Monday, December 5, 2011

Inglorious Bastards – Part 1

Recently, I’ve been seeing a few blogs, articles and forum posts saying some bad things about indie writers. Who these people are is not important. What I dislike is the condescending take on self-published authors. These people, who are themselves mid-list authors at best, make comments like “indies should be more professional;” or “I want to read good writing” so “why would I have to compete with self-published writers or help them?” Fear not, this article is not about trashing publishers. I became an indie author out of necessity, not choice. I’d rather have a publishing house behind me. All I ever wanted to do was to tell stories, not run my own mini publishing house. My beef is with the misconceptions about self-published authors.

Most people would like to be published through regular channels. When that option is no longer on the table we have two options: quit or do it yourself. If you are lucky enough to go through regular channels, then you’ll have an agent, an editor and a publisher to guide you. You’ll have an experienced group of people to assist in all aspects of your book. How much they help and are involved depends on how high you are on the totem pole, but the fact reminds the author is not alone. Don’t get me wrong; getting published by an established house is not a walk in the park, but it doesn’t hold a candle to self-publishing.

If you choose to go “indie,” you are on your own. You need to learn everything there is about the mechanics of putting a book together: editing, proofreading, design, layout and legal matters. Mistakes will be made; after all, you are not a professional publisher. Everything you are facing is new to you and the learning curve is steep. Then you have to know how to market, advertise and sell your work. Reviews? Good luck! The media has an unwritten rule on not reviewing self-published work, so you have to search far and wide if you want to promote your work. Oh, and there’s no advance on your work, not even a meager one; everything comes out of your own pocket and chances of seeing a return on your investment are very slim.

Then there’s question of quality of writing and publishable potential. People self-publish for different reasons. Some do it because every agent has rejected them. The working assumption here is that the keen eyes of knowledgeable agents–sometimes editors–can discern talent. I’m sure J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, George Orwell, John le Carré, John Grisham, Jack Kerouac, James Joyce, Dr. Seuss and Ernest Hemmingway (just to name a few “rejects”) would have something to say about this. Here’s a nice NY Times article on the subject; The truth is, nobody can really tell who has the goods (watch “Money Ball”). If that were so, every published book would be an instant classic, publishing would be one of the most profitable businesses on the planet, and authors would be wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.

Next week, on part 2 of Inglorious Bastards, it’s the publishing house’s turn at bat. 

Keep on running!

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