A challenge I’ve had in going indie, is to get out of the "NY Mindset." There is an assumption I think many people have about indie authors that basically starts with: "Secretly they really want NY."
Well, maybe they do, maybe they don’t. But as I’ve been exposed to more and more indie authors as well as small press and e-published authors, I’ve started to learn that every writer has a different dream. We aren’t a homogenous blob of one desire.
Not every author wants to be a bestseller. I know that sounds insane, but nevertheless. Not everybody wants to be president of the United States either. There are drawbacks to everything, no matter how amazing it looks on the surface.
Not every author wants another publisher, whether it’s a small press or a big major NY publisher, to take control of their work. It’s easy sometimes for one author to look at their personal wants and desires and decide that must be what all authors want. It’s easy for human beings in all areas to do the same thing.
If you want a house with a white picket fence, a dog, and 2.5 children, then that must be what everyone wants. If you want to run your own business, that must be what everyone wants. Intellectually we all know this isn’t true, but emotionally sometimes it’s easy to forget that our goals are not everyone else’s goals.
As writers we’ve been conditioned to believe that only bad writers won’t give up control of their own work. While I agree that editing is one of the single most important facets of a book, whether self published or not, I don’t agree that in the end the author shouldn’t have the final say over what happens to his/her work. After all, it is his/her work. And the goals of the author might not be to fatten the bank accounts of a major NY publisher. Wacky idea, I know.
I have several NY published author friends, and I think they’re awesome. And I have several friends who are on that NY publishing track, which is great too. But I often find it hard to relate with this group of writers because their perception of what success is, and what we should want, and what is real or fake, or acceptable or unacceptable, flies in the face of what I’ve learned about myself.
The economy is creating a funny dichotomy. On the one hand, more people seem to be open to the idea of self publishing. It’s as if we only needed the economy to really go bad for people to feel like they had permission to publish, because the odds suddenly got so awful that it’s almost "legitimate" now. On the other hand, some are getting more loud in their arguments against self publishing.
I’m not sure why self publishing is of interest to someone who has no intention of doing it, but the biggest argument that is brought forth is how "bad" most self published books are. Well, yeah, that’s true.
The unfortunate side effect of lowered entry barriers is that anyone who wants to play can play, even if they aren’t any good. But that’s been the case for all other types of business forever. If you open a bad restaurant, you fail. But anyone can open a restaurant. You don’t have to be vetted by another restaurant owner first.
If you sell wilted flowers from a stand on the side of the road, you fail. But anyone can sell flowers without a vetting process.
I’ve seen my fair share of really bad NY published books as well. In fact, of the 41 novels I read last year, about half of them were bad enough that I couldn’t write a review for them without it sounding like sour grapes. So I abstained from comment.
But the one thought running through my head with regards to most self published books being bad is: who cares? There are lots of bad books, but one of the primary forces that drives sales besides just getting your book out there somehow, is word of mouth.
When people love your work they tell others. And if those new readers love your work, they tell others. The statistical percentage of bad self published work is entirely irrelevant to your book and your personal success, however you choose to measure it.
But I got to thinking more about those "bad self published books" and wondering about the goals and dreams of the person who wrote them. Does that person want to be a bestselling author with a NY house? Maybe. That’s the stereotype. But what if they have a different view?
What if they aren’t on the author career path at all. Maybe they wrote a book because it was inside them and they needed to get it out. Maybe they wanted to see their name on a book and hold that book in their hands. (Why this is wrong and ‘vain’ when everyone chases after things that make them feel good, I have no idea.) Or they wanted to give it to family and friends. Or they wanted to sell it just to see what happened.
Some people really are okay with creating their art for whatever audience they have without having to have a dollar or prestige goal attached to it.
Yes, a lot of self published books are bad. So are a lot of NY published books. While there is a lot of chaff, indie authors can produce whatever they want, and in that artistic freedom we sometimes find something really great.