The Problem With Indies?

Photo courtesy of FotoliaRecently I was discussing the influx of independent authors on the book publishing scene with a friend and I stated that if I were offered a publishing contract right now I’m not sure I would take it.  “Why share what I’m already doing?” I asked.

She made some very interesting points in defence of small press publishing, the most compelling being that a large influx of unregulated authors also meant a lot of books floating around with poor editing and rushed plots.

That all too common scenario is actually downgrading the indie scene, creating prejudice towards self published authors.  I have known of people who will bypass indie books, however worthy, after getting burnt by a few bad ones.

I’ve been so caught up in the spirit of literary independence that I hadn’t thought about the negatives that accompany a lack of regulation.  I do know I’ve read some books that had so many basic errors that your average high school english teacher would have failed them, and letting these slip through the crack hurts us all.  As writers we are making an unspoken promise to entertain, reneging is not an option.

I will be the first person to tell you that my own book is not perfectly edited.  If I had the money to pay for editing it at the time, I would have.  When I publish the 2nd edition of it, it will be professionally edited.  I did use what I had on hand, which was me reading it and editing until my eyes glazed over.  I originally published the beginning on and got excellent critiques from other writers.  In all I think I did okay; out of all my reviews I have only two three star ratings as my lowest, but it could have been better.

As indie authors it’s up to us to uphold the standards of our industry as best we can.  We must be painstaking in our publishing, weeding out typos and plot errors relentlessly.  We must be cruel with our work, holding it to ridiculous standards.  End of Mae lost the entire story arc of one of the beginning characters and the sole sex scene during my final chops.  It felt terrible to cut out a third of the book and basically toss it in the garbage, but it needed it.

The way I see it, independent authors have two clear paths to take;

  1. Stay independent and be the CEO of your own industry.  Learn to outsource tasks you aren’t proficient in and master all the rest, including marketing and distribution.  Be a professional in every sense of the word.  Readers will vote with their dollars and as you continue to plug away publishing new work your reputation as a solid author will establish you.
  2. Start independent and solicit a publisher as your work becomes known.  With a press name behind you, I think it does validate you as an author much easier than staying indie.  In addition, the publisher takes care of all the business end of book writing and allows you to settle back and focus on production.

Both paths have their benefits and pitfalls, and I don’t think there can be a blanket ‘best way’ statement made.  Some may be best suited to go completely rogue and others do best with backing.  While I am undecided at this time, being wholly independent may be the direction I stay with.  If I ever do go with a publisher, it will be a surprise to us all and I promise to have their logo tattooed on my behind.

I’ll have to wait and see what happens.  One thing I have found in my two months of being published is that I’ve entered an industry in the midst of a revolution.  The literary sky flashes with the flames of the burning bourgeois and the masses run amuck.  Some scream liberty with blood in their eyes while others cling to staid establishment.  Whatever the outcome, it is an exciting place to be… as long as I don’t see a guillotine.

Explore this further:

Pixel of Ink talks about how Scott Nicholson goes indie

The Passive Voice discusses The Demise of the Good Book

Rich Friedeman on problems with indie publishing

Dean Wesley Smith on Traditional or Indie?

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher, and author with over 20 years of experience in newspaper journalism. She co-publishes Space and Time magazine with author husband Ryan Aussie Smith. For more information visit
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