There is a debate that rages on in forums around the internet and across many platforms, both on and offline. The question at it’s core is one which draws vociferous opinions, both for and against, the two opposing points of view. What are the points of view in the debate over indie professionalism and self-publishing? Are indie authors free to express themselves without the constraints of traditional publishing rules for producing a set level of quality and content? Who gets to decide what the rules for indie publishing are? And when do those rules translate to book snobbery?
I am a new author. I will readily admit to not having a writing background or education. These are the main reasons I chose to write as an indie author. I know what I produce would not meet the standards of a traditional publishing environment, and I am okay with that. But, after independently publishing three books, I have become disappointingly aware of how much those traditional standards are applied to, and used to deflate and harangue independent authors because peers in the group who profess to be a “community” choose to hold everyone to the same standards. These book snobs dismiss circumstance, choice and individual rights to producing work of your own choosing in the way you wish to do it. It’s an unacceptable display of entitlement by them. The attitude that, “my book is better than yours because it doesn’t have thirty spelling mistakes and visible grammatical issues which make it confusing to the reader,” is pervasive. It ignores the potential of every other storyteller because the book snob thinks they are being dragged down by the level of quality of other indies. If those people want to continue with such an attitude, I suggest they try the rarefied environs of traditional publishing, because they are not honoring the spirit of being indie.
Indie is about BREAKING the rules, about REINVENTING the rules and about TOSSING the old rules and ways of doing things when they no longer apply.
Independent publishing is independent for a reason. Authors are free to express their stories INDEPENDENTLY. At the heart of it is creativity. Being creative for a living is choosing to be vulnerable for a living. It is the baring of one’s soul to the world in the expression of words, music, images or dance and there are folks on every rung of the ladder of success and achievement. Independent authors are no different from painters and singers who release work as unknowns. The world should get to choose whether they like that work, or not. It is not up to other authors to police that work and provide “helpful advice on how to improve it.” Peer review is the reserve of beta readers and editors (if an indie chooses to use those resources), but should by no means be shoved down everyone’s throat as the gold standard by those feeling it is their business to do so. Whilst I understand the desire of the collective to demonstrate indie books are every bit as readable as their traditional counterparts, it has become a single point of focus of the “holier-than-thou” crowd who voluntarily and vociferously inform everyone else that they are not doing indie right if they don’t stick to the “rules”. Where did these people acquire the privilege to grandstand on their lofty moral high ground? Who placed them in that position? No one. They clambered up there, wolves in sheep’s clothing, over the hopes and dreams of “lesser” authors, all the while espousing to us underlings the do’s and don’t’s of self-publishing.
If I may be frank – it’s bullshit.
I have had my own fledgling confidence in my writing and books undermined by these “well intentioned” predators. My first book, We Are Mars, is back in editing because I have such high anxiety over its “unworthiness” as expressed by some self-styled experts. I am a victim of the grammar nazis. I have fallen prey to the trampling of my own hopes and dreams by those that choose to believe they are free to volunteer their infinite wisdom in informing me of how poor my book quality is. In recent months, I’ve seen this happen to an increasing number of other authors. There is a clear separation emerging in the writing community (especially on Twitter) between those of us who want to write our books for the joy of writing stories, and those who feel they are entitled to preach the rules at us and shame everyone into believing they are not worthy and the reputation of the whole team is taking a hit. Last time I looked, there was no “team” in INDEPENDENT AUTHORSHIP.
I’m going to say I unequivocally disagree with the, “team effort floats everyone’s boat” approach. I didn’t get into this gig to help dozens of other authors succeed while they pushed me down into the mud with their criticisms. I got into it to write and maybe sell a few books. The experts have all scrambled for the lion’s share of the social media limelight with their Youtube channels, their bizarre author branding, their sexy innuendo, their pious, exclusive groups and clubs and the endless rounds of writers lifts and follow Fridays. What is it all for, anyway? Has all that crap improved their writing or simply distracted them from their art?
There are many reasons someone will choose to publish their book, AS IS. The number one reason could be MONEY. Or, at least, the lack of it. Editors cost money. Cover designers cost money. Layouts cost money. As indies, the gate is open through places like Amazon, to upload a book and hit the publish button. As long as we abide by the rules of engagement with the Amazon market, I don’t see another reason to follow anyone else’s rules.
Write the book you want to write. Let the readers decide if it’s worthy of their readership. Be gracious in accepting your reviews and ratings and then do it all, again. As for the rest of the so called rules: I don’t give a damn if you, as a peer independent author don’t like my font, don’t like my en dashes and don’t like my prose style. I am writing my books because I CAN and because I WANT TO. And you and your snobbery can’t and WON’T stop me.
If you don’t agree with me, I can’t help that. I’m not here to lift you up. I’m here to write my goddamned books. If you don’t like it, fuck off. Whether you like what I write or not has no baring on my bottom line and will not dissuade me from fulfilling my chosen path of being independently published, my own way.