Then I read someone’s rude review of another author’s book, and got so angry I went on a little rant about on-page sex. To research that rant I searched through hundreds of reviews and dozens of forums reading what readers think about stories like mine, and writers like me.
In the interim, I was editing my story “Out of the Woods”.
All these combined factors made me think a lot, and left me with a feeling of uncertainty and a head full of questions. What I am doing? Am I a “real” writer? Do I really “suck”? Why I am trying to write, anyway? Should I even continue?
I’m no more confident now than I was before, but I do have a few thoughts about being an “indie” writer:
1. Fanfic. Up until like six months ago I had no idea there was such a thing as “fan fiction”. I didn’t! No idea. At all. I never thought about it. After I realized it existed, I was stunned by the sheer enormity of the fanfic world. I also learned that lot of writers get their start writing fan fiction. A lot of writers. I have never written any fan fiction (being ignorant of it and all). Still, I consider my first few self-published stories equivalent to the fanfic stage of other writers. Okay, yes, I charge money for my stories, so that’s different… I’ll talk about price later. And I make up my own characters and worlds, so that’s different, too. The point is, everyone starts somewhere. And you learn best by doing.
2. Personal taste. Some people seem to think that putting a story up for sale is a sacred act. As if, by publishing, you are entering into a very important social contract with your readers, promising to deliver a product they will enjoy. This is ridiculous. Should I always put out my best work? Of course. It should be edited properly and make sense and be readable and entertaining. But ask a dozen people what that means and you’ll get a dozen answers. All of those things are subjective. We all begin reading with expectations, and we all like different things, and for different reasons. You might think something is great, because you personally know the author and understand their style, while I think it is difficult to read and boring. One reader might notice a ton of errors in something, while another reader is so absorbed with the story they never see those mistakes. Every indie author has at least a few fans who think they’re awesome, and every traditionally published book has a handful of haters.
3. Editing. Okay, yes, sometimes indie writers have poorly edited work. But big-time published authors sometimes do, too. I remember reading Interview with the Vampire as a teenager and being shocked to find typos in it. I mean, that was a huge book, and super popular! But it was edited and published by humans. You know what I did? I turned the page and kept reading. I did not have a hyper-mental fit about the publishing industry or whine about how I wasted my money on a poorly edited novel. (Honestly, with that book, there could have been a ton of typos and I still would have loved it.) I’ve read a lot of traditionally published books that had multiple spelling errors, plot holes, inconsistencies, and many that were just plain bad. We’re all human.
4. Price. Indie prices are usually low. Mine are really low. Seriously, my stories are cheaper than a medium hot with a bagel from Dunkin’. And for a few hours of entertainment? Well, I think we all know what a movie ticket costs. You could buy a whole rainy weekend’s worth of my stories for less money. And feel free to mentally cast anyone you want in the starring roles!
5. A hard sell. So you think you might want to take a chance on a potentially “sucky” indie author? You look at the cover. Its okay. You read the blurb. Interesting. You check out the reviews. Good. You click open the sample pages, and read the first chapter. Nice. You click “buy”…. You read the book. If after all that you still aren’t satisfied, you know what you can do? Return it! And Amazon will give you your money right back, no questions asked. No one’s getting ripped off. (And don’t be the snooty douche who says “well, that’s an hour I’ll never get back”, when you know you spend two hours a day on facebook. Come on.)
6. Calm down! It’s just a story. I read this quote by Kurt Vonnegut recently: “Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.” I think some readers, and a lot of writers, have over inflated the importance of books. I love books. I love reading. I could not live without literature. But really, its all just entertainment. Even the deepest, most life changing, powerful stories are just stories. Chillax!
So the end of it is, I am going to continue writing. I am going to keep trying to get better, and keep self-publishing my efforts.
Because I really do enjoy it.
Because I make a little money at it.
And mostly, just because I can.