We’re back… :)

Well, the team have spoken, we’re updating the site, and there’s a lot of fun changes coming up.
I thought today though, I’d share some of our best bits on the site.

Resources for miles

At the core of things at the Indie Author Group is our mission statement. Both Valerie Douglas and I felt, early on, supported by the rest of the team, that a safe space to get advice as an indie author. We don’t believe in judging others for their choices and are firmly all about making the most of everything. So, in 2011, when she set up the group, I was one of her first moderators, and we’ve gone on to build a really great resource. And we have an amazing team of moderators too!
We founded the site late 2011, but the group will be 10 May 2021!

What you can find in the group

Honestly? A little of everything. We have resources that range from advice and support, to sharing information and tips and tricks. And a listing for the group’s Twitter list, Facebook pages, service providers (cover designers, editors, formatters, audiobooks, and more).
If you’re not there already – why not? (tip, if you’re not, answer ALL the questions, and be aware we don’t allow advertising, at all, bar in communal documents for those reasons).

So…there’s more? YES!

So, we have other resources! Our pages are the main one – Indie Author Group, and we keep a page just for the blog, Indie Author Group Info.
Then we’ve got the main blog (here).
Then, there’s The Writer’s Information Reference Library – short answers for simple questions 🙂
We’ll also be adding a tech page, a news page and more…
Finally, we keep a newsletter, and Twitter 🙂

Please check out our resources and let us know what you think!

Happy birthday to the Indie Author Group. Founded just as the trend of self-publishing took off by Valerie Douglas, and her co-founder Kai Viola, we are a vibrant team of writers and artists that look after one of the oldest communities for self-publishing and hybrid publishing on the Facebook.
It’s our birthday today! We’ll be celebrating next week though, so watch the blog, group and page! (or the blog page!)
To celebrate our 9th birthday, we’ll be overhauling, adding resources and doing a lot more, so watch this space!

How the three laws of robotics apply to writing and planning

Today is National Sci-Fi day, and while we’re not on Sci-fi this month (that’s later in the year) as our featured support genre, for advice Mondays, I thought I’d share a bit of a thought experiment.

First though…

Today would be Issac’s 100th birthday, and there’s little denying the impact he had on the world of sci-fi and writing. But the thing that always stuck with me the most was his three laws of robotics.

The three laws

(from Gismodo, who cites his story Runaround)

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Issac Asimov

Later, Asimov added a fourth, or zeroth law, that preceded the others in terms of priority:

0. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

Issac Assimov

I have many theories on AI, given I’m eventually doing a Ph.D. on it (hence the combined STEM degree now), but I’m not going to address the fallacies and intricacies of why the three laws (and the additional zero law, which is almost the same, but not quite, as law 1) fail and cause problems. If you want to know why there’s a plethora of books out there exploring that and similar issues.

No, instead, I wanted to talk about how the three laws apply to writing.

But I’m not a robot…

As you’re quite right to observe, it’s highly unlikely that you are a robot. You might be, but then, that opens up questions, again, not for a writers’ blog. But when you look at the three laws of robotics and change the context to writing, something interesting happens.

  1. An author may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
    I would argue this is common decency, but when there’s little of each online, it’s a good thing to bear in mind. It goes into a slightly broader concept though.
    While there’s no admonition to not harm our characters (cause we might), there is a duty in every community for the weakest to be cared for by the stronger. Writing is not a zero-sum game, so, if anything, I’d argue the first of the Writer’s three laws is that we need to work to prevent bullying. As we watch the mess with the RWA unfold and look back on Cockygate, I wonder why it isn’t a credo adopted by more.
    Beyond that, it also tells you not to hurt yourself. Planning and self-care are critical.
  2. An author must obey the rules of its community, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
    I think the easiest way to explain this one is 1) Don’t pick on someone for upholding rules on a group, even if you personally think they’re not fair. It’s their group, you agreed and continue to agree when you joined, and to be frank, bullying a moderator is something that we’re going zero tolerance on – and that includes if we *hear* of it from a friend that’s a mod. Beyond that, mob mentality is dangerous online – there’s a difference between defending the downtrodden and forming a lynching mob, and I think this law aptly states that. If an author is unhappy with a review and asks their tribe to retaliate, maybe question the worth of that tribe, and the person leading it?
  3. An author must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
    Ah, you may say, doesn’t that mean if I don’t agree with people, I get to retaliate?
    Nope.
    You need to protect *your own existence*. What Jilly, Bob or Timmy does, as long as it’s not hurting you, isn’t important to you. I’m actually interpreting this one to be ‘don’t compare yourself to others, someone will get hurt’.

