Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!

Pissing In The Pool (Or Why Readers Hate Indie Writers)

Posted in books by Andrew Hickey on November 10, 2011

I recently took a minor part in a discussion on Amazon’s Kindle forums. This started because some of the people on there were looking for a way to filter out self-published authors (like me) and only see ‘proper’ authors. This would obviously not be something I’d be keen on.

But the thread I was drawn into was started by someone – another indie writer – complaining about this. And these were some of his complaints:

I’ve also read thousands of pieces of literature, mainly trad. published, and I’ve seen all types of mistakes in the writing — spelling errors, bad sentences, bad grammer, plots that didn’t add up . . . all and all, for me personally, I’m not a nazi, it’s no big deal, it’s just a story . . . when you see a play or a concert or some type of live show and the performer is a little out of key or makes a mistake, is it that big of a deal? So why are people so hard on indie writers?

This is an attitude I see all the time. There are two parallel lines of thought among self-published authors, both of which are pernicious but which when combined come close to being actively evil.

The first is “Those evil traditional publishers are just trying to keep us indie authors down, with their pesky rules about ‘writing good English’ and ‘not plagiarising’ and ‘bothering to be vaguely coherent’. Real talent like mine doesn’t need those things.”

That is then coupled with an attitude that can be found on the Kindle author boards, which says that anyone giving a self-published author a bad review is ‘jealous’ – or in extreme cases that bad reviews are obviously the work of the evil publishers, trying to knock the competition, and that the last thing you should do is pay attention to those nit-pickers who point out problems with your work.

Let me put this as simply as I can:

If you are charging for your work, you have an obligation to be professional.

This is particularly true in the case of publishing. When you put your book up for sale on Amazon, you’re in direct competition with every other work of literature ever published, near enough. That means *you have to be that good*.

You don’t have to have written the single best book ever written, of course. But there has to be at least one person in the world, who doesn’t know you, for whom your book is the single best way they could spend their money and reading time.

Can you make a convincing case that there is *someone* out there who will get more out of reading your book than out of reading Hamlet, or Ulysses, or the Feynman Lectures In Physics, or Huckleberry Finn, or Catch-22, or Orwell’s collected essays, or Thank You Jeeves, or any of a million other books? Is there someone out there who, if presented with all those books, you could tell with a straight face “you’ll like mine more”?

There don’t have to be many of them. The numbers could be in single figures. But if those people don’t exist, then *YOU HAVE NO BUSINESS PUTTING YOUR WORK OUT FOR SALE*. You are, fundamentally, trying to perpetrate a fraud on your readers. You are telling them “this is the book you should read next” when you know full well that they shouldn’t read it at all.

I don’t make any great claims for my own work’s quality, but it does meet that standard. I know it does, because people I don’t know, with no reason to care either way, have said to me “I enjoyed your stories, I hope you write some more” or “I liked the Beach Boys book, when’s volume two coming out?” or “I bought the Beach Boys book and liked it, you should all buy the Monkees book” or “I loved that essay, if you collect it in a book, I’ll buy it”. I wouldn’t be ashamed of telling any of those people to buy any of my other books in the same categories.

But the reason for this is that I *make the effort*. I get several people, with different levels of knowledge and different skill-sets, to read what I’ve written and check that it makes sense. I spend many hours proof-reading. I get good covers. I do my utmost to ensure that not a single error of fact or of language slips through. Errors nonetheless occur, of course – I am human, after all – but not one person has ever emailed me with a problem, even though I include an email address for errata in the books.

That’s not me boasting. That’s the *minimum* standard which you should be reaching before you put a book out for sale.

If you put out a book that is not the absolute best work you can do at the time, you are causing harm in three ways:

You’re harming the people buying your book under false pretences. Doing this to them is a species of fraud.

You’re harming yourself. Your reputation will suffer, as will your chances of ever having a career in writing (which presumably you would want).

And you are harming those authors like me, or my uncle, or Simon Bucher-Jones or Andrew Rilstone or Lawrence Burton or Chris Browning or hundreds of others who actually *do* put the basic effort in to make our work competent. Every time someone buys something like this or this, they are going to be that much more likely to want to avoid any further self-published authors for fear it’ll be the same.

