Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Sunday, 13 April 2014

In praise of Indies and expanding our reading horizons by Mary Smith



A writing friend and I were talking – about books and writing – when she suddenly said: “The stigma attached to people self-publishing seems to have disappeared all of a sudden.”  

And she is right.

In fact we had both recently attended the launch of an eBook in the local library. The author, Vivien Jones, wasn’t quite sure what to expect without having any physical books to sign and sell. We weren’t sure what to expect either. Vivien read some compelling extracts from Malta Child and then the library’s IT people handed out tablets to the audience and explained how eBooks can now be borrowed from the library. It was a fascinating evening. 

Yet, it’s not so very long ago since people were really sniffy about self-published authors – and publishing an eNovel was quite beyond the pale. It meant their work wasn’t good enough to be taken on by a ‘proper’ publisher. Plus, there was a lot of criticism – unfortunately, often well-founded – of work not being properly edited, shockingly bad grammar and terrible formatting. 

There has been a huge sea-change. I don’t believe it is only because some big names who were previously published by the big traditional publishers decided to go indie, or that some indie writers were so successful they were suddenly sought after by the very same publishers who had rejected them. I think a growing number of readers are looking out for the kind of books they want to read – not the books the big trad publishers insist they should be reading. Also an increasing number of good writers are writing books they want to write as opposed to writing books they hoped the big publishers would want.

It is about expanding horizons – for both writers and readers. I was recently invited to join eNovel Authors at Work, which was set up by novelist Jackie Weger. The idea behind it is very simple: Indie authors paying it forward. In other words we all help each other to promote our books.
Writers need each other. Indie authors have to learn how to promote their work. Actually, more and more authors, even those published by ‘proper’ publishers, are having to learn the same lessons. Indies have the advantage – we support each other, offer advice, pass on tips on everything from virtual book launches to innovative ways to make your books stand out from the millions of titles on Amazon.

Jackie Weger has become my guru and I sit at her feet (virtually) soaking up all she can teach me. Linda Lee Williams, another eNovel Authors at work writer has also passed on some great advice and interviewed me on her blog. I was invited to take part in a blog hop. Being terribly green about most aspects of this kind of thing I fumbled my way through it – and it gained me some sales on Amazon.com and an amazing number of Twitter followers.

And as for those expanding horizons - my tbr pile has increased dramatically since I became a member of eNovel Authors at Work. Each member has a page on the website (set up and managed by the amazing Carolyn Steele) and while browsing to see what other folk are writing I was amazed by the variety of genres out there: historical fiction, sweet romance, romantic comedy, novels which focus on mental health issues, vampire novels  ( I’ve never read a vampire novel – then found myself reading the blurb  Linda Lee Williams’ Old Town Nights I saw a mention of hybrid vampires (who knew) and the story sounded so fascinating I had to add it to my tbr list. Jackie Weger’s The House on Persimmon Road is a romance which has a ghost called Lottie who cooks and cleans – and I want a Lottie in my house! Jackie wrote for Harlequin for years before going Indie.

The authors in eNovel Authors at Work are amazing writers. They are not second-class citizens because they are Indie authors. They are the writers who are sweeping away the stigma attached to self-publishing – and I’m proud to be one of them.

27 comments:

  1. Great post Mary! And you are spot on about indie authors. Of course there are many who don't really cut it - but be honest, how many times have you bought a book and said to yourself, 'How did THIS ever get published?"! And you are right, there are many really supportive authors out there. The world of books really has changed.

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    1. I so agree about wondering how some books were published, Jenny! And with eNovels on Amazon you can dowload a sample before you buy so if it is rubbish or badly edited you've lost nothing.

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  2. You've put into words things I didn't even know I was thinking - but now I do! I particularly agree with your point that e-books/indie books allow us to access authors writing what we want to read and not what publishing houses THINK we want to read.

    Thank you!

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    1. Thank you, Gill. Glad to have helped!

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  3. Great post! I ride the fence, of course, coming from a small pub. But after meeting all the wonderful authors who'd ventured out on their own and were successful, it gave me the courage when I jumped genres to self-pub my new line. It was a lot of working having to do everything from start to finish, but it's also rewarding knowing you did everything from start to finish. :)

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    1. Thanks for dropping by, Carmen, and taking the time to post a comment. Like you I am also published by a small independent publisher (narrative non-fiction book). There is something so rewarding in seeing the results of your own efforts in everything from writing the book to finding readers.

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  4. I, too, started with book releases via a small publishing house (which closed its doors last September - a sad sign of the times). First I panicked as this also meant I lost the cover art for both books. The books couldn't even be displayed on my web site without a disclaimer. Then I jumped at the chance to self-publish my novels in second editions. That meant, of course, that the brunt of quality editing, interior and exterior design, marketing etc. fell on me. Now my books - lock, stock and new cover art - belong to me, and I love the idea of that! Thanks, Mary, for giving indies this pat on the back. Well said. Happy sales to all of you!

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  5. Thanks for sharing your story, Sharon.I feel these are exciting times for Indie writers - despite the hard work involved in promoting our books. Thanks for dropping by.

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  6. Great post, Mary - thanks!
    My background was of rejection rejection rejection as I targeted category romance over many, many, many years, and its amazing to me people read my books now, and leave 4 and 5 star reviews and the trad pubs didn't want a bar of me!! My books are real indie efforts from designing my own covers to doing my own formatting and I love the whole, often frustrating! process.
    Here's a negative aspect though - being introduced to so many fabulous and exciting authors like our fellow eNovel authors but with less time to read now we are involved in so many more aspects of the publishing process.

