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Old 02-19-2011, 01:49 PM   #1
Just4kix
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Why authors choose to go ‘indie’, and why the standard varies.

I have read several reviews where the reader has been delighted to find a new ‘indie’ author whose book is both enjoyable, and also free from typos, poor spelling and grammar. However, I have also read reviews where the reader has been disappointed at the number of typos, and spelling and grammar issues, and has been put off sampling more indie books.

I thought it might be useful for readers to know why authors go ‘indie’, and why the standard varies.

Some indie books have been previously published in print form by mainstream publishers. The authors have reclaimed their copyright and have then indie published them as e-books. These authors often have other books that, for various reasons, never made it into print, so the authors have e-published them.

Authors are also realising that by indie publishing they have autonomy over their books - content, style, cover and price. But most importantly, it also gives them a bigger share of the royalties.

Other writers, despite having a good product, have not managed to find a publisher. Perhaps their book is considered a cross-over genre, or the publisher feels it won’t sell sufficient copies. There are many reasons for a publisher to decline a quality book. These writers have now found an outlet for their work through e-publishing, bypassing the gatekeeper agents and publishers and selling directly to readers. The readers themselves will now decide whether the book is worth buying.

Then we have the eager new writers who have seen the opportunity afforded by e-publishing and have gone straight into e-books. Many of these writers are talented and offer a good product, but unfortunately there are some who are over-eager to upload their books and have not done sufficient homework with their editing. These writers should be encouraged to seek professional help to raise the quality of their work.

Readers should remember ‘Caveat Emptor’ – let the buyer beware. Don’t rely on the title, cover and blurb. Several reviews have mentioned that the cover and title were misleading (probably not intentional on the part of the author). Always try a sample before buying. It is better for all concerned that a reader is not ‘forced’ to read a poor quality book and then give a bad review.
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Old 02-19-2011, 03:29 PM   #2
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Always try a sample before buying. It is better for all concerned that a reader is not ‘forced’ to read a poor quality book and then give a bad review.
Huh? I would argue that it is better for the vast majority of readers that poor quality books get bad reviews. Then we don't have to waste our time going through a sample of a poor book.
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Old 02-20-2011, 07:23 AM   #3
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Huh? I would argue that it is better for the vast majority of readers that poor quality books get bad reviews. Then we don't have to waste our time going through a sample of a poor book.
I think what Jan might have been meaning was that, if you don't know what you are getting into by having sampled it, you might, based on a title or cover picture, be misled into buying a book which doesn't discuss what you expected, and thus, being pissed, give it a bad review that it doesn't deserve based on the content.
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Old 02-20-2011, 07:34 AM   #4
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The "expecting a different book based on the cover and blurb" thing isn't limited to indie books, though.

Two books I read recently had a blurb that made them sound like a fantasy-mystery (published by Orbit), and a fantasy-adventure-with-a-bit-of-romance (published by HarperCollins), and when I read them they were mostly focused on romance.
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Old 02-20-2011, 09:39 AM   #5
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Another reason some authors go indie is that it may be the only way they can make a living. That's the reality that authors often face: Do I want the prestige of having a publisher or do I want to make money?

I left my small publisher to self-publish and committed to treating my novel career like a full-time job. It was a very successful move.

L.J.
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Old 02-20-2011, 10:37 AM   #6
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There is an elephant in the room.

A lot of authors go indie because they are not good enough to be published by anyone else.
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Old 02-20-2011, 11:01 AM   #7
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Lots of authors go indie for different reasons: some good, some bad.

It's one of the things which make indie books so frustrating - because it really is a crap shoot and the range is so much greater than in commercially published works. Indie writers, and readers, can take more chances - and sometimes it pays off tremendously well, and sometimes it fails tragically.

Their reasons are as individual as their books - you can never say why indie authors go that route, but only why one specific author went that route.

I'll admit that the indie books I'm most likely to buy are author reissues of commercially published books that have since reverted, but that shouldn't surprise anyone. The single most common reason for buying any book is that the purchaser had read another book by the same author and liked it.
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Old 02-20-2011, 11:03 AM   #8
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There is an elephant in the room.

A lot of authors go indie because they are not good enough to be published by anyone else.
A lot of the latest generation of writers will never even approach a publisher because they see no value in them anymore. I see this as a good thing, similar to the late 1970s when a lot of musicians put out their own records instead of giving away all their rights to a publisher. There was a lot of amateurish rubbish put out, but the good ones more than compensated for that.
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Old 02-20-2011, 11:14 AM   #9
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There is an elephant in the room.

A lot of authors go indie because they are not good enough to be published by anyone else.
Amen.
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Old 02-20-2011, 11:19 AM   #10
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A lot of the latest generation of writers will never even approach a publisher because they see no value in them anymore. I see this as a good thing, similar to the late 1970s when a lot of musicians put out their own records instead of giving away all their rights to a publisher. There was a lot of amateurish rubbish put out, but the good ones more than compensated for that.
I agree, a lot of them won't and like everything else it has its upsides and downsides.

Probably the biggest is the difficulty of sifting through the garbage to find the gems. Who knows how many brilliant authors won't ever reach that critical mass of readers because they just get lost in the dross?

