Writing for the Indie Publisher

As I suggested in the last blog, I decided to Indie publish because I wanted more control over my finished books and a greater financial return on books sold.

I’ve worked with traditional publishers in the past and got on well with them. But, as I said last time, the world of traditional publishing has changed. Modern publishers – or at least the big companies – tend to be motivated much more by the need for profit than any regard for literature. The old days, when publishers were essentially bibliophiles and seeking to make a living in a profession they adored, are mostly over. To the modern businessmen and their shareholders the author is just a manufacturer of a product. And the author is pretty low down on the food chain.

I suspect a lot of other people go into Indie publishing so that we have more control over our work. I recognise that that ambition can be dangerous. Authors can be terrible judges of their own writing. Either that, or they recognise their own deficiencies and shuffle off those deficiencies praying that nobody would notice.

No one can deny that the freedom to self-publish on sites such as Amazon has led to a lot of dross being put out there. That’s inevitable. My belief is that most of the bad writers will fade away once they realise that nobody’s going to buy their books. Either that, or they will recognise they need to learn a lot more about writing before they try again.

For example, a little while ago I read a plea on a social networking site. It went something like this:

“I’ve written a novel and want to put it on Kindle. The only trouble is my spelling is very bad and I don’t understand grammar. Do you think this will put off readers?”

The message itself had a number of errors which I’ve corrected. Now, all of us spell words wrong, make typo errors and grammatical slips from time to time. But the writer who posted that message should really have been able to answer his own question. And yet I know how it feels to have a burning desire to publish your work. That individual isn’t a failed writer, just a writer who needs to do a lot more work before he’s ready to publish. Many writers started out as badly, overcoming their difficulties to achieve greatness, or at least sales.

Now some writers employ an editor and/or Beta Readers to look at their work before they publish. Fair enough if that’s your thing. I don’t as such, though one person does read and correct everything I write before it goes out. A good job too, because I make silly errors, grammatical slips, typos, continuity mistakes etc. in the white heat of creating at a laptop. I suspect most writers do.

If you feel you need to employ an outside editor then do. But check out their credentials. Anyone can call themselves a book editor. I’ve seen the sharks circling at the prospect of getting their fingers on the cash of tyro Indie authors. If you are seeking out an editor, really do pin them down. Ask just what they’ve edited, what authors they’ve worked with. Request references. Ask if they will comment on a sample of your work, a chapter or two. No respectable editor would object. Editors usually ask for quite a chunk of money, so why not?

But for good or bad I leave editors alone. But that’s mostly because I’ve spent much of my life as a freelance journalist.

If having Beta Readers gives you confidence in your work, then why not ask for some? I never would, because it all seems a bit like writing by committee to me. I don’t want a debate on the worthiness of my characters or whether a plot twist is a good idea or not. Having been in the business of writing for nearly half a century, I’m probably too curmudgeonly to take even the most well-meaning advice. Like whether or not you employ an editor, it has to be a personal decision. Only you, as a writer, will know if you’d benefit from such assistance.

If you have confidence in your work, and can put your hand on your heart and know that that confidence is not misplaced then don’t bother. Sales and reviews will tell you whether you made the right decision.

What is most important is that you don’t leave your script alone until you are sure it is the very best you can do. Nag away at it until you are sure you can’t improve it. Read and re-read until every last spelling error and typo is expunged.

Only then consider whether it’s ready to put out.

Next time I’ll talk about formatting, essential if you are putting your books on sites such as Amazon and CreateSpace. Poor formatting, like bad spelling and grammar deters readers. It’s not that hard to do and you really don’t need to pay anyone to do it for you.


4 thoughts on “Writing for the Indie Publisher

  1. Thank you Barbara. I miss a lot of errors on my first couple of read-throughs, so perseverance is important. It’s also very easy to make continuity mistakes if you’re away from a piece of writing for a time, regards John


  2. Would agree 100% John but I do think an editor is important – mine is really strict and my book was definitely better for her work on it. Granted it was my debut and I certainly won’t make the same mistakes again but I think there is something reassuring in having someone who can be objective looking at your work.


  3. I think, Pam, what is needed is some sort of definitive list of qualified editors, so that newcomers can trust the person they’re employing.


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