You’d think that 5 years into the eBook revolution, snobbery and scepticism about this revolutionary distribution platform for writers would begin to fade away. It seems that for most mainstream publishers and reviewers, the disdain about the self-publishing model continues despite the amazing success of some indie writers.
Self-publishing was often seen as the last avenue for the vain, plain bizarre and simply unpublishable. The advent of eBooks and platforms like Amazon and iBookstore have certainly lowered the barrier to entry, but has this been a boon to writers or just created an enormous virtual slush pile?
Sure, anyone can publish these days and that’s not a bad thing. One of the biggest criticisms of self-published authors is the short circuit in quality control. Out the window goes editing, layout and good cover design. While this is true in a small number of cases, I don’t think it’s true of the majority of writers who want to embrace writing and indie publishing as a career.
I think the algorithms that eBook stores like iBookstore, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Sony use do a pretty good job of filtering out the slush by the simple system of review and sales. Hey, that’s works in the trad world too! Obviously if a badly designed, written and edited eBook gets thrown at the cloud, unless it actually finds an audience and sells enough to make the algorithms kick in, it’s never going to kick start a writing career for anyone. It will just stick on the virtual bookshelf, like a forgotten and fading post-it note.
Think about it. If a book is rating and selling on Amazon, it’s because it’s garnered positive reviews and good word of mouth. If enough people buy the work and recommend it, Amazons algorithms kick in and your book can suddenly be in the ‘bought this, also bought this’ list and suddenly you may have an instant bestseller. Is this such a bad thing? Presumably readers don’t buy crap they don’t really want to read.
If the social proof is there, it’s because the eBook has hit all the hurdles and is resonating with readers. Is it less of a great reading experience because it wasn’t drip fed through the many and arcane filters of the traditional publishing model? Or does the snobbery and disdain spring from the simple fact that the social proof has come from the readers themselves and not the closed loop of ‘literary’ book reviewers in the major metro newspapers.
The majors must adapt by being more receptive to self-published authors and not running screaming from writers that have taken their career seriously and pushed off into the self publishing seas themselves.
It is a 2 way street though. It is possible for indie self authors to attain the professionalism that a trad publishing house can give you but it’s a lot of hard work. But it is necessary work. Being self-published is no excuse for shoddy work. Indies must hire editors and must be willing to put the hard work into a second and third draft at least. They must engage a critics circle for the final draft. They must have a professionally designed cover. They must ensure their eBook has a beautiful layout. Because, if they do all of these things then they will gain the respect of the major publishers, and prove that the stigma towards self published authors should be shown to be a myth. I believe that most self-published authors who treat their work seriously and the possibility of a writing career seriously do take these things seriously.
There will always be enthusiastic amateur content on the internet. That’s the nature of the beast, and what’s wrong with that? The truth is that any self respecting author who puts the hard work in to craft a piece of art should gain respect wether that book was published traditionally or electronically. Ultimately the content is king. Trash is trash and treasure is treasure, but to dismiss all eBook authors as trash is surely missing the point.
Is it just about the big tick of approval that signing with a major gives? There is plenty of slush in the majors published piles too. At my local markets, there is always a couple of long trestle tables filled with second hand books. None of it you would call literature. All of it you would call pulp. All of it was produced by mainstream publishers. Somebody signed off on the production of it. Whole forests have been laid barren to print this stuff.
Get with the program. There has never been a better time to be an independent writer then now. The snobs will not stop the fun for the rest of us.
Real talent always finds a way out. It’s like water, it leaks, runs, drip, flows and finally finds a way. If an author can leverage their social media profile into eBook sales & downloads while generating excitement for their next release, why the hell not? If a writer can engage with a paying audience, is the writing any less valid because it doesn’t have the big tick of approval from a major publishing house?
I’m a self published writer. I wear my stigmata with pride.
This is a big topic and I’d love to here what you have to say. Let’s start a discussion. Please leave a comment right below.