I try not to get caught up in the “us versus them” mentality that often goes on between legacy publishers and independent authors. If you ever want a good debate on the subject, you’d be better off checking out Joe Konrath’s blog, where the topic is touched on almost daily.
But one thing I hear a lot of in the writing community—from both my legacy and indie friends, and yes, it’s okay to have both—is that bad writers are going to ruin things for everyone. Being a contrarian by nature, it was only a matter of time before I was forced into this blog post:
In Defense of Crappy Writers…
That’s right. I’m going to defend authors, who go to market too quickly, refuse to get help from an outside source, and are incapable of proofreading. Indies think bad writers make them look bad. Legacy guys think they create too many distractions for readers, and a distracted reader is a reader, who isn’t buying their book. And virtually all of us, who may not be the greatest writers in the world but know how to weave a yarn, get insulted that offensively bad writers even attempt to do what we do.
We need more gatekeepers. Crappy self-pubbers give indies a bad name! I’ve heard it all, but I’m not convinced. If that’s what you think, consider this:
We need them. You, me, and indies everywhere. And so do legacy publishers. If every person, who ever published a book was a masterpiece writer, the market would be saturated beyond belief. The next Ernest Hemingway could easily go unnoticed. There would be no way to distinguish good writing from piss-poor. We’d all be great, and, subsequently, ignored.
Writing a bestseller is hard, people. The writing is important, but it’s not the only thing that goes into it. You need to proof your book till it shines like gold. You need to hand it off to a brain you can trust. One who will read it and tear it apart. You need to lick your wounds and declare yourself too stupid to write another word before finally getting past the criticism and using the constructive remarks to make it a better book.
You need to get on the social networks and build a Twitter / Facebook following. You need to write blog posts that people may actually find informational, enlightening, entertaining, or inspirational. You need to fight discouragement when your book isn’t selling by writing another book. And you need to go through the entire process again and again and again until the world gets the point that you’re not going away.
It’s the 21st Century, and there are more opportunities than ever before to find your audience. Write well, write often, finish what you start, and connect with people. Don’t wait for Amazon to algorithm your book to the top. They won’t. Keep writing. Keep connecting. Build authentic relationships with people, and the rest will fall into place.
Crappy writers are not stopping you from doing that, and they’re not stealing your potential audience. They’re proving themselves to be crappy writers, and they’re making your book look that much better when it is finally discovered. Furthermore, they are making your eventual audience grateful to you for providing a good story at a good price.
Bitching doesn’t help. Forming a new body of indie gatekeepers won’t either. Only writing the best book that you know how to write, not becoming discouraged, and continuing to do what you love until you break through or don’t love it anymore will help. Those are the keys to success.
So the next time you buy a 150,000-word tome for 99 cents and pick out 18 spelling and grammar issues on the first page, thank the author. Oh, not personally. That would be tacky, and staying positive is a far better way to live. I mean inside your head. Because when your book finds its audience, that writer is going to make your work stand out.
Joe Konrath has a philosophy: cream will rise to the top. But it can’t do that unless there’s a bottom.