Don’t Call Me Indie.

This is not a self-pub bashing post. It’s not a post bitching about spam, or poor editing, or even responding negatively to reviewers. It’s not about the myriad of shitty books being pushed out, half-finished and cluttering our amazon page every time we go looking for a good read. Those topics have been covered about five millions times~today alone. No, this post is definitely a rant, but not about what you might think. I would say that this post is just for the writers out there, but come to think of it, it’s for readers as well. Let’s face it, the shit going down in the “indie” scene these days has just as much impact on you, the fan, reader, purchaser of our work, as it does the writers themselves.

Few things irritate me as much as being referred to as an “indie writer”. I am not an indie writer. I publish through small press. Ten years ago, I would’ve been considered an indie writer, but these days that term refers to the self publishing set, of which I am not a member. Many of my friends are self-pubbers and I belong to a ton of facebook groups that are full of them. I have nothing against self publishing. Do what you want. I don’t judge. So though I do intend for this post to rile people, I hope that it will be for the right reasons. There are some shitty practices afoot in the indie publishing scene and it’s high time someone answered for them.

We’ll start with the “liking and tagging” parties. These aren’t really a big deal and are pretty harmless. I have had a peek at the process and find it tedious and without benefit, but hey, whatever floats your boat. I highly doubt that anyone has ever purchased a book based on the number of “likes” it has, but if you have the extra time, knock yourself out buttercup. Just don’t expect me to join in.

BUT, it has recently been brought to my attention that there are authors out there that actually pay companies for 5 star reviews. Are you fucking kidding me? Seriously? What kind of dishonest bastard does that? Forget how unscrupulous it is for a company to offer such a service, but how desperate are you to use it? If your work is so unpopular that you need to hire people to leave fake 5 star reviews, it’s time to hang it up. You are not a writer. You are a hack. You should be ashamed of yourself and your desperation.

Wait, it gets better. I recently found a writer’s group on facebook that made my blood boil. Alongside the usual “liking and tagging” functions (like I said, harmless) they also get together to give each other reviews. This alone is not uncommon, indies have been trading reviews for many years now (something I don’t agree with unless the reviews are honest), but let me share with you their mission statement:

NOTE: To take part in the REVIEW EXCHANGE, upload a preview of your book the files section of the group. Be sure to post the URL to your books amazon page as the first comment after you upload your file. THEN, start reading other authors previews and do reviews for them. If you can’t do a 5 star review, don’t do one. We want 5 good reviews for each author to help add credibility to their book.

WHAT?! Once again, are you fucking kidding ME? A five star review off of 3 freaking chapters? Seriously, how can you possibly judge a book after only 3 chapters? And only 5 star reviews? Let me pick out the line that actually made me choke. “We want 5 good reviews for each author to help add credibility to their book.” Oh my Lord. Credibility? Add CREDIBILITY? You people are doing just the opposite. Not only does this practice rob that book of ANY credibility, it also undermines the whole damned system. How dare you? Who do you think you are? This practice is so slimy and underhanded, not to mention it violates all the rules of reviews and Amazon. Thank God none of my friends are part of this group or use this practice. I think I would block them just on principle.

Something else I see among a large portion of the indie scene is this strange attitude that by supporting other indies, ALL indies, you are helping yourself. Well let me tell you this, you most certainly are not. The need to only read indie books is fine, it’s your prerogative. But the people who give each other inflated reviews, thinking it will somehow help them? You couldn’t be more wrong. Not only are you contributing to the death of anything meaningful or trustworthy about the review system, you are also harming yourself. If you post a bogus review and I buy that book only to discover it’s the worst pile of shit ever published, not only do I doubt your credibility, I also doubt your own ability to write. You have just ensured that I will never buy one of your books. I mean, really! If you thought that pile of offal was worthy of 5 stars, your own skills probably aren’t that great. I will admit that some of the reviews on my book are from friends. Sure. They are entitled. But I have just as many 3 and 4 stars from people I know as 5. And those people were not paid nor even asked to review it. So stop giving false reviews to help your friends. You want to help? Be honest. Tell them it sucked. They will never improve if no one tells them what is wrong. Too cowardly to tell them? Then don’t do a review at all.

