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Author Topic: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument  (Read 7937 times)  

Online Dan C. Rinnert

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #50 on: January 30, 2014, 11:46:36 AM »
I hate to tell you this, but people care.

There are threads over on GR where people have asked why more people don't read self-published authors. While some readers say they don't care, there are still plenty of people reporting that they avoid them because they've been burned by indies.

So they do care. Whether any author chooses to acknowledge that or not is a whole other issue.

But, within the group called "indies" are also marketers who do basically nothing more than peddle crummy books.  They write books (or have them written) based on "keywords" and whatnot that are top sellers or in popular niches.  They churn them out as fast as they can.  Some even sell "courses" to teach others how to do the same.  (Stuff like how to write a "book" in a weekend or even a couple hours.)  Some may even buy (or trade) reviews in super secret forums the outside world doesn't know about.

There's no way a quality-minded author is going to be able to compete with that in terms of trying to change readers' impressions of "indie" publishing.  When you have people that can churn out a book (or more) a day--or maybe a couple a week if they're lazy--the poor quality stuff is always going to outnumber the quality stuff.  And if those marketers think it will be beneficial to call themselves indies, they will.  So, no matter how much effort a quality-minded author spends trying to convince readers that "indie" books can be of good quality, there will be people out there calling themselves "indie" who will be proving otherwise.

Effort is better spent, in my opinion, not on trying to convince readers that indie published books are good, but that your own books are worth reading.

On another note, for those that claim to have been "burned" by "indie" authors, did they not use the "Look Inside" option before buying a book?  There are plenty of books I've looked at whose sample I couldn't even finish, so there was no way I was going to click the "Buy It Now" button.  LOL.

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #51 on: January 30, 2014, 11:48:12 AM »
You know, Woody Guthrie said something about music that this conversation reminded me of:

"I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are too old or too young or too fat or too slim too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard traveling."

Well, the entire literary industry spend decades convincing authors that they were too ... something to be published. I suppose in a way I am proud to be a part of the change that has put that behind us. Hugh Howey said something in another thread that he was happy to be part of allowing a twelve your old girl to put her NaNoWriMo novel up for sale (sorry if I misquote him slightly since I'm not sure exactly which thread he posted that in). Anyway, I agree with him on that. I hate an industry that told us (still tries to tell us) that we aren't any good and I'm not fond of people like Franzen who tell us we have to have the literati's permission to put our stories out there.

So I'll put out the best stories I can and to the devil with the rest.

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Offline dianasg

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #52 on: January 30, 2014, 11:49:12 AM »
A few points of clarification:

To stay on point, the people complaining about "poor quality" in indie books don't even know prepper fiction is a thing. These conversations very specifically are addressed toward the more mainstream genres. It doesn't make sense to use Joe Nobody as an example of a great indie because he is working in an area not even on the radar of most people. Trade publishing is also full of small niches that cater to unique demographics. Pulling the exceptions on either side into the equation only muddies the waters, because the very people we are talking about "the ones who may be complaining about quality" aren't complaining about the niches. They are complaining about the stuff showing up in their searches when they look for a fantasy or a mystery or a horror novel.

People confuse originality with creativity or even talent. I believe it was Mark Twain that said "All ideas are second-hand." We all start out wanting to be "original."  But "originality" is not the goal of storytelling. The goal of storytelling is to speak on the human condition. Readers read not to see something original per se. They read to engage in the human experience. They read to be entertained. The read for comfort and familiarity. They read to escape. I watched Henry IV pt 1 last night (with Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston). It was the most beautiful production of the play I've ever seen. But it wasn't "original." They didn't change the play or the characters or turn Percy into a vampire or Prince Hal into a fairy. Ye gods, Henry IV wasn't even "original" when Shakespeare wrote it! Everyone knew the basics of the story. But what made it great was the interpretation of the story. The ability to take an old story and make it mean something to a modern viewer.

Which is why I always flinch at the "indies are more original" argument. It is simply untrue. But more importantly, it is completely besides the point. A great storyteller can take the most basic of tales and make it mean something to a reader, while a bad storyteller can have the most original idea ever thought of and nobody will care.

