Author Topic: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument  (Read 7548 times)  

Offline psychotick

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Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« on: January 29, 2014, 02:48:37 PM »
Hi,

It occurred to me today that we as indies have been fighting a losing battle by trying to argue that indie books are of the same quality as trade published books. Certainly many are, but at the same time a great many aren't. Which means that the quality of an indie book on average is less than that of a trade published book. This is basic statistics, and as long as many indie authors produce poor quality work, there's nothing we can do about it. And readers will know this - let's be honest. They aren't dumb. And if they've been browsing as I do and checked out a lot of books, indie as well as trade, they will have come across some poor indie works.

Those invested in the trade publishing world have of course seized on this quality gap and used it as a club to beat us over the head with. Again, this is their bread and butter we're threatening, so there's not much we can do about that either.

And so we as indies will always be labelled with the stigma of poor quality.

But, and here's where things get turned around, the underlying reason for this difference is the presence or absence of gatekeepers. In the trade publishing world books of substandard quality simply aren't produced - or shouldn't be. But the gatekeepers have been knocking out books for other reasons than quality. And as all of us know, often the reason for their rejections has been commercial success. In short if a book didn't fit in a commerial genre or follow a particular commercial trope, it was unlikely to be picked up.

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.

This is in debating a thing called framing the argument. Showing the true costs of choices etc. So everybody wants better health care but no one wants to pay higher taxes. You can't have both. So maybe readers want higher quality books, but they don't want boring, repetitive stuff that they've read a hundred times before.

Just a thought.

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Offline Just Browsing

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2014, 02:50:59 PM »
I don't honestly ever find myself having this argument--not with family, or with friends, or with strangers, or with trad publishing colleagues.

I think the work I put out myself is on par with what I get with publishers. Better in content in many cases. Less flashy with art.

Offline swolf

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2014, 03:01:18 PM »
I agree.

It's true that most of the indie content is below par, both in quality of stories and quality of workmanship.

But we writers should look at this as an opportunity, not an obstacle.  Because it's presenting us with a clear way to stand out from the crowd.  We must make sure our work rises above that level, and readers will notice.  They may still complain about indie books in general, but they'll also know which authors to turn to in order to find better than the typical indie book.

And, of course, when I talk about the low quality books, I'm talking about other authors.  Not anyone here at KB.   ;)

Offline redacted

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2014, 03:04:47 PM »
Why must we "argue" at all?

I honestly don't care what anyone thinks. I'm selling books, I'm having a blast doing it, and people who are reading my books love them and demand I write faster!

Then again, when I decided to write, I never once considered tradpub. I know it's hard to believe, but NOT ONCE. The lousy terms, the idea of putting my career in someone's hands and hoping they do right by me, was never something that appealed to me. I understand that a lot of other self-publishers don't come at it from this angle, which I assume is behind the desperation to be seen as "legitimate."

I personally don't care. When I was devouring books like a maniac, I never ONCE turned to the copyright page to see who published that book. NOT ONCE.

My advice is to stop trying to win the argument. It's never ending and it will never really make you feel better.

Just ... write. If you're having fun, and people are loving and buying your book, what does it matter what some jackass in New York think?

Offline Kevis Hendrickson

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2014, 03:26:04 PM »
I see the "argument" differently than most. For starters, I don't buy into the whole "Team Indie" thing. I don't recall ever signing up to be part of some conglomerate of self-published authors. If you put out a professional product that's been professionally edited, has a professional cover, with an excellent blurb, readers shouldn't be able to tell the difference between a traditionally published book and a self-published one. So maybe the reason readers are critical of indie books is because some authors are presenting their books as being something that's substandard from the get go, as in "I'm indie, so I'm going to be different and not spend money on my books or learn how to do the production work properly".

Me? I'm an author. The method of my publication is inconsequential. What matters is that I put out a quality book. I'll leave the rhetorical debate of why some readers dislike indie books for others who have more free time on their hands than I do. I choose to spend that time writing more "quality" books.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2014, 03:37:03 PM by Kevis 'The Berserker' Hendrickson »

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Offline Rob Lopez

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2014, 03:26:38 PM »
IMO, the biggest pro-indie case, and the reason most readers buy indie, is price. Indie books, on average, are cheaper. That, first and foremost, is what makes them attractive. Indie writers have more flexibility over price (including free) than trad writers and publisher with overheads and specialists to pay for. Some people may complain about Indie quality, but everyone loves a bargain, and lots sign up to Bookbub to get exactly that.

