The Stigma of Self-Publishing – An Indie Problem

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Indie authors are dirty, sloppy, and worthless. Their covers are crappy and you should just look at their writing skills – makes you wince even thinking about it. Character development? Self-publishers have no clue. Their work does not deserve to be displayed anywhere near the work that has been vetted and edited by actual publishers.

Anyone who has followed me for any length of time probably just had a heart attack. You know that I clearly don’t feel that way about self-publishers. My first book will be out in a month or so and it will be self-published. 

I’m proud of it. Not because it’s fantastic (that’s for you to decide), but because I actually got a book written. Not only did I get it written, but I am following the right steps towards getting it published. I pounded out a first draft and then took my time completing a second draft. I printed multiple hard copies of that second draft and gave it out for editing from serious professionals that I have networked with for years around my area. They are marking it up now and I will get those copies back soon. I will then complete a third draft and get some of my gracious beta readers to give it a test drive. In the mean time, I have contacted a great friend and spectacular artist that I know to begin work on my cover. She has an MFA from the University of SC and our creative visions are similar. I know that I will get what I want from her and more.

The stigma that surrounds self-publishers is not going to go away any time soon. No matter how many success stories come out of the indie author circle, it seems that so many people refuse to pick up an indie book. They are convinced that nothing good can come from anyone that didn’t go through a traditional publisher. I just read a review of Hugh Howey’s Wool that I think was tainted by the reviewer’s disdain of self-publishing. I honestly wondered if we had read the same book, because I loved the book.

Like it or not, many of the problems are on the shoulders of snobby self-publishers. You know who they are, so don’t pretend you to have no clue. They put their work out well before it is ready. I’m not talking about having a bad story, that can happen to published authors (come on, sometimes Stephen King’s stories need a little help). I’m talking about work that an author might have let their spouse read and that’s it. Right, your spouse if going to tell you the truth…

I’m talking about the indie authors that never had to write a single paper in college, if they even had a college class. There is nothing wrong with that. Heck, some high schoolers are successful self-publishers now, but guess what? Someone helped them! Someone looked over their work and took a big red pen to almost EVERYTHING. I’m talking about the ones that are published and then given reviews from friends and family as the rest of us look at it and say, “Sure, we self-pub to avoid the almighty gatekeepers and slush piles, but damn, that piece of writing is really not good.”

Professionalism and Discipline

Just because we self-publish and call ourselves indies does not give us the right to skip vital parts of the publishing process. Professionalism and discipline has to be our mantra. Sure, write a sloppy first draft. Write a sloppy, if somewhat better, second draft. Then give it to someone smarter than you. Give it to many people that are smarter than you (preferably with some editing experience). Give them free reign to rip it apart. Let them know that your feelings won’t be hurt. Get those copies back, cry a little, then pound out another draft. Then, if you think you need it, get a good group of beta readers. There are many people willing to trade work back and forth online. All you have to do it network and be nice in the right circles online to find them. Please don’t skip the cover. It has to be professional to be taken seriously. I’m getting someone with a master’s degree in fine art to work on mine. It doesn’t get more professional than that. The cover will be the thing people see first, so make sure it is great!

Does it all sound hard? Of course it does. Is it a ton of steps to take? YES. It does take serious discipline to take the professional route, but it has to be done. You took the time to put your awesome ideas down on paper, so treat them with respect. If you don’t, the readers will respond accordingly.

This is the only way to rid ourselves of the stigma surrounding indie authors. We have to become our own gatekeepers. Just because we chose to not take the traditional route does not mean we get to skimp on our work, and that is unfortunately what has happened to much of it. Sure, there will always be bad work out there. We will never be able to fix that. In fact, I don’t want to fix it because it shows the freedom that we have as authors. But, with some hard work and serious perseverance, we can get the good work to rise to the top. We can break even more indie authors out into the world. We have great stories to share so let’s make sure they don’t drown in laziness and complacency.  

**I know some of you will take offense at me saying college is necessary for good writing. I know it isn’t. I will say this – college and grad school forced me to really analyze my writing and ensure that what I wrote was quality work. It also made me realize that everyone does indeed need someone to read over their work.

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