But there are also gems: quality books with intricate plotting and realistic characters. And a generally supportive community of other indie authors ready to share insights and ideas. The truth is that current technology permits indie authors to keep control over their work without sacrificing quality. The biggest burden is marketing, sol readers find us. I will come back to the problem of marketing later.
There were three reasons I decided to go the "indie" route. I call them the 3D's: doubt, delay and dividends. And another "d" for how "dependent" indie authors are on their readers.
Doubt in my skill as a fiction writer was my first reason to go forth as an indie author. I come from an academic background and have spent years writing to that audience. I knew myself to be a good writer and a very good editor in that milieu. But fiction? I had been a voracious reader of fiction my whole life and spent years with the greats: Austen, Stendahl, Wharton, Dickens, Dumas, Tolstoy, Oz, just to name a few, but that is a far cry from writing it myself. It seemed "chutzpahdik" to decide that I could do it well.
So I asked friends and family to read drafts. They said they found my work engrossing but they were friends and family. Were they sparing my feelings? Would they tell me the truth? To find out if my tales had any literary value, I decided to enter them into contests. To my gratification, the entered books were named as finalists in two out of two contests so far. So others with some professional credentials were finding them to be good.
Why didn't I send chapters to literary agents and publishers to get professional feedback? I had heard horror stories from colleagues, many with advanced degrees in creative writing. Years spent finding an agent. Then years more, as the agent "shopped" the manuscript. Then frustration with the feedback. One writer was told by an agent that her heartfelt tale of a first romance, aimed at the YA audience, had promise but needed a "vampire or two" à la "Twilight." Another was told that her nonfiction vignettes about owning a dress shop in a small town should be a novel in the manner of "Steel Magnolias."
The truth is that publishers face high costs in taking on a book by a new author and they must keep their eyes on the bottom line. So they are cautious and need control over the product. I dreaded the idea that my tales would be homogenized to meet the trend du jour in order to sell.
And I did not want to delay ("D" #2) getting my stories out there.Time has been a major concern of mine. I had promised my Zayde that the stories would be told. I did not want to leave them as an obligation to my children or my siblings, all of whom are busy with their families, their occupations and their good works. I had been the one to make the promise and it was up to me to fulfill it. But I was at the point in my own life when there was a limit to how much time I had left to do the work. You know you have reached that stage when you begin to say about someone else in his forties or fifties, "What a shock! He was such a young man!"
So how many years was I willing to spend waiting for a publisher to validate the value of my tales by taking them on? The answer was "zero."
And how much of the dividends for my work would I be willing to share others? (My third "D"). The truth is I wish my books to be read more than I need the income from royalties. I'd rather share those dollars with the causes I support. With a publisher, I would get a smaller percent of each book's sale price, offset, I suppose, by a greater number of books sold. Without a publisher, my royalties are higher on each sale and I get to choose who benefits from them.
So I went directly to the readers as an "indie" author with the hope that they would decide these tales were worth reading. But "indie" authors are very dependent on their readers (ah ha, a fourth D). Readers can spread the word through Amazon reviews and via other portals such as Goodreads. Along with other indie authors, I am deeply grateful to those of you who tell others about my books and spend time crafting and posting wonderful reviews.
But many more people tell me how much they love the Tales. They promise to post a review but forget to do so or feel self-conscious about their writing or maybe conflicted about parts of the book. Let me encourage you to post a review for any "indie" author, despite those valid reasons to hesitate. Reviews can be brief, just explaining one thing you really enjoyed ("I loved the villain because ..."), and they can be mixed ("I loved the villain but..."). But few or no reviews translates into limited sales and blocks entry into book blogs that can help an indie author's work be recognized. Anthony Doerr has over 12,900 reviews of his outstanding book, "All the Light We Cannot See." Does he need more? No, because who will read 13,000 reviews. But the "indie" author who wrote that very good mystery you enjoyed last weekend could REALLY, REALLY use one, moving him or her up to 20 solid reviews.
That gets me to the problem faced by all indie authors: marketing. A whole industry has sprung up around this struggle and, for a price, there is someone to do anything you need, including posting "reviews," constructing web pages, scheduling book and blog tours, writing personal blogs.... Perhaps I am naive, but I rather keep to a more personal approach. This website is designed for me to respond to you, the reader, directly, with book guides to meet your needs, with answers to your questions, with appreciation for your feedback on the designs of the covers.... (By the way, that is one task I hire someone else to do for me. And here is my shout-out to Brandi Doane McCann of eBook Designs—who is talented and very patient!)
So I proudly wave the "indie" author flag. Of course, if the right publisher comes along, I might reconsider but now, I will practice what I preach. I will be posting some reviews of books I have recently read. I know how important they are to the "indie" authors out there.