Law 1, Kindness. Law 2, fair play and Law 3, personal obligation. All three make for the best writers and the best communities. Personal obligation does mean sticking up for the rights of others if you’re sure you should, but it also means accepting that you ‘do you’. One of the hardest lessons I learned last year was that if I’m not careful, I will stay away for too long because I have nothing to give. My personal obligation became to me and only me for a while, and that was ok. But I have an obligation to you guys too. So, Law 3…it could also be read as ‘help yourself, help others’.

I don’t really agree that the zero law exists in the case of writers, but there is one final one I think all writers need to follow.

Law 4 – An author must ensure that everything they put out reflects the best of their work and the best of them.
Each and every one of the team knows
it’s hard to get things done in a budget, and we all sacrifice, but we are calling each and every one of our members to consider their reputations this year. Build good things, save and make things to the best of your ability, and only release books when they are professionally edited, covered and formatted. That way, you’re already ahead of a lot of people out there, who might see your example and follow suit (thereby helping you with the second and third laws ;)).

Yes, I belabored that one a bit, but I’m sure Asimov would forgive me.

Do you agree with my three laws of writing? What would you add?

January is National Braille month.
Check out January’s Posts to see what we’ve covered.

Coming soon….

  1. Why making a five-year plan *after* New Year might work better for you
  2. The ins and outs of organisation
  3. Calendars and the two radical ways to use them
  4. Bullet journal layouts for writers…
    And more….

Welcome to 2020! Let us help you make it your year! #IAG2020

IAG Happy New Year 2020

Hi guys! I know it’s been a while that we’ve been writing regularly here, but we’ve got an actual editorial calendar and a plan now, and we’re back. Valerie and I will be blogging and we’ll be introducing the mods that are around, old and new, throughout the year. We’ll also be looking for guest posters, but I’ll explain more on that in a few days 🙂

In 2011, Valerie Douglas put out a call for moderators. I think I was either first, or one of the first to say ‘I’ll help’. We’ve run this site, and others for almost as long, but we took a sabbatical last year, to think about what we wanted to do. And now….we’re back!

But first….
This year is a fun year for us. Not only are we NINE in May, but Valerie is a stone’s throw from 30 books, unless I miscounted, and that’d be funny cause I’m doing a Combined STEM degree, mostly maths. No, we’re not back in 2011, when this all started, but things are very similar again.

So…to start with, we thought we’d invite you guys to share your goals. Same rules as always, you can use the link in the form that you fill in to make a comment, but any URLS in the comment bodies will be rejected.
And if you’re not sure how to make goals, hang around this week – we’re doing a crash course on this, and some other stuff that might help.

Quick tips to setting goals

While I’ll be sharing many more articles on building yearly and five-yearly plans and your vision board for the decade, using free tools, the biggest and most important tip is that any goal you set (whether you call it a goal, a target, a resolution or where I’m going), is to be as specific as possible.
Whether it’s “make six figures, five figures, four figures or three”, whether it’s to write a million, half a million or any range of words, whether it’s to publish 1-100 books, put a number on it, then tell *everyone*. Stick it in the sidebar of your blog if you have one. Put it on your Facebook, your Twitter, and check out our post on making an intentions post on Canva, on the 3rd.

And, share it in the comments on the blog. We’ll be here, cheering you on.
You’ve got this – and we’ve got you.
Happy New Year, guys!

