During my web travels, in just about every author group out there, I come across a variation of the following post:
“Indie authors suck. They need to quit publishing and learn basic English and grammar, and how to tell a story. They’re only good at promoting themselves, and they only self-publish because real publishers wouldn’t publish them. I bet most of them barely have a high school education and I’m pretty sure they don’t read.“
Oftentimes it’s revealed the person posting is getting their B.A. or Masters in English, and they’re unpublished, hoping to be discovered by an editor or agent as the next great American writer. They believe the traditional path is the only legitimate way to publication. It takes a lot of arrogance to be an observer, afraid to step onto the field, while standing on the sidelines criticizing the actual players. So, I saw a variation of this post this morning and I just had to write a blog post. I am so tired of self-important writers spreading their vitriol and jealousy, all the while viewing other writers as their competitors.
MYTH: Indie authors only self-publish because real publishers won’t give them the time of day.
TRUTH: A lot of indie authors started out in traditional publishing, realized they couldn’t afford to eat on what the industry was paying, and decided to take a stab at being independent. Some of them still have traditional contracts, or regularly get published in anthologies, magazines, and/or digital newspapers. I know one indie author who was an editor at a newspaper before quitting her job to pursue her indie career full time. I wrote for magazines (a column, articles, and short fiction) and sold both a novel and a NF book to traditional publishers before I decided to go indie. So plenty of us have seen traditional publication.
MYTH: Indie Authors are generally uneducated.
TRUTH: Numerous indie authors I know have B.A.’s and M.A.’s actually. Many of those in English and/or Journalism. Sure, some indies may have little more than a high school education, but that doesn’t mean anyone without a college degree is a bad writer, or that they can’t learn to be a good writer. Just like having a college degree is not necessarily an indication of a good writer. I have a B.A. in English (journalism minor). So do a lot of writers. Looking back, I could have gotten the same education through my local writing group and saved myself thousands in tuition. (We have an awesome local writing group that teaches craft and offers critique groups.)
MYTH: Indie Authors don’t read books.
TRUTH: Yes, we’ve all met that rare writer who doesn’t read books. However, I’ve found that the bulk of indie authors I know (and I know A LOT of them), read voraciously. They read to study the market. They read for education. They read for inspiration. They read for pleasure. They read. I’d be perfectly comfortable saying that 95% of writers were readers before they became writers. It was their love of reading that inspired them to become writers. That’s true for me at least. I still read 30-50 books a year on top of a busy writing/publishing career and a side gig helping my family’s business with payroll and HR stuff.
MYTH: Indie Authors don’t care about grammar and spelling.
TRUTH: There are books out there that need an editor. I do agree with that. There is also a certain type of indie author that would do well to take a grammar class and use their spellchecker. However,the bulk of indie authors I know actually hire editors to go over their books for them. Even then, editors miss stuff. I have had books and articles published through traditional publishers with more errors than you’ll find in my indie work. Typos happen. Most readers don’t care about the occasional typo if the story is good. Also – writers learn as they go. Sure, perhaps there are writers out there whose grammar could use some work. Hell – even I struggle sometimes and have to look certain rules up. We all learn as we go and no one is perfect and knows everything. English is such a complex, living language, I am still learning new things with each book.
MYTH: Indie Authors don’t care about story craft.
TRUTH: In my observation, indie authors are students of craft just like most writers. They read in their genre to study what works and what doesn’t. They attend critique groups or have critique partners. They take craft classes. They read books about craft. What they may not do is write formula fiction, which is often mistaken as not caring about story craft. You may find indie authors experimenting more, or writing more graphic scenes than traditional publishing allows. Characters may not fit traditional molds. Tropes may be twisted in new and interesting ways that the traditional camp won’t allow for. I’ve also noticed many indie critics don’t know the difference between craft and writer’s voice. What they may be discovering is they don’t like a writer’s voice, and that’s a different thing than story craft. I think there’s always something new to learn about story craft, and we continually work to improve our techniques.
So there we have it, five broad sweeping myths about self-published authors that keep being perpetuated by fellow writers as a way to demean folks they feel are their competition. Are there a few bad apples in indie land? Yes. But don’t paint all indie authors with the same brush. Especially since a lot of the books sitting happy on various bestseller lists are by indie authors. It was the readers who put those books on those lists. Know the facts. Instead of sitting online all day whining about indie authors, perhaps your time would be better spent, I don’t know, writing? 😉