Thanks, Julie. I don't think using ElHawk and Joe Nobody as examples is that outlandish: I was just using them as examples of things that have been successful, that there obviously is a demand for, and that Big Pub (not small press) did/would not bother with. BUT I was talking more generally about the benefits of self-publishing to readers, not about responding to naysayers, mainly because I don't think that's worthwhile at all. So I guess my post was tangential to the point of the OP, though not unrelated.

On originality: I completely agree that originality is not the goal of storytelling -- and that originality doesn't, in itself, mean "good." But IMO, a fresh twist on a girl-meets-boy story is still original and, well, refreshing. Its "originality" isn't negated because the base premise is old. There's originality of expression, of execution, of interpretation. /derail

So, I maintain that the Big 5 placed restrictions on originality (or variety? creativity?) that self-pub has lifted. And that is a selling point for self-published books. Okay, quality might be spotty, but when if you take the time to dig in the pile, you're also going to find a lot of good, different, fresh stuff that Big Pub can't and won't provide. I think that's pretty awesome. :) [As an aside, good/different/fresh is also a selling point of small press.]

I definitely DON'T think "indies are more original," though. That doesn't make sense, and that's definitely not what I was saying.. Any writer has the potential to be original, regardless of how they publish. And I'm not saying that all indies are putting original stuff, either. I'm just saying that self-publishing has made it more financially viable for authors to write original/innovative/fresh/different (which is to say, unproven) things, and easier for readers to discover them.

When I talk up my Kindle to other readers, we usually end up talking about self-published books. Most people do wonder how the quality is, and my answer is that you learn to sort the good from the bad, and that there is a lot more variety, and almost always at a great price. That's why the Wendig debate is really moot: the tradeoff for readers is price/content diversity vs. navigating quality, and ultimately, the benefits of the former outweigh the cons of the latter.

We (if there is a "we") should focus on the good things self-pub provides, and on putting out good work, rather than wasting time defending ourselves against naysayers.

Offline Hudson Owen

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #53 on: January 30, 2014, 12:00:35 PM »
The only way I know an indie from a trad is if the indie screams it.  Now do not get me started on indies that use others.  Oh and I learned something this week.  If you want to write about a real person even fictionally, you had best get that person's permission or the estate's permission.

As to your second point, it depends.  If I wrote a satire about Lady Gaga, for instance, the law would likely protect me even though her lawyers might sue.  To stay on the safe side with The Fight of the Century, that you read,  I changed the names because one was still living.  It was not an open and shut case, however. 

Offline vrabinec

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #54 on: January 30, 2014, 12:26:58 PM »

We (if there is a "we") should focus on the good things self-pub provides, and on putting out good work, rather than wasting time defending ourselves against naysayers.

Again, if nobody stands up to defend indies, the perception will be that whatever is being said in those countless articles, countless blogs etc.. is true. They'll point and say, "See, they don't even try to deny it!" I sucks to have to defend yourself, and we come off as defensive when we do it, but the alternative is to see what "they" say about us, be accepted as undisputed truth. There's a couple gems here and there, but the rest of it sucks, so don't even bother clicking on it unless it has the trad seal of approval.

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Offline WHDean

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #55 on: January 30, 2014, 12:41:44 PM »
Hugh Howey said something in another thread that he was happy to be part of allowing a twelve your old girl to put her NaNoWriMo novel up for sale (sorry if I misquote him slightly since I'm not sure exactly which thread he posted that in).

So he gets behind a 12-year-old self-publishing a novel she wrote in a month on one day, and the next day hes saying people have no right to claim that indies put self-realization ahead of quality for readers? Somethings gotta give here. Either what matters most to indies is what I want (Wendigs complaint) or what matters most is putting my best foot forward as a business person (i.e., a publisher). Youre either in favour of trying to sell people whatever (i.e., because there are no standards) or youre against trying to sell people whatever (i.e., because there are standards and I try to follow them). You cant have it both ways.

I sympathize with people upset over the stigma when theyre doing work thats as good or better than that of traditional publishersand selling it at a better price to boot. And I have no problem going to bat for good individual writers and books. But I cant get behind this indie ideology that celebrates 12-year-olds selling books they wrote in 30 days because, apparently, the most important thing in the world is to flatter the egos of othersthats to engage in the cheap virtue that comes at someone elses expense.       

Hence my slogan: Theres no we in independent.


