No Room at the Inn for Indies

Sharing the shelf at an independent bookstore in NJ.

Mainstream newspapers – even struggling, mid-sized papers – seem to look at Indie authors the way the hot girls in high school looked at the manager of the football team. You’re nice, but you really don’t expect me to date you, do you?

This situation was different, I thought, because I had been the mainstream newspaper’s Washington correspondent for a decade. I didn’t want special treatment, only a look, and figured my time at the Charleston, S.C. paper would get my self-published novel into the hands of the book editor.

The book did reach editor Bill Thompson, who politely informed me that the newspaper:

–       Will not consider paperbacks, eBooks, self-published, textbooks, or children’s books.

–       Only publishes 325 reviews a year, and there are 60,000 hardcovers from “legitimate” publishers released in the U.S. alone each year, plus 250,000 paperbacks.

NO OFFENSE, BUT …

The paper’s reviewers are unpaid volunteers who “insist” on “legit” hardcovers. Thompson said this was no reflection on any individual book, “but rather on the totality of the self-publishing field, which, as a rule, has tended to produce books of grossly inferior literary quality.”

Ouch.

He added, ”To be candid, and meaning no offense, no book review editor I know (and I am a member of three different professional associations), will have anything to do with them.”

Double ouch. But Indies should know what they’re facing.

The only time mainstream papers seem interested is when a success story rises up and forces them to pay attention. This is one of the latest, from The Wall Street Journal.

Thompson says he gets 25-30 new hardcover books each day. Worse, book coverage has gone from one-half of his job to about one-sixth. That’s because the Post and Courier’s features team has shrunk from 17 people to four, and the workload hasn’t let up. “I’m getting 100 emails a day just from New York publishers. This doesn’t count the 47 local arts groups and 60 area writers I’m trying to cover.”

OLD WAYS HAVE GOTTEN RUSTY

I pushed back, saying that technology has changed the world, and newspapers clearly haven’t kept pace. The situation in Charleston is not unique. Newspapers everywhere are in trouble, which is why it strikes me as odd that execs would cling so hard to old ways that clearly aren’t working.

As Thompson struggles to do more with less, he says he’s “bombarded by self-publishing houses and their authors … That some writers of worthy books cannot get them published through conventional means is unfair and regrettable. But the fact remains our reviewers do not want them. Nor does management, for that matter.”

Declaring every Indie author unworthy seems unjust, especially when this sentiment comes from folks who are supposed to help separate worthy from unworthy, whether it’s books, politicians or pro athletes. Aren’t feature writers journalists? The Code of Ethics calls for journalists to: seek truth and report it; minimize harm; act independently, and to be accountable.

So to whom are reviewers accountable to when they won’t even consider Indie authors?

Thompson says he doesn’t have the time to separate the wheat from the chaff. “As a book review editor of 31 years, I have a critic’s mentality, and a critic’s belief in the importance of sustaining standards of excellence,” he says. “With few exceptions, self-publishing is the antithesis of this ethic.”

WHO STILL USES INK?

I see it this way: Back in the dark ages (like about five years ago), if you wanted to be an author, you’d write a book, scour the city for an agent, and, if the stars aligned, get one and sign with a big-time publisher. That’s how it worked – there was one key to the literary castle. If you didn’t get the key, and all you got to write were letters home.

If you did land an agent, he or she would need enough gumption to snag a publisher. If not, story over.

Technology has changed the game by providing a direct path to prospective readers. Screw the middleman. Tools like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have enabled writers to find cover artists, illustrators, trailers, editors, web designers, and, most importantly, readers. Sure, we’d like a newspaper review, but that’s just one of many avenues.

The trick is figuring out how to distinguish your work from the glut competing for people’s attention. It’s true that the good news is the same as the bad news – anyone can publish pretty much anything. My hope is that, as with any other product coming to market, the cream will rise.

As a former journalist, I like this. It’s got a democratic feel to it. There used to be a saying about not arguing with folks who bought ink by the barrel, meaning reporters always got the last word. Perhaps that day has passed. Is anyone still using ink?

 

 

 

82 Comments so far »

  1. Larry "FARfetched" Kollar said,

    Wrote on December 11, 2011 @ 12:30 am

    Funny, I never considered trying getting newspaper reviewers to look at my book (not quite ready for reviewers just yet), just blog-reviewers. Now I know not to bother, thanks!

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    This is a choice each author has to make individually, Larry. I for one think newspapers are morphing into something new, and we may just be able to influence how things end up. So I’m going to keep trying.

    [Reply]

  2. Rosie Cochran said,

    Wrote on December 11, 2011 @ 12:40 am

    Change worries people. They like the status quo. “No Room at the Inn for Indies” does well to show that self-publishing has taken off, causing changes that traditional publishers, and obviously the newspaper world, are not ready for. But time changes things. The “new” eventually becomes the “old and acceptable.”