The 2018 Anti-retrospective

Where the Benevolent Dictator consolidates all the 2018 ‘retrospectives’.

Okay, first, I know it’s fashionable to bash the ‘Zon, I love you guys, but really, get over it. Bashing doesn’t help. Amazon’s primary concern is its customers, NOT its suppliers. Readers not authors. At least they still pay better than traditional publishers.

On the other hand, some books do better on some sites than others. Amazon got burnt one too many times by authors who didn’t label their erotica books correctly – and a few parents got an eyeful when they searched books about Daddy and got daddy porn instead of children’s books. So they’ve been a lot more restrictive.
Write erotica or erotic romance – especially the type some sites won’t? Smashwords is the place to go. (However, as much as I love Mark Coker, as Smashwords is where I published my first indie book – and I made good money there for a while – but that site could still use some more work. Compare with D2D.)

Another caution – if you use Amazon be careful with the ‘like’ parties. In fact, to be honest, stop liking anyone you haven’t read. There’s a glut of books out there (Mr. Coker is right on that) – and some of them are absolute dreck. Great covers are no guarantee. I saw a book with a brilliant cover, a terrible and confusing blurb, and an absolute lack of editing.

Some good writers have given up because they can’t get their well-received and well-reviewed book seen.

So, why are you killing your own book sales by promoting authors who may not deserve it? Better yet, how do you know they’ll promote you in return? Quality counts more than quantity. Quantity looks good but doesn’t always help. I used to promote other authors – but only a few returned the favor. Now I have a rule – ask me to like your page after you’ve liked mine. Promote my book and I’ll promote yours.

Audio is your new best friend. Everyone is doing it – Amazon, Draft to Digital,

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is acxLogo.png

Smashwords and iBooks. For busy people trying to squeeze in time to experience new authors or books they can listen to one on their commute, on long trips by car or plane, or while cooking or doing housework. One book, with a great narrator, can entertain for hours or days.

For promotion, expand beyond Facebook – but don’t abandon it entirely. Advertise elsewhere, too – like Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+. There are inexpensive options to use those sites.
New Release – try Bookbub’s new release freebie.
Shop around to find other alternatives.

Good news/Bad News
Books have always been a refuge during times of economic uncertainty, and indie authors have always offered books at a better price than traditional publishers. Which makes us the more economical choice.

BTW – the new price point of choice may be $3.99 – $4.99 for most standard genre novels like romances, or shorter mysteries.

The Myth of Reviews and Sales

A lot of people will tell you that book reviews determine whether a book sells or not, that reviews with four or five stars sell books. While reviews help, that’s not what sells a book.

What sells a book is good writing. A storyline that captures their imagination, characters readers care about – heroes they want to root for and villains they understand. (Even the villain wants to be the hero of his own story.)

It’s really that simple.

https://insights.bookbub.com/how-readers-discover-new-books-to-buy/

Reviews can help, star ratings can help, but as you can see from the Bookbub graphic here, plot, price, and quality come before ratings and reviews. More importantly, though, not just any reviews, but honest, organic ones – in other words, not family/friends but from other readers. Readers are more likely to buy because a family or friend recommended it, but not a review from yours. (With thanks to Bookbub, see the link attached to the graphic for more information.)

Word of mouth is the best marketing.

Also, see this – https://killzoneblog.com/2018/07/it-helps-if-you-can-write.html

James Scott Bell knows whereof he speaks.

Reviews and stars help, but nothing beats a well-written book.

Update and addendum – Another voice about reviews from our friends at ALLi

Opinion: Why I Don’t Worry About Amazon Reviews

 

 

 

 

We’re back! A new look, a new set of blogs and looking forward….

Happy birthday Indie Author Group!

When Valerie and I started talking about the changes on the site, we realized that we were rapidly approaching seven years as a group.  Seven years is incredible! And we got to talking about how many changes we’ve seen the community undergo, and how much we’ve looked at in the last few years, because we share everything we’ve learned as we learn it.  And then we got to thinking how amazing our community is, that they share too.  So…happy birthday guys!

