Self-Publishing and the Rise of Indigo Writers

Caught a blog post by Shaun Jeffrey about the future of publishing and it got me thinking about self-publishing and why I think is’s a no-win situation for anyone.

Serious thoughtful posts like these come up more and more lately as publishing houses, both big and small, re-evaluate the future of books in general. Digital only? Small press runs?

One if the issues I have with the whole Self-Pubbing is the Wave Of The Future argument, is it creates an entire sub-culture of Unique Author Snowflakes that has never been told by beta readers or editors, or dare I say it, Mom and Dad that maybe the work could use some polish. Having never had the benefit of being told, No, and taking that opportunity to implement the constructive criticism to further hone and polish, often what is rushed to press is full of holes, horrendous typos, and embarrassing mistakes. Instead of blaming the poor quality for the UAS not achieving the fame believed owed, the Establishment and Gatekeepers of Traditional Publishing get blamed.

Because Random House is really afraid of someone who uses 20 commas in a 75-word run-on sentence.

Self-publishing has created the Indigo Writer, for whom “No” is something agents and editors only say when they have an “agenda”, except he or she wouldn’t really know because he or she has never properly subbed to an agent or publisher. It’s a bother, or ridiculous, or OMG –  the wait. The Indigo Writer has heard about the submission process or they’ve “looked into it” and it’s simply not an option.

“No” isn’t an option.

Indigo Writers don’t want the filters of an editor. They want to retain all of their rights. They don’t want any of their work changed.

They don’t want to wait.

They don’t want to be told no.

One of the comments you almost always see is: “I’m thinking of self-pubbing my novel because I’m getting rejected/or there’s no interest”. It makes me wonder if the author believes that he or she is the only writer subbing a novel.

Publishing is still a business – bottom line. If your query isn’t written with the right pizzazz, it probably looks like every other author’s query, which frankly the editor/agent has already seen a dozen times. Like an editor once told me over 15 years ago, what you may consider top shelf may be just as run of the mill and mediocre as the next piece that gets rejected. It could also be very terrible, but there isn’t an agent or editor alive that would tell an author his work is awful. They’re actually hoping that after a few pointed rejections the author will get the hint and revise.

Actually those authors turn to self-publishing, and the book-buying public tells them the same thing, only silently and by ignoring their poorly written books. All any savvy reader has to do is skim through the excerpts and samples on Amazon, Lulu, Infinity, Tate – and see what kind of money is potentially swirling down the toilet. Grammar and spelling aside, important elements like “plot” are missing as well as “character development”. I’m embarrassed for them. Seriously.

When I look at the current wave of those hawking Self-Publishing as What’s Next, as well as the works rushed to digital I think “Indigo Writer”. Being told “No” hurts their feelings. Bookstores were never meant to be giant refrigerators that any author can pin up his work with a banana-shaped magnet. Bookstores and reading audiences should never be your beta readers. And yes, there are even traditionally published books that have these problems (plot, mostly). It happens, but it is by no means the rule to how the business works.

And publishing is a business, let’s not ever forget that.

Writers – please stop assuming that we ALL deserve to be published because we scribbled a few words on the page. We don’t. I’m sorry it makes you cry to hear that.

In my opinion, with so many Indigo Writers self-pubbing, readers are left slogging through more half-formed ideas, with blurbs written by neighbors and family.  This could ultimately create a backlash. Instead of a future unfettered by Gatekeepers and snobbish Publishers, self-publishing becomes the wasteland where poorly written novels go to die in the Bargain-Priced section of Amazon.

(Just so we leave our panties untwisted, this is about a specific set of self-published writers. I happen to know successful self-published writers who through good common sense, stringent editing, and impeccable marketing, managed to transcend the medium. I’m not talking about the authors who research and work hard to make self-publishing a viable option. I am talking about people who listen to podcasts and read sections of books and believe that they can achieve the same kind of success by skirting effort and rejection.)