And that goes double if you get involved in ‘review swaps’, artificially inflating the review scores of terrible books. And triple if you spam readers’ forums about your books. And quadruple if, on those readers’ forums, you start talking about how “we self-publishers aren’t bound by your Nazi rules of grammar, it’s all about free expression.”

Every time you do this, you’re not only sabotaging yourself, but you’re hurting everyone else, too.

There are a lot of very, very good self-published authors out there, with good reasons for publishing their own work rather than going through publication houses. But as long as we tolerate – and even encourage – incompetence, illiteracy and unprofessionalism in the name of solidarity, or sticking it to ‘the man’, or even just being kind to someone who means well and tries hard, sensible readers are going to lump everyone in together and avoid all of us.

If you read self-published books, please leave honest and accurate reviews, both good and bad, on the books you’ve read, so people know what they’re getting. The good reviews help books with no marketing budget, and the bad reviews help sink the rubbish more quickly.
If you *write* self-published books, please take the same care you’d take in your day job (or greater), and treat readers as potential customers rather than antagonists.
If you hang around on self-publishing forums, please don’t encourage obvious incompetence and laziness. Please do provide constructive – but thorough – criticism for those who need it.

If we all do this, then with a little luck the people writing drivel will realise that Amazon isn’t an infinite money-tree, and readers can get back to reading books they want to read, and writers to writing them, without having to worry about who’s self-published and who isn’t.

46 Responses

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  1. Jennie Rigg (@miss_s_b) said, on November 10, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    *applause*

  2. wordvagabond said, on November 11, 2011 at 1:20 am

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve linked on Twitter as well. I exclusively review and edit self-published and small press authors to try and increase the visibility and reputation of this sector. I have been lucky enough to work with some excellent, professional authors, but I’ve also encountered the sloppy ones. I hope the people that need this article find it and take it to heart!

  3. rankersbo said, on November 11, 2011 at 9:31 am

    I find the idea that anyone who thinks good spelling and grammar is in any way important is nasty and intollerant incredibly difficult to bear. The idea that paragraphs, punctuation, capital letters and reasonably (not, I emphasise 100%) accurate spelling is out of reach of “normal” people is pernicious and I think holds a lot of people back.

    I speak as someone who makes horrible typos and sometimes can’t tell that what’s in his head is not what’s on the screen. The fact my writing is not perfect doesn’t (and shouldn’t) prevent me from valuing important skills. Many people have genuine disabilities, such as dyslexia, that affect their written expression. Many others have no such excuse, they just use the idea that “spelling and grammar arn’t important” to hide from themselves the fact that they don’t bother.

    It doesn’t matter if you didn’t learn important skills at school- that is no excuse. You don’t stop learning when you go through that school gate for the last time. If you want to be a writer you need to develop your writing skills to a point where you’re good enough to be published. And this does include spelling grammar and punctuation- these are skills that can be picked up at any age.

    But, you know, you are so right. If you are self publishing it does not mean you have to do it alone. Even professionally published authors rope in their friends to check the manuscript for clarity, spelling, grammar, coherence, etc etc. It’s not all done by the publisher’s lacky, far from it, so being self published is no excuse.

    On the “just jealous” front, it is understandable that a writer will feel emotionally attached to their work, and look negatively on any criticism, but professionalism means you should recognise this and stand back. This is possibly where you rope in your greatly put-upon group of friends again, to get them to sanity check and tell you if the negative review has a point you’re missing.

    • Andrew Hickey said, on November 11, 2011 at 10:53 am

      Absolutely agreed. There is nothing wrong with being unable to do these things if you either haven’t learned yet or are incapable of learning because of disability. But when that’s the case you should get the help of other people to overcome your difficulties.

  4. rankersbo said, on November 11, 2011 at 9:56 am

    The other suggestion is- collaborate. If your idea is that important to get out, but your writning isn’t great, get someone on board.

    Simon Bucher-Jones collaborated on his 2 BBC novels, even after his 2 solo novels published through virgin.

    • Andrew Hickey said, on November 11, 2011 at 10:54 am

      Absolutely – though I’m sure SBJ didn’t collaborate because of any lack in his own writing ability.

  5. Gavin Burrows said, on November 11, 2011 at 10:10 am

    I’d make the point more strongly. If you’re asking anyone to give up their time to read your work, you have an obligation to them. Before a single penny is charged.

