Guest Post: Jennifer Hudock Talks About Indie Publishing Standards

Howdy Folks!

Welcome back to the blog. Today I have a guest post by author Jennifer Hudock. She gets to express her opinions about the current indie/ebook publishing boom and some of the pitfalls that come with such an open process. I gotta say I agree with her on this. I’ll talk a little after her post about my thoughts on this and an interesting question I have.

So kick back and enjoy!

Jennifer Hudock is an indy author, podcaster and editor from Northern Central Pennsylvania. You can check out her first full-length dark fantasy novel, The Goblin Market, on Amazon and Smashwords. For more information visit her official website: The Inner Bean.

Find her website HERE
Her Amazon fiction is HERE
Smashwords fiction is HERE

Click those links and have at it!

From Jennifer:

“The world is changing. I feel it in the earth. I feel it in the water. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is forgotten; for none now live who remember it…”—Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring film adaptation

As I was stealing that quote from Lord of the Rings, all I could think about was how fast the publishing industry is changing. There very well may come a day when the children of our grandchildren don’t remember those rectangular things made of paper that you and I call books, though they may still read on their portable electronic gadgets. For all I know, by that time they’ll plug something into the back of their head and download Moby Dick into their brain.

Which brings me to my future conspiracy nightmare… I worry that they won’t read good (poor grammar intended.)

Thanks to the Internet we are now connected to nearly every humming hub in the world. We download everything from movies and music to magazines and books, and those same humming hubs allow us to share our creative work with a universal audience.

As an independent author who has chosen to publish her work outside the confines of “big publishing” I feel responsible for the readers of tomorrow.

A lot of authors are taking the fate of their work into their own hands, and some are just putting their words out there without so much as a self-imposed proofread, much less the careful eye of an editor or beta reader. Some of those authors are even making a killing selling their independently published books in print and electronic format because the subject material is appealing to young reading audiences, even though some of the writing itself is subpar.

We get excited as writers. We finish a novel or story and because we wrote with the gleeful intent of sharing it with readers, our first instinct is to throw it out into the world without another thought. Maybe there are plot inconsistencies (cough—Charlaine Harris,) or long passages fraught with poorly written sentences and even worse grammar. I realize that using Charlaine Harris in my parenthetical cough doesn’t apply because she publishes traditionally at this point in her career, but big publishing set a standard of mediocrity that independent authors need to break.

Indy publishing has had a bad reputation for a long time. You tell someone you self-published your novel and they laugh at you. They may even say you’re not really an author and your books don’t count, but as independent authors we have a duty to our readers. We can up our standards, spend the extra time proofreading our work, hire an editor to help clean up your work and take a stand to prove that indy authors are just as good as, and some cases maybe even better than traditionally published authors.

I’m not perfect, but I know I owe my readers more than poorly strewn together sentences. I owe them more than bad grammar and missing punctuation, n3tsp34K and truncated phrases like “Late!” reminiscent of yesteryear’s “See you later.” And I know I owe not just the readers of tomorrow, but the writers too. By taking the initiative to ensure that our work is the absolute best it can be before we put it out into the world, we set an example for the writers who follow in our footsteps.

From Jake:

Thanks, Jenny! Great stuff, really.

As a writer I agree with this 100%. The more crud put out there the harder it will be for those of us that really work at our craft to gain a professional reputation within the writing community as a whole. She’s right on with this.

But, I have to wonder about something. After years of being in sales and marketing, specifically natural products/supplement sales, I have watched marketing companies cram the marketplace with “cure” supplements and basically, well, sawdust in a capsule. The interesting part of this is that there would be an initial backlash against all supplement companies when the frauds were weeded out, but then there would be a big push in sales for the good guys, the ones with ethics, morals and a right good product!

Why? Because there was publicity! But, most of all, customers aren’t total idiots. Those that hadn’t heard of a certain supplement, but needed that supplement, were now looking at the good guys’ formulas for help and relief. Without the scam companies, these folks would never have heard of some of this stuff.

So I ask, can this be applied to indie/ebook publishing as well? Can bad writing spur on a search for quality? Will quality rise to the top like cream? (Mmmm, cream…) Will the debate just bring more and more customers to the ebook marketplace?

I don’t know the answer to any of this, really only time will tell. Can’t wait to find out, though!

Thanks everyone and be sure to check out all of Jennifer’s links. In fact, let me post them again:

Find her website HERE
Her Amazon fiction is HERE
Smashwords fiction is HERE


Posted on February 1, 2011, in What's Up.... and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I have to agree with most of this, if not all. But even n3Tsp3@k and current slang have their place, if it enhances the story rather than detracts.

    Agree completely with current publishing “standards.” Even with the supposed editing being done, I’ve found typos in nearly every paperback I’ve read in the last few years. And don’t get me started on what passes for typesetting these days. If you “get published” and still have to do all the legwork with regard to beta readers and publicity, are you ahead of the game beyond your advance?

    It’s definitely in our best interest, indy or traditional, to give our MSS a close editing scrutiny. If you’re like me, and get caught up in your own story while reading it, you can read it backwards to make typos and other clunkies stand out. Paying an editor is a scary move, but we should let someone look it over and circle any typos they stumble across.

    I guess this could boil down to: hold yourself to the same standards you’d expect from a publisher who bought your story.

    • “hold yourself to the same standards you’d expect from a publisher who bought your story.”

