Indie Writers: Credo & First Commandment

16/02/11 9:00 AM

If you had asked me a year ago if I’d ever self-publish, I would have given an emphatic “No.” At the time, I was busy at work on the draft of my second novel, and I was still caught up in the dream of landing an agent and a traditional publishing deal.

Now, I won’t lie: parts of those dreams still exist in me, but thanks to the digital revolution that’s taking place before all our eyes, I’m quite excited to be part of this venture. I don’t even cringe internally anymore when I tell people I’m going this route and that I’m self-publishing my work as eBooks.

That said, I’m aware of what some people — both fellow writers and readers — are thinking. Self-publishing is a last resort. Self-publishing means you couldn’t make it as a “real” writer. Most of the self-published stuff out there is crap. Blah, blah, blah. I don’t take it personally. How can I? I was one of the people thinking those same things not even nine months ago.

And here’s the dirty truth: a lot of crap is still being self-published. I mean “crap” in a totally objective way. In other words, the author doesn’t have the piece professionally edited (your mom and BFF don’t count, unless they’re editors in real life), resulting in numerous mistakes in punctuation and grammar. And the author hasn’t received sufficient feedback from beta readers on the story itself.

I think we indie writers have an important task at a pivotal moment in this revolution: we MUST be committed to putting out quality work, even more so than traditionally published authors, just by virtue of the fact that we self-publish, which, in essence, screams, “I feel strongly in this work and think it’s ready for prime time.”

Rushing something to market just because we can doesn’t mean we should (this isn’t an original thought, by the way). Unfortunately, those who do are the ones who really give self-publishing a bad name (and it’s the main reason I avoided it for so long). Thanks to people like Joe Konrath and Amanda Hocking and so many other serious writers who take pride in the quality of their work, that’s changing.

But we ALL must adhere to this first commandment in the indie writer credo: do no harm; put out the best work possible no matter what. And yeah, that might mean postponing the release or taking a step back to review the work one more time. Just to make sure. Do it (I’m doing it too). It will be worth it in the end. And maybe — just maybe — we can dismantle that ugly indie writer stereotype for good.

Indie writers, what do you think? Should this be the first commandment or can you think of something more important?

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5 Comments on “Indie Writers: Credo & First Commandment”

  1. Phil Says:

    I think this first commandment should apply to all writers, not just indie; judging from agent blogs, the indie group isn’t the only one churning out nonsense and crap.

    It seems the only difference is that instead of having agents and editors act like filters and keeping the crap out of bookstores, we indie writiers (I’m still a wannabe, but up and coming!)have our readers to act as filters. Crap sinks to the bottom while gold rises to the top thanks to reviews, purchases and consequent visibility!

  2. Robyn Says:

    I agree that the “put out quality work” edict should apply to all writers, but I do think indie writers have a bigger responsibility to make sure that happens, simply because we don’t automatically have the filters, as you point out. And I don’t think we should use readers as the filters. I think we need to vet our work before putting it in the hands of readers. That means having the work professionally edited and not just for typos, but also for story. And it means holding off on releasing it if it’s not ready (hard to do, especially when hearing about the success of other indies, like Joe Konrath and Amanda Hocking). It also means making sure it’s formatted correctly for Kindle and Nook (which can slow down the process, especially if you farm this piece out, but it’s worth it in the long run since we don’t want formatting issues distracting our readers).

  3. Mike Says:

    I think that self-publishing is gaining more and more respect all of the time.

  4. Robyn Says:

    You’re right, Mike: it is. And that raises the bar even more. As more people try indie writers, they’re going to expect a certain level of professional prose. We need to deliver. Big time.

  5. Ghenet Says:

    At this point, I’m not considering self-publishing but I agree with what you’re saying. Self-publishing IS gaining more respect and it’s important that it be good!