    A serious writer will take decent criticism as a gift. The critic bears the same relation to the writer as the trainer to the athlete, they stand outside of you and give you pointers on getting better.

    Of course some ‘criticism’ is pointless hating. If that comes your way, ignore it and move on…

    • Andrew Hickey said, on November 11, 2011 at 10:56 am

      Absolutely. I think the difference is, though, that with a blog post if you read a couple of lines and it’s worthless, you’ve only lost those few seconds. With a book, you’ve lost those plus the five or ten quid it cost.

      And yes, there is of course invalid criticism (I’ve had some of that myself – the people who were upset that my Beatles book wasn’t a hagiography) but one should err on the side of taking criticism to heart and improving because of it. (Mike Taylor and plok both made the same very minor criticism of my first book, for example, which has influenced how I’ve structured all the others, for the better).

  6. David Dyer-Bennet said, on November 11, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    It’s fascinating watching this seismic shift in the industry play out; though it has already hurt a lot of friends, who have (or had) mid-list careers in traditionally-published writing. And there’s a huge amount of idiocy being spouted, from about all possible directions, on the topic.

    You seem to have limited yourself entirely to sane and sensible observations, though. It’s good to see some sense being talked!

    • Andrew Hickey said, on November 11, 2011 at 3:20 pm

      Thanks. I think it’s because I was around twelve years ago, when MP3s were first taking off. Exactly the same nonsense, on all sides, was talked then, and as a musician in his late teens/early twenties I put out a lot of very bad music (and later, thankfully, also some good stuff) on the indie MP3 sites of the time. It’s weird seeing the *exact* same idiocies playing out again, from people saying “This is the death of the big publishers/record companies!” to “There’s no need to worry, this is just a fad, everyone prefers physical media” to message boards full of writers/musicians begging each other for reviews and downloads in some colossal pyramid-scheme, to incompetents churning out tons of crap in the hope of making money.

      The same things will happen, too. Everything will shake out. Bookshops will become rarer, but not non-existent. Mid-list writers will end up having to take care of their own careers, but do surprisingly well at it. In a year or two everyone will realise that publishing isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme and all the slush will settle at number 27 million or so on the Amazon charts. But it’s annoying now being around while it’s still happening and trying to do good work – as I’m sure it’s annoying for your friends who are having to rethink their careers through no fault of their own.

  7. davidrory said, on November 12, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Hi Andrew. This was sobering reading. I’d not realised just how much venom there is until I recently started looking at Amazon forums. I have since stayed away. I can see this thing from two sides. I had great response from a few agents but they ended with: “Your work does not fit well in any genre and we would therefore find it hard to place.” I decided to go the self-publishing route. My first book was a disaster. I made all the rooky errors and quickly withdrew it. I reissued a much improved version but still a few errors leaked through. I was working on a very limited budget and thought I couldn’t afford a pro editor. A mistake. When I could, I used one and the work improved hugely. Now all my work goes that route and I can hold me head up and say I did all I could to make sure typos and grammatical errors don’t spoil the work for readers. I then changed to eBooks only. I have avoided the scams and the shameless self-promotion. I have my blog and a few advertising things comming on Kindle-nation and Goodreads and that’s it. No Twits, no forum scams.
    I understand your point completely but I have to say, unfortunately, you are pissing in the wind if you think we can stop the rubbish and ego trippers and the other detritus that will inevitably grow in volume as Amazon, Smashwords and the subsidy publishers cash in on the easy with which unworthy crap can be pumped out. They don’t care about sales or quality. They are milking the market short-term. They may kill the goose in the long-term but since when has the long view ever had any meaning for the money men and bean counters?
    davidrory.

    • Andrew Hickey said, on November 12, 2011 at 6:34 pm

      I think, with luck, we don’t need to be quite that pessimistic. Twelve years on from sites like MP3.com doing much the same thing, the music industry has settled down, because nobody actually wanted to buy crap, and the talentless people realised that they weren’t going to get anywhere. You still get people making their music available through independent sites (I do so myself), but nobody goes onto iTunes and says “I can’t find what I want because of the huge quantity of crap on there”.
      I’m pretty certain it’ll be the same with ebooks. It’ll take a little while for these things to settle down, but in five years the vast majority of self-publishers will be genuine writers, rather than the strange mixture of semi-literates, get-rich-quick scamsters and deluded people who make up the majority at the moment. We just have to try to ride it out.

