Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Is Indie publishing the new slush-pile?

Before the instant-success outlets like Smashwords and Amazon popped up, giving writers the opportunity to share their scribblings with the world, agents and acquisition editors could hardly open the door to their offices and the computer almost exploded when they checked their e-mails. They had been swamped with submissions and as many aspiring authors know, rejected about 99% of them. Some definitely not deserved, but a lot of them probably were. I'm wondering if submissions have become less due to the fact, that one can now cut out the middleman and cash 100% of the royalties instead. Let alone the giddy feeling of watching sales (if there are any) increase and reviews coming in.
But with the reviews comes the truth; instead of a form rejection you get a massive clip around the ears from the buying public. And rightly so, if an author can't string together a decent plot, develop rounded characters or think that hers should be written her's, they don't deserve anything better than a rejection. But this one hurts, because you can't tell yourself that the agent has missed the book of the decade; or the editor probably just had a bad day, no, we're talking about a real reader, someone who went to download the book, wanting only one thing: to be entertained. If the author fails to deliver, it's bad news.
Maybe I'm a bit cynic here, but I also delete a massive amount of e-books quite early in. Reason: often adventurous punctuation in dialogue, unlikable or one-dimensional characters and the most annoying: underdeveloped or totally unrealistic storyline. I'd say, I stick with every tenth book I started, reading it from cover to cover, the rest goes. None of the Indie books I read had me glued to the Kindle, shrieking with excitement. Only three had a decent storyline, tough one was a biography. Most of them had been free downloads. I've seen comments already, saying that free means shite, but what they forget is, that they're only free for a certain period, normally they cost money. Unless it's a permanently free book, which still is a riddle to me.
I'm a reader, too and wading through the slush-pile of self-published books is a tough job. The quality of the writing varies greatly and often, the premise looks fantastic, so are the first 50%, then the plot sags like an old-man's scrotum. Those authors of books that sell well, will have a chance to receive a phone call from the big players in the industry. Agents and publishers are already watching like hawks, waiting for the next successful novel to float on top. And I can't help thinking it's all down to the poor people who now have to face the slush-pile: the readers


  1. Sorry Stella. I disagree with your last line entirely. It's the readers who have wholeheartedly accepted cheap (or should I say free?) ebooks with glee and created a new price point for ebooks. So what did these 'poor' but miserly readers expect for free or 99c? Literature?

    1. Dammit! Just posted a very long response! Blogger ate it.

      Can't be bothered to repeat that all. Bottom line was: I expect good quality if an author tries to prove himself to me. Of course, I, as a reader also embrace 99c books and why shouldn't I? Price is not the issue, quality is.

      The free books are yours, mine and other authors' books, and before and after the promo, they could be anything between 99c and $10.
      Would you say your book is of poor quality because it's free for a few days?

    2. My first reply was also eaten by Blogger Stella, so it was an abbreviated version as well.

      The quality-price equation works with all products. The lower the price the less chance of purchasing quality. I would dearly love to pay $4000 for professional and high quality manuscript editing and preparation and another $1500 on cover design. $5000 on marketing would be wonderful too.

      But we both know there is no chance in hell of in today's ebook market of getting a return on that sort of investment. Not even the Big Six can do it.

      That is not to say that I don't try to put as good a quality book as I can on the market, but there is a limit now on how much time and money I can invest in preparing a new manuscript.

      It's a whole new ball game now.

    3. I don't think it's necessary to put that much money into a book. If you pay close attention to your book, while writing it, if you know someone who is a grammar genius, maybe exchange favours (I help you with the plot, if you help me with grammar), etc. I don't expect a ms to be perfect, hell, even trad. published books aren't, but I'd like to see that authors know the bloody basics! The how to, the 'rules' to be able to break them. You don't find incorrect dialogue attributes in trad. published books. Typos, yes, maybe a missing word, okay, but rarely do you see other errors. And you have properly developed story lines and characters, in most cases, at least.

      Maybe I'm just too proud an author. I say it again, my first two books were riddled with errors, which I'm more than embarrassed about, but the story and characters were solid from the first draft. And I just got feedback for Candlelight Sinner, which, by the way, I proofread after a friend corrected my Germish and another one found about 8 typos and bloopers, and I was told by the reader that she didn't find any hefty errors or things were she would go: what the heck?

      Not to rush it is the answer. Rather put the book aside for another few weeks, then go through it slowly, line by line if you don't have money. It's hard, because we author are blind to our errors. I am, too, hence my missing the 8 my friend found. But even 8 errors are acceptable.

  2. I've often harbored a hypothesis that most readers are like me — unless they enthusiastically love a book, they're not going to wander to or Goodreads and post a review ripping a book to shreds. I've read my fair share of terrible cheap/free indie books, and I cannot bring myself to eviscerate the author for giving it the old college try. It's easy to cull good reviews by soliciting them from friends and family; there are even other nefarious (black hat) means of getting good reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. To wit, I don't rely on customer reviews — merely my own judgment. And my judgment tells me that I could use that 99 cents (dollar) to wash a load of laundry. :/

    1. Hi, Melissa

      First, welcome and thank you for your comment. Then again, I'd say it's not the 99c books, it's when you see it's been self-published. Only the sample will tell you if the author has a grasp on writing and punctuation, how the story line will be developed, you don't know. If you pay $10 for a book and it goes downhill after four chapters...
      It's really sad, because I believe there are some damn good stories if they would have been edited properly. By editing I mean first and foremost plotting, because that's what puts me off to begin with.
      I don't relate on good reviews either, only read the negative ones because they give me a far better overview about the quality and I then decide if I want to buy or not. Those review exchanges are terrible. There are still enough readers who seem to not have heard of it and their negative reviews shows it: I bought the book based on the many good reviews and I'm wondering if I read the same book.