A word to the self-publishing community

Actually, a few words if I may… Grab a snack and settle in, this could be a bit of a rant!

Self-Publishers… You are not an island. You are not some special and unique creature that exists within a vacuum where your actions are independent from anything else or anyone else surrounding you.

Let’s drop the whole “Indie” publishing title. It is too elitist and gives people the wrong impression. We’re not independent of each other, because whether you like it or not, you are part of a community!

Let’s break this down just a little for you. When a customer goes to buy a book they look at a few things: Genre, Cover art, Summary, and price. That price has a lot more to do with who published than what the product costs. I can’t count the number of forum threads I have read on various sites trafficked by both readers and writers, where people want to avoid self-published books. The most common response to the question of how to avoid them is price. The 0.99-2.99 price point is a dead giveaway for most that the book they are looking at is a self-published work.  There are other clues but this one is generally the best indicator. Let’s face it, we do dominate the bottom of the pricing pool. Even $3.99 is becoming a flood of self-published work.

Why would people want to avoid a well-priced book? Why do people want to avoid a self-published book?

Because there is a lot of crap out there!

Sorry guys, I’m mad, and I’m not sugar coating things today.

You may not want to hear this but it gets right down to the heart of the matter. There is a whole lot of crap out there! Books with terrible cover art, books that have been published with no editing, books that were published as first drafts with no beta reading, proofreading, or critiquing. But, among the mass of crap there are also a lot of wonderful, well-written, beautifully edited, and polished books too.

Problem is, once a reader is burned on as little as one bad self-published book, they give up on all of them.

That’s why we’re not “independent.” There is no differentiation in a readers mind between one self-published book and another. They aren’t going to buy your book, no matter how many stars you have next to it because it’s self-published. Price doesn’t really sway their opinion. People are still buying overpriced traditionally published books because they know the quality of the work they are getting.

So why am I mad? Why am I jumping up on my soap box about this today? Because I am sick of seeing the elitist attitude some people in the self-publishing community take toward other authors.   

In the last couple of days it was widely announced that Book Country, a subsidiary of Penguin Books had a self-publishing service. Many self-published authors, including myself, were very active on blogs and indie community sites spreading the word of caution about this new Vanity press.  The response to this was split down the middle. Some self-published authors were outraged that yet another company was taking advantage of other potential authors. But there were others who seemed to take the cavalier attitude of “If another authors fall prey to this, it’s their own damn fault for not being informed.” It seemed to me, that there were many people not only defending this new Vanity Press, but they also seemed annoyed with anyone who dared to post the warning about it.

And that, my friends, is what pissed me off. Self-publishing is not a one size fits all thing. There are literally thousands of ways to get your book into print (or ebook) and for many new authors it’s hard to differentiate between what is potentially a scam and what is legit.

As a newbie myself, it took a year of work and research before I felt I had a handle on how to properly self-publish a book. Two years later, I am still learning new methods and making connections with freelancers. I don’t care how much research you do, there is always something for you to learn. And the community is where you should be sharing these things as well as learning them from others. The more you know, the better you can make your own work. The better your work, the better the community looks as a whole.  

So, when someone puts up a warning to the community, they should thanked and the link shared, not chastised by people who claim to know it all. Knowledge is the way we fight against self-publishing being labeled as crap. Make it easy for that new author to find the right information, don’t just sit idly by and watch others being taken advantage of!

Even though “self” is the first word in self-publishing, it does not mean you’re alone. You are a part of something bigger. And the only way we can help make self-publishing a true force in the publishing industry is to strengthen our ranks with information and the tools to successfully do the job right!


Jim Kukral said...

How is this any different (the Penguin thing) than people/services running around screaming "I'll make you a best-seller"?

I agree with you.

Krista D. Ball said...

Katie, you had me at "You are not some special and unique creature"


Author T.L. Gray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cege Smith said...

I had to chew on this for a few minutes Katie- which means that I found your perspective well-thought out and compelling. :) Becoming part of the community is the next step on a self-published author's evolutionary journey (beyond making the decision to take that leap) and I think the focus can become so narrow (MUST PUBLISH BOOK NOW!) that it's easy to forget that the act of doing so makes you part of something much bigger, and something that is still in it's own early developmental stages.

Perhaps the elitist attitude comes from self-pubbed authors who have been around for awhile and are trying to distance themselves from all the newbies out there? (I'm not sure that's the reason and it definitely doesn't make it right, just a thought.)