And… welcome back to the Indie Author Group Blog.  We’ve been offline a long time, while we planned and plotted and created some really neat new things, which will be rolled out in the coming weeks, plus, we’ll be updating and republishing a lot of advice, so it’s all go here.

Our history

Seven years ago in May, Valerie Douglas put out the call to create a group for indie authors and asked for moderators.  The result was the Indie Author Group.  I was one of the first moderator volunteers, and Valerie and I have gone on to build one of the most popular groups on Facebook for advice on writing.  She’s published over 20 books, and I’m not so far behind 😉  We’ve got an amazing team of moderators, and the site has gone from strength to strength.  We have a Facebook Page, Twitter profile, Instagram (new) and Pinterest.  Plus, we’re restarting the newsletter soon!

But we primarily run IAG on Facebook, and support people with their careers – basically, we share our mistakes so people can avoid them, and news in the indie community and more. So much so that everyone is *off* writing right now, so we’re hoping to kick things up a notch with the blog.  When we founded the group, KDP was in its infancy, as was Smashwords, and we’ve done it all.  Both Valerie and I are hybrid authors, and we have a team of seven other moderators who help out with their expertise, so it’s nice to think that we’re starting a new phase now.

So…what’s new?

I’m glad you asked.  New things include The Writers Information Reference Library (give it a Twirl 😉 ), and we’re launching a new blog on creating and marketing content on a shoestring, so you can save your money for the foundational stuff.  We’ve got a new publishing schedule, new guidelines and some new toys that I’ll roll out later in the year, once we’ve beta tested them.  We’ll be adding a provider database and all sorts of other new bits and pieces very soon too, but the biggest thing that’s new is we’ll be providing new and exclusive content at least fortnightly to the main blog, or Shoestring, and we’ll be constantly adding to Twirl, which is a bit like Quora, except its only one answer.  Though we are looking at adding a Quora-like function later in the year too.

At [email protected] we’ll talk about the things that indie authors should know – review technology and other items that allow people to keep up with everything they need to in the indie author community – it’s not so much about the technology, but about using technology to make the most of the things around them.  We’ll talk blogging software, and the software on blogs, plugins, RSS readers, how to search properly and more.  That launches in September.

Finally, we’ve got a news only blog that takes the most up to the minute news on all things author.  More on that in a bit, but if you’d like to subscribe, then head over to Breaking News.  It’ll have commentary and information on all the things important to writers with a focus on publishing and platform news.  We’ll also link to the best resources we use to research, so you can go straight to the horse’s mouth.  That’ll be launching as soon as we’re settled into the new blog!

And of course, our social media presence will remain.
Finally, Valerie and I want to thank our team and our members.  WIthout you guys, Valerie’s idea, and the work that we both do would never be the same and we’re grateful for our community, every single day.

 

Pronoun is unfortunately closing

It’s always sad to see the demise of a platform that supports authors, and I heard (though never personally used) lots of great things about Pronoun.
But it seems like they’re at the end of the road.

Here’s part of the announcement.

Two years ago Pronoun set out to create a one-of-a-kind publishing tool that truly put authors first. We believed that the power of data could be harnessed for smarter book publishing, leveling the playing field for indie authors.

We are proud of the product we built, but even more so, we’re grateful for the community of authors that made it grow. Your feedback shaped Pronoun’s development, and together we changed the way authors connect with readers.

Unfortunately, Pronoun’s story ends here.

While many challenges in indie publishing remain unsolved, Macmillan is unable to continue Pronoun’s operation in its current form.

You can read the whole piece here.

