Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Indie Writers' Movement And "Writers' Guilds."

Yes, the emergence of the independent fiction writers' movement was a brave and promising thing...back about six years ago, when it first gained steam enough to get noticed. I was certainly pleased to become part of it. I've contributed my modest skills to it ever since, and have seldom failed to be gratified by my readers' responses.

But here we are, several years and many thousands of independently published books and stories later, and it's still mostly a promising thing, rather than a full-blooded competitor for the affections and wallets of readers. The reasons are several: inadequate attention paid to marketing, a persistent crudity of appearance in the product, and, sadly, the prevalence of low quality fiction. And those of us who've given it our hearts and our fondest creations continue to search for remedies.

No, I'm not about to back away from the indie movement. (No one in the conventional world of fiction publication would come near me, anyway.) But I keep wondering what it will take to elicit the sort of support structures -- proficient editing services; high-quality cover designers; marketing and publicity consultants; etc. -- that assist "con-pub" writers. Of course, given the greater revenues that the con-pubbies receive for their efforts, the problem might be that the supports are out there, but priced beyond the typical indie's means. That offers no relief, of course; it just sharpens the frustration.

A comment to Sarah Hoyt's latest PJ Media column speaks as plaintively about the problem as I've found to date:

Wanted 'Indie Writers Guild'!

And as a fan, let say one benie for this proposed 'Guild' would be low cost EDITING. Which is my only real quibble with 'Self Pubing'. I've lost count of the INDIES that I've bought, started and set aside unfinished because of lack of an editor (grammar/plot/character/dialog etc. weaknesses) that made reading through to the end just to much of a chore what with SO MUCH MORE on my list else to read...

So just my 2cents.

(written while attending an Indie Writers Banquet{sitting alone in front of a computer eating a bowl of Ramen})

In a bare hundred words, the commenter has accurately pinned the major faults that retard the acceptance of indie fiction by the reading public -- and in an irony beyond irony, he incorporated four spelling errors, three errors of grammar, two errors in punctuation, one badly run-on sentence, and (for lagniappe) a missing "Oxford comma." Clearly, the lack of affordable editing services is quite serious.

Mind you, there are excellent free-lance editors out there who'll happily rake your work over the coals. I've worked with one: Kelly Tomkies of Columbus, Ohio. They're thorough, they probe plot structures and character development in depth, and they express themselves unabashedly about the flaws they perceive. But they tend to charge amounts near to $1000 for a typical novel-length manuscript: an amount that, while it might not "break the bank," would certainly give the typical indie fictioneer pause, considering his prospects for revenue from his novel.

Similarly, there are excellent free-lance cover artists available as well. My favorite is Donna Casey, a.k.a. "Digital Donna," who's done most of the covers of my books. But the best of them are getting to be expensive, too.

The one area where support for indie fiction seems to be lacking is marketing and promotion, but this might be merely a flaw in my knowledge. At any rate, when it emerges, I'd expect it to be as pricey as good editing and cover design services. Supply and demand play no favorites.

An "indie writers' guild" might contribute to the solution of the editing problem, or it might not. It might become a funnel for high-quality cover-design services, or it might no. It might assist its members with their promotion and marketing efforts, or it might not. Regardless of the verdicts, it would do something else, as well -- something writers with pro-American, pro-Christian, and pro-freedom views must beware:

Robert Conquest's Second Law of Politics:
Any organization not explicitly right wing
will, over time, become left wing.

The forces that bring this about are in plain sight: Whereas righties are mainly interested in enterprise, achievement, and profit, lefties are obsessed with power over others. Therefore, when a position that offers power, even of the only influential or indirect sort, is created anywhere, lefties will pursue it far more ardently than righties, who mostly want *someone else* to take the role and "get the job done." In the usual case, a little time is all it will take for the control of the organization to pass to left-wingers, with all that entails.

We can easily see this dynamic operating in the conventional publishing industry. Hell's bells, I could show you examples from suburban critique groups! So a formally organized "indie writers' guild" would be vulnerable to it, as well.

The only approach that doesn't open itself to left-wing corruption is the smallest and most intimate of all: a small, closed "mutual assistance circle," in which all the members know one another and agree on moral, ethical, and political fundamentals, and to which no stranger is ever admitted. The members must bind themselves -- morally, at least -- to perform mutual critiquing and editing, to assist with cover concepts and design, to perform "mutually assured pimping," and other generally helpful chores on request.

Even this approach has drawbacks. For example, when one member is much more proficient, or much more successful, than the others, the asymmetry can cause considerable tension. But at least it's armored against being suborned by persons with a toxic agenda.

At any rate, the problems will persist as we search for alternate approaches. But so will indie fiction. As Sarah Hoyt points out in her Book Plug Friday column, the sense of freedom is inexpressibly valuable to those of us with stories to tell. It's especially important to those of us with relatives, friends, and neighbors whose ears are already callused over from listening to us.

Apropos of which, all my drivel over at Smashwords is free of charge until the end of July. If you appreciate the gesture, why not toss one or two of my novels a nice review? Thanks.

1 comment:

Dystopic said...

Very poignant. My writing is not yet up to the level of any sort of publishing. Someday I hope that will change and, invariably, I will need help with the editing. It would be nice to know where I could turn.

The rot in this industry goes deeper than Left-wing organizations, however. There is no where for me to turn for advice from fellow writers. All the organizations I have seen that exist for the purpose of helping burgeoning writers is more or less subverted with Leftists. I don't trust anything they say and, indeed, am more apt to do exactly the opposite of what they suggest. It would be nice to see a sort of entity similar in original mission (not just editing) to the SFWA, but with an explicit Right-wing/Libertarian focus.