thinking…and we all know what happened to the dinosaurs.

    eden

    • Chazz says:

      Right on, Eden. I’d like to see that smack down!

      I hope the curmudgeons are not the norm (though that forum thread is loooooong.) I hope that most people enjoy the new freedom of being the gatekeepers to what they let in their own minds without the intermediation of traditional publishing. As I said, more choice is much more important to me than some inconvenience. (Actually, the inconvenience doesn’t register with me anymore than all the websites I don’t visit.)

      I’m not against trad publishing, of course. It’s (often) great. And it had babies. The curmudgeons seem to be want someone else to give them less, more refined, choice to streamline their shopping experience. But less is not more. More is more.

      It’s the blanket statements about how all indie sucks that gets me. (I’ve said myself here many times that much of it does suck. However, of course we’re not all bad!) I like to decide things for myself, and that applies to my shopping, reading, writing and publishing experience.

      Glad and grateful so many indies who feel the same showed up here to weigh in.

  6. @WIlliamGJones has some great points. Good writing doesn’t guarantee a book deal. Bad writing doesn’t guarantee it won’t get printed. Novels aren’t chosen based on manuscripts anymore– but rather based on teasers. Then the publisher decides if they even want to see a manuscript and usually some intern is tasked with reading the book, unless it comes from an already established author.

    Most publishing houses don’t even edit anymore. They might have someone check for grammar, but nobody really says “hey, you need to cut this” unless the material is going to draw a law suit.

    So what it comes down to is appealing to the personal taste of an intern after you’re lucky enough to be allowed to send a manuscript. You might have a character say “Roll Tide” and get a book deal based on that sentiment alone, even if your plot is crap and your characters are mediocre.

    There’s also a misconception that Indie Books are failed attempts at getting published. Plenty of published authors are now turning out Indies (Tracy Hickman is experimenting with a serial book right now and Scott Sigler started by Podcasting, became a NYT Bestseller, and is now printing his own Indie series because he sees the potential). Other authors look at the profit model for Trad Publisher vs Indie. They see that after the first week, if their book doesn’t sell, they’re done. WIth Indie, it snowballs. You have months to work your butt off to get people reading your books.

    In some instances, the art is more authentic. Writers can tell a story that says what they feel without a publisher getting shy about offending the ever-present “they” and drawing wrath and boycott. Books end up marketed to the right audience, too, because the target is who the author intended, instead of who it would be easiest to sell to. JK Rowling says that she never intended Harry Potter to be a children’s book, but she was confined to a level of appropriateness based on the young audience the book had been targeted at. What would have been different in the later books if they had all sold with the British adult edition covers?

    Of course we, as Indie writers, have a responsibility to get a tough editor to make us cry and tear out our hair and fix out books. We have to better our writing to fight the poor reputation gained by Indies in the days of when vanity press was the only alternative. I have read one Indie so far that I barely got through. But I have read terrible Trad Published books, too. I’ll tell you this– I would gladly buy every one of my friends a digital copy of JL Bryan’s “Fairy Metal Thunder” before I’d do the same with a LOT of other Trad Published books. For 99¢ the risk was WELL WORTH the reward.

    • Chazz says:

      “Good writing doesn’t guarantee a book deal. Bad writing doesn’t guarantee it won’t get printed.”

      Thanks! With this quote, I now have a new tattoo! (Tramp stamp or forehead? Can’t decide.)

  7. Jason Darrick says:

    I tried to become trad-pubbed initially, I really did. Rejection can either kill a dream or motivate it, I chose the latter. The initial storm of negativity was almost frightening in its absurdity, to this day I remain confused by the hatred.

    Readers are beginning to explore other avenues, and traditional publishers are their own worst enemies in this case. I’ll use my mother as an example. She loves John Grisham, has nearly all of his older works in some form of ink-and-paper book, but lately noticed that the price has gone up – in some cases by $5. I told her that for that $5, she could borrow my computer and buy up to 5 books, now I have to fight for my damn computer.

    Indie publishing is not only freeing and very easy to adjust to (for a control freak like me), it’s also afforded me opportunities that I would never have had via any other avenue. I agree, some “authors” are only publishing to attempt to cash in, and most of them go away when they realize that we ain’t gettin’ rich up in here.

    Stand up for your work, be counted amongst the proud indie authors and keep spreading the message that good literature isn’t dictated by the lions any more.

  8. Chazz says:

    “hatred” “storm of negativity”

    Reading that forum, that is what it felt like. I’m not crying over my victimhood so much as claiming power, so we agree we must stand up for our work. Apart from that forum, I’ve found many people aren’t malicious, but they may be misguided. For instance, one well-meaning fellow was pushing pretty hard for indie as a path to trad publishing in order to “legitimize” it. I’m not against anyone going with a trad publisher, but I know of no indie who feels their books are illegitimate until they are anointed from New York. And all my friends have been shocked that I can make more money per sale with an ebook compared to paper. The revolution is already here, but the word hasn’t got around to all everybody yet.