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Offline GaryCecil

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2014, 03:30:54 PM »
It sucks because it adds to the competition, but not for long. When enough people get burned, they will rate them with one-shining star. You know, because if people feel burned over a buck (or even free) title, they feel enticed to let the world know about it. I think most people will sort, using the 3-star and above filter, so these crappy titles will get overlooked, eventually. 8)
« Last Edit: January 29, 2014, 03:48:57 PM by GaryCecil »
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Offline Calvin Locke

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2014, 03:33:24 PM »
I agree, in principle. There are exceptions, of course, but that goes with any rule or principle.

Yes, there are top-quality indies. That serves to raise the average.

Sure, some trad published books suck. This lowers that average.

The OP is right. It's not different than any other product. People will pay for consistency. They will take a risk for less money.

Offline Vaalingrade

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2014, 03:34:07 PM »
It occurred to me today that we as indies have been fighting a losing battle by trying to argue that indie books are of the same quality as trade published books.

The only place this 'battle' is playing out is in our heads. Most readers neither notice nor care if the book they're getting is indie or trad-pubbed. The only way they're going to notice is if indie authors keep yelling 'I PROMISE I DON'T SUCK' in their faces every five minutes.

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Offline BokkenRecord

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2014, 04:22:30 PM »
With my reader hat on:

The average quality of independent books vs tradpub would only matter to me if I were planning on reading all 2 million (or whatever the number is) books currently published.

Even in the genres I mostly read there are approx 100000 books listed on Amazon.

At an average of one book a week, if I live to a typical age I *might* manage another ::counts on fingers:: 2000 books.

Since the market opened up in the last few years I'm buying good books faster than I can read them, and I guess approx 70% are indie (I seldom bother checking). Proportionately I find as many duds in the tradpub books (derivative formula).

Honestly I'm not seeing a quality problem. If I don't like a book it goes into the DNF folder and onto the next. Happy days  ;D

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2014, 04:30:15 PM »
That indie books are fresher, more original, more creative etc.

But they aren't. Very few people are self-publishing truly original and experimental fiction. The people who are most successful are publishing in very mundane genres with very strong, expected tropes where originality is really less important the just giving the reader entertainment. Because I don't care how original someone thinks her half-angel/half-werewolf falling in love with a half-vampire/half-elf who are struggling against the evil half-demon/half dragon villain trying to keep them apart. It's still a girl meets boy love story. With the exception of the rare few, the majority of people really getting big sales (and let's be honest, all people around here REALLY care about are big sales and their Amazon sales rank) are doing so in the traditional genre areas where originality isn't really the selling feature...escapism is.

The thing to do is to simply stop engaging in the argument. The argument has no power over you if you don't engage it. Stop feeding the trolls. Stop visiting the hater blogs and then rushing over here to post a link so that everyone gets riled up when some 5th string "trade" author decides he needs pageviews and takes the easy route. Just stop engaging in the nonsense and worry about your books and your readers.


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Offline moirakatson

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2014, 05:20:07 PM »
I've noticed that less readers seem to be buying the "indie books are awful" line than used to. My family and friends, who are mostly people with TBR lists as tall as they are, universally suggested self-publishing and never bought my "but the QUALITY!" protests. (A hearty thank you to them for setting me straight.)

I'd like to chime in on two points that have been raised above:

1) Price is really one of the major factors here. It's what's actually  p*ss ing off a lot of the trad publishers, and it's one of the driving forces in the rising profile of indies. A lot of the quality arguments really seem to be about price.

2) The only way people are going to get over the indie quality thing, and I think they will, is by seeing more and more indie books that are of wonderful quality. That is getting easier to pull off as networks form, so I think it's really just a matter of time on that front.

I think you can support either argument, quality or innovation, as long as you have ready examples. Book recommendations from friends and acquaintances are a big thing in getting books sold.

Offline WHDean

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2014, 05:34:30 PM »
I see the "argument" differently than most. For starters, I don't buy into the whole "Team Indie" thing. I don't recall ever signing up to be part of some conglomerate of self-published authors. If you put out a professional product that's been professionally edited, has a professional cover, with an excellent blurb, readers shouldn't be able to tell the difference between a traditionally published book and a self-published one. So maybe the reason readers are critical of indie books is because some authors are presenting their books as being something that's substandard from the get go, as in "I'm indie, so I'm going to be different and not spend money on my books or learn how to do the production work properly".

Me? I'm an author. The method of my publication is inconsequential. What matters is that I put out a quality book. I'll leave the rhetorical debate of why some readers dislike indie books for others who have more free time on their hands than I do. I choose to spend that time writing more "quality" books.

