Indie Authors Turn Focus To Quality

I’m not doing a year-in-review blog post, nor one about predictions for 2012. But one welcome change I’ve been seeing more and more about during the past several weeks is a focus among some indie authors on quality.

  • Robert Bidinotto highlighted quality as a key reason for his fantastic Amazon success last month.
  • Porter Anderson focused on a number of people starting to talk quality in last week’s Writing on the Ether.
  • Reader Unboxed is reviewing indie authors along with traditionally published ones to try and raise the quality bar.
  • Indie Book Collective members have mentioned a 2012 initiative in this vein, though no details are out yet.

My comment on last week’s Ether post was we’re through our teen rebellion phase and heading off to college. Depending on what genre you write, quality can have a different definition, or at least a different bar to clear. Still, there is a segment within the indie author community that realizes for this to be viable long-term, we need to make sure our books are at least as good as anything the traditional publishing houses are producing. That’s what it’s going to take to offset all the people who think indies are just a new version of vanity press desperation. (Don’t believe me? Check out Amazon’s Kindle Boards. It can get vicious over there.)

What does that mean? We need, as authors, to find good developmental editors. Contracting for copy editing, book covers and proofreading services all are fairly easy to find, and fairly standardized skill sets. But finding content editors, beta readers and critique partners/groups can be more difficult. We also need to find review channels that will consider indie books, such as Reader Unboxed. I love what Kathleen and Therese are doing there because they’re putting indie and traditional publishing side-by-side and letting the work stand or fall on its own merits. That’s the only way we, as authors, can get that reputation for quality is if we’re willing to hold ourselves (and let others hold us) to the same standard.

And part of it might mean adjusting expectations for output and for price. Going through editing and revisions takes time, as does writing well. Backlist is key to sales for indies, but unless you’re coming from a traditional publishing background, it’s going to take a while to build that backlist. That means patience. Lots of patience. Pricing is another challenge — some authors are now choosing to sell at a higher price because they think it signals to readers that the book is of higher quality. That’s different than the conventional wisdom that the way to indie success is 99-cent pricing.

2012 looks to be the year that the indie author community starts stratifying based on some of these issues. I’d like to think the quality writers will be the ones to find success — though we can only hope to see even half as good a run as Robert did — but there are so many other factors at play that nothing is for certain. That said, visibility is certainly one of the biggest hurdles for all indies. Getting recognized for quality is connected to how many people see your books.

So, to highlight some of the indie authors who are focusing on quality, which comes at the expense of quantity, I’ll be interviewing authors and posting them here. Hopefully, as with Robert’s insightful comments, we authors can all learn something about self-publishing our work and doing it well, and readers will get a chance to discover new authors who they can count on to produce good books. Stay tuned for first interview, probably in late January. And if you’ve read an indie book that you think falls into this category, email me at or leave a note in comments. Authors, please don’t suggest yourself or ask your friends to do it. It’s tempting, but I think it defeats the purpose.

15 Comments on “Indie Authors Turn Focus To Quality”

    1. Thanks, Roz! Here’s hoping. *crosses fingers* That’s one reason I’m starting the interview series – to highlight the folks doing it right for readers and hopefully give us authors people to learn from.

  1. You raise a valid point. It took almost 18 months to really learn the ins and outs of indie publishing. I view 2012 as the year of the book for me, where I shift my focus from getting my publishing company running to going back to writing. I view the ACX audio model, where you pay top dollar to get your book produced as a solid template to use for eBook publishing. The mindset to have is to realize that the eBook will be out there forever, so it’s smart to do it right from the start.

    1. Thanks, Bob. I’ve been hearing a lot about ACX, but haven’t checked them out yet. And yes, good mindset to have. I see a lot of “I can always fix it later” approach, and I think that discounts the negative longterm effects of making a bad first impression. Most writers’ first novels are in a drawer someplace for a reason.

  2. Very insightful post, and one which I think holds a lot of wisdom for those of us “newbies” who are hoping to break into the market in the coming year.

    Thank you for the time you put into this!

    1. Thanks, Vince. You also should check out the interview I did with Robert Bidinotto a few weeks ago – he has lots to offer that’s contradictory to some of the indie conventional wisdom.

  3. The best novel I read last year–indie or otherwise–was Martin Lastrapes’ Inside the Outside. It’s a literary horror novel that is an absolute stunner in terms of quality.

  4. Great post! You make a lot of good points.

    As I mentioned on twitter, I went from ignoring indie books because of iffy quality, to spending maybe 40% of my purchasing dollars on Indie. I never thought I’d consider self publishing, and yet I released my first book last month. I’m just not as enthusiastic about getting more work to my traditional publisher these days, despite their stellar editing/cover art. My indie editor and I just get each other on a different level.

    1. I’m another one who never considered it, but as you know, I decided for a lot of reasons it was the logical choice with this series at this point in time. I’ll be curious to see how things continue to develop as this alternate path matures.

  5. I’ve read a few terrific self published YA books lately.

    Red by Cait Nolan
    Open Minds by Susan Kaye Quinn
    Become by Ali Cross

    The stories, the writing were terrific. I was impressed.

  6. When my writing partner and I started our book we set an arbitrary end date. By the time we reached it, we knew we would be going well beyond it if we wanted to put out something we were proud of. And man did we fly past it. 🙂

    But now that we are published, taking the time to sit down with our beta readers and hash out the problems and reading the final draft a dozen times looking for errors (I’m sure there are still one or two typo’s in there somewhere, but you have to quit sometime) seems well worth it. I am so happy we didn’t stick to that date.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Petra – definitely been there! My current book’s been like that for a bunch of reasons, but I know it will be worth it when it’s done. One thing I also learned with Thrown Out was how important it was to leave time between when it was done and when I published it to leave time to send out ARCs, etc. I already know that once All That Is Necessary is done, the pub date will be 2-3 months after that for that reason.

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