Indie Authors don’t get a lot of credit, and that’s primarily due to the fact that bad books get published daily. To refine the definition of bad books, consider the following stories:
- Karen Severson, Missy Avila’s murderer, wanted to publish her side of the story.
- Handbook for Mortals Controversy: How an unedited book made the New York Time’s Best Seller’s list.
Additionally, authors like Laurie Gough, assert that: “Good writers only become good because they’ve undertaken an apprenticeship. The craft of writing is a life’s work. It takes at least a decade to become a decent writer, tens of thousands of hours. Your favorite authors might have spent years writing works that were rejected. But if a writer is serious about her craft, she’ll keep working at it, year after year. At the end of her self-imposed apprenticeship, she’ll be relieved that her first works were rejected because only now can she see how bad they were.”
However, as a self-published and #amquerying author, I find this generalization to be quite problematic. To insinuate that self-published writers are “bad writers” because they haven’t passed through publishing industry standards, an industry that is completely subjective, is narrow-minded. This one-sided logic denotes the possibility that a book has passed through sensitivity reads, various rounds of rigorous editing, and was not published, not because it was bad, but because an agent didn’t feel a connection with the work. A connection we all know is completely personal.
I’d like to remind thinkers and authors like Gough that the publishing industry does not always publish “good books” either. For instance, Zoe Sugg’s Girl Online Trilogy is as cookie-cutter as it gets. Sure the series is in the YA genre, but I have found many, many YA books that are captivating and border on literary fiction. Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, is beautifully written and sits on a shelf just below Sugg’s. But yet, Girl Online made it through these gatekeepers that are supposedly looking to publish prolific works of fiction.
Gough further insists that, “[o]f the self-published books I’ve read, I can see that these people haven’t taken the decade, or in many cases even six months, to learn the very basics of writing, such as ‘show, don’t tell,’ or how to create a scene, or that clichés not only kill writing but bludgeon it with a sledgehammer. Sometimes they don’t even know grammar.” And this couldn’t be further from the truth. Has anyone ever thought that these writers ARE trained but can’t find their place in a mainstreamed market? That perhaps the greats, like Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King, were also self-published? Even Margaret Atwood, who Gough cites in her article, was also self-published?
In truth, as writers, we should reconsider the misconceptions surrounding the self-publishing industry and celebrate those who dare to be Indie Authors.
1. They Aren’t Absent-Minded Hobbyists
Every great thing came from having a past time – a hobby. Just as children play games to explore their skill sets and to discover hidden talents, adults who perhaps never had the opportunity to try when they were younger, do the same. No one person should maintain one label for the rest of their lives. Writing is not an inclusive world.
Gough parallels being an indie author to being an indie musician, and does so with a condescending demeanor, “Everyone knows I’m a tuneless clod but something about that CD validates me as a musician. It’s the same with writers who self-publish. Literally anyone can do it, including a seven-year-old I know who is a “published” author because her teacher got the entire class to write stories and publish them on Amazon. It’s cute, but when adults do it, maybe not so cute. With the firestorm of self-published books unleashed on the world, I fear that writing itself is becoming devalued.”
There is nothing invaluable about someone working towards self-discovery at any age in their life. A lot of indie musicians put out that CD, just as I put out my indie artwork, and we get better at it over time. By having a certain level of autonomy support, we eventually exceed all expectations and excel at something that was merely seen as a “hobby.” Perhaps this is just the teacher in me, but allow that 17-year-old have their success as an indie author. It will only make them appreciate their craft much more.
2. They Spend Years Refining Their Craft
My self-published debut novel, Love from the Barricade, took four years to write. I am not just talking about a first draft, either. I wrote the first draft in one month, and then revised it in another month. I repeated this pattern for 3 more years, but added beta readers and editors to the mix in order to optimize my chances of traditional publishing, and also to understand the nuances of story-telling that are often overlooked in traditional writing courses.
Prior to writing my novel, I studied creative writing for 6 years, learning the intricacies of story-telling. I read most “great works” of fiction, and emulated these techniques throughout my residency at California State University Northridge. Additionally, I was an editor for my school’s literary magazine, and later worked as an editor for a small publishing company. Now, I am a composition instructor and teach creative writing workshops for young children.
Needless to say, I have the skills to write and have been refining my craft for years.
3. They Aren’t “Crybabies” Who Couldn’t Get Past the Gatekeepers
Perhaps the most common misconception is that indie authors are blubbering babies who can’t handle the meaning of “no.” But in actuality, the rejection process is a learning tool. Most authors who are rejected don’t receive any more than a rejection form. However, and at least in my experience, the writing that is rejected isn’t always bad and agents have taken time to express this to me. It’s good, actually. It just isn’t right for the current market.
However, I take what they have said to heart. Build your character! For the first 10 pages, start somewhere different – take us to the action.
I’ve listened to all of their input, and I feel their suggestions have made my self-pubbed novel stronger. Their comments also made me realize the difference between their personal preference and my individual artistry. In other words: I know how I want to present my work, and can make the decisions to execute them as I see fit.
4. They Do Read Within Their Genre
To be a good writer, all authors need to read. But they can’t just read “the greats.” They have to read what’s And I don’t think many indie authors get credit for the amount of reading that they do do in order to keep up with the current market. I do not sit idly by, but instead try to understand what other writers are doing because they are obviously doing something well, and I as a writer need to pay attention to their craft; because of technology and the current political climate, it’s more than important to read what marginalized writers are writing.
While I do not get to read a stack of books like I used to, I still search agent Twitter feeds for recommendations. I view Buzzfeed book lists and Goodread Recommendations to broaden my horizons. I’ve found books on these lists that I may have otherwise overlooked walking through the aisles at Barnes & Nobles. And I can see why they have so much merit, and I would love for my book to do the same. Not the opposite.
5. Self-Publishing Open Windows for Writers Who Don’t Have Equal Opportunities
Self-published books should not be considered a lesser form of art unless they are purposefully making a mockery of literature, or are condoning hate.
The self-published industry otherwise allows a plethora of opportunities to people – children, the elderly, the disabled, the ill, the dead, etc. – who may never get these opportunities simply because of a subjective market that is more about timing than art.
I am right along side the many who feel that dangerous books should not have an easily accessible medium to self-publish. However, I am optimistic that the majority of self-published authors merely want to share stories that they have worked hard on – as they should have the freedom to do so. And we as writers, both in the traditional and self-publishing industries, should all value one another as equals.