    Indie writers are privileged to be part of something new, and we should embrace it. New things always meet resistance. We need to accept that fact, and continue on in spite of it. The “new” will eventually become the “old and acceptable.” Won’t it be great to be able to say we were there at the beginning, forging a new path for the writers of tomorrow? It’s not an obstacle we face. It’s a challenge. Are we up for it? I say we are!

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    I wish I could fit all that on the back of a T-shirt, Rosie! Agree 100 percent!

    [Reply]

    Rosie Cochran Reply:

    It would have to be a big T-shirt. LOL!

    [Reply]

  3. Beth Kallman Werner said,

    Wrote on December 11, 2011 @ 12:54 am

    You hit it spot-on, Steve.

    There is no doubt that newspaper editors are inundated with more content than ever before, and book review sections are shrinking. However, being overwhelmed at work is no excuse for refusing to do the job. The fact that old timers refuse to move with the changes in the publishing industry is precisely why they are being left behind.

    While I understand that standards of excellence are important (essential), and the indie publishing world has yet to determine one universal set of criteria, that is STILL no excuse to ignore some fantastic books that are coming from indie authors; nor is it an excuse to rely only on traditional houses that are frequently turning out books that insult readers’ intelligence.

    Good books are good and bad books are bad. The source is IRRELEVANT. To play it safe by sticking only with what’s familiar is not the behavior of leaders. Perhaps that’s why this guy’s 31 years may be coming to a close sooner rather than later. As he said to you, “No offense, but…”

    I agree with you, that the cream will rise. It may take some time, and there will always be stragglers who refuse to accept progress for what it is, but rest assured, those stragglers are already being left behind in more ways than one.

    Forge ahead with all you are doing. Focus on savvy promotion beyond traditional methods. As book review sections in newspapers shrink because they are unwilling or unable to keep up with demand, that demand will look elsewhere. Those sections are causing their own demise, and you, as an author, need not worry about them not supporting you, because the less they support authors, the less authors need them.

    WRITE ON.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    It all reminds me of candidates who won’t get consideration from political reporters because their campaign funds are too low, Beth. What has that wrought? A system in which congressional candidates, for instance, begin fundraising the day after they win election. I haven’t seen a story lately about how much time politicians spend raising money, but I guarantee it’s a huge chunk of the week. We need to re-think what’s important, and the self-publishing phenomenon is certainly part of it. Thanks for your comments!

    [Reply]

  4. Stephen England said,

    Wrote on December 11, 2011 @ 1:07 am

    Machiavelli once said, “the innovator makes enemies of all those who prospered under the old order”. I can’t think of a better phrase to describe legacy publishing today.
    That said, I don’t envy newspapers the task of trying to sort through indie fiction, particularly with reduced staffs. In other words,I don’t think they should close the door completely to indie books, as they are now, but understand their predicament.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    My issue, Stephen, is that they’re still trying to make the old ways fit the new order, and it’s not working. Too bad we can’t send Machiavelli to the next editorial meeting. Thanks for your comment, my friend.

    [Reply]

  5. Kate Evangelista said,

    Wrote on December 11, 2011 @ 2:02 am

    I keep reading so many success stories about indie authors, and I really feel that big changes are near. All it takes in one major shift in consciousness and the rest will follow. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Hope you’re right, Kate. But really, why does it take someone selling 400,000 copies of her book to get the attention of a mainstream paper? Good journalists are supposed to see not just down the road, but around the bend. Instead, we get, your book is the wrong color; stay out of our neighborhood. Appreciate your response!

    [Reply]

  6. Shawn said,

    Wrote on December 11, 2011 @ 2:49 am

    Steve, the attitude is not all that surprising. The old guard – newspapers and publishers – know how to play the system and snub their noses at anyone who dares to buck the system. They only take notice when people such as Hocking and Locke are grabbing readers right and left from their precious authors. Then they want to snatch them up to get in on the money.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    I’m sure that’s part of it, Shawn, but newspaper execs everywhere are also scratching their heads and trying to figure out how to reconnect with readers. I think readers are turned off by the arrogance on display when papers, for instance, declare all Indies unworthy of consideration. Somewhere along the way, newspapers decided they know what’s best. Technology has empowered readers to move on to different news and entertainment sources, creating fierce new competition that – sooner or later – will force the newspaper execs to change or pack it in. Thanks as always for your insights.