Come on indies. Let get this crap straight. By being each other’s bestfriends, you are being your own worst enemy. Don’t pay for reviews, EVER. Stay away from those silly little reindeer games that require tit for tat. And for the love of God, if you can’t give an honest, critical review? Don’t do one at all. I think most of us want this indie revolution to live up to its potential. So stop sabotaging it already and taking away whatever hard-earned respect it may have gotten. This is why I won’t identify with the term “indie”. This behavior makes everyone look bad.

I almost didn’t write this post for fear of offending my many proud “indie” friends, but I figured that the good ones would know it wasn’t directed at them and the ones who participate in these practices deserve it. There’s also the chance of this causing an indie outcry against me, but I really don’t care about that. Call me a bitch. Call me a bitter person. Call me an elitist. Call me whatever you want, but until people start behaving like the professionals they aspire to be,  just don’t call me “INDIE”.

21 Responses to “Don’t Call Me Indie.”

  • I couldn’t agree more about reviews.

    Amazon’s rating system is flawed because too many writers get family and friends to post a bunch of 5 star reviews. I think they need to revamp the way the rating system works, because right now, it is essentially useless.

    My book has five or six reviews on Amazon – all done by readers, not family, not friends, but people who actually the entire thing and told people what they thought of it in their own words. The numbers are somewhat mixed; a five, a couple fours, a couple threes and a two I think, but you know what, I think that’s way better than 20 5 star reviews. They are honest, they are believable and they are trustworthy.

    To me, that’s more important than anything else right now, including a short term bump in sales that ends the second readers realize your book isn’t anywhere near as good as the reviews would suggest.

    • Exactly. I would say I am more proud of my 4 stars on Amazon than some of the 5’s. A very good friend gave me a 3 on Goodreads, and we are most certainly still friends. Thanks for the comment James!

  • The thing I love about the state of publishing right now are the choices. If you want to shoot for the big six, you can. If you would rather try and join the ranks of the small/niche publishers there are some clear advantages there. Finally, you’ve got the “indies”. I know authors who are doing a mix and I think that’s the best. There are clear disadvantages/advantages to them all. I think you hit on one of the clear disadvantages (a lack of review/notice) and on one very bad tactic some people are using to try and remedy that. I’d never pay for a review. I certainly offer my works for free to anyone who’d like to review them, but I expect honesty and have gotten my share.

    I’ve seen the liking/tagging parties. I don’t get them either, In the indie writers group I’m a part of we review one anthers’ books, but we stress that the reviews need to be honest and both parties need to understand that. We’re new so we’ll see how that goes. Personally when I review a book no matter whose it is, I give only my honest opinion, I don’t flame, but if it’s a 3 star it’s a three star and I always give constructive criticism.

    • Like I said, Scott, some people(like you) are going about things in the correct and honorable way. You are one of the people who should be most pissed about these practices. You often will get painted with the same brush. Thanks for reading!

  • Jeri:

    Most books just aren’t five star books, plain and simple. It’s like grade inflation in schools. The work is too easy and everybody passes, but what real criteria have been put forth? Without proper backing, any system is meaningless. Unfortunately, Amazon’s algorithm that ranks everything isn’t a human being!

  • Hello there. Not only am I a “proud Indie,” I am also a noob to self publishing. I take particular pride in my handling of my birth language, and am highly offended when others produce slop. Kind of snobbish for someone wanting to get somewhere, right? Well, I am a firm believer in doing something correctly, if it is worth doing at all. I have attempted to review two separate books, but had to give up and politely refuse when their grasp of language was embarrassingly lacking. I thought, “How in the world do these people make it as authors? Are readers truly that forgiving or ignorant these days?” I am a reader, and I take offense to garbage being sold as legitimate writing. Hell, that’s why I decided to give it a go myself.
    I have a few books ready to pump out, and I have learned quite a bit this Summer about promoting. I believe I am in position to make that grueling haul to mediocrity, through legitimate channels. I have a network, a couple fans, and what I believe to be quality products. Hopefully this is enough. Thanks for bringing this wholesale prostitution of our craft to my attention. My writing is not by any means perfect, but by God it is honest, as are the opinions of others regarding it.

  • CW,
    Thank you for writing the TRUTH!!! I applaud and wholeheartedly agree with you.

