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”.