Why Indie Authors Aren’t Taken Seriously

pic by Brittney Bush Bollay via flickr

As a self-proclaimed “indie author,” I face an uphill battle with all the tasks that we indies have to take on: writing, editing, formatting, cover design, publishing, distribution, marketing, social media, blah blah blah. It’s hard work. Writing is hard work, all by itself. But now we’re an army of one. I’m still not published (but — marketing hat on now — look for my groundbreaking zombie love story coming Summer 2012!) and can’t imagine how crazy it gets starting then.

But one of the worst things I’m up against is other writers who aren’t making a full effort, with respect for the craft. They are the reason why indie authors aren’t taken seriously. Not real writers (like you and me ;)), pouring our hearts and souls, their blood, sweat, and tears into their work. Not the real writers who value the written word, who get a thrill from the perfectly turned phrase, the ideal word, the just-right line of dialog. I’m talking about the wanna-be’s, those “writers” who want to be writers because it sounds cool or because they think through writing they will achieve fame and fortune, but who really don’t want to make the effort.

Why Indie Authors Aren’t Taken Seriously

Several predictions have stated that 2012 will be “The Year of the Indie Author”.  After all, 2011 saw some awfully big moments.

John Locke became the first indie to break the Kindle million-seller mark.  Amanda Hocking, Queen of the indie vampire books, signed a ginormous contract with St. Martins Press.  And The New York Times deigned to include indies on their best seller list, where every week at least one title—often more— are contained.  By all indications, you’d expect that readers and traditional media alike would be wrapping their arms collectively around indie authors and their books into something akin to a big ‘ole hug.

And yet…not so much.

Big Reason #1: Bad Editing

The main complaint about the indie book category is the lack of editing.  It’s true that this situation has changed a bit in the past few years, due in part to better and more diligent indie authors and—on the flip side—slack in the editing of traditionally published books.

Big Reason #2: Quantity Over Quality
Number 5 in Chuck Wendig’s brilliant “25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing” is Stop Hurrying. “The rise of self-publishing has seen a comparative surge forward in quantity. As if we’re all rushing forward to squat out as huge a litter of squalling word-babies as our fragile penmonkey uteruses (uteri?) can handle…But generation and creativity should not come at the cost of quality.”

Writing a book should not be a race to the finish line. While certain authors seem to toss off a title a month, copy and structure editing alone can take three to four weeks, receiving feedback from beta readers can take another three weeks, not to mention crafting the novel. The model of pumping several books out in a year might be fine for someone like James Patterson who has a slew of hot and cold running editors, but for many indies, it means skipping important steps such as editing and trying to go straight to the payoff. If independent authors want to write books that will be taken seriously, they need to present themselves with the same marked quality as the traditionally published books out there.

Big Reason #3 – The Lack of Gatekeepers
We totally get that being an indie gives authors the freedom to create a brilliant work, unsullied by the sales and marketing formula of the publishers of today. And we believe that self publishers are among the last of the underestimated, struggling artist’s of the world. But no man (or writer) is an island. In the words of Eminem, “Why do I act like I’m all high and mighty, When inside, I’m dying, I am finally realizing I need help.”

In the old days, an author needed an agent to get to a publisher and a miracle to get to an agent. Reaching readers any other way was totally out of the question. But ebooks and print on demand technology have made it possible for self-published authors to slip right under the velvet rope and onto ereaders everywhere, gaining thousands of readers in the process.

Big Reason #4 – Crappy Covers
As with many things in life, first impressions are 90% of the game. In order for authors and their books to be taken seriously, they must present themselves in a professional fashion; strong cover art, succinct and exciting blurbs, and a professional author photo, are must have items. The decision to skip these important steps can hinder current and future sales. As Biba Pearce states on Jane Friedman’s blog, “An ebook cover has an important job to do. Not only does it present your book to the world, but it also says a lot about you, the author. It can be a powerful selling and marketing tool, or it can damage your image as an author and lead to dismal sales.”

Read the full article at IndieReader.

If you are a serious writer then you deserve to be taken seriously, especially by yourself. If you cringed at any of the above big four reasons, it’s never too late to clean up your act and not contribute to why indie authors aren’t taken seriously. Make sure you hire a good editor, hire a good cover designer, and spend the necessary time to make your book as good as it can be. This means not weeks, not months, but years. If that makes you cringe, too, you’re not a writer. You’re still just dreaming about being one, whether you’ve been self-published or not.

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