I recently read a post with the premise that being able to indie publish so easily is improving our writing. With all due respect to that author (who indeed took the criticism she received and worked on her writing), I have to disagree. The dirge of bad indie authors is in fact killing good writing. Why?
In The Days Long Gone
Back in the days before the Kindle and ebook publishing, here’s how one usually got a book published:
You had an idea for a book, you sat down and wrote it, and you went to the library and check out The Writer’s Marketplace, or another book about agents and publishing. In these books you found out how to query agents. You might’ve read some of the tips on making sure your story was publishable. Then the Internet grew and you could look for this information online. You queried agents and if you got no response, you knew that most likely:
- your query sucked
- your book sucked
- or both
The smart authors went back and checked their novel and tried to make it better. The even smarter authors read books, took writing classes, talked to published authors, and went to conferences and talked to agents and editors, and learned how to improve as a writer.
Those smart authors improved their books. They looked at:
- using active vs. passive voice
- clichés and stereotypes
- strong verbs
- showing vs. telling
- using too many adverbs
- dangling participles
- unclear language
- is the story just flat boring
- and so on
Once these things, and more, were corrected, they queried again, and with great writing and a little luck, got agents and book deals. If you don’t believe me, look at the indie god, JA Konrath, as an example. Read reviews of some of his self-published works (stories that were rejected by agents). They tend not to get the great reviews of his other books…why? Because they were earlier works and not as good as the books that he got an agent for. He’d learned his craft and improved his writing.
Then you had those authors that, against all reason, still felt they had a great book. They self-published, and for the most part, gave self-publishing a bad name because the books weren’t good (I know, there are exceptions). You would think authors would learn….
That Was Then, This Is Now
Now you have people who write a book and publish it with very little or no editing. They have no idea how to make a story active and engaging. They tell a story, not show it. They have poor covers. And on and on. They glut the market with sub-par books, and then wonder why they don’t sell. They wonder why people tell them the story isn’t very good.
Here’s a bit of advice: don’t publish until you KNOW your book is good. And this means more than just having your spouse, friend, roommate, kid or whoever, tell you it’s good. I would recommend:
- querying to agents, just to get a feel for the responses. If you get none, you probably need to take a look at your book
- getting your book professionally edited and see what improvements you can make (this is an absolute must and it’s worth the money)
- joining a writer’s group where you can get HONEST feedback about your work
- getting other authors to read your book, people who will give you an HONEST opinion
There are GREAT indie authors out there, absolutely. Make sure you are one of them by putting the best possible product out there.
Don’t Believe Me?
Here are some excerpts from a review that I read. This is a well-respected site, but I am keeping out the details about the author and book because I don’t want to offend this person. There are some great points here that every indie author should ask about their own books. Here are the excerpts:
I cannot recommend this book. As many who read my reviews know, I try to support indie authors. The number of good quality indie books is increasing and they are fast becoming the only route for new authors to achieve recognition, especially since the main publishing houses are loathe to gamble on new authors. However, this is not a good quality indie book. Readers rule, and they deserve more.
The author bludgeons the reader with a hackneyed plot, stereotypical characterization, stilted dialog, and poor editing. Let’s consider the plot: A stereotypical PI with baggage all the way back to childhood agrees to meet with a stereotypical damsel in distress who is subsequently murdered. She’s a beautiful (is this a Bogart movie?) FBI agent with the stereotypical key to a safe deposit box belonging to a not-so-stereotypical and famous movie star. A stereotypical shadow government run by a stereotypical power-hungry U.S. senator wants that key. The military arm of the shadow government is a shadow organization hiding within the FBI, but the true FBI and this military arm as conceived by the author are more similar to the CIA. Agents within the FBI end up working for the shadow government without realizing it.
Most of the characters here speak in a stilted fashion. [the plot]…is unreal!
I was able to finish this book by struggling through all the above, editor’s pen in hand and often thinking, “Where is he going? What does this mean? Whoa, who’s this speaking?”
There are many good indie authors that will entertain and inform you—look for them. This author, in fact, has done them a disservice. He has helped perpetuate the myth that indie writing is slipshod. I’m not sure why. If you can’t edit your own product, you can always hire someone to do it. Why bludgeon the reading public with another poorly written book? It’s a terrible mistake to self-publish an (sic) MS full of errors in spelling, grammar, and style. Too many indie authors do so and they give us all a bad name.
But this reviewer is completely right. And as a kicker, I looked up this author on Amazon. The author obviously did not use this review, but I saw another Amazon review that, based on what the above review said of the author’s writing, I had to wonder if the author wrote himself. Here’s the Amazon review:
What a grate story, this is a page turner I love every page. The author make me live every moment of the story as if I was part of it. I highly recommend it.
Really? The review is grammatically incorrect and has spelling errors. This isn’t going to make me want to buy the book.
Talk to me. I’m one who will give you an honest review, and I want them in return. I’ll read excerpts if you want and offer my opinion. I’ll help you with marketing. We can help each other learn to be better writers. I believe in helping each other out…there are plenty of readers who want great books. Let’s give the books to them.
Don’t forget the contest for a FREE KINDLE! Details on my website at www.reneepawlish.com. If you have a Kindle, winning one would make a great gift.