    [Reply]

  7. Barbara Briggs Ward said,

    Wrote on December 11, 2011 @ 3:50 am

    I’m right in the middle of this issue. I’m a proud Indie author who has a “day job” in the advertising department of a newspaper. I remember when this thing called the internet started to make a rumble in the background. It wasn’t taken too serious because after all, we were established. We were The Newspaper. Newspapers are now struggling to recreate themselves and stay afloat amidst all the news outlets. Publishing is changing just as drastically. Now talented authors are not at the mercy of the few.
    Seems to me this editor who dismisses Indie authors should take a look at young readers and where they go for information. Then maybe he might take a new look at Indie Authors. Those young readers are going to Indie authors at record rate. If that editor was smart he’d embrace Indie authors. Indie authors are here to stay and are only going to increase in numbers.
    The trick for newspapers is to both attract young readers and keep their traditional subscribers.
    A smart newspaper editor would hire a young, hip Indie reviewer while allowing established reviewers to review Indie titles for an older audience-because not only are young readers going to Indie authors, those establsihed readers are doing the same.
    Time for editors like this one to take the blinders off. Indie authors would definitely keep and increase readership-and that would make one heck of a headline!
    Great blog Steve!

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    I’m going to go a step further and suggest they hire you to map a strategy to keep the paper afloat! Thanks for your unique perspective, Barbara.

    [Reply]

  8. Judy Ann Davis said,

    Wrote on December 11, 2011 @ 12:14 pm

    Our local newspaper is floundering and getting thinner and thinner each day. However, the editor refuses to do any book reviews or even announcements of local authors who’ve self-published or have been published traditionally because they say that it’s free advertising for the author. Go figure! They won’t even recognize their own local talent.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Instead of looking inside the paper for answers about why it’s “getting thinner,” he or she should look harder at what’s happening in the community, Judy. That’s where he’ll find the answers. Thanks for your comment!

    [Reply]

  9. Brian said,

    Wrote on December 11, 2011 @ 5:26 pm

    Newspapers don’t have the time of day for Indies because Indies do not have the followers that known authors have and/or command if their writing and storytelling is any good. It is all about eyeballs, whether it be here on the internet or in a printed form like a newspaper because that is what pays the bills. ALL Indies need to adopt the same standards just like the traditional authors and publishing houses when it comes to having their work edited and proofread professionally, which from what I know from reading what is out there, it is not always the standard adopted by Indie authors due to the cost to have their work edited and proofread or feel that they are capable of editing and proofreading their own work. This is the brush with which we are painted with, whether your writing is good or not. It is the single, most important denominator that keeps Indies where they are. When ALL Indies finally realize that to not do so hurts everyone and keeps Indies on the fringe, that is when things will finally move towards a more positive light. Indies are only as strong as their weakest link, and that link (as is the single most common criticism about Indies), is that there are those who choose to, for whatever reason, continually publish work that is not and has not been professionally edited and proofread. As for the ability to tell a story which is both interesting and well-written that is up to the ability of the individual author and overtime, are weeded from the garden of writing. Just my opinion.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Hey, Brian, thanks for your comment, but what about self-pride and professionalism? Poorly written or edited work won’t get much further than the garage, so I’m not really worried about it. If someone is really serious, he or she will get a good editor and make sure the book and every associated post, tweet, article, press release and photo meets the highest standard. Readers aren’t dumb. That’s where I think newspapers are missing the boat. They’re dismissing a whole category of writers, but readers are still finding the good Indies, which makes the newspapers look narrow-minded and out of touch.

    [Reply]

  10. Collette Scott said,

    Wrote on December 11, 2011 @ 8:23 pm

    Oh Steve, the tried and true seems to be the safest route for the big papers. Until more Indies gain recognition it will remain a stigma, something to be avoided. As was said, change is frightening – but I’m still confident it will come sooner or later!

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Sooner, Collette, not later. Don’t you feel the momentum? Thanks for weighing in!

    [Reply]

  11. Melanie Saxton said,

    Wrote on December 11, 2011 @ 10:16 pm

    I think the old media will eventually come around, albeit kicking and screaming. The scales will tip when ebooks become so wildly popular that indie authors can’t be ignored. Newspapers have online versions and therefore have no room to throw rocks at any type of digital media. The key to indie credibility, however, is producing books that don’t distract the reader with errors, misspellings, clarity issues and the like.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Elegantly put, Melanie, and right on target. You’d think once-trailblazing papers would lead the way, however, instead of being dragged along kicking and screaming.

    [Reply]

    Melanie Saxton Reply:

    Yes, history repeats itself as the world evolves. Our ancesters had to drag the old guard into the future and we are doing the same.

    [Reply]

  12. Graham Smith said,

    Wrote on December 11, 2011 @ 10:55 pm

    I am in both camps here.
    I have been a reviewer for the well respected website http://www.crimesquad.com for over two years. Its an unpaid position that I do in my spare time.

    I have also recently tunred my hand to writing and have had one Ebook collection of short stories released with another pending and a novel part way finished which I want to see in print.

    As a reviewer my books arrive from publishers ad are handed to me by self published authors I know or have met. The number of books I read is far in excess of friends and family and yet I still have a backlog. If someone was to offer me a full time position as a reviewer I would still have a back log. Newspaper coverage of books is shrinking as their resources also shrink.

