I stumbled across an Amazon forum post that hit me pretty hard. The post is titled "How to Avoid Indie Authors." The comments are pretty harsh, talking about how they're tired of Amazon putting Indie titles in their recommendations. They don't want to buy books from Indies -- the books are awful and they're a waste of time and money. You can always tell an Indie book because the cover art will be "abysmal" and it'll cost less than "trad pub" books. They will be full of errors and are written unprofessionally. Amazon should filter out Indies so the customers don't have to sift through them all just to get to the good stuff. Amazon needs to "raise the bar" so that only quality books are sold.
Wow, I mean, it was pretty harsh. As I read through some of the 3,000+ posts, I could practically feel the fire rise up from my feet, burning the wooden post that was strapped to my back.
I wonder if it's time to re-educate the readers. These 8-10 posters judged independent authors as a single entity, based on an archaic belief that indies put no effort or professionalism into their books. Admittedly, I've seen some of awful indies that fit the mold these posters set out. There are a lot of "All About Me" books, where someone visited another country or led a rough life or found some kind of renewed strength. They decide to write down their experiences and share them with the world. But the books are poorly written or unedited or just plain boring. I can understand judging a book like this if proper effort was not put into it. But to lump all Indies together into the same category?
I tried to get inside the heads of these posters to understand their prejudice. First, I decided to think like a reader. I am qualified enough to judge books based on my experience as a reader. I spend (shamelessly) hundreds of dollars a month on books, mostly on Amazon.com and Audible. I've purchased so many books in the past 15 years, I practically own stock in Amazon. Not to mention the hearty business I've thrown Barnes and Noble, Borders, Hastings, and Half Priced books. I have read every day of my life since I was four. That's a lot of reading. I am definitely qualified to judge as a reader. Yet I don't feel the same kind of distaste toward Indie book authors. What did they do to warrant such a hateful gathering of Amazon readers?
As a writer, I also take offense. My books may not be best sellers, but I put a lot of work into them. I have a bachelor's degree in Writing and Linguistics (Georgia Southern University) and have been a professional writer and editor for many, many years. From the lifetime of reading that I mentioned above, I have a pretty good idea of how to tell a story. If I don't have a right to publish my own novels, then who does? What is the criteria to be a book author in these posters' eyes? Is it acceptance by the Big 6? Because if that's the case, they should probably pick up a few more "trad pub" books and investigate a little deeper. Publishers don't put much effort into their books. The past dozen books I've read from traditional publishers had errors. The last three books alone (same author) were so badly written, I had a hard time keeping up. It is a very popular, best selling series, too. What qualified this writer to be a novelist in the absence of experience and education? Luck, I guess. Publishers have to pick someone. I'm sure they have a lot of good material to choose from, but they could only pick one. This was it. It makes me wonder, though. Would these irate anti-indie posters have picked this author if he'd have self-published his book? Would they have read Harry Potter if Rowling had self published?
Times are changing. Authors are taking their art back from the publishers. But the world isn't getting the message. Maybe we need a more visible campaign. TV commercials, bus banners, highway billboards. "Buy Indie!" Remember a few years back when farmers got together and advocated local sales of meat, vegetables, and milk? Perhaps we need something similar.