What can indie authors do?

I think–I hope–that my last blog post was enough of an appeal to those who might lump the entire indie community in with plagiarizers and scammers. I truly believe it’s not the issue some bloggers and readers are making it out to be–but I’m also not naive enough to think there aren’t issues within the community. And good or bad, readers lump us together. But shouldn’t our books be judged on their own merits?

Yes.

Are they?

No.

The kind of fallout we’ve seen from #copypastecris is going to happen again. Indies are going to take the fall for someone else’s mistake; it’s only a matter of time. Except we can’t change or police the community at large–just ourselves. So, how can we uplift and advocate for the indie community? How can we be part of the solution and not the problem?

I’m glad you asked…

Professional editing

This is is the big one. Yes, it’s so necessary, even when it costs money. Don’t give people a chance to say, “Yeah, that’s obviously self-published.” I get it. Editing’s expensive–but you’re speaking for all of us when you self-published a book. For better or worse, you’re vocally saying, “This is what we are like as a group.” #Copypastecris is proof of that. If you can’t afford editing? Learn to self-edit. Buy yourself a style guide. Save up. Trade proofreading. Reconsider if self-publishing is right for you. But don’t skip it.

Quality cover design

You know the self-published book cover look. Standard Word fonts, poor copy/paste jobs, laughable Photoshop, little knowledge of design. I’m not going to harp on this, but know it’s a huge reason for the self-published stigma.

Don’t break trust

There are so many ways we can do this. Buying mailing lists, participating in Kindle Unlimited scams (like asking readers to click to the end to get paid for more page reads), dropping a random sex scene in an Amish romance (yes, I ran across this a long time ago), overpricing short works–all make readers wonder what other kind of sketchy behavior we’re up to.

Reviews

I’m going to break this one out into detail, because it’s a little more complicated than the other points. Disclaimer: I don’t personally review books, in general. I find it ethically problematic to review in my genre, and that’s what I’ve mostly been reading since I started writing. Outside my genre it gets a less more muddy, but there’s too much opportunity for hurt feelings and retaliation. That said, if you choose to review other authors, here are some tips:

Do know the terms of service when you review: Specifically, as they pertain to review-swapping. it’s against Amazon’s TOS and makes us look like amateurs who can’t earn them on the strength of our books alone. Don’t think people don’t see you doing it.

Do judge a book on its own merit: In other other words, don’t rate up or down because a book is indie.I’ve heard people say they skew indie books higher, even when it’s riddled with grammar errors and poor dialogue. That does no one any favors, folks. In the same vein, while it’s ultimately up to the reader, it’s inappropriate to downgrade a book because of how it was published. Yes, I’ve seen that, too.

Don’t comment on indie status: I’ve seen more than one review that says, “This was great for a indie book!” or “I’d never have thought this was self-published”! Our books need to stand on their own. They need to be just as good as traditional ones are expected to be. This comment seems supportive on the surface, but it actually feeds into the stereotype that self-published work is subpar. Let’s strike the implication from our vocabulary.

Don’t buy reviews: Seriously, I shouldn’t have to say this.

Do review the book, not the author: Trashing another’s book because you don’t like the person is unethical, especially if you’re a writer in their genre. Again, I shouldn’t have to say this, but it’s happened to me. Un-eth-i-cal.

Do consider the overall quality and not just the story: This is part of the inflated reviews that indie books seem to suffer from. It’s great if you can overlook a typo in each paragraph, but realize most readers can’t, and they will wonder about an error-ridden self-published book with glowing five-star reviews.

That’s it for tonight. Any other ideas of how we can improve our image in the face of scandals? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

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