    Book reviews do not sell papers. News does! The reviews are an added feature to entice advertisers as well as readers.

    However as a writer I lament the lack of respectable review mediums. Perhaps there is a business opening for someone to establish another Kirkus style review network.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Thanks for your thoughts, Graham. For consideration: I think that just as the better self-published authors will succeed, so, too will the more serious blogger/reviewers. As this occurs, the reviewers will become known and followed, which will provide an effective vehicle for Indies to reach the public. In fact, I think this has already begun.

    [Reply]

  13. Jenny Milchman said,

    Wrote on December 12, 2011 @ 1:00 am

    I use, read, and swear by ink. However, I’ve discovered some indie gems, and would love to be steered to others by mainstream sources such as bookstores, reviews, and blurbs.

    I feel that the solution lies amongst indie authors themselves. In finding some way of doing what your editor says–separating wheat from chaff–so that the assessing bodies will know what to look at.

    I don’t know if that means setting up gate-keeping of some sort, a Good Housekeeping-type seal of approval has been suggested, or using an algorithm to assign values–something someone a lot smarter than I will figure out.

    I sympathize with the problem of having to sift through slush to find those indie gems–even though I wish like anything someone would do it.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    As Indie writers flourish, so do independent reviewers, Jenny. Perhaps that’s the answer – an organically grown network of trusted reviewers that readers will depend upon to highlight the worthiest self-published novels.

    [Reply]

  14. alex lukeman said,

    Wrote on December 12, 2011 @ 1:12 am

    Hi Steve, good blog very true. But it its definietely changing. Newspaper reviews, unless it’s the NYT, aren’t going to make a lot of difference. Or radio interviews. Or booksignings. I was ttaditionally published in non-fiction. I even got an agent for the first in my fiction series (thrillers). A senior editor at one of the big 6 said he would have gone for it, except I had no “credibility”, i.e., I was not former CIA. NSA etc. The books aren’t about spies. They are about a covert counter terrorism unit. Okay, I would have had to kill him if I told the truth. The future is Indie. The self promotion is hard. Good writing has always been hard and will remain so.
    Thanks for the blog.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Amusing story, and the message is right on point, Alex. One more observation that you allude to — Indie writers who want to succeed must be able to make a successful transition from creative writing to creative marketing (unless they have a rich uncle).

    [Reply]

  15. Ana Torres said,

    Wrote on December 12, 2011 @ 1:16 am

    Interesting I never knew how it was done in the past still a newbie to this all. And it is great to have people who already been there done that, give great advice, thank you.So I and others won’t make that mistake.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Glad you dropped in, Ana; thanks for your comment.

    [Reply]

  16. Sheryl Dunn said,

    Wrote on December 12, 2011 @ 1:23 am

    I like the idea of having an Indie reviewer, but the reason why the newspapers don’t want to review self-published books is that statistically more of them are under par. The time involved in sifting the chaff from the wheat would be daunting, to say the least.

    I’m saying this because I subscribe to BookDaily.com and receive an excerpt every day. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve read the first two paragraphs of a book, and known instantly that it was self-published.

    As for the excerpts of the published books I’ve read via BookDaily, I agree that many could be better, but on only a few occasions have I felt that the book should not have been published at all, or should have been edited more thoroughly, whereas with the self-published books, my heart has gone out to the authors who simply don’t realize that their work isn’t ready yet.

    Keep in mind that I’m not saying that all self-published books are inferior. Far from it – I’ve read wonderful self-published books, books I would have been proud to publish. I’m simply saying that, on average, books published by credible publishing firms that spend a lot of time on editing and working with their authors tend to have a higher level of writing and better structured stories (fiction.)

    Perhaps the only way to sift through the self-published books to find the good ones is exactly what happens now – the good ones, if lucky, tend to rise to the top. Unfortunately, Lady Luck doesn’t always shine, and some really good books, whether self-published or published by the majors, go unnoticed.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Sheryl, I think you’re into the proper role of the newspaper’s features department, which is evolving the same as in other departments – news, sports, etc. This is tricky business, but must be addressed if newspapers are to reconnect with readers. It also raises an interesting question, namely, will self-published writers be around longer than newspapers?

    [Reply]

  17. Julie said,

    Wrote on December 12, 2011 @ 1:43 am

    Would the newspapers be offended to know I don’t read them, either?

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    If I were the publisher of the paper, the answer would be yes, Julie. My next question would be, did you ever read the paper? If yes, I’d want to know why you stopped. Therein we might uncover the real problem and begin taking steps toward a solution.

    [Reply]

  18. Dixie Goode said,

    Wrote on December 12, 2011 @ 2:12 am

    I used to be an avid newspaper reader and now rarely ever touch one, even the local paper unless my child is pictured in it. Truth is, papers have to change and give the readers what they want or they will be obsolete, and it will have to be personal, meaningful stuff that we can’t get for free online. Good reviews of books I don’t hear of every day would catch my attention.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    I wonder where they lost touch, Dixie, and why. Mostly I wonder what it will take to make the message resonate.

