Let’s be honest

There’s a lot to be said for honesty. Or so I’ve heard. There’s something I really want us all to be honest about for just a few minutes. It won’t hurt.


I have a lot of “indie writers” following me on Twitter, which I appreciate. Indie writer is another term for — you guessed it — self-published. And there’s nothing wrong with that. If you want to self-publish, I say go for it. If you’re prepared to do your own editing, cover design, marketing and sales, go right ahead.

You can even make money doing it, and that’s great. You should be able to make money for your writing, if your work is any good. Indie authors who produce quality books and e-books are great. If you can do it, more power to you. I just don’t think I have the energy.

But there are a couple of things that make me roll my eyes at a lot of indie authors. First, if you have a Twitter account (and you should — Twitter is essential for writers/entertainers, even the wannabes), you should really tweet about more than the book you’ve got for sale. Building an audience is no good if you’re alienating that audience at the same time.

Case in point: There was a (very nice) woman who followed me on Twitter, and I followed her back out of courtesy. Plus, I like to read. She’s self-pubbed two books. More than 75 percent of her tweets are links to buy her books. The other 25 percent were repetitive platitudes that “positive reviews and book recommendations are a great way to say thank you to authors you like!” I eventually unfollowed her for annoying the snot out of me. I’m not sure how she’s built a Twitter following. Seriously, that kind of self-promotion comes off as desperate to me.

And then there are the indie writers who want you to know how happy they are to be self-published. You know, because books are dying a slow and undignified death. Because they don’t have an advance to earn out. Because they’re tired of their work being rejected. Because, by God, they don’t need those uppity New York agents or publishers.

Right. Right.

Of course you don’t need them. Not you.

The thing is, most (not all) indie writers aren’t good enough to get published. And if they don’t pursue the goal of being published by a real, royalty-paying publisher, they likely never will be. Writers need other eyes — professional ones– on their manuscripts. Agents and editors are a necessary evil. They do more than point out your typos.

I have a couple of friends who have recently (and I mean in the last four weeks) made some serious strides in their writing careers. One is a fantasy writer, a young woman I’ve been friends with for years. In the space of a month, she has received an offer for a two-book deal with a well-regarded publisher and also signed a deal with an enormously respected literary agency.

I am insanely happy for her. I’m also jealous as hell. But she’s a great writer, and she deserves every good thing that’s happened to her over the last month.

This young woman thought about self-publishing, and considered it fairly seriously, if our conversations are any indication. I’ll bet now she’s glad she didn’t.

What if she hadn’t had those years in the wasteland, where her writing was the equivalent of one hand clapping? She was crying out in the wilderness, but no one was listening. The temptation to just put a book out there — to get it out there in any shape, form, or fashion — had to be enormous.

But those years in the wilderness helped her. She’s a far better writer today than when we first met — and it’s because she continued to write with the idea of eventual publication through a commercial publisher. She went out there and made it happen. She’s earning a five-figure advance, plus she’s got representation from a major agency — because she didn’t settle for less than what she wanted.

I get the feeling a lot of indie writers are settling for less than what they wanted, and the sound of their desperation to be noticed is overwhelming.

The other friend I mentioned? Yeah, she has multiple agents offering representation for her first novel. What a great problem to have.

Again, I have nothing at all against entertaining, professional indie authors — the path they’ve chosen is incredibly difficult. But I’m just annoyed that some indie writers seem to look down on commercially published authors. It’s a great case of reverse discrimination. If you’re happy with the way your career is going, whether you’re indie or traditional, there’s no need to poop on someone else for their success.

One thought on “Let’s be honest

  1. Here’s my take on why I’m going indie. I feel like agents are swamped with queries these days (I feel like the YA field is especially saturated) and while I get they’re always looking for that diamond in the rough, I think they are more likely to sign someone who has had some prior success and a fan base, whether it be from traditional or self publishing. I would rather have complete control now, get to learn how it works, how to market myself, how to format things, etc., hopefully get a bit of a following and then go give the traditional route a go. That way I will have something to show them. I think they’d like to see how dedicated I was to get my work out there and noticed. Know what I mean? Does that seem like such a horrible thing?

    When going indie, you always have that chance that people are going to just say “Oooh your writing sucks that’s why you have to self publish”, but it’s not always the case and I hate that people just assume that. Read my stuff. You want to tell me it legitimately sucks then? Fine.

    I hate the few that ruin it for the rest of us….

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