The Special Beauty of Indie Writers

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.”

Simply amazing!

Be part of the revolution!

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11 Comments

Filed under Writers and Writing

11 responses to “The Special Beauty of Indie Writers

  1. My experience of other writers here in cyberspace is of overwhelming kindness and helpfulness – when I dipped a toe into indie writing and publishing/ marketing.

    I made the descion because age/illness made me think time was short and if I needed to get a book out I must do it myself. I brought out the first at now cost by making it a limited ed. and producing it in numbers that meant costs were covered by the pre-orders.
    I have published two more since then and hopefully a fourth this year – Most of what I have learnt about networking – ebooking – print runs etc etc I have learnt from everyone up here.
    Sales not enormous but I beleive they would not have been either if going through the bookshops and this way I get to decide if they get remaindered!!!

    • I can certainly agree with that. The enthusiasm, kindness and helpfulness among indie writers/publishers for me was a big change from the other. And some of the contributing factors you mentioned also influenced my decision to publish independently. Although I have contracts with two traditional publishers and don’t necessarily mind the submission process, my health too, influences when I can submit, and how. Also, when you’ve a publisher who states they felt your submission was well written, but it was not the kind of work they personally like to read…and they only publish what they like to read…well, in this day and age especially, you can do it yourself. And I did so.

      Nice to read you Alberta, and I wish you very well in your writing endeavours!

  2. I self-published my first novel (and will do likewise with the sequels) for a variety of reasons, but mostly just because it felt like the right thing to do. I’m a busy woman; I have a limited amount of time to spend on any one aspect of my life, and I’d rather spend my writing time writing novels than query letters.

    Since I did it myself, I’ve read quite a few self-published books, and I’ve been really impressed by what’s out there. Since I read on my Kindle anyway, the indie market is also a source of loads of bargain ebooks 🙂

    • You know, that’s a really great point that echoes my own thoughts: “I’d rather spend my writing time writing novels than query letters..” We’re in total agreement on that one!

  3. I’m published with a traditional publisher. I have a great agent who is scouting some of my manuscripts even now, but for the newest series I just published, I could have gone with my previous publisher, but after a lot of research, I felt going indie was the best choice.

    I’m in a lot of writer’s groups and the mentality about indie publishing is definitely changing as well-respected authors are turning to it.

    Great post btw

    • Yes, as an traditionally published and indie author and advocate myself, I’m quite aware the indie publishing industry is changing. Whether or not “well respected authors” turn to it or not, all the rest of us will continue writing and publishing our way. In my particular view, it makes no difference to me whether someone is considered well-respected or not. Who are the ones respecting them after all? Do they mean anything to me personally? Very likely not. I do understand what you mean however. As far as agents go…I do understand what they do, but at the same time, they are searching for what they think the market will buy. Demographics, but also personal opinions also. That I don’t believe in. Put it out there and let the readers decide for themselves.

      I enjoy writing based on the authors ability and creativity, whether they are widely know, respected, or anything else. That is part of the beauty of indie authors, readers and publishers.

      • My use of “well-respected” seemed to have hit a nerve, which I didn’t intend. Poor word use on my part (and I call myself a writer-heh).

        A better choice would have been “widely known” or simply “famous” as I was thinking of J.K. Rowling as the “well respected” author foremost in my mind at the time, which title she has earned.

        I certainly didn’t mean to infer that indie writers aren’t well-respected because that would be dumb, considering I am one. Frankly the opposite is true. I have the utmost respect for writers who are willing to work and scrap it out and think out-of-the-box no matter what their path of publishing.

        I apologize that the term I so loosely threw out offended.

      • Totally wrong. To make the assumption you “hit a nerve” is to assume that you know me personally and you do not. To assume I was offended is also very incorrect, and I don’t understand that comment whatsoever. Why would I be? And why would you make assumptions about someone that you do not know especially if they are from a totally different culture than your own? I simply gave you the honesty of my thoughts in their most direction form, which is what I do to everyone.

  4. You’re right. I did make an assumption and I do not know you personally.

  5. wow! That was inspiring and beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I have spent a lot of time on message boards and in chat spaces trying to refine the art of marketing self published works. For the most part I have run into very helpful and respectful writers who wish each other genuine good wishes. Although I was afraid when I published my first book, I have since come to understand the beauty of having so much control over what you publish and how. I don’t think I could ever hold my breath in anticipation of a letter from a publisher again.

    Keep up the excellent posts and best of luck to you. Mariah Jones

    • In some ways, I found it somewhat addictive, as it is a heady pleasure of entirely developing, writing, editing (and all the infinitive number of little things needed) and then self-publishing one’s own work. Sometimes I find the advertising and marketing aspects a little overwhelming, as I simply do not have the time to spend online chatting about my work or interacting to boost interest and sales, but as you said,

      “I don’t think I could ever hold my breath in anticipation of a letter from a publisher again.”

      That really sums up my own thoughts as well. Granted, it might be easier if one is accepted, that they do a lot of the advertising, reviewing seeking, etc. for you, but I like to control the parts of my destiny that I can. And self-publishing helped me do so. Being told I have excellently written material, yet it doesn’t personally suit their tastes, and they only publish what they like to read? (What about the readers being given the choice??) That really was a defining moment for me.

      I am pleased with what I’ve accomplished and I intend to continue, and this brings an unparalelled confidence. I’m sure you and others have experienced the same and can understand what I mean. I’m not trying to down traditional publishers in any way, as I see some of their concerns, as they wish to have work that will sell to the majority of readers. That’s how they stay in business, but I don’t want someone who mislabels or doesn’t understand my work, why I write it and some of the topics, to decide my literary fate. There are some good publishers I’ve been glad to be welcomed by, but I do enjoy doing it my own way also 😉

      I am infinitely grateful I decided to take that first step, as anxious as it was, and for those applications like Smashwords and others, that gave me my venue.

      Thanks for your comments, and I wish you the very best.

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