How can you know if a book is good before you read it? How do you know if that money you are about to spend is worth it? When you meet an author, how do you know if they are impressive? What is the “thing” that clues you in?
For generations now, we’ve been taught that it’s the big name publishers. We’ve been carefully socialized to accept that someone with a contract with a big money press is better than the “starving artist” who tries to make it even when the world is against them. We just “know” that the author with money is successful because they are “good” while the one writing from the heart must be a “joke” since they are still scraping money to buy from the dollar menu.
But what does any of that have to do with their books?
Not a damned thing. That’s the truth. Open up your kindle, look at your favorite authors, and many people will be shocked to find how many indies have snuck right in there. Tons of those books are perfectly edited, have excellent covers, and look as good, if not better than the traditionally published works which we paid three times as much to enjoy. Huh. Isn’t that weird?
And yet I do it myself. I find my gut reaction to “I’m self-published” is to think, “Oh, so you couldn’t cut it with the real publishers, eh?” Never mind that I’m technically self-published. Yes, I have my own publishing company, but I’m in charge, I make the decisions, and I hire the people to do the work. So, sure, maybe I enjoy the benefits of other people’s labor, but I’m not any better than the teenager scribbling frantically on his iphone to get his book recorded somewhere.
My point isn’t that one is better than the other. What I’m trying to say is that we’ve been trained for too long. We’ve been conditioned to think this way. The propaganda has worked, and we’ve all drunk it like the kool-aid. We’re too busy with too much stuff in our real lives, we just don’t have time to think about crap that doesn’t really matter to us, the readers – and yes, I am a reader, too.
But I’m tired of being someone else’s monkey. I’m tired of doing what I’m told. When I reach for a book, I don’t want vampires (sorry, but I’m not a fan of vampire books unless they are terrifying monsters instead of love interests). I don’t want to read about children. I don’t fit into the mainstream marketing categories. Because of this, I find I’m often dying for a good book to read. I’m struggling to find a piece of literature that will engage my brain without ticking off the top ten list of pop culture. I’m desperate for a new world, with new problems, where I can lose my daily grind and shoulder someone else’s burdens for a while. When I walk in another character’s shoes, I want them to be the kind of shoes I couldn’t wear on my own.
And my kindle is filled with indie authors who give me just that. I have books from self-published writers, small presses, and a few medium sized ones. Oddly, what I’m missing are the books from the big 5. Evidently, I don’t like them – or I’m too cheap. I honestly don’t know which. I just know what I have in my kindle, and a lot of it is GOOD. Some of these books I will read over and over again. Some have opened my eyes to new genres. Some are crap. Yeah, that always happens, but I’m ok with it, because the “wow” books outnumber the “crap” books by 10 to 1.
When I stopped worrying about who released the book and started enjoying the story, I found heaven. I still have to learn to ignore that well-trained voice screaming that a self-published author is somehow less than someone who won the book lottery, but I’m getting there. I’m learning.
You see, those decades of social conditioning aren’t holding. I’m slipping the leash. I’ve found my freedom in the words of authors who dared to take on the system. I hope every last one of them is winning.