    Thanks for stopping by and for your comment, Jason.

  9. Jane George says:

    Hi,

    I arrived here via Twitter. I stay away from the forums. Thanks for validating that instinct.

  10. Hi Chazz, I’m really glad to hear that I’ve managed to to stay away from those kinds of people. And may I just add before I continue that I really enjoyed your snarky delivery of your (extremely valid) argument.

    I am a book lover. I have been since I can remember and I know that there will always be books that I love and those that I don’t enjoy, regardless of who publishes them. I am also a book blogger and I really appreciate the amount of work that Indie authors put into promoting their work. Not everyone will enjoy every story. But at least with Indie authors finding more of a market in e-books we readers have more to explore!

    Interesting discussion.

    Shelagh
    The Word Fiend

  11. Chazz says:

    Thanks for stopping by, Shelagh! Gotta love anybody who calls themselves “The Word Fiend.” 🙂

  12. Something in my soul wants to wave a flag and say everyone go to the link and type in capitol letters, make long sensless posts in favor of peppermint ice cream and dilute the haters. It is easy to be high and mighty from a free computer at the local library, Anonymous is notorious for clanking around. The other part of me says go there and celebrate independance and dare them to read.
    side topic – Author friend had a free book returned to amazon with nasty comments about why he hates the genre (clearly the cover and amazon page indicate the genre) Another example of brilliance.

  13. Hi! Great post! And thank you in advance for allowing me to comment! I haven’t seen the forum comments but in defense of “some” of those people, a lot of independent authors are throwing up trash & slapping a 99 cent price tag on it. It’s just a fact. A lot of self published authors (notice I said a LOT, not ALL) are untrained in writing, have not bothered to study the craft (and yes, it IS a craft), have not taken any classes or researched the perspective markets their own works are a part of. They just feel that they have a book in them that needs to be written & that does not a good book make.

    Also, sure, we can argue that a lot of trade published books are garbage but we all know it’s a different KIND of garbage, and nowhere NEAR the level of self published garbage (when there are particular self published books that are in fact, garbage). Nobody is perfect, no writer is perfect, but one must have a grasp of the basic fundamentals of storytelling to some degree. There is a method to the madness.

    No offense to this author (even though I guess this will be an insult nontheless), but if The Host by Stephenie Meyer were a self published book instead of released by Little Brown, it would be a PRIME example of a lack of story-composing fundementals. And Twilight would’ve been considered Fanfiction, instead of an actual book. I know this supports the argument some make about the lack of quality in trade books, but this is a pretty special case & not the norm. All (and not even most) trade books don’t read like Fanfic.

    As for John Lcke & his million-selling ebooks (I thought somebody mentioned him here), I am starting to actually DOUBT whether or not he and Amanda Hocking (and particularly Hocking) are actually real. I don’t mean they’re not real people but, let’s put it this way: if someone would be kind enough to post a few links to places on the web showing posts or comments where Amanda has MARKETED any of her books (aside from her blog), I would be grateful to see to see them.

    As for myself, I’ve been searching online since last year and come up with NOTHING, not a single comment (you know the kind where people comment & leave a link to their own books).

    Where did she market her books? Where? And also, all of these book reviewing blogs. Most claim they don’t even review self published works so why did they review hers? And how did all of this whirlwind media catch on to one self pubbed author so fast when nobody really cares about self publishing in general? And it seems to me now (granted, not at the time) that this bigtime movie producer was just standing in the wings.

    But please, please, don’t think I am trying to defame her or or that I’m out to get her because I’m not. I’m not conducting some type of investigation here either, but I searched for her marketing posts to get some marketing ideas or just see what she did and found nothing. After about 9 months, I started questioning, you know? Plus all of this (Locke & Amanda) happened in the same year, around the same time. Was this staged by Amazon to promote KDP & get indie writers hyped to join up? Publishers pay book bloggers (a LOT, not all) to review their books. Is it so far fetched that Amazon paid them to review Amanda’s. Did they pay the media to cover the ‘story’ & make it blow up?

    I guess I’m jumping the gun here, going too far. But things just always slid too perfectly into their perspective slots in the Hocking story & now I really feel like I need to know the truth. I’m sorry if this is upsetting to some people. I didn’t write this out of malice, just curiosity. Those who may be upset by my questioning this, please feel free to post those links where she is promoting & marketing her books (aside from her blog & Goodreads). I’m sure there are PLENTY of links forthcoming, I just couldn’t find any on my own, so thanks.

  14. AJ Knauss says:

    Well Snooki and Justin Bieber both have traditionally published memoirs so they must be GREAT writers. Sigh. A good indie book will percolate to the surface via word of mouth. Its not easier or harder than traditional publishing. Its different. AJ Knauss, author or ROOM FOUR.

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