    [Reply]

  19. Marie Pinschmidt said,

    Wrote on December 12, 2011 @ 2:26 am

    Interesting (and true) post and comments. Steve – and others – your best bet is to send a news release or article about your book’s availability to local newspapers of all the towns you’ve lived in where you may be remembered – particularly your hometown. This type of promotion was well received in my case, resulting in offers for book signing, etc, plus an article with photograph. We must not get discouraged because we’re self-published, but we do have to do more personal promotion. Apparently word of mouth is the single most important tactic.
    Happy writing.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Excellent advice, Marie, thanks for joining the discussion.

    [Reply]

    Elena Ornig Reply:

    Marie Pinschmidt!

    That is the best way, for sure! As a Marketer, Publisher and Writer I am totally agree due to my personal experience. The best advertising was and always will be – WORD OF MOUTH!

    My warmest regards,
    Elena Ornig

    [Reply]

  20. Larry Constantine (Lior Samson) said,

    Wrote on December 12, 2011 @ 3:15 am

    As an indie novelist (four contemporary thrillers in print), I agree with your lament over the unfairness of the newspaper reviewing policies. As a freelance journalist, I sympathize with the plight of the overworked newspaper staff. However, there are ways around this seeming impasse. (1) Turn to smaller, alternative, and free newspapers, which are often more open to independent writers and publishers, being somewhat on the fringe themselves. (2) Write reviews yourself of other indie books. I am doing a series for the Jewish Journal featuring indie authors whose books I think are worth looking at. If we become reviewers ourselves, we change the equation. (3) The late radical sociologist, Philip Slater, once said that the best way to bring about the revolution is to act as if the revolution were over. Just keep sending your books to book reviewers as if you were a “successful” writer with books from “legitimate” houses. I’ve gotten reviews from people who say they never review books from the independents, but they opened the book, started reading, and were hooked before they knew anything was amiss. In one case, the reviewer has become an avid fan.

    –Larry Constantine (pen name, Lior Samson, author of The Rosen Singularity and other thrillers)

    [Reply]

  21. JLOakley said,

    Wrote on December 12, 2011 @ 3:25 am

    I’ve been fortunate to have my book covered in my local paper. Not necessarily a review, but about the history behind the story of the CCCs in the NW 1930s. People still comment on it. Look also for independent weeklies and see if you can get coverage that way. I think it’s wrong to dismiss print. There are local flyers, newsletters where your book can get attention. I think in marketing your book, you’re going to have to start local anyway.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Sage advice, Janet. As a former political reporter, and with the primary season approaching, the Indie’s plight sometimes reminds me of the unknown presidential candidate dropping in on small coffees, Rotary club meetings and so on, trying hard to get traction. As you say and have proven, it’s entirely possible.

    [Reply]

  22. jeff vandermeer said,

    Wrote on December 12, 2011 @ 5:13 am

    Indie authors are writers published by indie presses, not self-published authors. Are you trying to appropriate this term?

    Nothing that newspaper editor said was unreasonable. The leap of illogic that somehow not allowing self-published books a chance at book reviews is killing newspapers absolutely cracks me up. Yes, book reviews have always been central to why people buy newspapers…not.

    And statistically the vast majority of self-published books suck. A small number aren’t because they slip through the cracks of indie and commercial houses. But most self-published books are still self-published not because they’re written by mis-understood geniuses but because they are at best mediocre or same-old.

    All you are saying here, basically, is because your book wasn’t considered, newspapers don’t know what they’re doing. Sigh. If I had a nickel for every writer who, slighted or overlooked, then accreted a motive or a manifesto around a benign neglect…I would be very rich.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Fair enough, Jeff, but I think you may have missed the broader point, that newspapers are doing a disservice by automatically assuming all Indie books, to use your word, “suck.” No one said newspapers are dying because they’re not reviewing self-published books. That’s just one of many examples of how papers have lost touch. If 10 candidates filed for mayor and the paper only had one political reporter, would there only be coverage for three candidates? Last, my argument with the paper is about the policy, not it’s refusal to review my book. But thanks for your comments and for joining the conversation.

    [Reply]

  23. Glenn Starkey said,

    Wrote on December 12, 2011 @ 5:19 am

    Through the years I watched as the “Houston Post” sold out to the “Houston Chronicle” and the Chronicle held a monopoly on newspapers in Houston, TX. Then, the newspapers landed in our driveways in sizes resembling small logs. As the Internet grew with its news coverages, a daily Chronicle paper began to shrink. Another factor was the cost of their advertising rates continually rising as the newspaper shrunk in size. Now there are days when the paper resembles a twig in my driveway and compares with my smalltown newspaper.

