Monday, June 24, 2013
Indie or Mainstream: Judging Quality by the Wrong Title
Reviewed by OFW editor: Renée Miller
Published: October 09, 2012


Publishers (until recently) have always separated the gold from the trash. If you’re a good writer and have a great book, it stands to reason that you should be able to get a publishing contract. Hmm. Well, that’s arguable, no? However, the common belief that it’s easy to put out a publishable novel without bothering to read, study, or research anything is also rather…stupid. Self-publishing is not a short cut, and indie authors are not without talent, but those using this method as a way to publish without doing the work are tarnishing the image of indie author, and proving those book snobs right.
I’ve taken music lessons in school, but I’m hardly ready to play in a band. I took science too, but I’m not qualified to concoct some new drug. And this, folks, is where indie and traditionally published authors can find common ground. You doubt me, I can tell. I mean, “mainstream” authors dislike Indie publishing to the point where some spit on the term “indie.” Their noses turn up ever so delicately if the word is even whispered in their presence. It comes down to your point of view really. Bestselling authors who have published traditionally have proven their ability with a bit of talent and a ton of hard work. They’ve built their careers around the belief that publishing is a meritocracy and only the best work by the hardest working writers will find representation, acquisition, and a place on bookstores shelves. But that same talent and hard work can still churn out stellar writing that gets overlooked and thus is not published. What is that author to do? She publishes herself.
See the common denominator there? Both types of author can have a dash of talent, and they might both be willing to do the work necessary to put out quality work. Neither one sees self-publishing as a get rich quick scheme or the easy way out. Both indie and mainstream can mean quality writing.
Disagree? Amanda Hocking wrote several novels and self-published them. True, in “indie” form they weren’t perfect, but they were good, solid novels. They sold a shitload of copies too. She’s gone on to sign a very decent contract with St. Martin’s Press. John Locke (sock puppetry aside) sold more than two million copies of his books before signing a deal with Simon & Schuster. And his work is pretty good too, no matter what you think of his ethics.
On the other side of the coin, there are traditionally published authors whose work seems like a rushed vomiting of sentences and little more. There is shit on both sides. The dedicated writers, the ones that care about this industry, must get on the same page. Indie author does not mean talentless hack. Mainstream authors doesn’t mean snob. A good writer cares about producing quality work and she cares about her readers. She can publish any way she chooses. It’s as simple as that.
Publishing is unique from other industries in that it has not yet adapted (not fully) to the changes technology has brought about. There are others who are lagging behind as well, but because we’re in publishing, it’s publishing’s resistance to change that matters to us. E-books have changed the market, and for the most part it’s a good thing. However, the noise caused by so many self-published authors who are in no way writers, is smothering the positives.
We once believed that reader reviews and such would sort out the slush of the self-published pile, but recent headlines have since slapped those illusions upside the head. We’ve got self-published authors paying for glowing reviews, and mainstream authors targeting each other with negative reviews. This is not sorting the good from the bad. It’s confusing the issue even more.
So the big question is: will Indie ever come to mean quality as it should in some circumstances? Which way will the industry go? I’m not sure. I do know that if writers are serious about creating an industry that works, that allows good authors to be successful and bad ones to just disappear, we have to stop shitting on each other and start showing readers what good writing is. Oh, and mind our own business. That’s good too.

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