Sometimes it’s a spur of the moment chance you take. At others, after careful contemplation, you summon up the courage to let someone else read your writing. Often the reader is a close friend, a relative perhaps, or in a wider example, a professional acquaintance such as a work or schoolmate.
For many, it takes special initiative to prepare their work to the best of their ability and submit to a publisher. The wait for a reply, whether ‘yes’ or ‘no’, can be agonizing…if you receive one at all. The latter may apply if you’ve neglected to format exactly to their specifications or missed some other guideline. But whatever the case, making the final edits and sending them off by email or post, is an accomplishment in itself, of which anyone could be proud.
I once had an acquaintance tell me, “Wow, I’ve never met a writer before!” And I replied, “You’ve probably met a lot of them, but just didn’t know. They were shopkeepers, or nursery workers or any other job out there, but they also wrote and probably keep it to themselves quietly creating their masterpiece.”
The whole process of having submitted to a publisher then awaiting reply can disturb your sleep, distract your mind during the day, and generally leave you on edge, but if you receive an expression of interest or intention, the taste of success can be sweet indeed. Feelings of validation, accomplishment and triumph are only a few of the emotions you might experience.
You’re given the date for your book release, and be assured the publishers wish it to succeed for they’ll get paid just like you do. Multiple announcements to online groups, magazines and the like, besides those in printed form will be launched forth, so a base number of interested buyers will be available who’ll give you a chance even if you’re new or not yet “a name.”
Taking the independent or self-published route, however, takes a unique and special courage that too often goes unacknowledged or is misunderstood as to reason behind the choice. You still have those who very mistakenly call self-pub or indie publishing “vanity publishing” and negative stereotypes persist towards indie authors, though this area of the writing industry has grown in positive leap and bounds and quality is increasing exponentially.
Even more so than with a traditional publisher, going the “indie route” takes extra effort on the writer’s part if they are going to succeed, and by that, I mean even selling just one copy. It is your drive, your personality and the strength of your hard work that can directly affect not just your sales but your “name”, how you’re viewed by others.
A special sub-category of this particular discussion is sending your work out for review, because that’s directly asking for someone’s opinion on your work, for good or for ill. We all know reviews can be very subjective based on the individual who is reading.
Publishing your own work or being accepted by a traditional publisher is a presentation of your writing to others, not easy but not exactly hard either. Requesting reviews is a different ballpark in my opinion, often needing an extra bolstering up of that courage I mentioned before.
As an indie or self-published writer, whatever term you use, sometimes it can feel like you have not just your own doubts working against you, but the industry itself and even other writers, not to mention readers and reviewers. We all have read of the publishers and agents who seem to look down on indie work as if it is not as good as “traditionals” or even worthy of their attention; that being a self-published writer is something to somehow be ashamed of.
But, why other writers and readers?
Just a couple of the reasons: some “traditional” writers also look down on indie writers, making the assumption the indies just “couldn’t get a deal” or their work wasn’t of a high enough level. Some believe indies took the “easy” way out, scorning the “proper” channels in order to just get “something” out there on the market.
Sure, there are writers like that. Some don’t take the proper time to make sure their work is formatted or edited properly for a variety of devices or print. Some obvious errors go uncorrected or are overlooked even in stories of good quality. These are some of the complaints readers who do take a chance with indies often cite. Many review groups or individuals do not accept self-pubs or indie at all and definitively state it in their guidelines, reflecting readership in general. They don’t even give indies a chance in the first place.
So we’ve other writers, “old” aspects of the publishing industry, readers and reviewers against us, which can occasionally seem overwhelming. Who of us writers have joined a writing website, guild or group and received a welcome, yet after we speak of our work and that it’s indie…suddenly no one has much interest? I can’t say it has happened to me often, as I do have work formerly published through traditional channels and books published under my own brand, Flying With Red Haircrow, but I have felt the condescending vibe that it’s not “real” or to be taken seriously if it’s been self-published. Very certainly in certain genres this seems to be a widespread belief.
What I’ve found so refreshing about interaction between myself and other self-published or indie writers is the enthusiasm and lack of pretension. I haven’t felt the intensity of competition, the attempts or need to “one-up” someone else, put someone in their supposed place as a “newbie” or less seasoned writer, or the keeping of exclusive circles of the “elite.”
As indies, we’re all on a level playing field as it were, and it is more often recognized or expressed as such. Many indies out there, if they can help another writer, they do so without hesitation. Of course, there are some friends or acquaintances you may get to know better, but the favoritism apparent among traditionals I’ve observed, is far less.
Although I still respect the hard work “traditionals” put into aspects of their craft, once I went indie, it’s really hard to go back to the strictures and attitudes and boundaries of traditional publishers who have their schedules to keep and preferences on what they believe readers want to read.
I’ve been privileged to get to know some of the histories and heartfelt expressions of the indie authors I’ve reviewed here at Flying With Red Haircrow. Working on a novel for decades with the feeling it’s not comparable to published works, or that they lack the credentials or reputation to get it in print, but finally taking the steps to publish it themselves. The outright fear and anxiety they felt submitting their book for review, and the ones who were cognizant some parts of their writing could use improvement but eager and willing to try their very best to make it so. To me, indie authors/publishers and their supporters are beautiful things. And that’s exactly why I included these words on my seekers of review/interview page:
“I respect the courage it takes to allow someone to read your dreams and imaginings because in many ways it can reflect your ideals and inner self, some aspect which might not ordinarily be presented to the world.”
Indie and self-published writers, keep your spirits up! Your courage is to be admired. You’re not only putting your heart, your work out there to be accepted, liked or disliked in critique, you are presenting yourself solely as captain of your own fate, to rise or fall by your own means, by merit of your own skill. That can be intimidating, but also exhilarating to plan and execute the literary journey of your dreams.
There are more and more out there, but a few sites that support indie authors/publishers: Step by Step Self-Publishing, Smashwords, Indie Book Collective and The Indie Spotlight. Take advantage of those who appreciate, advertise and improve your presence and work.
Addendum 5 June–
From Mark Coker’s Smashwords Blog even more encouragement and enthusiasm for indie writers and this special revolution, Three Year Retrospective, and a Look Ahead:
I founded Smashwords with the firm conviction there’s a vast human potential trapped inside the minds and fingertips of unpublished writers. I thought if we could provide the enabling tools to help writers unleash their potential upon the world – to be judged by readers – that great things could happen.
Today, great things are happening. Indie authors are inching up the best-seller lists, and their success inspires the next wave to go indie. Yet commercial success and the promise or potential thereof is not the primary driver for the indie revolution. Writers write for reasons different than publishers publish.
More writers will write, more will publish, and more will bypass publishers to connect directly to readers.”