I'm also concerned that with the ease of indie publication there will be less of a drive to improve, and so many otherwise brilliant writers won't hone their craft as finely because they don't need to leap the hurdles.

On the upside - we're more likely to get brilliant and experimental works that would never make it past the gatekeepers.

A thriving indie market/industry is a good thing - but I don't want to see any authors closing any avenue before they've considered it. I think many authors may choose not to go with commercial publishers, but I think this should be a rational choice, not a simple dismissal.

Submitting to others is the greatest cure for golden word syndrome yet found - and the last thing the world needs is more writers suffering from that.
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Old 02-20-2011, 11:33 AM   #11
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None of this addresses, however, the complaint about typos, misspellings, and other poor editorial decisions, which was the subject of the introductory paragraph:

Quote:
I have read several reviews where the reader has been delighted to find a new ‘indie’ author whose book is both enjoyable, and also free from typos, poor spelling and grammar. However, I have also read reviews where the reader has been disappointed at the number of typos, and spelling and grammar issues, and has been put off sampling more indie books.
In this case, the problem is that the indie author thinks he/she can do it all themselves and either won't or can't afford to spend the money for professional help.
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Old 02-20-2011, 01:12 PM   #12
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I think the main problem for indie (and online publishing in general) is matching up authors and readers -- there are almost too many options for readers to choose from.

"Trusted sources" (bloggers, reviewers, participants on message boards, etc.) will help narrow the "what do I read next" dilemma, not unlike news aggregators do now for web-surfing.

As brick and mortar stores fall by the wayside, the power-brokers in the new world of publishing are going to be the social communities, bloggers and reviewers...sites like MobileRead.com, the various Kindle boards, etc. will help make the future stars of publishing.

Yes, there are many amateurish works being published independently...just as there have always been plenty of "not ready for prime time" works published by both major and small presses.

I went indie for two reasons: 1) creative freedom, 2) a better business model.

1) I enjoy the freedom of being able to write and publish what I want without interference from a publisher. I enjoy letting readers decide "what is good" (and I have confidence in that process). Having worked inside publishing companies, I know better than to have any confidence in the corporate network of infighting and arbitrary decision making. It is a wonder that any of them make money the way some of these companies are run.

2) As an independent ebook author, I can make a respectable income on far fewer sales than I would need by going through a traditional publisher -- so even if my work is "more niche" than a mainstream publisher can be bothered with, I am still ahead of the game. And yet I have the creative freedom to do what I want.
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Old 02-20-2011, 01:47 PM   #13
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I am an indie author partly out of inclination and partly out of necessity. I like the idea of being free to produce work on my own schedule. I also recognize that the odds of an unknown author being picked up by the regular publishing world is slim and none.

That said, I am slowly gaining a sense of the work that is required if you take the craft of writing seriously. To be quite honest about it, my novel had 99,000 words, of which a certain small percentage were inevitably misspelled. Finding every single typo has been an exhaustive undertaking, one that continued even after initial publication.

I feel like I have corrected 99.9% of the errors within the first month of publication, but certainly the purchaser's of the first couple of e-book versions had to put up with errors that later readers won't. The only defense I can offer is a willingness to keep digging and correcting errors in an effort to produce as near perfect a book as I can.

Over the long span of time ahead, I think the merits of the book -- whatever they might be -- will overcome the initial lapses in quality control. Certainly I will be much more careful the second time around. Meanwhile, I am digging into my old grammar books to see if I can't wrestle this comma thing to the ground.
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Old 02-20-2011, 06:50 PM   #14
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A thriving indie market/industry is a good thing - but I don't want to see any authors closing any avenue before they've considered it. I think many authors may choose not to go with commercial publishers, but I think this should be a rational choice, not a simple dismissal.

Submitting to others is the greatest cure for golden word syndrome yet found - and the last thing the world needs is more writers suffering from that.
I agree. And I suspect that many indie publishers use the method to get their work out there, even though they know it's going to be like peeing in the Atlantic. In the meantime, they're pushing their work down the list of agents in the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook to see if someone bites. The publisher's sole value to the writer is that he gets the book in front of the reading public, which indie publishing doesn't.
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Old 02-20-2011, 07:07 PM   #15
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I agree. And I suspect that many indie publishers use the method to get their work out there, even though they know it's going to be like peeing in the Atlantic. In the meantime, they're pushing their work down the list of agents in the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook to see if someone bites. The publisher's sole value to the writer is that he gets the book in front of the reading public, which indie publishing doesn't.
I'd call it a primary value (and not to be underestimated) rather than the sole value. As a writer, I write to be read so you can't underestimate the importance of bringing the work in front of readers.

However, the other thing I value most about commercial publication is that the process does wonders to cure golden word syndrome. As an editor, I hate working with writers who believe everything they write is sacred. I don't make a lot of changes (other than obvious typos) but I do make suggestions, and any writer who isn't willing to listen to suggestions is going to have an almost impossible time improving their craft.

There's no impetus to improve if you're already perfect - and one thing the commercial process hammers home is that no manuscript is perfect.
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