Offline cinisajoy

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #56 on: January 30, 2014, 12:43:31 PM »
As to your second point, it depends.  If I wrote a satire about Lady Gaga, for instance, the law would likely protect me even though her lawyers might sue.  To stay on the safe side with The Fight of the Century, that you read,  I changed the names because one was still living.  It was not an open and shut case, however. 
No, the law would not protect you unless it was a parody and everyone knows the person would never do that.  You could be sued for various things.  If you want to try that might I recommend Sean Penn or Barbra Streisand.   But I guess you are so rich, you could fight them and their lawyers.    Oh I wasn't talking satires, I was talking using the names just so people would buy your book.
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Offline vrabinec

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #57 on: January 30, 2014, 12:55:38 PM »
So he gets behind a 12-year-old self-publishing a novel she wrote in a month on one day, and the next day hes saying people have no right to claim that indies put self-realization ahead of quality for readers? Somethings gotta give here. Either what matters most to indies is what I want (Wendigs complaint) or what matters most is putting my best foot forward as a business person (i.e., a publisher). Youre either in favour of trying to sell people whatever (i.e., because there are no standards) or youre against trying to sell people whatever (i.e., because there are standards and I try to follow them). You cant have it both ways.

I sympathize with people upset over the stigma when theyre doing work thats as good or better than that of traditional publishersand selling it at a better price to boot. And I have no problem going to bat for good individual writers and books. But I cant get behind this indie ideology that celebrates 12-year-olds selling books they wrote in 30 days because, apparently, the most important thing in the world is to flatter the egos of othersthats to engage in the cheap virtue that comes at someone elses expense.       

Hence my slogan: Theres no we in independent.



Well, obviously, I'm "for" trying to sell people "whatever", since I don't know if my work would pass the test. For all I know, the 12 year-old girl's book is better than mine. But I'll still argue that there is very good writing among the indies, and that they shouldn't be lumped together (other than the top tier) as sucking, and not worth a look. The argument isn't that people aren't trying to sell "whatever", it's that there is still god writing mixed in there with my "whatever."


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Offline jackz4000

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #58 on: January 30, 2014, 01:40:31 PM »
This morning I was pretty surprised to see that Publishers Weekly now has a Self-Publishing section. Plus they are happy to take a couple hundred bucks from authors to list their books. If you can't beat then--milk them.  :P

Offline WDR

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #59 on: January 30, 2014, 01:58:49 PM »

Because they're a fraction of the price?


LOL! Yeah, there is that! But more to the point, there are very many indie titles that are priced just like their mainstream-published peers and are selling very well.
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Offline Jim Johnson

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #60 on: January 30, 2014, 02:02:43 PM »
This morning I was pretty surprised to see that Publishers Weekly now has a Self-Publishing section. Plus they are happy to take a couple hundred bucks from authors to list their books. If you can't beat then--milk them.  :P

They started that a year or more ago. I have to wonder how much they've made off authors and whether those authors have seen any benefit to their being listed in PW's self-pub issues.

Offline ゴジラ

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #61 on: January 30, 2014, 02:32:33 PM »
I've read twenty books this month. (Twenty! Amazing what you can get done with a vacation and a well-stocked Kindle.) Some were tradpubbed, most were indie, 90% of them were wonderful. Thinking back on them now, I can't tell you which ones were published by indies and which ones weren't. They were all edited, formatted, and presented about equally well.

I feel like there might have been a lot more trouble with quality when ebook self-publishing was still getting its feet, but I don't even see this subject as relevant anymore. Most author-publishers have their [crap] together. I pick up a lot of books by browsing alsobots, reading samples, and purchasing whatever looks cool - I can't remember the last time I DNF'd because of a quality problem. (Though it probably was a trad book with fixed font size, which drives me crazy and seems to be prevalent in older trad titles.)

I'm not saying that there are no low-quality books. I'm just saying they're not visible or numerous enough to be worth worrying about. Also, if there's any perception that self-pubbed books are of lower quality, then it hasn't hurt my business, so I don't care. Y'all know what they say about ze haters.

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #62 on: January 30, 2014, 02:57:00 PM »
You know, Woody Guthrie said something about music that this conversation reminded me of:

"I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are too old or too young or too fat or too slim too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard traveling."