    I never tried to obtain a book review from the Chronicle because every book presented by them was from a major publishing house, and I cannot recall ever seeing an “indie” book reviewed.

    As the author of three published novels, I grow as weary as everyone in battling the marketing woes… But the hardest battle to fight is the rejection of any of my novels, without being read, simply because they are from an “indie author.”

    The major publishing houses are feeling the crunch though and being forced to revise their thinking overall about indie books. I’ve read articles lately about some of the major houses actually entering the “indie-publishing” field. Wish I had a crystal ball to see where it’s all leading to.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    The situation you describe has occurred in many cities, Glenn, and for many reasons. I canceled my hard copy subscription to the Washington Post, for example, because late ball game scores weren’t in the paper that landed on my driveway at 5 a.m. But they were available online. Why keep getting the hard copy? None of has a crystal ball. The best thing to do is keep working hard to put out the best products possible.

    [Reply]

  24. Elena Ornig said,

    Wrote on December 12, 2011 @ 5:26 am

    Hi Steve!
    You said:” I think readers are turned off by the arrogance on display when papers, for instance, declare all Indies unworthy of consideration.”
    Maybe, but the main reason for people to turning off from newspaper is the Internet. Historically, newspapers were the main medium to inform (report), to engage groups or individuals in order to form public opinion and to constitute “standards of excellence” (Thompson).
    Currently, they were outsmarted by new technological progress and their opinion is losing value because public don’t even read it, in such numbers as it used to be. Public is too busy to read blogs, browse through websites and manifest its own opinion of “standards of excellence” at Social Networks ( Facebook, Twitter, Bloggers, My Space) and so on.
    When Thompson wrote: “With few exceptions, self-publishing is the antithesis of this ethic” – he, surprisingly, forgot to take in consideration well known fact of how many excellent writers were self-published before desirable approval of ‘Mr Critic Himself’.
    Give you examples:
    “Carole Aebersold and daughters Chanda Bell and Christa Pitt self-published The Elf on the Shelf and made it into a #1 bestselling children’s book and elf set.
    Cindy Cashman, with her then partner Alan Garner, self-published Everything Men Know about Women (using the pseudonym of Dr. Alan Francis) and sold more than half a million copies of the blank book before selling rights to Andrews-McMeel.
    With the help of six friends, Betty J. Eadie self-published Embraced by the Light, which went on and became a New York Times bestseller (on the list for two years as a hardcover and paperback).
    Ted Nicholas sold $200 million worth of his self-published books before selling rights to many of his titles and retiring to Switzerland.
    David Saltzman’s parents self-published his book, The Jester Has Lost His Jingle. It made the bestseller lists.
    Craig Zirbell originally self-published The Texas Connection, a book about LBJ’s role in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Through word of mouth, he was able to sell enough books for it to make it onto the bestseller lists. He then sold mass market reprint rights to Warner Books.”
    (Read more: http://www.bookmarket.com/selfpublish-xyz.htm#ixzz1gIJax3jB)
    What I am trying to conclude here is that are ‘CRITICS’ can be ignorant as much as they want because the real true critic always was and will be ‘Mr Reader Himself’, regardless to any “ standards of excellence” constituted from ‘above’.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Steve! Always have pleasure to communicate with you!
    My warmest regards,
    Elena Ornig

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Thanks for a thoughtful addition to the dialogue, Elena. These examples should give hope and inspiration to self-publishers, and throw up a yellow flag for the mainstream media.

    [Reply]

  25. China said,

    Wrote on December 12, 2011 @ 6:41 am

    Interesting article, Steve. As an indie author myself, I have been pushing (on HuffPost Books, GoodReads etc.) for the New York Times to start a dedicated page (or at least a sidebar) for indie and POD book reviews. Once the NYT takes the lead, the local papers will follow. New York is where we all should be collectively focusing on.

    On a side note, your opening sentence doesn’t make much sense to me: we commonly say “captain” of the football team (not manager), and in fact, the hottest girls in high school DO date the jocks; it’s the geeks (and future authors) they ignore.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Great idea to focus on NY, Tom. Regarding the opening line, “manager” was intended to mean the guy who washed the uniforms and filled the water bottles, not the football team captain, who of course got the girls!

    [Reply]

  26. Cassandra Blizzard said,

    Wrote on December 12, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

    Unfortunately, it isn’t true that all Indie authors produce inferior books. The traditional publishing industry is locked up tighter than a virgin’s corset and has been for about 20 years, if not longer. If an author can’t get an agent, they can’t get a traditional publisher, and especially now, name an agent that is accepting submissions. I’ve had three agents over the course of my career, and they weren’t easy to get. I went Indie because I wanted more creative control over my work, and I hate the business model that traditional publishers use. It’s absolutely ridiculous. I don’t bother trying to get reviews from newspapers anymore because newspapers don’t get much in the way of results anymore, especially when it comes to paid advertising. However, I have been invited to give presentations and interviews without me soliciting them, and I consider this a positive sign. I think this stigma of being the Indie author will change over time. But I do believe we all need to strive to write the best we can.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    That last part is especially important, Cassandra. Nothing will help the cause more than holding ourselves to the highest possible standards.