I see self-publishing my work as the start of my own writing business- and with that comes certain investments of time and money to ensure a quality product. That's just how my mind works. But you are right in saying the journey is different for everyone and I know that not everyone sees it that way.

I think this is a very good topic for exploration and I'll be interested in seeing the follow-up comments.

Katie Salidas said...

Yes, there is a large element of "self" in self-publishing, but you cannot forget that when you jump into the publishing marketplace you are joining in with thousands of others.
Self-publishing still carries a stigma and that is precisely why we have to think of the community. The quality of one book affects the way outsiders look at all books.
Readers don't understand nor should they have to, the complexity of the process to produce a book. They simply see the end result and that is why we must strive individually to make sure our books are as good as they can be.
The community can help by making information more easily available. Raising a red flag when they see a potential scam, pointing out a great new freelance editor, sharing information on how to properly format your book interior, all of these are ways the community can help each other out. The end result... self-published books begin to take on a higher quality and more prestige.
Evey one can benefit from that.

Larry Kollar said...

I touched on the same topic about a month ago, working from a different angle. I might disagree about not using the "indie" label — it only means we're independent from the traditional publishing system — but your other points are right on.

I ran into a poorly-edited story recently; the story sucked you in and it was a fresh take on the genre, but the huge run of typos made me cringe. It was a good reminder to not be in a big rush to get my book out, wait for the last beta reader to finish, and hope that lead I have on a local editor pans out. I want a professional-quality book with my name on it.

Katie Salidas said...

The removal of the "indie" title was more a comment to the elitism it creates rather than the true meaning of independent (separate from the traditionally published).

Anonymous said...

Katie, as a unicorn and the official spokesman for special and unique creatures everywhere, I am appalled at your sweeping generalizations about the "indie" publishing community.

I may have self-published a paranormal steampunk romance thriller on my own, but I also have a single magical horn on my head and I am constantly threatened by both human hunters and a large red bull of demonic origin.

Please be more sensitive in future posts.

The Cowboy and Vampire said...

Great post. Everything is changing so quickly, these problems may ultimately sort themselves out. Yes, the actions of the crowd will influence he way we publish and what we publish, but ultimately, those who put the time and effort into their work and the process will have a better chance at success than those who don't. It may help to think of all "non-traditionally" published authors as indie ... ?

Quill Shiv said...

I completely agree. And have muuuch more to add to the topic, but I have learned to keep my mouth shut on certain topics.

I will say this, however: I love the opportunity e-publishing has given authors, but for the love of words, put some true work into it. Learn the craft. Learn the business.

Well done on this post.

Ricki said...

I have to say that I am more likely to purchase a self-pub ebook that is $0.99-$2.99, that way, if I don't like it, it is no big loss. However, the prices for paperback self-pubs are often too high - some are almost the price of a hardcover from a big company, and that is too much to take a chance on.

jessika fleck said...

thanks for this. as someone who is considering self-publishing i need all of the info from those in the know as i can get! much appreciated...

Anonymous said...

I have to say I agree - AND I'm guilty, somewhat.

I've referred to my work as "Indie" but you have to remember, some of us are fairly new to this experience and as fast as things change, people are always searching for labels.

Right now I'm in the middle of critiquing the worst piece of garbage ever! It's like a 15 year old's idea of erotica. To boot, it reads like a telegraph - stop. I want to shoot myself in the face - stop.

But, the writer is working on improving - how dare I not help my community?

In the past four years I think the biggest thing I've grown to love about writing is the community. You are so dead on with this post!

Unknown said...

I'm confused...is your rant about Book Country or about the prices of Indie books? Or maybe it's about the term Indie, or about the quality of Indie books?

All of the above?

About The Author

Katie Salidas is a USA Today bestselling author and RONE award winner known for her unique genre-blending style.

Since 2010 she's penned five bestselling book series: the Immortalis, Olde Town Pack, Little Werewolf, Chronicles of the Uprising, and the all-new Agents of A.S.S.E.T. series. As her not-so-secret alter ego, Rozlyn Sparks, she is a USA Today bestselling author of romance with a naughty side.

In her spare time Katie also produces and hosts a YouTube talk show; Spilling Ink. She also has a regular column on First Comics News where she explores writing from a nerdy perspective.