Woody Guthrie also reportedly said (Pete Seeger wouldn't have lied to us, would he?) that "plagarism is basic to all cultures." And "Aw, he stole from me, but I steal from everybody."  Not at all pertinent to this conversation, but I can never resist a good Woody Guthrie quote.

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Offline moirakatson

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #63 on: January 30, 2014, 03:23:09 PM »
I appreciate the sentiment you offer, but I'm not sure how it's just a matter of time on the indie quality front when three-quarters of the authors on here go batcrap crazy at the mere suggestion there is anything imperfect about any self-pubbed works.  I guess we'll see.

Whoops, missed this. I really do see a drive to quality that's being enabled by the growing number of authors. Sure, most people aren't likely to have read an awesome indie book - but as more and more truly excellent indie books sift upwards, more and more people will encounter them. At the same time, more indie authors are finding editors and other contractors. It all boils down to hunches and guesses on my part! I think that's the trouble with trying to pinpoint publishing trends: it is so difficult to get the data you need for meaningful analysis. I only have my own experience to go off of.

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #64 on: January 30, 2014, 03:28:57 PM »
Woody Guthrie also reportedly said (Pete Seeger wouldn't have lied to us, would he?) that "plagarism is basic to all cultures." And "Aw, he stole from me, but I steal from everybody."  Not at all pertinent to this conversation, but I can never resist a good Woody Guthrie quote.

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Offline Andrew Ashling

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #65 on: January 30, 2014, 03:31:09 PM »
As indies we're writers and publishers.

The best defense against this blatant nonsense is writing good books and finding readers for them.

Who do you think will look like a silly liar when one of your fans reads a whining blog post about how all indies suck? Or when anyone reads how indies are gaining market share?

Over time the writers of these The-End-of-Literature-is-Nigh posts will drown in their own pool of FUD.












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Offline Thomas Watson

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #66 on: January 30, 2014, 03:32:33 PM »
I tip my hat to those who follow your lead. I've got enough on my plate just trying to make sure my own books are up to snuff, let alone worry about what other authors are doing with their books.


Of course, that still makes you an active part of the solution.  ;)
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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #67 on: January 31, 2014, 07:13:05 AM »
While this is about the Quality Assurance (QA) done by indie authors, I think we should also take a look at the other side of the argument: QA done by traditional publishers.

In all honesty, most of the ebooks I've gotten from self-published authors have been fine. The vast majority of ebooks where I have had significant quality issues actually came from traditional publishers!

The worst being a top imprint (whose name rhymes with "Phantom") whose ebooks were formatted like web pages with block paragraphs and double-line spacing. It was so bad, I finally broke down, stripped out the DRM and manually fixed the files myself! It wasn't difficult either. All I had to do was two tiny edits in the CSS file to turn the print into actual literary text. The worst was what they did to Dragonriders of Pern. They were actually the files for the PalmPilot, not for modern ebook readers! The typesetting was so horrible as to make it unreadable. I even called them about it and filed a complaint. To date, I haven't yet felt motivated to wade into the sludge and clean up that mess to make that ebook readable.

At the other end of the spectrum is Baen Books. CLEARLY they understand QA and what readers expect from their ebooks. Every ebook I have purchased from Baen has been an absolutely perfect example of a proper ebook file. Their EPUB files render properly on every ebook reader I have and will even convert cleanly to MOBI. I use Baen Books EPUB files as models for when I make my own ebooks to make sure my coding is correct. I can also say that in all the ebooks I've purchased from Baen, I really haven't found any editing errors, either.

For these reasons, if I ever chose to accept a traditional publishing contract, Baen is at the top of my extremely short list.
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Online C.F.

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #68 on: January 31, 2014, 07:43:31 AM »
In all honesty, most of the ebooks I've gotten from self-published authors have been fine. The vast majority of ebooks where I have had significant quality issues actually came from traditional publishers!