Self-Editing 101

  1. Spelling – Even the best spellers make mistakes. Use a software program like Grammarly or WordWeb (both of which have free versions.) Both may catch other errors in word usage – like affect vs. effect – and both do offer a thesaurus so you can find a better word or correct one that’s overused.
  2. One of the first things they may or may not tell you in writing classes or seminars is that in a novel it’s all about action. It’s about doing things. Show don’t tell. People don’t ‘begin’ to do things, they don’t ‘start’ to do things, they DO them. For example – ‘Smoke waited until they were distracted to begin nibbling at her hair again’ vs. ‘Smoke waited until they were distracted to nibble at her hair again.’ Which sounds better? (Smoke is a horse, by the way…) Don’t have your characters begin or start to do anything unless it’s the first in a series of actions. Do a search for begin and start.
  3. Ditto feel and felt. Which sounds better – When he kissed her it felt like she tingled all over -or- When he kissed her she tingled all over? For #2 and #3, a professional editor will often scribble “SDT”. This is not a disease, it means “Show Don’t Tell”. “The best “show don’t tell advice” came from Anton Chekov: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
  4. Very or Really. They’re not very happy or really happy, they’re ecstatic or delighted. Use a better, more descriptive word. If nothing comes to mind get a thesaurus.
  5. Search for contractions. For some reason, many writers don’t write in contractions. Especially with ‘had’. He had, she had, rather than he’d or she’d. Be very careful not to do a universal search and replace to correct this or you’ll hate yourself in the morning because once it’s saved you have no other choice but to search the entire document for the awkward mess you made of things. (Always start a new copy when editing, just in case. It’s a lot easier to start over that way.) For example, a universal search and replace for ‘had not’ to ‘hadn’t’ will also change ‘had noticed’ to ‘hadn’ticed’. (This is a personal choice, in a more casual voice like dialogue in fiction, it works, but in more formal writing, it may not.)
  6. ‘There was’. Sometimes it’s justified. Look at each sentence to see if you can rephrase it to make the sentence clearer.
  7. Speaking of there – their (possessive), there (in that direction), and they’re (they are).
  8. *aargh* The dreaded ‘that’. That she, that he, that they… In most cases, the use of the word ‘that’ is completely unnecessary, but we use it in speech so it can sound correct when you write it.
  9. Try not to use that when you mean who. “The man that…” should be “the man who… “
  10. Just and only. Always make sure you really need to use them and that they’re next to the word you want to modify. For example – only costs vs. costs only or it just costs or costs just… Do you really need either?
  11. Was. Jim was shaking his head. Jim shook his head. Always watch for those ‘ing’ words. If you see a lot of them in your writing in conjunction with was, you need to change that sentence to a more active voice. Active voice describes a sentence where the subject performs the action stated by the verb. In passive voice sentences, the subject is acted upon by the verb.
  12. As if/like. Make sure you know which of them you really mean. Do a search for like, and in each place see if ‘as if’ doesn’t sound better.
  13. Watch for split infinitives. Not all of them are bad – to boldly go where no man has gone before, where boldly splits to and go – is generally accepted. “I decided to not go” sounds awkward.
  14. Of…. is another sneaky little beggar. ‘Inside’ works as well as ‘inside of it’ in most cases.
  15. ‘Then’ and ‘and then’ are telling words, don’t use them. For instance: Then he went to sit down. Just say: He sat down. Or…. And then she set a bowl on the table. Just say: She set a bowl on the table. Using then or and then is like a narrator in your book telling us a story, it slows it down. Show, don’t tell.
  16. Do not use really, very, or like. He’s either hot or he’s not. He’s not really hot, or very hot, he’s roasting, burning up, or he’s gorgeous, sexy, etc. She’s not ‘like’ that, she IS that.
