Monday, February 22, 2016

The Dilemma of Indie Publishing #writerprobs #editing

Have you noticed the glaring Catch 22 in Indie publishing? I have, and it's starting to get on my nerves.

Indie writers have a tough career. One made harder by certain pervasive stereotypes. While I understand what drives those opinions, only two of the issues make sense. The third is frustrating and unfair.

photo credit: Another Morning in Town (1907) via photopin (license)

The first is based on antiquated thinking from the era when traditional publishing was the only option. People on the outside assumed if you weren't contracted it was because you didn't write well enough. We all know that's not true. Think of the dozens of editors kicking themselves for rejecting JK Rowling. As more Indie titles pile on the NYT Best Sellers list, opinions will change.

photo credit: Vader's Autograph via photopin (license) 

The second is based on stories people have read. You can't blame readers for being upset when they open a book and get a face full of garbage.

Let's be honest. Some books are bad. There is a population of authors in every genre who have no passion for the craft of writing. Their passion lies in the bragging rights of being published. We've all seen them. They adhere to the lowest possible standard and put out such poor-quality books, most authors would be too ashamed to publish them even as a free read. Their indolence gives the rest of the Indie world a bad name, but they'll never admit it. 

There's also no cure for it. Lazy people infest every industry. Ours is no exception.

The third is the one that bothers me. It's shaming Indie authors for not hiring professional editors.

Most of us know a significant population of authors earns less each year than people mopping the floors at your neighborhood Walmart. Articles about the downhill slide of royalties light up a situation made worse by the sudden decline: the cost of a quality freelance editor. 

Let's look at the numbers. Reports say the average Indie release sells 250 copies over the life of the book. (Keep in mind, that number is from before the Great Deluge of 2014. I'm positive the average is much lower now.) You can do the math. 70% royalties on a $2.99 ebook, multiplied by 250 books gives you barely more than $500. Subtract the cost of the cover which is anywhere from $80 to $350. That leaves an amount so small it's hardly worth the effort of writing the book. It's even more depressing when you realize that amount is spread out over the life of the novel.

Despite this pittance, most experienced editors still charge $1,500 to review an average-length manuscript. Some considerably more than that. Those unreasonable prices push Indie authors to do one of two things. They can go to a less expensive person (who also has no professional experience and returns a manuscript still full of plot holes and grammatical errors) or skip the editor altogether.

I understand the concept of people wanting to be paid for their time and talent. I also understand that freelance editors do this for a living. Unfortunately, they're on the same cruise ship as the rest of us. Everybody's profits are down and clinging to a price list that doesn't correspond to the earnings of the average Indie author creates a problem on both sides. 

We can't expect people to have their books professionally edited when the cost for a single manuscript is so far out of reach they'd have to skip paying the mortgage for two months to afford it. Editors can't survive when their customer base can't afford to hire them.

Some people in the industry think authors should be the only ones to make sacrifices. If they can't afford the expense of publishing a well-written, well-edited book, they shouldn't be publishing in the first place. It's a luxury, not a right. That's a blog for someone else.

All I can say is there's a disconnect and shaming authors for not meeting demands they can't afford doesn't help. We need a middle ground that gives the many novelists who want a qualified editor the opportunity to hire one. Preferably without driving the editors into bankrupcty along with everyone else.

What's a little treachery among friends?
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  1. You act like there's not another option, which there is: indie publishers exist precisely for this reason. A whole lot of indie author start out with small presses who can cover the costs of editing and covers, etc. and as they become better known they either move on to bigger publishers or into self-publishing. So I'm sorry, it's perfectly reasonable to expect an ambitious author who cares about their craft to get professional editing done, one way or another. And there are plenty of reputable indie publishers out there to try. That's the middle ground you're looking for and ignoring.

    1. When I say 'indie' I mean non-traditionally published authors who are going it alone without using the services of any publisher, big or small.