  8. Dan Meadows said, on November 12, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    I think there’s still a sizeable anti-self publishing attitude out there that has to be overcome because the traditional industry has done a good job of demonizing such efforts in the past. Even the term ” vanity press” itself is unfair and prejudicial. The reality is that there are lots of people out there who need the approval of others to function in life, and they can be resentful of people who don’t have that need. I think people need to realize that most of the material cranked out by the big 6 isn’t done so because its high quality work, its because of marketing and sales possibilities. They’d publish a collection of famous people’s grocery lists if they thought they could generate big sales numbers on it.

    That said, you’re absolutely right about professionalism. It’s cheaper to paint your own house than it is to pay a pro, but you can’t just pop down to the Home Depot and buy a gallon of paint and a brush and slop it on. It takes time and effort to get it right and not make a mess. Writing’s the same way. Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you don’t have to put in the work to do it right.

    • Kurestin K. said, on January 25, 2014 at 3:11 pm

      “They’d publish a collection of famous people’s grocery lists if they thought they could generate big sales numbers on it.”

      I often see this as a complaint about many things published by big houses, but I can’t ever see it as a negative. While I certainly wouldn’t want to work on that grocery list book because there’s no way I’d believe in it, if there are books like it that do well then it’s totally valid and not skeezy to publish it! If a lot of people buy it, then a lot of people obviously wanted to read that grocery list book. It’s not always about being strict gatekeepers of Serious Literature when you’re in publishing; sometimes it’s just about knowing what people want to read (even if it seems silly to you!) and giving it to them. Basically, it’s making the readers happy. Those grocery list lovers deserve the books they want to read too, gosh darn it. Especially if there’s a ton of them and they’re very willing to spend money on said book. Of course, if it turns out that no one wanted to read that book after all, then you made a very bad choice in publishing it.

      (I know this comment is several years late, I just wanted to chime in for anyone else reading this thread now)

      • Dan Meadows said, on January 25, 2014 at 3:21 pm

        Oh, absolutely. The end goal is to make money, after all. My objection is more along the lines of positioning yourself as a great purveyor of culture when you’re really chasing dollar signs.

      • Andrew Hickey said, on January 25, 2014 at 3:23 pm

        Comments on old pieces are always welcome here — it’s nice to know they’re still getting some attention. And I actually agree — in general, I’m very, very wary of judging anyone else’s tastes (although I am very critical of individual works, but I never judge the people who like them, or think they shouldn’t be able to get them).

        I don’t think Dan was saying it in quite the same way that many people are, though. He wasn’t (as far as I can see) attacking the big publishers, but just pointing out that many people see them as precisely the gatekeepers they’re not. There are people who think that being published by the major houses conveys some legitimacy, that anything published by them must be “good” while anything they don’t publish must be “bad”, when in fact we all know that what it actually means is, as you say, that they think that it will sell if they publish it.

        (Sorry, that last sentence got away from itself a bit — I’m typing this with a migraine).

  9. Chris G. said, on November 13, 2011 at 8:12 am

    So true. A strong analysis of the present market, as well as how one should conduct themselves in it.

    I can’t stand the anti-self-publishing attitude that has come to grip the industry, but I can’t say it surprises me. Are the traditional publishers quick to push grievances? Certainly. Yet a goodly number of the figures flooding into the self-publishing possibilities only serve to stir the sense of discontent with works unedited, poor (or harassing) marketing techniques, and unfortunately poor attitudes about the whole process. It undermines the work of those many legitimate and genuinely skilled authors attempting utilize a promising system, and evade some of the traditional grievances of the publishing process.

    You told it true in regards to quality. Just because the process of publication has become easier, doesn’t mean the standards should magically drop. You are still presenting yourself as a professional, a representative of your art – writing. You wouldn’t half-ass a surgery if you were a doctor for your day job, simply because it was easier that way; likewise, you shouldn’t cobble together a piece of writing over a matter of days, call it good, and put it out to sea alongside the greats we’ve been buying up for years.

