If you read the headline above, you may think I’m going to launch into a rousing defense of indie authors everywhere.
I’m not. Frankly, I think there are a lot of bad indie books, but I also feel there are a lot of bad books put out by the established publishing industry. I also think there are a lot of fabulous indie books, as well as amazing traditionally published books.
[Publetariat Editor’s note: strong language after the jump]
So why write this post?
Well, I recently read a thread on which indie authors giving their books away for free, or pricing them cheaply, were compared to street corner prostitutes with syphilis, metaphorically willing to service clients orally for pocket change.
Being a person with a sarcastic and often caustic sense of humor, I laughed initially. But then I thought about it. And I thought of some of the bestselling novelists who are giving away, or have given away, their books away for free.
Lisa Gardner, for instance, offered her novel ALONE for free. Andrew Gross offered one of his novels for free. Currently, Ted Dekker has a short story/prequel for free on Kindle.
I don’t hear anyone referring to Ms. Gardner, Mr. Gross or Mr. Dekker as cheap whores.
So what do I make of this?
Well, I work in advertising. So I’ve experienced firsthand the meeting of brands with the marketplace. I’ve sat through many, many focus groups. The result?
I believe good products survive. There are always critics. Some with sound, astute comments. Others, sheer nutjobs. Like the lady in a focus group who raved with great eloquence about my television commercial, then proceeded to talk about having sex with aliens in the Everglades. (True story.)
So what do I think of the glee and vitriol that seems to accompany the skewering of indie authors?
No fear of retribution.
I think it’s a lot easier for someone, let’s call him Wannabe Writer William, to bash an indie author than it is for him to trash a bestselling novelist.
Well, the bestselling novelist, let’s call her Bestselling Betty, has clout within the industry. She’s with a big publishing house and probably a big literary agency.
(Who knows, maybe Wannabe William has submitted his unpublished novel to both and is hoping to hear some good news – he wouldn’t want to jeopardize anything.) Bestselling Betty also writes dynamite blurbs and the occasional book review. If William ever sells his book, he might be asking Betty for a blurb.
Does he want to piss her off?
But what about bashing Two Jobs Ted? Ted’s a grocery store manager and a part-time reporter for his local paper. He’s married, with three kids. He’s also an indie author who just published his first book. It’s good. He didn’t have money to hire an editor, but he had friends he respects read the book, as well as proofread it. It’s a little rough around the edges, a few typos slipped by, but overall, it’s a good story.
Wannabe William reads it. He catches the typos. Maybe there’s a small plot twist that doesn’t make sense. Wannabe William decides to bash Two Jobs Ted. This is just the kind of thing these indie authors are putting out while his book sits in the corner, garnering no interest. So William tees off on Ted. He’s not afraid of Mr. Two Jobs – what’s he going to do, send William some day old bread from the grocery store? Write an unflattering story about William in his paper, the East Bumfuck Bugle?
The Power of the Asterisk
You all know the guy or gal. If they ever lose a game, or their favorite team gets knocked out of the playoffs, they have a knack for creating what I call the Asterisk Excuse. It usually goes something like this: “Well of course my team lost, three of our starters were out with Indonesian Malaria, and the waterboy spilled Ecstasy into the team Gatorade.”
You get the idea.
Wannabe Writer William has yet to sell his novel. And it pisses him off to see indie authors selling books, getting reviews, maybe even making it on to a few bestseller lists. But what really chaps his ass is when they refer to themselves as “authors.” It infuriates William!
Each rejection letter from an agent, editor or publisher makes William feel worse, and fuels his anger.
What would make him feel better?
To point out that books from indie authors all have asterisks. They’re not “real” books or authors. Want proof? Look at Two Jobs Ted? He sucks! In fact, ALL indie authors blow!
There, now William feels better.
My response…So what?
Sorry, that’s my take on everything I just said. So fucking what.
The marketplace is cold and cruel. Yes, there are hidden agendas. Yes, there are mean spirited people who love to rip others to shreds.
Again, so what?
Raymond Chandler, when asked about the dead body in the trunk of a car in his timeless classic THE BIG SLEEP, replied “Oh, I guess I forgot about that.”
In Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe has his hero take off all of his clothes, swim out to the wreck, then immediately begin stuffing food into his pockets.
I was just reading a new thriller by a New York Times bestseller. The hero of the book, who is supposed to be incredibly intelligent and street-smart, was obviously being duped. I had a basketball coach who if he felt you telegraphed a pass would scream at you, “I saw that one coming from Cincinnati!” Well, I’m guessing every reader saw that plot twist coming from Cincinnati. I stopped reading the book.
Again. So what?
If you want to write a book, write it. Tell your story. If you’ve got the money, hire a reputable editor, proofreader, and ebook designer.
If you don’t have the money, do the best you can.
Just know that when you go out with your book, the headhunters will show up sooner or later, looking to crack your skull.
Do what I do. Read their reviews. Hear them out. Honestly ask yourself if they have a point. Use the good feedback to make yourself a better writer. Do a better job with each book.
If their take on your book is as bloody as all 120 minutes of The Passion of the Christ, that’s okay, too.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
As both a person.
And a writer.
Hey, if you get kicked in the crotch seven times, say “fuck you” eight times.
And then get back to work.