  17. Commas. If you have more than two it might be a good idea to look at the sentence and decide if it would work better as two separate sentences. This is DEFINITELY true if you have more than three. For more information on commas and their proper use – http://grammar.about.com/od/grammarfaq/f/QAoxfordcomma.htm
  18. Singular and plural pronouns. When speaking about an individual, the pronoun should be singular, when speaking about a group, it’s plural. Ex. It brought him to their feet. Wrong.
  19. (Although this is primarily a grammar document, it is about writing and this has been seen too often to go unremarked.) Don’t ‘Slug a Nun’, as a well-known writer once said. In other words, when opening a chapter, any chapter, get to the point. Don’t say “Mikey slugged a nun” and then take ten pages, eight of which explain the history of the Catholic Church before you explain WHY Mikey slugged the nun.
  20. Another very common mistake – Her eyes wandered. Please put them back in her head, that’s disgusting. Her gaze might wander, but not her eyes. She might glance at him, their gazes may meet, or lock, etc., or they might stare at each other, but his eyes will never wander over her breasts unless it’s a zombie movie and they’ve gained legs. Some editors might let this go, but you should be able to find a better way to say it.
  21. Watch for sentences that start with the same word or the same type of beginning. He did this, he did that. Change it up so the reader doesn’t get bored.
  22. Too much use of “it” as a subject can make writing weak. Delete the vague pronoun and identify ‘it’ with a solid noun. Not – It felt good to dress up. Try – She enjoyed dressing up.
  23. Do not mix dialogue of one character in the same paragraph as another. Ever. Even if, or especially if, you’re using omniscient point of view. And always identify the person speaking or thinking.
  24. Action and reaction. Sentences need to relay information about the cause before the effect or result. Not – She jumped as the door slammed shut. Try – The door slammed, making her jump.
  25. Eliminate unnecessary words. In the above example – few doors slam open, so it must have slammed shut or closed. So, the door slammed.
  26. Try to avoid prepositional phrases (to her, at him, for her, etc.) that can be implied. Not – Seeing him proved what a distraction he was to her. Try – Seeing him proved what a distraction he was.
  27. Stephen King said, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Try to evaluate each adverb (words that end in -ly), especially in conjunction with speaking tags. Replace with stronger words. Not – He leaned close and spoke softly. Try – He leaned close and whispered.
  28. Repeated words: There’s a function in Word that shows words you overuse, but a beta reader or editor can be a better choice. Sometimes it’s justified – a character tic.
  29. How often do you use ‘look’? Try variations like glanced, gazed, stared, their eyes met, saw.
  30. Said, but don’t get too caught up it. Studies have shown that said is a word that readers eyes pass over, registering only who is speaking.
  31. Starting a sentence with But when you could use However.
  32. Starting a sentence with And. Can you rework it? It’s acceptable, but too much or too often is a bad thing.
  33. Redundant actions: stood up. How else would you stand? Sat down – try sat. Nodded his head – just use nodded, if he’s nodding anything else it’s just weird.
Also, consider picking up The Elements of Style. It’s a small, thin book, perfect to keep beside your laptop or desktop computer. It answers some of those pesky grammar questions.
For style suggestions, try Hemingway Editor, a software program that highlights lengthy, complex sentences, common errors, and passive voice. Always be careful taking the advice it or other programs offer – you don’t want to sound too mechanical or lose your authors ‘voice’.
One last little hint. By not doing a read-through sentence by sentence but using search instead, it forces you to look at each sentence individually, in isolation. It makes it much easier to spot errors you might otherwise have missed or to question the wording of the sentence. Try reading it aloud, or use text to voice to read it back, that may help you pick up errors in flow.

