I recently met an author with an ‘it’s an indie book; it’s okay if it has a few problems; we should be easy on them,’ kind of attitude. Sorry, but it isn’t okay. That kind of unprofessional attitude is one of the reasons for the plethora of substandard books in the marketplace. Self-publishers should at least aim to do a professional job. It isn’t okay to publish a book that you know could be tightened up more, or that hasn’t been structurally, line and copy edited (yes, three different kinds of editing), that is just sloppy and unprofessional and, except in rare instances, such a book will be substandard to some degree. A few copy errors aren’t a problem if the rest of the book is up to scratch, and the author fixes them when they’re pointed out. Certain things slip through even the best of publishing houses, but our aim should be to produce a product that competes on the same level as traditionally published books.
Though I have no formal qualifications, I have studied writing intensely, and though I am no expert, I do know what makes good writing. I also review a lot of traditionally published books, so I have a solid standard to compare books with. Some think I am picky about quality, but I only expect my indie reads to be of the same standard as those published by mainstream houses. That doesn’t mean that my own books are brilliant, far from it, but I am confident they are of the same standard as any published by a traditional publisher. It’s much easier to see the faults in others’ writing than to see it in your own work, which is why even those with degrees in creative writing need to have someone else edit their books. No author can completely edit their own work.
I hate to see the words, ‘it’s pretty good for an indie book’, in a review. That assumes that there is a different standard for indie books, er, no, there isn’t. If we ask people to pay for our books, we should provide something worth paying for, and that means the same standard we have come to expect from traditionally published books.
If we fall short of that standard, we can hardly complain when readers refuse to buy indie books.
If we want to be taken seriously by the publishing industry – and most indies do – then this must be our basic aim.
No body wants to pay for substandard books, and no one should have to. The first step towards producing something of a professional standard is aiming to do just that. The second is being clear what that standard is. If you aren’t sure, check out the explanation of the criteria for the inclusion in the awesome Indies listing. The third step is to get someone to check that your work is up to that standard before you publish – someone who knows what they’re talking about. The most savvy author will know when it’s wiser not to publish.