The path that I have chosen now has led me to a wall…
Kansas, “The Wall”
The review of The Greek Seamen by BigAl’s Books & Pals has been making its way around the Internet lately, and it finally made a stop on my twitter-step today. I should say, the review itself is not nearly remarkable as the interchange of comments below it, and the many responses it has sparked from readers, reviewers, and authors themselves.
The comments themselves on the article, and many linked pieces included in them, touch on a lot of issues I don’t feel a need to rehash. Nor have I any need to point fingers directly at the author; she makes a perfectly clear example of what not to do when receiving a bad review. There are, however, a few things that came to mind with the whole situation that lingered in my mind.
“Indie” authors – or authors who self-publish, “vanity” publish, or publish with small publishers – get an incredibly bad reputation, mainly due to the lack of editorial oversight. Despite this, self-publishing is getting an increasing amount of praise as the new age of publishing. It makes sense – not only because the old model is based around writing for profit, but because the new model puts focus on quick dissemination, modern reading formats, and the author-reader connection through social networking.
The above example is a strong indication of why many shy from self-published works – and why many look down on self-publishing authors. By removing the “big publisher” gateway, the authors who think they’ve got “the stuff” are no longer kept on the other side of the ivory wall. In an industry where readers have generally remained protected from these kinds of authors, its understandable that they wouldn’t want to let their guard down yet. That’s not to say that big publishers are perfect: not everything that passes through their gates is brilliant, and some brilliance is often skipped over.
Indie publishing lets the authors and the readers do the choosing; it drops out the middle-man. This doesn’t make it any easier for the author to get their book read; they have a great deal of work ahead of them whether they pitch to publishing houses or publish through Kindle. It simply shifts the attention and focus of the publishing industry to focus more directly on what the authors want to publish, and opens up new material for readers to discover.
In fact, I intended to go for self-publishing and small-press publishing myself; I prefer having the freedom to write as I’d like, for whom I’d like, without a heavy-handed company redirecting my efforts to suit their market. I’m also aware, however, that simply because I have no interest in going through the big-publisher route does not mean I am no longer accountable as an author. Whether it’s a 99 cent guide or a five dollar novel, what I write has to be worth reading. That means not only several rewrites and edits for the obvious, but using the services of beta readers and connecting genuinely with my audience to really go from “alright” to “good” to “amazing.” It means listening honestly to reviewers and critics. It means challenging myself to new levels of writing prowess.
There is one thing I can say for certain about self-publishing: it is definitely not the route for authors who are too proud or self-confident in their skills to not see writing as a constant learning endeavor. I believe there is no such thing as perfect writing, no pinnacle of perfection, and any honest writer should take the same approach. Any writer who suffers from sensitive artist syndrome should take a more traditional approach, not to prevent them from being published, but to give them the proper guidance they need to flourish in their craft.