      This is important, very important. With the turmoil in the publishing industry, I would go so far as to say that indie authors could easily surpass publishers in quality of content and finished product someday. Gonna be fun to see!

    • I think slang and netspeak definitely have their place if they are relevant in context to the story, but I do worry that in about fifteen years the quality of fiction could be greatly affected by the “l83R” generation who reads everything on the go.

      Thanks for checking out my post! And to Jake for having me.

  2. I concur: it is all too easy to get caught up in the excitement that comes with finishing a story.
    You are the sole person who sees the work and live with it a long time, and when it’s done the natural intention is to release it for all to see the product – but the bar should be set high and we should strive to let people read the story, polished and refined until it sparkles.

    Nice guest post, Jake.

  3. Don’t worry about a little crud…it’s there to make you look good if nothing else. The problem comes when the crud overwhelms the good stuff. So you’re right, not only should authors be professional in their approach and get someone competent to edit their work, they also have a greater responsibility to put only the good stuff out there. The thing with e-publishing is that it’s always going to be easy to put a few pages of drivel up there in the hope of making some quick bucks. And if it doesn’t succeed, who cares?

    • The over all piece should certainly hit a high level of competency, but some crud within is to be expected. I’ve written three novels all over 100,000 words and I’m sure there’s a little filler in there somewhere. 😉

  4. My first podcast novel was me taking something I had written and just throwing it out into the world. For me it was an experiment and an effort to see if I could find flaws in it and to get feedback on it from my listeners. I call it a qualified success.

    For my next foray into indy publishing I will be getting feedback from beta readers and doing fair amount of editing. I think there’s wisdom in that. A lot of what you do depends on what your goals as a writer are. If you write just for the love of writing and you want to share that with the world, go for it. If you want to make a living at it then it’s advisable to get some editing help. Should you hire a pro? That’s something I’m still debating on. Nathan Lowell had some good thoughts on thought re: a cost/benefits analysis. You have to realistically think about how much money you’ll make vs how much an editor will charge you.

    What effect will a huge pile of crap have on the market? I’m not sure. As was pointed out there is a HUGE pile of crap in the traditionally published world. I’m not sure that indy publishing as a whole should or even can strive to be any different I’m not sure that something as diverse as that marketplace can do any thing as a body. As an individual, wherever you publish I think trying to be better than your competition is certainly key.

    Eventually indy publishing will lose some of its reputation. It will fall into the same category as indi music. Writers will find niche audiences. The larger audience will continue to turn up their noses except in a few notable instances. An indy will occasionally make it big. What will drive that, I believe, is not an increase in overall quality (is indy music as a whole any better than its big label counterparts?) but a decrease in the cost of consumption. It’s cheap to buy and listen to indy music. When it’s cheap to by and read indy fiction it will explode. We’re almost there.

    • I agree, Scott. With my podcast though, I see that as the first draft stage (as long as you tell your audience). Then I send to an editor, get it all fixed and polished and release the new version in ebook/print. That’s gonna be my plan from here on out.
      Price will be what distinguishes indie publishing from the big guys. As long as we control our pricing, we can keep the cost down and make it affordable and available to those that can’t pay big publishing prices.
      Thanks for the great comment! Cool stuff!

  5. I proofread my emails: correct spelling and grammar is a compulsion, but I think that if the story is great, readers care less about minor typos and odd grammar. I’ve read some beautiful stories written in strange ways.

    As a publisher, I think some self-pubbed authors become obsessed with making the perfect product, when it’s the basic premise and style which will make or break the book. I spent months editing a manuscript, paid a professional editor and had a second proofreader and still ended up with typos. Typos in my own books drive me nuts, yet no readers have commented on them. It’s in the nature of storytelling (I did an audiobook and made lippos too 😉

    I obsessed about the editing only because I was doing a traditional print run. In the world of POD and ebooks, the intelligent strategy is to limit the editing to a good final draft polish, and put it into the market to see if further polishing is justified. If it becomes a bestseller, the story earns itself some obsessing.

    The world is speeding up … I don’t think readers read every word any more. And the language is changing, becoming simpler, more compact, and flexible. The responsibility of writers is to write in a way that people understand about stories that they can care about. Protect the purity of the English language? In the words of Stephen King … fuhgedaboutid.

    As a writer, I can’t release a work until I believe it is as good as I can make it. So that’s why I have to obsess about editing it. It’s not a wise publishing strategy, it’s pride. I care too much about the story to let it go to the ball in dirty clothes.

    • Oh, I find typos in major published works all the time. It makes me grin and feel better about myself!
      I think the key is for us as writers to push ourselves to put out the best work we possibly can. As long as we set the bar high for ourselves then that’s all anyone can ask of us.

  6. As an impassioned yet imperfect editor, I am looking for statistics on how many errors/typos are acceptable in a manuscript. Never have I enjoyed comfort with numbers (in fact, when I was taking algebra I asked the teacher why the Inventor of Algebra had to mix my letters with his numbers) so I may be looking for a needle in a haystack sort of statistic. But it would be nice to compare needles with hay bits. Or hay sticks? What are individual hay things called?

    Ok, off to look in the employment section of the newspaper. Maybe I missed my true calling as a hotel housekeeper?

    • This is an easy question! The number of acceptable errors/typos in a manuscript is zero! The reality? As few as humanly possible, which is why there needs to be as many sets of eyes proofing a manuscript as possible. Everyone catches something different.

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