No, I’m not talking about the movie that came out recently; The Purge. I haven’t seen it. And not just because scary movies aren’t cool to watch when you live alone where every shadow tries to kill you after said movie. Okay, mostly for that reason.
Um, nope. Not watching that.
I’m talking about surviving a different sort of purge. There has been some talk among writers in the indie world that a great purge is coming. A cleansing of the market of indie books. A cleaning readers sorely need.
When I started writing back in 2010, the indie market was fairly new. Vanity Presses like Createspace were considered a pathetic way to get published, but I still did it. I sent out a fair share of queries, don’t get me wrong. I just felt I had a story worth sharing and didn’t want to wait around for some person behind a desk to find me, so I swallowed the Kool-aid and hit publish.
Nowadays, being self-published is common place. Even some big names opt to go on their own and skip the middleman who wants them to change their title, get a new cover or even turn their western into sci-fi. Some indies made a fortune going it alone! Everything changed when those dollar signs showed up. Everyone wanted to be the next Amanda Hocking.
And thanks to self-publishing, they could try their hand at it. Money could be made! Fame obtained! “It worked for her, it will work for me!” became the mindset.
A great flood of ‘writers’ emerged. I place the word writer in quotes because not everyone who self-publishes a book really deserves that title. If you’ve read any of these ‘writer’s’ work then you know what I mean.
Now, I’m not trying to say that my work is any better than those ‘writers,’ in fact, for some, my style is probably the worst shit they’ve ever laid eyes on. I am not a perfect writer. I haven’t been doing it that long. Hell, I wrote PULLED before I ever took a writing class or read anything besides children’s books to my kids at night. Since PULLED came out, I’ve gotten my Masters in Literary Education, written four novels, tons of short stories, read a small library of books about the craft and have committed myself to the art in the same way I pursued theatre when I was in college; with everything I have.
The Great Purge (as I understand it) is that readers, who have had to endure the tidal wave of shit authors these last few years, are finally growing weary of us. Readers are holding fast to those indies that have proven their worth or going back to traditionally published books where the work tends to be stronger, cleaner and well edited. (Good editors in the indie world are REALLY hard to find by the way. Just as the flood of ‘writer’s came out, so too, came the flood of ‘editors.’ I know. I’ve used a few of those ‘editors.’)
The market is saturated with shit books. Visit any facebook page that does indie book promotions (and there are a ton of those, too) and you will see the mass of bodies trying to be seen. Cap locks shouting how their book is the best ever, that you NEED to buy their book. Everyone is vying for a spot on your kindle or added to your Goodreads TBR pile. I include myself in this unfortunate mix. What else can we do but hope someone will choose our work over the millions of books out there? It’s kind of sad, actually. Not only do we have to put our heart and soul on the page, but we have to ‘sell’ ourselves as well in the marketing arena. Not an easy thing for typically introverted artists to do. (The flood of PR companies for indie authors has tried to ‘help’ in this area but I’ll save that for another day)
Facebook has changed how the game is played, too. It used to be you posted something, and those that followed you saw it. Brilliant design. Now, you have to pay to play. Posts need to be boosted, there have to be enough likes or comments to reach others, things need to ‘go viral’ to be seen. Gone or the days that people who wanted to see your posts actually will. It’s hard to play a game when the rules keep changing.
I have spoken with a lot of indie authors this year. Sales are down with everyone. New releases don’t get the purchases they once used to. Bloggers (many who have turned into writers) don’t have room on their pages for your books anymore, reviewers schedules get crammed with new releases that aren’t yours. The marketing options dwindle. It leaves the struggling author in a state of utter disheartenment. Full Disclosure: When I released The ABC’s of Dee, I was actually really excited. I thought I’d done everything right. I thought people were generally excited about the release. All the feedback I got from my beta readers and Advanced Copy readers said ‘this is the one that was going to make some noise on the charts!’ I thought people were ready for a funny romantic comedy, that people wanted a good laugh. That I’d be the little book that could. I was wrong. I’ve barely moved 100 copies. Yeah. That doesn’t even come close to covering the costs that went into publishing it. I’ll be honest, I took that release pretty hard. Just ask those close to me. It’s challenging not to feel like a failure when a book you had so much faith in just falls flat.
But then I started hearing the same thing from every indie I spoke with. Their pathetic sales mirrored my own. (Unless you write erotica, sex will always sell) Update: I’ve been contacted by several Erotic authors. They too are feeling this wave. You know it’s bad if you can sell erotica!). Authors were desperate. Many were giving up. They were discouraged. I get it. I am too.
I think that may be what the purge is. This wave of too many bad books is overwhelming the market. Readers are tired of buying crap. They long for the good old days of when indie writing was at it’s best: Passionate writers who needed to share their story with you, not just make a buck off you.
I don’t think this will be a quick purge. It may take a few years to starve out those ‘writers’ who think they can vomit words on the page and get a movie deal out of it. In that process, I fear, we will lose a lot of the great indie writers, too.
There are some dark days ahead, I fear, for the indie world. The test will be to see what indies are still floating when the storm subsides. As for me, I’ll be clutching on to my life jacket, and keeping my fingers on the keyboard, waiting for the tides to finally shift.
Danielle Bannister, Author and doggie paddle extraordinaire