I climb the ladder into the loft just under the roof of my family's cabin. I arrange the pillows and, if it's chilly, throw a fluffy featherbed over my legs. I open the Kindle app on my netbook and select that indie book I'd downloaded, that I've been dying to get my teeth into. I convert the netbook to a tablet, lean back against the pillows and start to read.
And it's awful. So I go back to the bookshelf and pick out another book, and it's just as bad. I end up spending the whole hour looking for a book instead of reading one. Sometimes the beginning is boring and I plow through, telling myself to be patient and see if it gets better, but it doesn't. Sometimes the characters don't feel like people, or feel like six iterations of the same person. Sometimes the text rambles until I'm lost, or the sentences just don't make sense. Sometimes the meaning is clear but the narrative is so hiccuppy it takes work to trudge through a page.
Sound familiar? It probably wouldn't take many hours like that to make me swear off indie books and stick with the imprints, except that I believe in indie publishing: I think it's the future of the industry. And one of those indie books is mine. No wonder it's so hard to get readers to take me seriously. No wonder my friends look so surprised when they read my novel.
But my experiences with indie reading also force me to ask: how good is my own book? I'm not worried about the plot or the characters. I have confidence in my writing voice, and was lucky to have beta readers with experience, expertise and honesty. But the reviewers may have been comparing my novel to a batch of indies like the one I described above, beta readers aren't copy editors, and I'm a terrible proofreader of my own work because I tend see what I meant to type.
One solution I've seen proposed (often by free-lance editors, of course) is to hire an editor. That's a great idea, but first we have to figure out where the inventor parked his time machine (somewhere in the borough of Richmond, outside London, of course). I think most of us right now are lucky to have enough money to sleep indoors and keep our children clothed. But of course, after our professionally edited books go blockbuster, we'll have enough to hire editors. So we just have to run to the future ATM real quick, and we'll get right on it.
As Star Trek's Captain Picard used to say, "Options?"
Three of us indie writers were talking about this problem on Twitter, and decided to look into forming an indie writers' guild. A few of the potential benefits:
- Pooling our strengths (and compensating for each other's weaknesses). For example, I'm good at characterization and grammar, and would gladly trade services in these areas for help with marketing, cover art or shoring up a sagging plot.
- Working more efficiently. It just doesn't make a lot of sense to have thousands of individuals stumbling around in isolation, teaching ourselves the arts of book formatting, cover graphics, personal branding, blogging, social media marketing, video creation and whatever else. If we combine our efforts, we should all have more time to write.
- Raising our reputation. It used to be acceptance by a recognized publishing house that distinguished the quality authors from the dabblers. But now that the recognized houses have pretty much turned into a handful of mega corporations that avoid debut authors as much as possible, it's time for a new method of distinction. Membership in a guild with reasonable standards of professionalism would seem to serve that purpose nicely.
It all starts with the first step, of course, and that's finding out what you think. So we created a survey. The more indie writers who take this survey, the better the guild will be, so please take it and invite your friends. It's only ten questions.