 

A Tale of Self-Publishing – How authors slayed the dragon

Once upon a time, there was only traditional publishing and in traditional publishing there were gatekeepers. A gatekeeper’s job was to filter out the unedited, poorly written dreck that opened not with action, but backstory or prologues. Then their function changed from being mere gatekeepers to arbiters/purchasing agents and so the reading public was forced to read endless variations of Twilight with its moody, angst driven hero and wistful, victim heroine to 50 Shades of Grey, to use a few comparisons we hear from readers of the current cookie-cutter genre (which is a whole other readership in itself). But some were dissatisfied. Writers were becoming discouraged. This made a lot of people very angry and was widely viewed as a bad move. Justifiably so, since it kept a lot of good authors out of publishing.

And then, lo and behold, there was born a new industry (resurrected really – though in a new format) called Self-Publishing.

In the beginning, there was Smashwords, run by Mark Coker. He wanted to democratize publishing, and so there was and is no cost, no frills, it was (and still is) a quick way to get your e-book into production and distribution, and you could do it in a day. It deliberately allowed writers to appeal directly to readers without having to deal with gatekeepers such as agents and editors. In keeping with this mission, Smashwords applies no editorial screening. (This has turned out to be not necessarily a good move, either. More on that, later.)

Now authors who want to publish had a home.

The first to truly achieve success – by getting noticed – was Amanda Hocking. She virtually created YA – Young Adult, aka, what had once been known as ‘Coming of Age’, with a dystopian or paranormal twist. From that came NA – New Adult. Her sales took off and then a traditional publisher signed her.

(This doesn’t discount Chuck Wendig or JA Konrath or a handful of others, who were hybrid traditional/self-publishers and are now primarily self-publishers.)

Thus was created new venues – Amazon & Kindle, Barnes & Noble with the Nook (not managed very well), Apple & iBooks, Draft to Digital and Kobo.

Now, anyone who wanted to write a book could…and many did.

At first, a decent author with a decent cover could actually make money from their work.

And then, the hordes descended.

Like any other Indie/Self-publisher I hate the idea of gatekeepers, yet now there are none and, increasingly, it shows. And, weirdly, self-publishers have turned into their own worse enemies. Writers actually insist that they don’t need editors or cover artists. (Every author does.)

As the creator/admin/mod of the Indie Author Group, I constantly hear ‘woe is me, my sales are non-existent’, and variations therein.  And while I have sympathy, I can see why – sometimes when I look at their book, the cover is awful, the editing is worse, or the books they’re writing are in the most popular, most glutted genres. I can’t, however, say that to them or face the wrath of the angry author. Suggest they try a new or different take and all the mods have come to expect fireworks. Suggest that they don’t write to the tropes – the ‘romantic’ motorcycle alpha male, the hero’s journey/quest, the hard-boiled detective – and you’ll get, as I did, the one-book wonder or instant expert who will object. Strenuously.  Then, that one book insta-expert tries to hijack the group entirely and things get difficult for all of the team when all we want is to do what we love – write and support.

Yet, that’s how the most successful writers did it.

When Stephen King started writing horror, they said there was no market, but he practically reinvented it. J. K. Rowling created fantasy novels for middle-grade to YA. Hocking gave YA street cred. Wendig does mysteries and science fiction. As much as Twilight gets bashed – the author reinvented the vampire story with her angst-ridden characters. And E. L. James ponied onto the back of that, to write a Twilight fan-fic without the supernatural and with a twist, and brought erotic romance from a niche into the mainstream. Hugh Howey recreated dystopian fiction, sold the print rights but kept the e-books (at first), creating a new hybrid market while he was at it. And Andy Weir recreated accessible science fiction.

Hocking, James, Howey, and Weir all started as Indie writers. All signed contracts with Big Five publishers.

Okay, so that’s the good news, here’s the reality. The self-publishing industry has to change. You can change with it or be left behind.

Some venues are closing or have closed, others are teetering. Despite the Amazon bashing, with its international reach it’s still the publisher of choice for most Indie writers, and with all due apologies to Smashwords, Amazon does require some editorial screening (although it can’t do much about those grammatical errors and really bad covers). Bad spelling, editing, and cover art harm all of us. Few of the other vendors offer any marketing/support assistance, which makes publicizing books there difficult. But Amazon DOES take onboard specific reports – we’re seeing more and more of these books that people say ‘I’m not selling’ pop up with a yellow triangle under its name that says ‘issues found’, then details reports they’ve received, and lets folks know that the publisher has been informed. In other words, Amazon is pushing for a bit of crowdsourced control and DO check before they flag things. It’s a gatekeeper in the hands of readers, in other words.

You, the writer, have to decide whether you want to stay a midlist writer and disappear like so many others, or innovate, try new things and find your niche.

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