Despite indie publishing having gained substantial ground in the past few years, trad pub with a big publisher is still the trademark of the "serious" writer. Those books are the ones that are nominated for literary prizes and reviewed by respectable publications. If you're an indie, your only chance to be taken seriously is to sell a millions copies, because money talks, right?
But isn't it all a hurdle put in our way by the Big Pub monopoly? It's so unfair, this lack of equal opportunities, isn't it?
Well, yes and no.
Around the release of Land of the Lost Tribe, I started looking for book bloggers who might be interested in reviewing historical fiction. Bloggers, I am sure everyone will agree, are independent individuals. And you know what I read in the submission guidelines, time and time again? "No indie books. No self published books. Only books traditionally published by a reputable house."
Well, people are prejudiced, aren't they? They must be dinosaurs who have yet to discover the wonders of indie pub.
No, not quite.
Check this out: "I used to be open to self published books, but due to the unmanageable volume of poor quality fiction I was thus swamped with, I regretfully close the doors to self published authors, and will only review traditionally published books henceforth." I have read something along these lines in the submission guidelines of several book bloggers, and I don't believe this was written without a good reason.
Quite simply, indie publishing is a 100% democracy. There are no gatekeepers. No limits. No police. Anyone can call themselves an author, a publisher, an author-publisher, or whatever. But you know what? With freedom comes responsibility.
There are some terrific indie writers out there, whose books would never have seen the light if it depended on Big Pub. They aren't commercial enough. Or their work doesn't fit neatly enough into any specific genre mold. I'm thankful for indie publishing, but when there's no quality control, some people will always cut corners, and sometimes it's hard to pan for gold, so readers might decide to stick with trad pub, where it's safe.
It's like going into McDonald's - you might not get a gourmet meal, but at least you're pretty safe from food poisoning. Be daring and try a snug little backyard restaurant, and you might walk out with salmonella if the owner isn't conscientious enough.
Improving the overall quality of indie books isn't a hopeless matter, but it's a collective responsibility, and like it or not, we all bear the consequence of our fellow authors' choices.