This is what I've heard from a lot of readers and what I've experienced myself. I got a traditionally published ebook once where all instances of one letter were changed to a different letter (I can't remember which one). I think it had something to do with the scanning process they used to convert the book from print to digital?? I have no idea. Traditional publishers also seem to have a fascination with getting "fancy" with formatting that overrides your Kindle settings. So they go from the extreme of seeming to not try at all to trying too hard :). Personally, I like simple formatting for ebooks.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2014, 07:54:40 AM by caethesfaron »

Offline cinisajoy

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #69 on: January 31, 2014, 08:21:39 AM »
This is what I've heard from a lot of readers and what I've experienced myself. I got a traditionally published ebook once where all instances of one letter were changed to a different letter (I can't remember which one). I think it had something to do with the scanning process they used to convert the book from print to digital?? I have no idea. Traditional publishers also seem to have a fascination with getting "fancy" with formatting that overrides your Kindle settings. So they go from the extreme of seeming to not try at all to trying too hard :). Personally, I like simple formatting for ebooks.
I got one that almost every "the" was "die".  Made it hard to read.  Another trad every period was a /.
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Offline Hudson Owen

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #70 on: January 31, 2014, 08:49:41 AM »

So, if we're talking about, like, experimental literary fiction, I totally agree -- not much of these writers are taking advantage of self-pub. I think that's partly because the self-pub stigma is especially strong in literary circles (I say this coming from academia): I think lit-fic is still pretty attached to the traditional publishing model. But indies are providing readers with fresh, original content: or at least content big pub refused to try out.


Self-publishing is a business model and a technology.  Ultimately, that will prove out as more of the genres shift into indie publishing.  Writers of talent who have been overlooked by trad publishing will prefer to publish rather that accept silence.  Also, manuscripts in the 7,000 - 30,000 word zone are unwanted by paper publishers; but length matters not to the Kindle e-reader.  That is the technological advantage of e-books with the e-reader.  And, of course, you can set your prices and do other things as a self-publisher.  You have more work to do, but you also have more flexibility.

Offline Terrence OBrien

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #71 on: January 31, 2014, 09:10:05 AM »
Like it our not, we're being lumped together. Same as trad authors are being lumped together. I think there is a sense of community, or we wouldn't be here trying to help each other. Yeah, I don't want to be associated with anyone else's stuff. I want my books to stand alone on their own merits. But that's not up to me when there is article after article after article that claims that we are essentially the same, with the exception of Hugh, Bella, Russell, and three or four others.

Lumped together by whom? And those articles? Who reads them? All this seems to be a lively discussion within a small group that doesn't buy enough to affect the market.  

As long as the independent market share continues too increase in both dollars and units, I'd say the lumpers and articles are  p*ss ing into the wind. Fine with me. I'll hand them another beer.

Quote
Again, if nobody stands up to defend indies, the perception will be that whatever is being said in those countless articles, countless blogs etc.. is true. They'll point and say, "See, they don't even try to deny it!" I sucks to have to defend yourself, and we come off as defensive when we do it, but the alternative is to see what "they" say about us, be accepted as undisputed truth. There's a couple gems here and there, but the rest of it sucks, so don't even bother clicking on it unless it has the trad seal of approval.

Another alternative is to forget about the quality distinction between two huge groups of books. Consumers don't need us to tell them what they like. The consumers who care what independent and traditional spokesman think don't buy enough books to move the market either way.
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Offline RichardWolanski

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #72 on: January 31, 2014, 09:45:06 AM »

That means if you want original, fresh work, you're much more likely to find it among indie books than the trade published.

So maybe instead of trying to argue a losing cause and to claim that indie books are of the same quality on average as trade published, we should instead be arguing a winning one. That indie books are fresher, more original, more creative etc. And if those invested in trade publishing claim we produce poor quality work that they would never publish, we as those invested in the indie publishing world argue that they produce formulaic, derivative, generic and unoriginal work.



I get what you're saying Greg,

However, I see this whole thing like this. I'm an individual writer. In fact, we are all individuals who are working to release our stories. We're not one monolithic group. We all have our own personal goals and ideas of success. Yes, some indie writers do get into this for money and that's their choice. Some pursue this route for art and finding an audience and that's their choice. Some indie novels are very formulaic and stick to genre tropes and that's their choice. I guess what I'm getting at is there's no one way or the other. We're just a mass of people writing words and publishing them for an infinite number of reasons.  As far as quality, I think some things are objectively bad like bad grammar or whatever.

But who is going to say one book is of higher quality than another? Why not just let the reader decide? Unfortunately, I can't remember the poster's name. It's buried in the now locked "Chuck Wendig" topic. But he made a post saying how he "chatted" up Jeff Bezos and they agreed on a list of facetious quality measurements.

