Budgie’s Journal #172 – The Bane of the Independent Writer
“The more I get to know people who call themselves writers, the less I want to know.”
That quote was from a friend of mine. She said it a couple of years ago regarding the small community of “writers” her and I had associated with at that time. Most of them have gone, giving up their social media presence for the dull sparkle of “real life” and all its perks.
I’ve posted stuff like this in the past under the guise of writing advice or rants. There may even be a “writers writing badly” post somewhere in the Budgie archives. Every now and then the subject rears its not-so-pretty head, and it’s probably the biggest bane of the independent writing community (if you can call it that).
Before I continue, I just want to make one point. I realize there are a lot of new writers out there, those who are working on their first book or the first part of their series (a lot of them have drawn-out series in their heads since it’s the fad to do them). Coming into an arena that’s already full can be intimidating, but you’ll never know it talking to these dynamos of the writing world.
There’s a lot of writers on these forums and social media outlets. There are pockets of communities within the community that are full of decent people. This post is not about them.
Let’s cut into the meat and potatoes of this post: the bane of the indie writer’s existence. It’s other indie writers. Not all of them, anyway. Just those who somehow jump into the aforementioned arena thinking they’re God’s gift to independent literature. I’ve come across dozens of them, maybe hundreds, and it always ends the same way…
There’s a book release day, and it’s oh so joyous. The work in progress they’ve been touting about is finally upon us, and it’s a thing of beauty. Bask in the light of the book. Bathe in the words inked on the page. Live the lives of the characters.
But there’s a problem.
See, in the writers want to get their book out and their mindset that there story absolutely needs to be told, they didn’t bother to think that they could make a mistake. They don’t think they need editing, and their books are rife with typos. They don’t fully understand tone, and their stories feel flat and lifeless. They don’t have many real-time conversations and spend more time texting than talking, so their dialogue comes off robotic.
And it doesn’t go unnoticed.
Most readers of independent fiction will give you one chance: the sample on Amazon. Show them this within the first 10% of your book, and you’ve lost a reader. Show them a dull, lifeless cover, and they won’t even bother with that sample.
I’m not just saying this because I offer editing and graphic services through A Million and One, but it is the reason we started. One of the reasons independent authors skip the editing, formatting, and decent graphic work is that it’s expensive. And I’m guilty of trying to self-edit. I’m sure my early work has a few errors I missed. The hardest person to edit for is yourself.
But this post goes out to those who press forward, arguing that a cover doesn’t mean as much as the content inside, that they can edit themselves perfectly, and the reason their books aren’t selling isn’t because of the content.
Let me dispel that for you.
A bad cover will turn off your reader before they even read page one. There’s not many people who can successfully self-edit, and the reason your books aren’t selling is because you’re not as great as you think you are.
And that’s why other indie writers are bad for the whole community in a nutshell. A handful of not-so-seasoned with flat characters and a dull plot posting their books on Amazon since they’ve given book writing an “anyone can do it” feel. But guess what; anyone can do it, but that doesn’t mean everyone should. Those who post garbage give all indie writers a bad name. It’s these flaccid novels and novellas that turn readers off from indie writing altogether.
Take a step back. Let someone who’s not your friend read your book, or at least a portion of it. Don’t go to pieces over bad criticism on your blog or social media, because that whining and ranting does get noticed and added to the list of bad writer habits. Keep in the back of your mind that this may not happen how you want it to and likely won’t. Not everyone has a JK Rowling success story.
I’m going to have to wrap this up. There are a lot of people who write well but don’t get the readership they deserve. There’s also a lot of bad writers who are genuinely nice people who need to be nudged in the right direction. On the flip side of that coin are good writers who are conceited and cocky and bad writers who are just as bad and haven’t earned that right.
Keep in mind that I was here once too, a new writer with a story people needed to hear. The backlash of creative criticism hit me hard, but I’m resilient. I came back, improved my craft, fixed what was broken, and became unstoppable. You can too. You just need to shatter that huge ego of yours and be able to keep on walking afterward.
So hone your words, find your voice, and make sure you realize you’re not Stephen King or JK Rowling. Take it down a fuckin’ peg or two.