So why did I do it? Writing itself is a compulsion that I can’t resist. So the question can’t refer to the actual writing, that’s a given. So the question must refer to why did I publish independently? The main answer is for control. Control of both of my image and my output, and to be honest for the potentially better royalty rate. I had also become disillusioned with a traditional publishing route that seemed to shun newcomers unless you had an advocate on the inside. It seemed a case of whom you know and not what you know.
What’s the best part of it? Being the one in control and writing what I want to - have to - write, without someone else dictating what is commercially viable. After all, how do you know whether a market exists without offering the actual product first?
So, would I do it again? Yes, absolutely! The sense of achievement is far, far greater when you’ve done it all for yourself. You can look at every aspect of production and take pride that “you made this”. You also get to learn from your mistakes, and know that next time it will be even better. Of course, there’s the small matter of writing at least 40,000+ words before you get to try again. Actually, it’s more like having a stupendously original, mind-blowing idea, then composing 70,000 to 100,000 gripping words, written multiple times over, before you get another chance.
I’ve had some experience of traditional publishing routes and the journey can end very abruptly and without warning. In the indie world, you set the acceptance criteria, the pace and the quality gates. Then of course, you take all of the plaudits for the success. Also, in the indie world, your work is out there forever. It won’t go out of print or be pulped. You can play a much longer game. That’s why I chose the indie route, and that’s why I’d do it again.
But I think that if indie publishing is to thrive and prosper them something has to be done about the variable quality of output. The unacceptably poor quality of some releases is choking the output of the more professional authors, like weeds choking a fragile blossom. I’m getting tired of opening books, some with very professional and enticing covers, only to find that the writing is amateurish, not even vaguely engaging, and most unforgivable of all, full of spelling and grammatical mistakes. All indie publishers are being tarnished with the same brush of ineptitude, and it is very hard for readers to trust indie authors and sort the marvellous wheat from the dreadful chaff.
There’s a saying that everyone has a novel in them, unfortunately, for most ‘authors’ that is exactly where it should have stayed! There needs to be some reliable method of ensuring quality control and I don’t think that leaving it to the market, to bloggers and reader reviews, is reliable enough. My hope is that a few really trusted review websites will rise to prominence and the consumer will have a universally trusted source of quality measurement. Not that quality is always required to generate sales! But that’s a very different story, and I won’t name names…
Some really big hitters of the literary world have chosen the indie route, mainly for the control and greater financial rewards. The hard part is for competent writers to break through all of that noise and find their rightful audience. If good indie authors don’t find readers in sufficient numbers, then they will have no option but to revert back to the traditional publishing route, and that will significantly reduce the number of good writers who can publish their work. We may find that some very fine authors just don’t have the drive and self-promotional tools to push their enjoyable work through the publisher’s filter.
If we allow that to happen, then we’re all going to be losers.