Ah, I missed you Kevis. I would only add that the indie stigma is only a burden for people seeking collective validation from traditional publishing. Look at us! Respect us! Admit were as good as you are, dammit! From a practical standpoint, its meaningless. One can do things to disguiseor at least not draw attention to the factthat one's work is self-pubbed.

But they aren't. Very few people are self-publishing truly original and experimental fiction. The people who are most successful are publishing in very mundane genres with very strong, expected tropes where originality is really less important the just giving the reader entertainment. Because I don't care how original someone thinks her half-angel/half-werewolf falling in love with a half-vampire/half-elf who are struggling against the evil half-demon/half dragon villain trying to keep them apart. It's still a girl meets boy love story. With the exception of the rare few, the majority of people really getting big sales (and let's be honest, all people around here REALLY care about are big sales and their Amazon sales rank) are doing so in the traditional genre areas where originality isn't really the selling feature...escapism is.

I have to admit I was a little disappointed by this. Its not like I subscribed to the idea that traditional publishing was destroying a Shakespeare a week, but I did expect some interesting things to emerge. I really havent found any. None of this is to suggest that people arent self-publishing quality books. But Id hoped thered be some truth to the suppression of good things.

   

Offline Jay Allan

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2014, 05:43:08 PM »
I've noticed that less readers seem to be buying the "indie books are awful" line than used to. My family and friends, who are mostly people with TBR lists as tall as they are, universally suggested self-publishing and never bought my "but the QUALITY!" protests. (A hearty thank you to them for setting me straight.)

I'd like to chime in on two points that have been raised above:

1) Price is really one of the major factors here. It's what's actually  p*ss ing off a lot of the trad publishers, and it's one of the driving forces in the rising profile of indies. A lot of the quality arguments really seem to be about price.

2) The only way people are going to get over the indie quality thing, and I think they will, is by seeing more and more indie books that are of wonderful quality. That is getting easier to pull off as networks form, so I think it's really just a matter of time on that front.

I think you can support either argument, quality or innovation, as long as you have ready examples. Book recommendations from friends and acquaintances are a big thing in getting books sold.

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.

Offline Fishbowl Helmet

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #14 on: January 29, 2014, 05:44:17 PM »
The thing to do is to simply stop engaging in the argument. The argument has no power over you if you don't engage it. Stop feeding the trolls. Stop visiting the hater blogs and then rushing over here to post a link so that everyone gets riled up when some 5th string "trade" author decides he needs pageviews and takes the easy route. Just stop engaging in the nonsense and worry about your books and your readers.

I don't think that's true at all.

The stigma still affects you regardless of whether you engage in the argument. The OP is simply making a suggestion that the argument be framed differently so as to lessen its impact on writer-publishers, which would be nice.

That said, I'd also have to agree with the poster commenting on originality. Take the poster who said she was practically trapped writing erotica to keep up her income. She wrote outside the genre, but was forced--due to a desire for sales--to return to it. Nothing wrong with her wanting sales, publishing is a business after all.

I would suggest that trying to frame the argument as one of art vs crass commercialism simply can't work. For no other reason than it is--on it's face--not true. Granted, some writer-publishers do it simply for the art, but if we're being honest, the vast majority are likely in it for the love of writing and the money finally flowing due to their writing.

Offline Kevis Hendrickson

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #15 on: January 29, 2014, 05:57:35 PM »
Ah, I missed you Kevis. I would only add that the indie stigma is only a burden for people seeking collective validation from traditional publishing. Look at us! Respect us! Admit were as good as you are, dammit! From a practical standpoint, its meaningless. One can do things to disguiseor at least not draw attention to the factthat one's work is self-pubbed.

I have to admit I was a little disappointed by this. Its not like I subscribed to the idea that traditional publishing was destroying a Shakespeare a week, but I did expect some interesting things to emerge. I really havent found any. None of this is to suggest that people arent self-publishing quality books. But Id hoped thered be some truth to the suppression of good things.

It's good to be missed. ;) I think you hit the nail on the head. The problem is there's a "hive" mentality that infects those who subscribe to Groupthink.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2014, 06:00:35 PM by Kevis 'The Berserker' Hendrickson »

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Offline chrissponias

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #16 on: January 29, 2014, 06:02:14 PM »
I agree with the intention to give a better impression about the quality of indie books, even though I personally hate fiction written by amateurs who have no talent, and I hate nonfiction written by non-experts who ignore their topic.

There are also many excellent authors who are following the self-publishing path because it is easier for them. There are talented writers and real experts writing Kindle books and practically giving away their work because of the low prices that prevail in the Kindle marketplace.

I believe we should do everything we can to help all authors present a respectable work to the public, so that various negative aspects may stop characterizing indie books.

