Glass Houses

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Many established self-published authors are very helpful to newbies, sharing the knowledge that they have gained on their individual scribbling trips. There are also loads of books available too these days covering everything from formatting to marketing. Some things are pretty straightforward to learn, but other things are just opinions, no matter how strongly they’re voiced. Like giving your books away for free. Some authors are quite scathing about there being so many free books out there, that they feel they are losing out on selling their own. Then there are the calls for gatekeepers to stop the badly edited, formatted, or written books from ever making it out there, and thereby offend readers so badly that they will never so much as glance at a self-published book again, thereby also taking food out of “legitimate” self-published authors mouths.

I’ve made pretty much all the mistakes any newbie can flying solo in this indie world – still making them – and I doubt that any other self-published author will have got everything perfectly right their first time at the party without quite a lot of help and the shelling out of amounts of cash that not everyone has access to. What bothers me a little just lately is that some of the authors making the most noise started out themselves by publishing books with errors, and giving those books away on free Amazon promotions. It seems wrong to me that now that they are on their way as far as polished publications are concerned, they have built solid online platforms, and they’re writing their sixth or seventh novel, that they expect everyone else to never give books away for free, even if it’s their very first one, because this could make them lose a potential book sale.

Naah. Not everyone who self-publishes has the same aspirations. Some people publish purely because they want a couple of paper books to hand down to their children, or have a few bound copies of their photos and poems for their coffee tables. Some write stories for their children, and couldn’t be bothered if they never sell one to a stranger. Scientific papers, theses, and all sorts of things find their way to Amazon. Then there are the guys doing it purely for the money – they don’t even write their little books themselves, but hire ghostwriters instead, and churn out hundreds of short stories (extreme erotica) and tiny how to books. And then there are those guys who do write their own, but only because they desperately want to collide head on with the fame and money monster, and not because they love to spin a yarn and write it down for others to, hopefully, enjoy. That’s what I do. I write because I love to write. And so do thousands of other writers.

Regardless of why anyone self-publishes their book, it is entirely up to them what they do with it. If they want to give away thousands of free copies then that’s their choice. Most ebooks downloaded on free days lurk on kindles all over, and are never read before being discarded. But a small percentage are, and for an author totally new to this indie game, the future readers and reviewers gained this way are pure gold. The millions of free books floating around are not going to go away any time soon, so it’s totally pointless whining about them. Think up new ways to sell your books, or don’t use Amazon if their freebie policy is so offensive.

The thing is, it is all free. You can write a book and publish it as an ebook and a paperback for not one single cent. How you sell it is your problem, and having a bitchfest about what everyone else is doing with their books is not going to make the free go away, or force people to buy your book because there are no freebies about. I don’t like the idea of being forced to buy anything anyway. As far as crappy editing and formatting goes – formatting is easy if you take the trouble to learn how to do it. My formatting faux pas on Amazon was not due to anything I did wrong, but because they loaded an extra corrupted ebook. Editing errors are totally my fault, and excuses are useless in this instance. So – fix them and move along. I do have access to outside editing now, and I’ll never let loose a new book that hasn’t been properly gone over again, but not all new writers can afford to pay for editing – it’s expensive.

I’m not excusing badly put together books, but I am saying that what self-publishing IS, is being allowed to publish whatever you like. Self-publishing is a totally different animal to traditional publishing, and now that you’ve made your own mistakes and have a nice backlist of immaculate books, you want to deprive other indies of that same experience? Not fair! If you like the way traditional works, then do that, but stop yelling at newbies and authors who fancy a free promo to round up some new readers. I’ve downloaded loads of abysmal books for free, but I would never have paid for them, so no harm no foul as far as I’m concerned. When I pay money for a book, I don’t just blindly hit the buy button. I look inside, look at the blurb, occasionally look at reviews, and if I do buy it and it’s just rotten through and through, I have the option to return it within three days of purchase – not so keen on that option mind you, but I’ve never used it personally, because I’ve never paid for a self-published book that so appalled me.

The problem is that when a lot of people make a lot of noise about something, sometimes the powers that be change things – just to shut them up. Sometimes they might not make the changes the shouters were looking for, and they could find themselves bitten in the bum in ways they never expected. That’s what happens when mice start blowing raspberries at lions. As far as indie scribblers go, I say leave them be, and tend your own roses. Let those newbie writers walk their own path, and feel all the joys and pains that you already have. So what if you think that a book being #1 on a kindle free promotion means nothing? Those fresh faced new indies are just as entitled to feel the rush of seeing their books downloaded on to strangers kindles, and they should be allowed to take any kudos and knocks along their own trips to where you are today.

Rock those freebies indie scribblers!