    And it’s a strange facet of the culture that these whole review exchanges have become not only common – I daresay they’ve become standard. Then again, that at least I understand the reasons behind. With so many editors swamped, slush piles deepening, and many traditional-types turning scowls on the self-published masses, options are limited, and many don’t have the patience to push through. However, if they turn to you for a review, there’s something you need to realize. That review reflects on you as much as your own writing. Every piece you review and simply fluff over shows that you, the writer, the editor, have no sense of quality at worst, and no dedication to your art at best. It demeans the industry, and all those that have taken the time to genuinely engage it.

    But I digress.

    This industry – it’s going through a lot of changes right now. There’s so many people at all levels seeking to exploit, hurt, or stall the evolution as it comes, and that fact, in turn, is stirring anger at all levels. In time, though, I’m sure the recovery will come. Things will stabilize and the system will find ways to weed out those people tarnishing writers’ good names. Writers, both new and traditional, will be able to breathe again, and we will continue on. Or so I hope. But history, at least, I would say supports that hope.

  10. Bradley Sands said, on November 13, 2011 at 8:46 am

    I would have kinder thoughts toward “indie writers” if they stopped calling themselves indie writers and started calling themselves self-published writers again. There’s definitely less of a stigma when it comes to self-publishing Kindle books compared to print books.

  11. Rebecca Berto said, on November 14, 2011 at 4:58 am

    What a fantastic perspective. I love giving self-published authors a go. But in every single book, I’ve found too many grammatical errors and/or sloppy, confusing writing to warrant buying the book. It is a shame because in all cases, I can see that their novel just wasn’t ready for publication yet.

    And that is just my view. Some others may not bother, as you’ve pointed out, to give self-published authors a go because of the bad reputation from these lazy authors.

    It is important to publish high-quality fiction so the boom in eBook publishing by individual authors won’t become a shameful trend.

  12. Ermilia said, on November 14, 2011 at 7:14 am

    “If you are charging for your work, you have an obligation to be professional.”

    Exactly! It’s the same with creating the whole package from the first word you type to the cover you put around your baby after it’s all grown up and been written and rewritten a dozen times. I was in an agent chat this summer and one of them pointed out there’s a right reason to self publish and a wrong one. Giving the finger to the traditional publishing houses and agents who “kept you out” is why it’s so hard for indie authors to get any respect. The rest of us who have spent the time, money, sweat, tears, and jarred brains from banging our heads against the wall who chose to self publish because we don’t feel like staying in the box or because we want full creative control just come off as S.O.L.

    The worst part is that there are indie authors who actually write fake bad reviews. I saw one for Farsighted by Emlyn Chand right after her book started gaining momentum. The review was vague and clear that the reviewer had never picked up the book. We indie authors need to stick together, those of us who care enough to really put effort into our craft.

    Ermi anD I are self publishing because our two volume format (telling the story in different POVs per volume) is not an accepted writing practice. Even though it seems okay for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead or Wicked, trying to get the same agent to rep. two volumes at the same time is like beating your head against a brick wall. We’d rather be true to our style and fight the stereotypes.

    -Eliabeth Hawthorne

  13. faithmccord said, on November 14, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Absolutely! Check your work for mistakes – and check it again. Even better, have someone else (a good writer) check it. A writer – whether new on the scene or well seasoned – needs to put their best out there.

    I find this also applies to free ebooks as time is valuable. If a writer really messes up even though the book offered was a free one, do they really want to chance losing that reader for good? The writer – if serious about their craft – will one day be charging for their ebooks and could have lost that customer’s future business.

    I must admit I get especially annoyed when traditionally published authors make errors because it is they who are setting the example.

    Thank you fellow indie writer for this post :)

    Faith McCord (indie writer)

  14. jpyager said, on November 14, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    This has raised many great points. I would agree that anyone submitting their work to the world should filter it. You have to make sure it’s the best it can be because people will tear it apart. It’s our human nature to do so. Like I just read Mile 81 and I believe it was a huge waste of time and just plain crap writing, keep in mind though, I’m a huge Stephen King fan. That also brings up the point that writing is subjective. John Locke sells millions of his books somehow.

    The big thing I’d add is to also make sure it’s formatted correctly. I’ve downloaded some books and they were unreadable because the author hadn’t taken the time to make sure it was right as a .mobi file. Amazon shows a preview for Pete’s sake.

