I'm sure various hackles are rising at that, but hang on a second while I explain in the form of a PAQ or Predictably Asked Questions.
What's indie fiction?
Good question. You're sharp. I like you. Indie fiction is the prose fiction equivalent of indie games, films and music. It's a kind of casual way of talking about independently published fiction -- you might know it better as self-published fiction.
So why not call it self-published?
Between you and me, I do and I will. To me the terms are interchangeable but some people have decided that self-published is a tainted term and so would prefer to use "indie". If it avoids a silly argument, I'm perfectly happy to oblige at least some of the time.
So why are you looking to tell people what's wrong with indie fiction? What's your agenda?
I like fiction and I like the idea of a functioning independent scene for authors. There has been a lot of talk about how technology is democratising the media. To truly democratise a market it is important that there are as few barriers to entry for producers as possible but also that consumer decisions are enabled by the provision of good information. The market needs to be as transparent as we can make it. Great strides are being made in opening the market for producers with the Web and virtual stores for devices like Kindle, Nook and iOS (iPhone/iPad). The second part seems to be where there's a struggle. How do customers find great products by talented producers in the crowded market that results from removing barriers to entry?
You didn't answer my question. Why are you looking to tell people what's wrong with indie fiction?
You caught me. Okay, from what I just said about the problem of consumers finding products, here's what I think is wrong:
- There's a whole load of bad self-published fiction out there.
- The existing mechanisms for consumer to consumer guidance appear to be failing or being subverted. If you want the blunt language, there are a whole load of books where the reviews and ratings are so at odds with the quality of the book that the reviews have to be questioned. I think there's enough of this to cause problems for the acceptance of self-published works even as we enter a period where it could flourish.
There's nothing I can say that will convince anyone otherwise if that's what they want to believe but no, I'm not. I don't believe that self-publishing means bad writing. What I do believe is that it's very easy to come to that conclusion or at least that it's so painful looking for the good stuff that you may as well just act as if it's all terrible. I do, if you really want to find something to be offended by, think that the average self-published writer is worse that the average traditionally published writer and that will probably always be true.
But you believe that all the reviews are fake?
Nope. I'm saying that there are a lot of examples of highly questionable reviews but questionable doesn't mean fake. There's even a question about what constitutes a "fake" review. If a writer gives a dozen copies to their friends and asks them to post reviews without asking for any favours, and they all put five star reviews because they're nice people, those clearly aren't as "fake" as reviews bought and paid for or reviews posted by the writer. In most cases there's no clear evidence what exactly is going on.
But you do think some of them are fake, don't you? Like really, dishonestly fake?
Well... yeah. It seems naive not to consider that as likely.
What's your angle? Are you some sort of traditional publisher goon?
Primarily I'm a technologist with a general interest in the technology-driven movement towards open publishing platforms in all media. In the mid-90s you could have found me arguing with people from the world of traditional publishing about the coming impact of technology. In the argument about self-publishing, I was generally to be found in the middle, disliked by the traditional publishing crowd for supporting the idea that self-publishing would grow and could be legitimate, but also attacked by self-publishing cheerleaders because I warned about the problems with discarding the publishing filters. Little has changed except that I don't get scoffed at for suggesting that people will see advantages in electronic reading over paper.
Other than that I'm a consumer and I want to be able to find new stuff. I don't want to be frustrated in my search. I would like a market that allows people to find new creators that they appreciate and which encourages new entrants because it functions so well in letting consumers find things to consume.