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Offline Sarah Wynde

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #17 on: January 29, 2014, 06:12:31 PM »
Then again, when I decided to write, I never once considered tradpub. I know it's hard to believe, but NOT ONCE.

Back in the 90s, I earned my living as a freelance writer for about three years, one book published, one in progress, lots of articles. I did okay, but when I really looked at the numbers, I said, yeah, no, I'm not insane.

Got myself a job as an acquisitions editor and spent a pleasant ten years earning good money doing a job I was good at.

When I started writing again, I never once considered tradpub. Not once.

My first book has 99 five-star reviews on Amazon. No traditional publisher would ever have picked it up. It's a genre book that doesn't have a genre, it breaks rules right and left, it's simple and not, it's decidedly quirky in every possible way. I wrote it and if I'd been the acquisitions editor who got the manuscript I would have said, "not a chance, loved the read, but I can't sell a book that doesn't fit on a specific shelf, and by the way, do you know that there are rules about how plots work?"

I don't feel the need to defend indie publishing. For me, that would be like defending indie music. Sure, there's a lot of crap out there. But it's also where a lot of interesting stuff is happening. If you're the kind of person who needs to know exactly what you're getting, stick with the top 40. But those of us who are listening to the crap in order to find the interesting stuff, we don't need to defend ourselves to you. We get to smile quietly and keep listening.

Offline lynnfromthesouth

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #18 on: January 29, 2014, 06:14:45 PM »
I have to admit I was a little disappointed by this. Its not like I subscribed to the idea that traditional publishing was destroying a Shakespeare a week, but I did expect some interesting things to emerge. I really havent found any. None of this is to suggest that people arent self-publishing quality books. But Id hoped thered be some truth to the suppression of good things.

I've found quite a few, but no, they aren't the top sellers. That doesn't mean they're not out there. It just means you have to look a little harder to find them.

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #19 on: January 29, 2014, 06:15:39 PM »
Something I learned in business a LONG time ago is that trying to compete on price isn't usually the best strategy. I believe that most consumers seek out quality and will pay for quality, as long as the price isn't too far out of line. I hate to see indie authors underpricing quality work because they feel like their only advantage is price. It isn't.

I think that the more stories that come out in the mainstream media about indie authors having success, the less common will be the impression that indie works are of poorer quality or worth less money than traditionally published works.

I encourage indies to not give in to the thought that "I have to sell my hard work for cheap" and price their work what they think its really worth.

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Offline Kevis Hendrickson

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #20 on: January 29, 2014, 06:31:08 PM »
I agree with the intention to give a better impression about the quality of indie books

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.

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Offline WHDean

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #21 on: January 29, 2014, 06:33:48 PM »
The stigma still affects you regardless of whether you engage in the argument.

Here's the thing, though. It only affects you financially insofar as your books can be distinguished from trad books by readers who discriminate over it. Yet you can do things to disguise it and you can use incentives to disarm the stigma (free books as samples, lower prices, etc.).


 

Offline WHDean

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #22 on: January 29, 2014, 06:36:55 PM »
I've found quite a few, but no, they aren't the top sellers. That doesn't mean they're not out there. It just means you have to look a little harder to find them.

I've only found one by a guy who's an inactive member here. At least, the first part of it is really good. I don't know that it wouldn't have been published, however.

 

Offline Rykymus

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #23 on: January 29, 2014, 07:00:16 PM »
What Julie said. (Times infinity!)

Offline Vaalingrade

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Re: Indie Book Quality - Framing the Argument
« Reply #24 on: January 29, 2014, 07:11:04 PM »
But they aren't. Very few people are self-publishing truly original and experimental fiction. The people who are most successful are publishing in very mundane genres with very strong, expected tropes where originality is really less important the just giving the reader entertainment. Because I don't care how original someone thinks her half-angel/half-werewolf falling in love with a half-vampire/half-elf who are struggling against the evil half-demon/half dragon villain trying to keep them apart. It's still a girl meets boy love story. With the exception of the rare few, the majority of people really getting big sales (and let's be honest, all people around here REALLY care about are big sales and their Amazon sales rank) are doing so in the traditional genre areas where originality isn't really the selling feature...escapism is.

To be fair, we do inhabit more rare genres though, purely by virtue of not having marketing guys telling us what we can't sell.

The stigma still affects you regardless of whether you engage in the argument.
No it doesn't!

Let me make this very clear: There is no stigma. It is a marketing line deployed by some very sophisticated [REDACTED] and internalized by the indie community thanks to crippling self-esteem issues.

No on outside of the industry cares. No one. Most people are unaware to this day-- with Kindles full of indie books --that 'indie' is even a thing in publishing.

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