    Thanks for bring this up. It’s something I’ll be keeping in mind before I submit anything more myself.

    -J.P. Yager

  15. Adopt an Indie (@AdoptAnIndie) said, on November 15, 2011 at 8:33 am

    Fantastic post – I really believe that indie books have a huge place in the literary world and it pains me every time someone slates indie as a whole. But I totally agree with your post: good quality will rise above over time and the dross pushers will lose patience…

    Donna

  16. Pete said, on November 15, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Hello Andrew,
    A fine statement of the case!

    Although I probably should, I do not spend much time in the kindle forums – and if I did, I would spend little or no time engaged in those kinds of debates. Life’s too short. The pro- vs. anti-indie thing is ubiquitous. And boring.

    I share your sentiment, and I have proof of it. When I initially published Diary of a Small Fish, I uploaded the wrong file to KDP and SW. The work file had a fairly long list of typos, and a couple of date issues that had been missed. I discovered the error a week later, uploaded the correct file, and then worried for 5 nights how I could possibly get the new file into the hands of the 25 people who’d paid their $2.99 for what I thought was my best work effort. Fortunately, those who I knew had purchased didn’t care – but there are a few out there who I haven’t identified, and I feel like crap about it.

    Rookie error, and mortifying, in light of the fact that I share your sentiments.

    I look forward to the day when KDP adds one step in the SP publishing process: a multiple choice examination on basic spelling and grammar. You must pass to get published. Heh.

    • Andrew Hickey said, on November 15, 2011 at 7:08 pm

      That kind of thing does happen, and to us all. I see it happening more with print copies – my Beach Boys book went out with all single-quotes as apostrophes before I fixed it, and I just got a proof back which was entirely perfect except that the very first letter of the back-cover blurb was missing. No-one’s perfect, and the thing to do is just to fix these things as quickly and publicly as possible.

  17. k1ypp said, on November 16, 2011 at 5:48 am

    I’m an electrical engineer. That statement immediately strikes terror into the hearts of people. Why? Simple: I must be boring, nerdy and a recluse. I can’t possibly be interesting or humorous and I must have a fear of bright sunlight.

    Of course not. However, stereotypes of various flavors always taint, and the same goes for self-publishing, or Indie-publishing, take your pick. I’ve recently downloaded 15 or so Indie books onto my Kindle, the majority are free books. I’ve read five so far and three were absolutely fabulous and two I didn’t even finish they were so bad.

    I can say the same for many traditionally published books as well. There have been many that I just couldn’t finish: they were awful. The grammar may have been fine and maybe the cover was great, but the content was terrible.

    The bottom line is: there will always be great books and lousy books. We, as independent authors need to do as many here have suggested and make certain our work is the best it can be. I only have one book so far, THREE HUNDRED ZEROES, a story about my hike on the Appalachian Trail. The genre is along the lines of Bill Bryson’s A WALK IN THE WOODS. I don’t think I hold a candle next to Bryson’s writing, but I’ve had sufficient numbers of readers write me and tell me that they liked my story better. It had to be the content, Bill’s writing is superb and I’m in awe of everything he has written (I’ve purchased all of his books).

    Before the book went to print, I had three different editors go through it, as well as a number of independent readers. It was even a finalist in the 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Contest. I’m satisfied that I did the best I could with it. Now I’m working on my next book, my adventures hiking the Camino de Santiago this year. I will make every effort to make that book even better. Why? I owe it to the thousands of readers that I know will be expecting it to be better.

    This means that I can’t rush this work just to get it out there for profit’s sake. I need to publish it with as much quality as I can muster, the readers will expect that. It must be even better than the first. Perhaps this attitude harkens back to my engineering background? I worked on designing things that had to work correctly and reliably, people’s lives depended on them. However, like any engineering project, at some point it has to ship. We as writers have to know when we’ve reached that point and let the market decide if we truly produced a good product.

  18. Sammantha said, on November 16, 2011 at 10:34 am

    The big thing I’m seeing right now, the thing that t’s me off, is the rush to publish everything. Such as high-school student’s essay papers. Your kid may have made an A+ in the class, but that doesn’t mean it belongs on the self-publishing frontiers. And certainly NOT for $$$$!
    Sammantha

    http://washyourwords.blogspot.com/

  19. [...] week, writer Andrew Hickey posted his thoughts on unprofessionalism in indie writing in a post entitled “Pissing in the Pool or  Why Readers Hate Indie Writers.”   In sum, the [...]