  • Bonnie Paulson:

    Hi C.W.
    This makes a great point. i’m both trad and self, and I don’t mind being called an indie, or a self, or a hybrid as long as author follows it. I work my tail off to produce a solid rough draft, turn it in to CPs, then revise revise revise then betas then editors then new betas before my copyeditor ever sees it – that process is just for my self-line, you know how trad processes work.
    But my point is, I’m proud of the work that I do. The last thing I want is to cheapen it by putting down more money for a review that’s not honest. Seriously? This is irritating. I work with other indie authors – to which I refer small press pub’d authors and SP authors – and I have reviewed some of their work, but I would NEVER give a dishonest review. I have given 5s, and have never given below a 3 – this is mainly that if I couldn’t at least give it an honest 3, I didn’t review it (most likely I didn’t finish reading it).
    I have a hard time understanding why anyone would want anything less than honesty regarding their book? While I learn from my CPs, my editors, my betas, and even craft classes, etc, an honest review is something that you can take with you to the next book. It’s criticism or compliment given PUBLICLY. Nothing stings worse than that and nothing can be more humbling.
    I’m proud of being an author and I support all kinds of authors. But being an author isn’t easy, so why the heck do so many do things like this that can only make it more difficult?

  • Can you give us the names of these groups so we make sure to NOT be a part of this ridiculousness? I am in several writing groups on FB and don’t want to be associated with any that stoop this low.
    Sharon 🙂

  • Thank you for expressing my feelings. My writing is a labor of love and not to be released to the reading public until I feel it is the best I can produce. I feel this is a process of learning one step at at time. I can see the growth in my second novel and trust I will continue to mature. I have managed to surround myself with a number of independent authors that I feel take just as much care in their development. I must say that you blew me away with the idea that some authors are buying 5* reviews. I would rather not have someone review my work if it is not done with honesty. How else am I going to improve? As a former art major (perhaps a million years ago) I feel constructive criticism is important. Dissect it, use it but for heaven’s sake DON’T buy it.

  • Shaqueta :):

    You really should be the whiny witch! 😉

  • I have to admit, C.W. I have paid myself for any review I have ever given you.
    I paid myself, and paid myself well.

    In all seriousness, I am thoroughly disgusted by the very idea of some skeezy half-wit wannabe (and you know the type of which I speak, C-Dub) getting ahead by payola. Unfortunately, wherever there’s a pool full of numbskull tuna, there’s bound to be sharks ready to feed. Whether it’s pay-for-play reviews, “vanity” publishers charging $10K to put your book out “professionally”, or woefully unqualified hacks making their coin by publishing half-baked stories by untrained newbies and reaping that valuable “friends & family” coinage.

    I agree with you on all accounts. Now pick your jaw up off of the floor and get back to work. XO

  • Hey C.W.,

    Breaking my self-imposed “radio silence” for this one. The title caught my attention, and I enjoyed your cut-to-the-bone honesty as always. For the most part, I agree. I also recently heard about this “pay for reviews” scandal, and I think one of the culprits was none other than self-publishing golden boy John Locke. Unfortunately, it seems like any more it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I guess until they can figure out a true logarithm, it’s going to revert back to the good old days of word of mouth. And your writing better be good if you hope to succeed.

    I’ll admit I have a hard time reviewing books by people I know (and more importantly like), but I have only read a handful of 5 star books in my life, and unfortunately, so far none of them have been indie. There is some great indie stuff out there, but I’ve yet to see a 5 star. So I try to be as honest as possible in my reviews (of everything, not just indie stuff), but even then, I am still a little softer than I could be with some. Who knows? Maybe part of it is my own fears that I don’t have much room to talk. I know my first novel isn’t a 5 star (even though I’ve been given some). Now my second novel in the works…

    Otherwise, the only thing I’d say about the “liking” parties is that I’ve heard several people say that the more likes you get on the Amazon page, the better your rankings. Not sure if it’s true, but I think that is the justification. As for the whole Facebook page liking, I honestly think it’s just a ploy by Facebook. I can’t really see how that’s going to make any difference… except for Facebook. Personally, I never look at what a friend has “liked” on their main info page. It may show up on my feed, but that’s not necessarily going to get me to go check it out, especially with the mass of shit out there that people can “like.” Of course, I’ve heard some writers say there’s rhyme and reason to it, and I haven’t really researched to find out what that is, so maybe I’m wrong.

    Not likely. But possible 🙂

    Anyway, hope you’re doing well.


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