Recently, I have noticed a lot of banter on Twitter and blogosphere about writers, reviewers and self-published/Indie authors. Many authors who self-pub, or even trying to get their small-press Indie publishing company off the ground have been out seeking reviewers of their newly published books. And many authors are frustrated because the review sites will not accept self-published or Indie published books. I’ve seen valid points on both sides of the argument.
Yes, I am a writer. I write. But I also read. I’ve been reading much longer than I’ve been writing. And I feel that reading is a necessity for writers. Reading can provide an escape from reality. But it can also provide lessons for the writer. Books can give me insight into story, plot, structure, and characters. It also opens me up to many different styles. I can then learn from what I read and analyze and make it my own, in my own writing. When I review someone’s book, and if I find issues, I will note it and try to find ways for the author to improve. I don’t sugar coat anything. I don’t find it beneficial to have a line of “Yes Men” giving out glorious reviews on something that isn’t production-ready. It only serves to inflate the author’s head and does nothing for the fan base. (Honestly, I would prefer to have my critique sessions to come BEFORE publication so I could work out the kinks and make it a better story)
So, recently I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing some rather sketchy comments on Twitter and blogs bashing people who don’t accept self-published or Indie books for review. The authors of these types of books seem to be blowing things our of proportion and generalizing too much. Some have gone so far to say that those reviewers are downright rude. I’ve gone to a few reviewer’s sites and read their policy, even read why they chose not to review self-pubbed/Indie books. I’ve not yet found a single rude comment. Just because it goes against your wishes, or your opinion, does not mean that you can categorize it as “rude”. Take, for example, All Thing’s Urban Fantasy’s stance and reasoning. The blog post is very well written and very tactful. I cannot see any sense of rudeness. However, I’ve seen comments that point to an author’s distaste for the decision.
I read. And when I read, I expect the author to have a basic understanding for grammar. If a writer cannot master spelling and grammar, how can you expect them to master the more intricate form of storytelling? I don’t hold a traditionally published author to a higher standard than a self-pubbed/Indie author. In fact, now that I think about it a little more in-depth, I may hold the self-pubbed/Indie author to a higher standard. At least with a traditional pubbed author, you know that they’ve fought tooth and nail with their story to get it as perfect as they can before submitting to an agent/editor/publisher. And those that are traditionally published, don’t have to go through much more editing after that. Their work is not necessarily perfect, but as perfect as they can make it.
Now, I like to support my fellow writer and I think reading and reviewing shows that support. However, I’ve had some serious issues with the majority of self-pubbed/Indie writers. I haven’t fully taken the step to limit my reading to traditional published authors, but I am seriously straddling that line. Why? because the majority of self-pubbed/Indie Author’s I’ve read are just not ready yet. Granted, there are a few who’ve gone out of their way and went through an editor and several revision processes. One of my local critique partners has self-published a few of his short stories. I’ve read them. I’ve reviewed them. They are actually, what I consider, publishable quality.
I was hesitant, at first, to garner him support for the self-publishing world. The stigma that surrounds this area is very negative, even in my eyes. My first encounter with a self-published author was an OMG! I can’t believe this made it to press! moment. When I found out that it was self-published, I became biased and distanced myself from reading those types of books for a very long while. It was only when I started following more writer-ly people on Twitter did I decide that reading and reviewing their work would be good support for them.
I recently read a book and gave (what I thought) a very insightful, tactful review. However, once the author saw the review, their twitter stream exploded! You would not believe what I read. Rather than focusing on the content of the review and taking it as a means of bettering their writing, they focused on the fact that I said it was “self-published”. Now, this book was not technically self-pubbed–meaning the author didn’t do it themselves. Rather, they went through a newly formed Indie publisher who, in my opinion, is nothing more than someone who assists authors in self-publishing. I don’t want to knock this method. It really helps those not technologically savvy. But, my point was not remotely anywhere near bashing self-published or Indie authors. It was simply to state that the story was good, it just needed a few more editing passes before the author actually put it to bed.
Not only did the author’s twitter stream explode, but then I get a response to the review on Amazon, apparently from a friend of the author. I did not apologize for my review. In fact, I stood behind it. It was honest, heart-felt, and I truly wanted to help the author better their writing.
Unfortunately, the level of maturity I’ve seen in some self-pubbed/Indie authors is akin to a teenager. Many seem to lack the ability to take constructive criticism. So when I see an author asking for “honest reviews” on their new book, I am very reluctant. Can the author REALLY handle my reviews if it’s not a 4 or a 5 star review? Or will I get a snotty brat when I’m done? I so want to say, “I’ll review your book and give you an honest opinion IF, and only IF, you can handle this: Skeleton Lake by Angela Kulig Review.”
So, I think I will continue reading self-pubbed/Indie authors in hopes I find some real gems. But, I will probably stay away from authors like the aforementioned ones I’ve come across. I will also continue my HONEST review process in hopes of helping those who want to better their writing. Self-pubbed/Indie Authors can be a very good way of getting your name out there. Make your book the best it can be! As good as a traditional author does to get their foot in the door of an agent/publisher.
The stigma will always surround self-pubbed/Indie authors, for a long time to come. Get used it, but overcome it! Change the stigma one book at a time, one author at a time! Stop whining about it!