Being an indie published author doesn't give you more "cred" it's just an avenue like trad. publishing. I would argue, one road is harder than the other but there are traditionally pubbed authors that are terrific (China Mieville) and being trad. published doesn't mean you're not as interested in being a great storyteller.

Again, it the choice of walking one road or the other. Each of us walks it alone, but for whatever reason people get their jollies by lumping us all together.

Offline Jana DeLeon

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #73 on: January 31, 2014, 09:48:39 AM »
I think it had something to do with the scanning process they used to convert the book from print to digital??
Yes, OCR can create odd things during conversion. But if publishers really wanted to maintain their credibility, they'd pay proofreaders. I did when I converted my backlist. If I can afford it, I'm sure they can.

What you're seeing is a rush to throw up authors' backlist in an effort to 1. counteract all the money being lost to indies and 2. make sure they can contractually hold onto the rights for those backlist books until Christ returns.
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Offline WHDean

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #74 on: January 31, 2014, 09:49:13 AM »
Well, obviously, I'm "for" trying to sell people "whatever", since I don't know if my work would pass the test. For all I know, the 12 year-old girl's book is better than mine. But I'll still argue that there is very good writing among the indies, and that they shouldn't be lumped together (other than the top tier) as sucking, and not worth a look. The argument isn't that people aren't trying to sell "whatever", it's that there is still god writing mixed in there with my "whatever."

Recall the OPs basic question, which, I should add, is a reasonable one: How do you get rid of the poor-quality stigma associated with the indie/SP brand? The first part of the answer is that you cant fix the brand because you cant control what gets self-published or who flies the indie flag. The second part of the problem is that you cant control the brands representatives. Look at it from the trad-pub perspective. Franzen runs down SP books and a lot of people identify him and his attitude with traditional publishing, as if hes the spokesman for every trad-pubbed writer. They say, Look! Thats what theyre all about! Snobs! Elitists! The same thing happens to the indie brand when people shout embrace mediocrity and celebrate 12-year-olds selling books they wrote in a month. Outsiders say, Look! I told you! These people are all hacks!

So what does someone who wants to self-publish good books do about the stigma? For one, you probably dont want to draw attention to the fact by doing and saying stereotypical things: bad covers, bad blurbs, bad formatting, bad prose, bad attitude toward readers, screeching at critics and reviewers, etc. As far as I can tell, all the successful self-published people have followed indie marketing tactics, but theyve followed trad-pubbed books when it comes to the product (i.e., you cant really tell from looking at their books that theyre self-published).

Put another way, the successful people havent tried to gain acceptance by first wining an ideological/brand war that cant be won; theyve adapted to the environment as it is. Thats why all their advice mirrors traditional practice: professional covers, blurbs, formatting, editing, etc., and not, Well, first we have to persuade Franzen et al. that SP books are all great because everythings a matter of taste. Unless the poor quality is in a trad book; then quality does exist and trad books dont have it either! And I gotta right!

As for your book, this is the only answer(s) I can give. If a friend came to me and said hed written the great American novel and that he was going to self-publish it, Id probably say, Good for you! I hope the world is ready (and under my breath, Dont forget to use a penname). If a friend came to me for help with a novel and said he wanted to make a living writing, Id probably read the manuscript, point out what I thought were problems, offer whatever fixes I could, and repeat everything successful indies have said about writing and selling books. The only important note on these two answers is that theres no half-way between them. Im not playing Publishing Police in the first case, but Im not playing Snowflake Apostle in the second either.

LOL! Yeah, there is that! But more to the point, there are very many indie titles that are priced just like their mainstream-published peers and are selling very well.

Good to know someone (other than Vrab) has a sense of humour. Konrath used to talk a lot about the advantage of low prices. Because you can sell your books for less than traditional books, you can sell more of them (all other things being equal). Thats a huge advantage for SP writers because the higher royalties more than compensate for the lower per unit price: you can sell more books at a higher profit. Now that SP books show up in bestseller lists, people assume a kind of parity has been reached. That might be good for the validation of the writers indie ego; but its not good for the writer-as-publisher to forget that price is one of the most important variables in sales. (Of course, I never get distracted by ego because I already have a surplus of it.)