  20. aeliusblythe said, on November 16, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    This prompted me to post my own thoughts in response, here .

    You are right about the flood of unreadable work out there. All the more reason why good writers need to find ways to connect to readers outside of a purely business setting, or the traditional seller/customer relationship. As a group indie writers don’t have readers’ trust, and building business without trust is hard.

  21. K1ypp's Blog said, on November 16, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    [...] Pissing In The Pool (Or Why Readers Hate Indie Writers) [...]

  22. [...] This Facebook group is my favorite among the many dedicated to writers, readers, and book lovers of all kinds. As its name suggests, it is specifically for authors who self-publish or publish through small, independent publishers. It has proven to be a great place for getting feedback and advice from authors at various levels in their careers, for discovering the work of other indie authors, and for intriguing articles that help me learn more about the journey that I’m embarking on (like this one about why readers hate indie writers). [...]

  23. [...] Media Writer Andrew Hickey on why self-published authors should be professional, Pissing in the Pool. (via Mark Stevens on [...]

  24. [...] Eighth most popular was my whinge about indie writers’ lack of professionalism. [...]

  25. Andrew said, on March 20, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    I definitely agree that the release of anything should be crafted meaningfully and deliberately with the utmost of respect for the reader. However, to suggest that you have no business in selling your material if you cannot find somebody who thinks it is the greatest book ever written, is downright silly.

    The way in which statistics work dictate that it is likely that at least one person will admire your work above all others, but to suggest that without them you have no right to sell your work is proposterous. If Hemingway couldn’t find a single person who would believe that another piece could be greater than “For Whom the Bell Tolls” would that dictate that he should pause his writing of “The Old Man and the Sea” and retire?

    No fan of literature reads just one book, and just because a piece isn’t the greatest work a reader will experience, it doesn’t mean they wont thoroughly enjoy it. I understand that you’re making a point about the proffessionalism of writers, but i’m astounded by the fundamental error in that specific point you made.

  26. Jack Harris said, on September 3, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Hi Andrew,
    Can you tell me when you’re going to publish the next two Beach Boys in mono books and The Kinks book.

    Thanks
    Jack Harris

    • Andrew Hickey said, on September 3, 2012 at 4:40 pm

      The Kinks book — Preservation: The Kinks’ Music 1964-1974 — came out on Monday in paperback and hardback from Lulu, but it won’t be on Amazon for a few weeks. The ebook version should be out in the next couple of days. (You’re actually lucky — I fixed a mistake in the paper copies yesterday, but that’s only affected a couple of people). I’ll be serialising the essays for the next Beach Boys book on this blog as they get written, and I expect the next book to be done by late this year or early next year.

      What happens then depends on how these books are received (I’ve been getting a lot of bad reviews of my music books on Amazon from people who don’t really understand what I’m doing, and sales have slowed to a crawl). If they start selling and people start liking them, I’ll do another book on a different artist before the third Beach Boys volume, and have Beach Boys vol 3 come out at the end of next year. If they don’t find an audience, though, I’ll do Beach Boys volume 3 earlier, get it out by the middle of next year, and then write no more music books.

      • Jack Harris said, on September 3, 2012 at 6:37 pm

        It would be a real shame if you don’t write anymore music books. For what it’s worth I think your Beatles in Mono and Beach Boys on Cd are two of the best rock music assessments I’ve ever read (and I’m 60 – that’s a lot of rock reading). Please reconsider. Thanks for your speedy reply.
        Jack Harris

        • Andrew Hickey said, on September 3, 2012 at 6:49 pm

          Well, thank you! (If you like those, you might like my book on the Monkees too, by the way).
          The problem is, there are clearly a lot of people like yourself who do like the books, but there are people buying them from Amazon who don’t understand what kind of thing they’re buying. They get the books and find that they have no photos, and no lists of all the session musicians and recording dates and so on (because those things are already covered in other books, and I see no need to pad my books out with things other people can find elsewhere), and they give the books one-star reviews on Amazon.

