Indie Author Woes

I’m going to rant and gush for a moment, so…read or not.

The indie publishing market is saturated with poorly written books. With such a high number of those poorly written books, it makes it harder for the good books among them to stand out.(Go to Amazon and search the fantasy books.) People see ‘self-published’ and they assume poorly written.

I am an indie author. I’m proud of it. But, I took precautions. I had beta readers. I submitted to agents who gave me personalized feedback; my novel was good, and several liked it, but they didn’t feel it right for them at that moment. They encouraged me to keep querying. I hired an editor.

There is this stigma in the indie publishing world that writers who self-publish do so because they couldn’t get published traditionally, and unfortunately, that’s true. I’ve read the preview sample of several books that were so horribly written that I don’t understand how the author thought the book was ready for publication.

Stephen King doesn’t just sit down and write his next book in a weekend. He writes a draft. He sends the draft to his editor. He edits. The editor edits. It’s a team effort. Just because he wrote it, doesn’t make it gold. King is a professional writer, and he knows that a first draft is not a final draft.

Every writer who wants to write professionally needs to understand this. Just because you can type, doesn’t mean what you type is gold. Writing a novel is work. It takes time, effort, and patience. If several people tell you that your novel isn’t ready for publication, don’t get frustrated, claim that they don’t understand the novel, and self-published it anyway. The reader is right. Take the time to polish your novel. Don’t rush it just to call yourself a published writer. If your first book sucks, readers won’t look twice at your second.

Writing a poorly written novel and publishing it on Amazon is the equivalent of a wannabe film maker shooting his friends being stupid in someone’s basement on his phone and uploading it to YouTube. Having a camera doesn’t make you a director. It does not make you James Cameron. Writing a novel does not make you Stephen King.

It is frustration when no agents are biting. Publishing is a hard industry to break into. If you send out a good number of query letters and not a single agent is getting back to you with more than a form rejection letter, maybe it’s your query letter, or your sample chapters. Maybe you need to rethink your novel.

If you want to write and publish independently, you have to take responsibility for your skills. “Write it, and they will read,” doesn’t happen. They’ll read the first chapter and stop. An indie author is her own editor, copyeditor, proofreader, and publicist. You take on all the responsibility for your book.

“But my story has a really cool and unique concept. Why won’t an agent give me a chance?”

Having a cool story concept isn’t the same as having a cool story. When you submit to an agent, your story needs to be AS CLOSE TO PUBLISHABLE AS POSSIBLE. I repeat for emphasis: your manuscript should be as close to publishable as possible. Agents lead busy lives. They don’t have time to sit down with every “cool idea” that comes through their submission pile. They don’t want to sit down and rewrite the entire manuscript. That’s not their job. It is your job as the author to polish your manuscript. 

This is where it gets sticky. If your manuscript isn’t polished, but you don’t know what else to do, what do you do?

Study. Learn about writing. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of books on the craft of writing. They range from broad overall books on the craft to books about conflict, books about dialog, and books about genre writing. Read them.

Read. Read in the genre you want to write. Read outside the genre you want to write. Read everything you can get your hands on. Why? Because if you want to write and you want to write well, you need to read. What’s being publishing? What’s not being published? How does this successful author piece together the plot? How does this author introduce characters? How does this author structure his sentences? How does this author build suspense? How can you make your story different from the masses?

If you don’t want to read…what are you doing? How can you enjoy writing but not reading? It’s like someone who enjoys cooking, but not eating. It’s part of the gig.

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