    [Reply]

  27. Sam said,

    Wrote on December 12, 2011 @ 7:47 pm

    Great article Steve – newspapers should be hitting the drawing board on how to stay relevant in today’s information-overloaded society.

    I’ve been keeping a pulse on DC indie authors stirring up dialogue in the blogosphere and love reading your stuff.

    Keep it up!

    I read Bella in the end of the summer and loved it!

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Thanks, Sarah, much appreciated.

    [Reply]

  28. lisa nardini said,

    Wrote on December 13, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

    Great article, Steve! And Brian, I think you hit the nail on the head. I do think the biggest difference between traditionally published and indie published is the editing. Indie authors have to realize that they MUST hire a professional editor, if they want to be taken seriously. You can’t get around that and friends, family and the author don’t count as editors. There are some many excellent indie authors out there that I do think it is possible to break into mainstream. As my sister (co-writer) always says; “Self-publishing shouldn’t mean self-editing”.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Our new mantra: Self-publishing shouldn’t mean self-editing. Thanks, Lisa!

    [Reply]

  29. Julie said,

    Wrote on December 13, 2011 @ 4:43 pm

    These are all fascinating comments! In 2008 so many book reviewers were laid off from traditional newspapers because of the crash. We’ve never seen a return, because frankly, the on-line media has gotten so powerful and the ad dollars simply aren’t there to support the ink to the extent as before.

    The latest statistics I’ve seen are that 90% of readers get their recommendation from on-line sites. And, the great thing about on-line reviews (if they are good) is that they are there permanently – not a one shot deal for someone in one city to read it that day or the next.

    This business is evolving by the day. Who knows what reviews will look like or how they will be consumed 12 months from now!

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Yet another interesting perspective. Thanks, Julie!

    [Reply]

  30. Federico M said,

    Wrote on December 13, 2011 @ 4:58 pm

    The times, as Bob D wrote, they are a changin. It’s certainly true that Indie books get little or no attention from newspapers, and most editors still think of them as “vanity” publications. In fact, the shift from calling self-published books “vanity presses” to “indie publishing” is a big step upward. (See Jeff above for someone who says the term has been appropriated from Indie presses–but Jeff should understand that there are significant differences having your book published by a vanity press like Vantage and independently publishing it yourself.) There are many interesting suggestions here–the NY Times now lists lots of categories of best sellers–E books, hard cover, paperback, how to books, children’s books, etc. Maybe with some mounting pressure they might consider listing Indies as its own category. Also, someone above suggests the idea of a special column in local papers covering Indie books. But I really don’t think newspapers are going to give indies much coverage unless they break out of the pack and become successful.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Interesting, Federico, that the first quote that comes up about newspapers on thinkexist.com is from George Bernard Shaw, who said, “Newspapers are unable, seemingly to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilization.” .

    [Reply]

  31. Kate Kaynak said,

    Wrote on December 13, 2011 @ 8:57 pm

    I like the “New in Indie Books” section concept. In the end, all we can do as writers is write the best books we can, put them out there for people to read–either through one of the majors, an indie press, or self-pub. Just remember that, if one of your later books sells well, you’ll see a nice bump in the earlier, “backlist” titles, too.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Thanks for light at the end of the tunnel, Kate!

    [Reply]

  32. Emlyn Chand said,

    Wrote on December 15, 2011 @ 4:00 pm

    Hurts doesn’t it? I actually got my starts as a newspaper reviewer. I was the lead columnist for the books section in Ann Arbor. I got to review what I wanted to review, which sometimes included self-published books. They were very fair like that. Unfortunately, the book section got cut about a year ago because it just wasn’t as popular as more important sections like “pets.” Yeah, I’m serious. Maybe the general populace is becoming less literary on the whole? Very sad indeed. But, there are reviewers who will look at indies. I was one of them even before I became an indie author myself. And there is a world of talented book bloggers who offer support like you wouldn’t believe. We can only persevere and do our best to change the stigma 😀

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Emlyn knows of what she speaks. Her site offers tons of great material for writers – http://www.novelpublicity.com/

    [Reply]

  33. Maryanne Stahl said,

    Wrote on December 17, 2011 @ 2:26 am

    I was published by a mainstream New York publishing house (Penguin/Putnam) but because my novels were trade paperbacks rather than hardcovers I faced the same thing you are talking about here. It’s ridiculous–but so much about publishing is.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Hard to disagree, Maryanne; thanks for jumping in …

    [Reply]

  34. Graham Miller said,

    Wrote on December 18, 2011 @ 4:19 pm

    I just love phrases like “no offense but” for me it ranks up there with “with all due respect”. Proper weasel words that mean precisely the opposite of what they say!