          But the people who *do* like the books, who comment here or send me emails, don’t review the books on Amazon. This then leads to sales of the books stopping, because people see an average one- or two-star review and don’t look any further — and means that the only people who end up having the books are the ones who don’t like them!

          This is the problem for small publishers, unfortunately — we can’t get media attention for our books, and so we’re overly-reliant on Amazon reviews.

          It does, however, make me more likely to write more books when people like yourself tell me that they enjoy them and want more, so thank you.

  27. Jack Harris said, on September 3, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    Sorry, I meant The Beach Boys on CD

    Jack Harris

  28. joseph said, on April 27, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    I have seen countless mistakes in traditionally-published books (incorrect grammar, misspelings, mistranslations), not to mention stories that have left me yawning. And I have read some quite superior independently-published novels that are far better than those traditionally-published. So just because a book is printed on a press by an established house is not a pedigree of excellence. These arrogant morons on the Kindle forums need to extract their heads from their asses and take a look at the real world.

  29. Vivian Unger said, on March 6, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    There’s a certain irony in an author complaining about someone else’s spelling mistakes and “bad grammer.”

  30. k1ypp said, on March 9, 2014 at 6:14 am

    Interesting, I made a comment on this thread back in November of 2011. I still haven’t finished the book I mentioned I was starting then. Actually, what happened, is I’ve jumped ahead of it with another book that needs to be done ASAP.

    My first book, which I am happy to say, was Indie published, has ten’s of thousands of copies out there, and I couldn’t be happier. First, and foremost, I’m happy because the readers seem to be happy, most of the sales are word-of-mouth. I actually had three editors work on the book, one just to work on the humor, and two others to look for the nuts-and-bolts stuff.

    My motivation for going Indie was simple: I didn’t think I’d live long enough to go via traditional publishing. You see, my book is about my hike of the Appalachian Trail and ending up having a six-artery heart bypass a third of the way up the 2,200 mile trail. I took three hundred days to recover, then went back and finished the hike. I had three uncles all die in their forties from heart problems, I was sixty when I had the surgery and figured I was already on borrowed time.

    Traditional publishing meant I would need to find an agent, then a publisher, and then actually get it published. This can take years, I didn’t think I had time. Fortunately, I’m still here, but the clock is ticking and statistically, based on the surgery I had, I’m already on borrowed time. Indie publishing allows me to get the book into the hands of readers in the least time. Time is of the essence.

    Of course that means there are still no excuses for a poorly done book. It needs to be the best quality that you, as a writer, can produce—no exceptions. There can’t be any skipped steps, the cover needs to be engaging, the editing must be top-notch, and the work has to be what the reader seeks. Write it and they will come, but only if it is worth it.

  31. ace said, on June 2, 2014 at 6:52 am

    While I don’t read self-published books (I did for a while, but found that AT LEAST nine out of ten were unreadable), I probably would if a lot more self-published writers had your professionalism. Hopefully your post will be widely read and carefully considered by many would-be authors before they hit that “publish” button.

    I will say, those commenters above who say “but, I’ve seen errors is traditionally published books too, therefore there’s no difference!” sound desperate when they make such a ridiculous false equivalencies. SOME is not the same as MOST. If 95 percent of self-published books are gibberish and 5 percent are honestly good books, while 5 percent of traditionally published books are unreadable and 95 percent are at least competent, this does not mean that “basically there is no quality difference between them.” Seriously, anyone who is so grammar-blind and tone-deaf as to think that self-published books and traditionally-published books are basically the same has no credibility as a writer.

    • Rankersbo said, on June 2, 2014 at 10:42 am

      Strongly in agreement. We’re not talking about getting stuff 100% perfect, but not releasing with lots of massively noticeable errors. If you’re self-publishing you should have the patience to put what you’ve written to one side, let the dust settle, and read it back carefully. At the bare minimum use a spell checker- it will get it wrong, but reviewing each and every sentence with an error in it should be a useful excercise. You and your book can wait until you have done this. If you don’t have the time and patience to go through your work with a fine toothed comb, then you don’t have the time and patience to be self-published.

      I don’t for sure.

  32. sg said, on July 17, 2014 at 12:29 am

    Here’s a link to An Amazon writer’s cafe discussion in which Indies not only defend their right not to improve their craft, but also refer to Stephen King and the big five publishers as more or less morons. Hilarious stuff.


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