I’ve decided to go out on a limb today. Long-time readers could probably tell you that this blog once focused more on writing advice and the writing life, and has slowly changed into something else over time, featuring information geared more toward readers, as well as items of note related to my stories, such as ancient machinery. This was a conscious decision, and I want to talk about it a little today, as things are about to go back in that original direction, if just a little bit.
I once intended this blog to be a way to connect with writers. While I’ve found better ways to do that, I still enjoyed sharing some of the things that I learned as I crafted my stories. Once I decided that indie was the right approach for me, I began a relentless crusade for the indie approach and the difference it could make. Eventually, though, I lost interest, to the point that I considered going the traditional route just a month ago.
I’m here to talk some about what changed during that period, beginning sometime in late December and culminating in that near-miss with leaving the indie world.
In short, the indie world made short gains, but also began to look really, really bad. I’m sure there was some element of naivete in my original views as compared to how they’ve evolved, as well, but this movement has had some serious growing pains over the last six months and I’ve watched the events play out in dismay. In short, I didn’t write about the indie community much because I was trying to avoid negativity, and for awhile there I seemed to only encounter negativity.
I’ve seen writers engage in slap fights with critics, a scenario much like Aliens vs. Predator, where we lose. While I agree that some of said critics are trolling for explosions, these writers forgot the sage wisdom of the ancient Internet: don’t feed the trolls. In the process they stirred a lot of anti-indie/self-pub resentment, representing as they did the worst excesses of self-publishing. It was really the opposite of my hopes and dreams for what indie could be.
Now I hear some writers out there already saying “But traditionally published writers have done this for centuries – !” True, they have, but that doesn’t make it right. Some terrible societal institutions lasted just as long, and it’s not a defense to participate in them today. That conversation can be saved for another time, though. Trust me, I’ll get to the whole critic-author thing very soon, likely next week, but I’m not here to talk about that now.
I’ve also seen a lot of people pumping up their reviews with sock puppets and hired friends who haven’t read their books. I’ve seen schemes to game the Amazon system. Hell, as a naive newbie I took part in some myself, not realizing the implications and stopping once I did. I realize that some of this is happening with other newbies, and I give them some leeway, but I’ve seen experienced writers doing this sort of thing, too, and it makes me shake my head.
The biggest issue to me, however, is the issue of creativity. My biggest rallying point for the indie revolution was always the opportunity to offer something truly unique that readers couldn’t find anywhere else, and I’ve seen some brilliant examples of that from people within our ownTESS community all the way to writers like Frederick Lee Brooke and RS Guthrie.
Unfortunately, I’ve also found these to be the exception rather than the rule. For the most part, it seems that indies are content to offer a lot of the same ideas that we see being churned out at the Big 6: vampires, paranormal romance, and lately Hunger Games clones. I’m not looking down my nose at those folks at all – obviously there is a huge readership for that sort of thing and there’s a reason for that, as well as its preponderance in the indie community. There is still room for great vampire stories, for instance. The problem I’ve found is trying to weed through the clones to find the truly original content.
I realize that some of this is no doubt due to the gold rush mentality of indie publishing at the moment. Everyone has a story to tell and figures they can be the one to strike it rich. For that matter, who am I tell them that they can’t? But I can lament the dearth of originality both as a reader and a writer. As a reader, I’m dying for indie writers to knock my socks off – great value and something truly new? Hell yeah, I’m there. Please, somebody, if you’re reading this, tell me about some great original indie content. I’d love to feature it on the site.
Again, that’s as a reader. As a writer? I realized that my position of the last few months sucks. Yes, this is a mea culpa because I forgot the most basic truth, that if you want change in a community, you have to be the change. Yes, I’ve been writing my own original content, but I haven’t been opening my mouth about the issue. I thought that offering a critique of the community was better because it spared everyone a hassle, but in truth it narrowed my own view and took my voice out of the conversation. That means I’m partially to blame for the problems that I’m about bitching about here, and I own that.
That means that you’re going to see a lot more commentary and ideas on this site regarding both writing and what I think indie can become. I’m going to allow myself to be a little more loud-mouthed (this is a big thing, so bear with me). Most importantly, though, I want to present you with some examples of what makes indie writing and reading so awesome. So get ready for all that, it should be fun and a little bumpy.