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Yep, kind of undermines the argument. Thanks, Graham.

    [Reply]

  35. Carol Marlene Smithcarox said,

    Wrote on December 18, 2011 @ 7:48 pm

    There was a time when I thought being reviewed by my local paper might help me with my marketing promotions. But since my books are all e-books, I have come to the conclusion that most people who read newspapers also read print books. Otherwise they would have given up their local paper long ago and read it online. Makes sense to me.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    To get back with the times, I’d argue papers should be reviewing e-books also, Carol. Maybe one day … Thanks for your comment.

    [Reply]

  36. Barbara Sissel said,

    Wrote on December 19, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

    I was glad to run across the link for this great post through Goodreads because it expresses so much of what I’ve found to be true in my experience since e-publishing last August. I feel the industry is going to have to come around the same way as those of us have who initially resisted owning an e-reader. I was one of them, but then, as an author, I realized it was the means to finally achieve the dream of sharing my work with readers. I tried for years and managed to have one book published via the traditional channel Steve describes, but there wasn’t money for marketing and an author could do little back then to push a book on their own. Now even that is changing. As authors and readers we truly can be the masters of our fate. I admire Darcie Chan’s success and her courage and generosity in sharing her experience. It just demonstrates the potential there is now to define your own path. I think persistence is key and agree that cream rises to the top, and that it will regardless of the opinion of others who are unable to embrace the grand spirit of change. I think 2012 is going to be a banner year for indies!

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Damn, Barbara, I’ll drink to that! Beautifully said.

    [Reply]

  37. Arleen Alleman said,

    Wrote on December 19, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

    LOL. I don’t even get my news from paper newspapers any more and don’t really care about their reviews. I have received pro. reviews from online sources. I mostly realize I have little hope of any significant recognition for my books due to competition with the outrageous number of self-published books on the market (some very good, some great, some awful). I call it the rock star syndrome. Just hoping for my big break.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    The fact that you don’t even get your news from hard copy newspapers says it all, Arleen. Thanks for weighing in, and good luck with your work in the year ahead.

    [Reply]

  38. Stephanie Alexander said,

    Wrote on January 7, 2012 @ 1:22 pm

    Hi Steve! As an agented author, I still think the publishing world is completely changing right now. I chose to give the traditional route a try, but I’m so grateful that I’m writing in a time when if that does not pan out I have other options. I think of writing like any other art– if you want to put it out there, you should…and let your viewers/readers/whatever decide whether it’s worthy.

    I would caution Indie authors, however, to really learn the craft before publishing. Take classes, write ten thousand drafts, make sure you’re ready to publish. Learn to take criticism. And for the love of God, get your work professionally edited. If everyone made an attempt to stick to these rules (Indie Code of Ethics hahaha!) it would bring up the overall quality and help everyone’s cause.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Indie Code of Ethics. I like that, Stephanie. Ignore it at your own peril ….

    [Reply]

  39. Danielle said,

    Wrote on March 8, 2012 @ 12:25 am

    I am a huge supporter of Indie authors. Some of my favorite books have been written by Indie authors. It is almost like the music industry the best singers aren’t always the ones with the contract. But to be completely honest I have to go through a lot of books sometimes before I get to that great one. I recently have noticed the larger review sites backing off from reviewing Indies & self published authors.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Thanks for weighing in, Danielle. There’s an important revolution underway and it can indeed get messy at times. Ultimately I feel readers – with help from reviewers like yourself – will decide what’s worth their time.

    [Reply]

  40. Caroline Gerardo said,

    Wrote on March 29, 2012 @ 2:10 am

    Let us look at it from Alfred behind the desk of the Whatever Paper’s eyes. Alfred is doing the work of three people (as are most in America). Alfred was ordered to review/report on what the old stodgy boss thinks sells in the past.
    Work around them, provide the work send him an edited review by some author friend with copyright release images and move on. This is not a 100 meter race, it’s a lifetime marathon, get training, get better, and help each other. OR- become the World’s greatest dog and pony show author, or write a unauthorized bio of Justin Beiber. How many people are reading that newspaper?
    Find other venues for readers. Look at your book message and topic and go find them. If you wrote a book with some running scenes – go find running stores, running clubs, put your name in running group discussions about … you see whatever.
    What the stodgy newspaper owner does not understand is they stopped swimming and we are the sharks. Soon as we get enough sales that paper will be BK, Alfred will be in the trenches on twitter shouting BUY MY BOOK about his failed job at xyzpaper.

    twitter: @ cgbarbeau I’ll RT Alfred’s book if it is good.

    [Reply]

    Steve Piacente Reply:

    Bull’s-eye, Caroline. Since it won’t be long before Alfred needs a drink, I say we take him to HH and ponder the writing life. Happy birthday, and thanks for weighing in here.

    [Reply]

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