After having the chance to participate in an indie author panel titled "Putting the We, in Indie" over at Go Indie Now’s YouTube channel last Friday, I think it’s a great time to talk about this topic. As an indie author, I’m aware of the wonderful things within the community just as much as I’m clear that not every apple in the barrel is spic and span.
Indie authors have a mixed up sort of reputation and it all goes down to the very nature of how we do things. Since we do it on our dime and under our own rules, there’s ups and downs and some perceptions that are a challenge to overcome, because although some people rock, others suck BIG TIME.
Being indie can mean a lot of things and I’m very fortunate to have a variety of indie author friends in a degree of levels in their career. Some are fully independent, others struggle to pay bills, and many juggle jobs and responsibilities jumping through hundreds of hoops if only to get a few minutes of doing what they truly love (oh how I can relate). I’m working on my fifth year as an indie author and for me it certainly doesn’t get any easier or hasn’t gotten so for X or Y reason. This might be perception or might be new challenges that keep popping up. The good news is that the more people read me, the more people seem to genuinely like my work and find something completely new in the variety of work I do. Some people might say I’m a jack of all trades, but a lot of people like to see what new ways I’ll pivot with my next work while gently harassing me to finish the third book in my Human Cycle series as well as other projects.
Throughout all these years I’ve gotten to know some high caliber writers who share aspects of my vision while embedding their journey with their full creative criteria. That said, although I know these people, they have my love, respect, and support, because I know them as authors, as humans, and as creators and they go for it. Some of my favorite books are by indie authors and I’m not saying that just because I’m an indie author or these are my friends. Some of the most powerful poetry I’ve ever read comes from authors who have less than 10 reviews on their work when they should be discussed in widespread fashion because their work is of that caliber and can have that much of an impact on readers and large chunks of audiences.
But it’s not all rosy, it’s not all nice, and some people, truly, intensely, and genuinely suck.
The variety of reasons why people suck vary as much as the people you come across. For some, the level of bragging and being overly obnoxious would be bad enough, but then they harass you to read, buy, review, nonstop… as in NON-STOP. Every opportunity is exploited to talk about THEIR writing and what THEY are doing and THEM. It’s real smooth too because they ask about you once in a while and then comes the avalanche of self-promo. For these people, it’s all about quid pro quo, I give and you give something back. They don’t care about your work or if it’s any good, or if there’s a typo you could fix. It’s all a setup to get back to what matters, THEM.
To add insult to injury, there are SEVERAL practices by indie authors that leave a bad taste in the mouth and let us remember, I'm not only a writer, I'm a reader. One of these practices is buying followers/reviews/likes, etc. How have I noticed, you may be asking yourself? Well for starters, some people come off as disingenuous and then you see they’re on some top list. They offer to exchange reviews so you see the amount of reviews, sales numbers, feel a disconnect, can even be bummed that you don't have that level of "success" and go, what the hell, let me read a couple of pages…. And then you do… and it becomes clear how much of a scam it is.
I know indie writers who can go head to head with some of today’s best-selling authors. Honestly. Their work is that good and I often recommend it. I know some who are pretty good but could use a little editing, but offer something fresh and different. I know some who are middle of the road and don’t do a disservice to the community by writing but don’t really add new things to it either. Then I know some who I slowly and systematically unfollow on as many channels as their behavior calls for and who are not only a disservice to the community, but a downright insult to all things indie, and I’m not exaggerating.
The hardest thing to swallow about people like this is that by finding other people who will play the copy paste fake review game and bolster their numbers, indie authors get a bad rep because what they put out in regards to literature, promotion, and overall community is in my opinion, utter garbage and unfortunately, people love to generalize.
But I’m here to say it’s not all trash. Actually, I would scream it but I don't want to seem desperate. It might also be a reaction to that oily sensation from dealing with people like the ones I mentioned. Sure I know some people think going indie is a cop out and some think we can’t cut it with the big boys who get their work published anywhere. But maybe some indies had bad experiences and were taken advantage of by a small or mid publishing company. Or maybe it’s just that having someone suggest we edit something to appeal to the market can quite honestly suck it. The reality is that there are some amazingly talented people I know who write from the heart and go for it with every book. Some are decent, some are good, some are fantastic, and all deserve a shot, because they support other people, because it’s not all about them, because it shows that they care and that they’re not passing receipts for any support they offer.
As an indie author, I take a lot of pride in my work and I bust my ass so that every single book is worth your time and offers something you won’t easily find elsewhere, because it covers topics that aren’t typical, because it pushes and challenges an audience rather than pander or belittle them. I write a variety of topics and I strive every day to craft things that express aspects of who and how I am, be it in poetry, essay, short story, novel, song, or blog post form. I am proud of what I do and how I do it and I am always happy to help and support others, but not because I’m supposed to do it. Any support I offer comes as a direct result of believing in the worth of other people’s real work, which holds pieces of their heart and soul and deserve to be read by as many people as possible.
But it's not an easy sell because people still associate those bad things with indie authors. What’s saddest is that people ONLY associate this with indie authors, when in fact, ANY creator in any field can be a hack but know how to promote themselves. Not only that, but being published or picked up by a big house means absolutely nothing, because I've read some AWFUL things that went through all the channels and the process and quite frankly still sucks all the balls. The reality for indie authors is that we each walk our own path and it is ours to walk as we best think it’s worth walking, while inviting the people we want on the way.
This means that I won’t be exchanging review for review with everybody I read. This means I will always review honestly. This also means I’ll support the people I believe in. There’s a lot of them and there’s always room for more. The rule is simple, push yourself, don’t push others to support, offer something new and polish it, and don’t be an asshole.
If it sounds simple, it's because it is. And even so, it needed to be said.
Peace, love, and maki rolls