Perhaps the very best thing about being an independent author is the freedom. If you’ve chosen the self-publishing route, you’ve retained the right to write whatever, whenever and however you please.
That means you could write an epic poem about penguins this month, a trio of novellas about basket weaving next year, and nothing for two years after that. You don’t have to worry about a literary agent or editor nagging for new pages or forcing you to write under a pseudonym.
Glorious, glorious freedom.
But do our flexible boundaries mean that we can throw out all of the rules of traditional publishing? If I can write something in a couple of hours and publish it on the internet with just the click of the button, should I?
One of the most frequently mentioned criticisms of self-publishing is the lack of standards. I’ve heard it said many times that indy authors have “lowered the bar.”
Unfortunately I’ve also talked with authors who don’t mind this accusation. Some feel that it’s okay if their writing is fraught with grammar and spelling errors because, they argue, people who read self-published stories don’t have high expectations.
Thankfully, the evidence doesn’t support this claim. While some readers might be willing to overlook a flawed novel, the overwhelming majority still prefer quality material. Just check out the sales rank of a novel. The books that top the charts – both traditionally and self published – are well written.
Books that don’t follow the rules of modern language are punished with bad reviews and low sales. (Usually. Although there are rare exceptions.)
The good news in all of this is that the indy authors who work hard on editing their stories stand a better chance of being successful than those banking on readers with low expectations. Yes, it’s still worthwhile to enlist an editor and critique partner and beta readers to help iron out the shortcomings of our WIPs.
I’m blessed to have an amazing critique partner. She’s my work-spouse for my author-job. She simultaneously fills the roles of cheerleader, co-conspirator, confidant, consultant, and copyeditor.
If you don’t have someone like this in your life, consider trying to find a partner right here through ROW-80. Alternatively, if you already have a CP, maybe it’s time to check in on the relationship and see if there’s something that could be going better.
Either way, here are three things to think about with your current or future critique partner relationship:
1) Writing style. Do you want someone with a similar style, or someone who is different? My partner and I are complete opposites in this regard – she writes brief, action-packed stories. My work is longer and slower. For us, this opposites-attract relationship has proved mutually beneficial.
2) Cheerleading. Most of us need a boost from time to time. What form of encouragement works best for you? How often do you need support? Are you comfortable asking for kind words, or do you need someone who will see that you’re down and just jump in with a compliment?
3) Honesty. This one is tough because, as writers, we are very close to our work. We love it. We don’t want anyone to say unkind things about it. But if a story is going to be the best it can be, you need a CP who will be honest about the problems in your story.
While there are a lot of other characteristics that could be mentioned, these are arguably the most important. Grammar and spelling checks can be handled by a third party, if necessary. Good use of Google can lead you to information about how to price, format, and publish your book. An understanding pat on the back and an honest review, however, are harder to come by. And it’s nice when they come from the same person.
So, indy authors, let’s spread our wings and enjoy our freedom! But please, let’s also work together to support each other and keep our standards high.