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    1. Hi Joanne, I appreciate you dropping in and leaving a comment.Glad you enjoyed the post. I know about rejections and still have a big fat file of them!
      I struggle to find reading time, too. I often wake in the morning with the light still on and my Kindle under me. Good thing it switches itself off or I would be forever charging it up.

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  7. Great article. The stigma put on self-published authors is bad, but fingers crossed that this article's bright future for us will come true. eNovel Authors is a great group of people. Many were traditionally published and have a wealth of knowledge to share. I am so glad to be in the company of them all. Good article, Mary.

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    1. Thanks, Abby. I'm also glad to be in eNovel Authors at Work. Writers doing it for themselves is the way to go.

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  8. This is so true, Mary! eNovel Authors is a diverse group of gifted authors who write what they love to read. And you point out something very important – Indie novels give us as readers a much greater choice of high-interest books than do most traditional publishers. Wonderful article!

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    1. Thank you Lorrie. Someone else left a post picking up on the fact readers are being given more choice and I am sure the trend will continue. Traditional publishers more or less said people wouldn't want to read my book and - guess what? - they do.

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  9. Thanks for this post, Mary. I became self-published in 2010 and I'm amazed at how fast the publishing scenery has changed since then. Back then, it was widely announced that if an author self-pubbed, then s/he was ensuring the death knell tolled for his/her writing as far as ever being considered by trad publishing world. Now agents and publishers ( and Hollywood producers, I might add) troll the internet looking for self published books to consider.

    I also enjoyed hearing about the ebook night at the library. Handing out ebooks - what a grand idea. It promotes the author's ebook version while introducing and encouraging a library service to those in attendance. Brilliant!

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    1. Hi Dianne, thanks for your comments. I am so glad you enjoyed the post. It's great how much the stigma surrounding self publishing is disappearing.
      A writer whose blog I follow (Lexi Revellian: http://lexirevellian.blogspot.co.uk) self published and had an agent come to her with an offer, which after some thought she turned down. As an Indie she can do what she likes and not be constrained to write what someone else tells her she should write.
      Yes, we need to support anything which will keep our libraries open. I don't know about where you are but here libraries are closing or having the opening hours cut to a minimum.

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  10. What a fabulous post!! I love paying it forward for fellow authors. I feel it helps grow networks and I've made so many wonderful new friends that I will forever cherish. We can all learn and grow from each other which is so incredibly beneficial to everyone. I really enjoyed reading this...your post is spot on!!

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  11. My Gosh, Mary! What a wonderful post. You are so right. The ebook universe has matured. Early on bricks and mortar publishers sneered at indie authors, and pooh-hoo'd ebooks as a passing fad. Now, they embrace it, because if they don't--their authors will. Indie authorship is an immense learning curve, but the more we learn about producing quality books, the better it is for each new author who steps into our indie universe. We don't have the big bucks behind our book promotions as do the trad publishers, but we have something better. We have a community of pay-it-forward authors who help one another to get our books visible and in front of readers. Here's another tidbit. Two years ago I lurked in reader forums. The complaints about indie authors were rabid! the readers were angry that indies were using them as beta readers, publishing books before those titles were ready for public consumption. Now, when I lurk in those same forums, the readers are chatting about ebooks they've read, authors they love and best of all recommending books to one another. It is a huge sea change. I love being an indie author from frustration to fruition. I would never go traditional again. I'm smiling as I read all of the comments--it's a short roster of our membership in eNovel Authors at Work. Fabulous writer all. But! I sent all of you that little gem about how to sign your names on comments and you didn't do it! Name your dog house.

    Jackie Weger

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    1. See, Jackie, you made me so nervous about not signing my name I replied to you instead of Christine (apologies Christine). I'll go back to your email. I did read it and was very inpressed...I'm getting better, though, you must admit!
      Thanks for your comments on my post. I've been hugely impressed by the folks from eNovel Authors at Work who have taken the time to read it and respond. I'm beginning to know who will!
      I also used to visit the forums and yes, there was the anger about badly produced enovels but there are a number of people on those forums who spend their entire lives knocking Indie authors, especially if we dare to promote our work. Even though it rarely happens now we have the Meet our authors forum, the same people are like dragons guarding a den - makes me laugh. Their lives must be so sad. Rant over!
      Thanks so much for visiting and I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

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  12. Thank you so much, Christine. I'm so pleased you liked it. You are right that 'paying it forward' helps us to grow networks. Not everyone we meet along the way will buy our books but they might help spread the word and we all gain. And readers find great books!

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  13. Mary, what a timely and thought-provoking post. Publishing is certainly changing, so fast that it's scary. I wonder where we'll be a few years - even a few months - hence?

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    1. Hi Jennifer, yes, things have changed a lot in the publishing world and at quite a speed recently. Who knows what will be next? I think there will be more interactive eBooks.

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  15. Thanks for this article, Mary. One point you make that I haven't seen before--but that is obviously important--is that being an indie enables the author to write the kind of book he or she wants. Once the indies commit to better quality control, as they (we) are starting to do, we will see many more books that are quirky and individual--and that would never be published by the major publishers. I'm happy to be part of the eNovel group and to try to play a small role in making that happen.

    Mike Markel

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  16. Hi Mike, thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. The point you picked up on is an important one and soemthing the major publishers should note. I think what it makes it difficult for authors of the 'quirky and the individual' to be published by traditional publishers is that they (publishers) are only interested in making as much money as possible and aren't interested in books which might not sell shedloads. Writers, though, of course we want to make some money, don't see that as the only goal.

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  17. Excellent post, Mary - and what a great initiative! I'm getting the rights back to my first published book soon and am looking forward to bringing that out again myself!

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    1. Thanks, Rosemary, glad you enjoyed the post. Good luck with getting the rights back and going Indie - exciting.

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