The internet can be a pretty depressing place. Looking at sites where people can talk to each other online (forums, LinkedIn communities, Facebook groups) in particular is a sure-fire way of devastating the trust you might have in humanity.
Perhaps it’s best to avoid those places altogether, but they are able to give one some insight into people. In this case, it’s taught me that there are basically 4 types of indie writers.
1. Riders of high horses
I’m starting with the worst group (well, almost the worst group, #2 is a tad more serious): the people who think they’re somehow better than others. You know, people who, just because they have been able to put a book on the market, think they’re the new overlords of the universe. They see someone post a, shall we say, grammatically- and spellingly-challenged message, and immediately jump on them like a pack of hyenas, often spewing their contempt in a post that itself has at least one blatant error (but of course, since they’re Important Book Novelist Writer People®, they’re absolutely right to do so).
So, you wrote a book. What should I do, kneel and kiss your feet? Look, I know it’s quite an achievement to write and publish a book (let alone a good book), and chances are I’ll be just as happy for you as you yourself are. But not if you’re using that “achievement” as a sword, cleaving through the masses of inferior people (who may not be able to spell as well as you do) as you ride your high horse out of the gates of Helm’s Deep.
Yes, you read that right. Many of them aren’t even writers, although they’re good at writing ads for their own company. These are the people who will gladly pop up in any sort of discussion thread to kindly offer their services (but you don’t have to use them, it’s okay if you don’t, but in case you should, I’ll just leave my site URL, e-mail address, Facebook page, Twitter profile and any other relevant and irrelevant contact information here).
Do note that some people are genuinely trying to help (other) indie authors get published. These are the people who painstakingly design a cover, to suit the writer’s every needs. The people who spend hours organizing blog tours for their clients, the editors and proofreaders who go over the entire book with a comb that has teeth so fine that amoebae have a hard time wriggling their way through. They belong to group #4.
But the people here in group #2… they’re the swindlers. Crooks. Common thieves. They will charge hundreds, thousands of dollars to get your book published. Isn’t that awesome! Your book is getting published, hooray, and it only cost you your life’s savings! But that’s okay, you realized your dream, and it’s all right if you pay through the nose to realize your dream.
Maybe it is. But not when you could have done all that for cheap, or even for free. Getting a stock image for your cover doesn’t have to be expensive. There are free stock photography sites, such as stock.xchng, or Flickr, which also has a lot of material with a Creative Commons licence. You can get beautiful fonts cheaply, and often even free (also for commerical use!). FontSpace is my go-to place for those. And with a bit of practice, trial and error, you can format your book for both electronic and paper publishing yourself.
Actually putting your book out there is completely free. I personally use Smashwords and CreateSpace, but there are plenty of other options open to you. All free.
So think again before you jump on that opportunity the swindlers are offering you. It’s okay to hire someone to do things you can’t do well yourself, but be sensible: shop around first.
That brings me to my third group. The victims. The easy targets for the swindlers. They’re not stupid, just uneducated.
It’s very tragic when you read how good-natured people have written a book that they’re proud of, and now they’re trying to get it published. Maybe they’ve sent it to publishers and got rejected (that can happen to the best of us, and is often no indication of an author’s prowess). Now they’ve heard about self-publishing and want to get aboard that train too. So what do they do?
They sign up with a company from group #2, thinking to themselves, hey, that’s cheap, only 1,000 dollars (or more)! Let’s do it!
The tragedy about this is that, if someone had just told them they had other, non-bank-breaking options, they could have not only saved a lot of money, but end up with a product they’d feel much better about. Something they could truly be proud of. And that’s where group #4 comes in.
4. The rest of us
This is, I sincerely hope, the silent majority of indie writers. Those people who just go about their business, writing cool stories, publishing them now and again, reading other people’s works, being positive, sometimes leaving criticism where necessary (but always in an uplifting manner, never in the way group #1 comment on other people’s work), and are just generally really nice, appropriately humble people to get along with.
It just wouldn’t hurt if they… we… would speak up now and then. If you see a swindler commenting somewhere, call them out on their ridiculous prices. Point out that there are much cheaper (not to mention better) options out there. Avoid getting into long-winded discussions with group #1, they can only end badly. And most importantly, support the people in group #3. If you see they have that holy fire, that drive to be good and better writers, help them out! Lead them on the way that you yourself have already walked. Guide them around those stumbling blocks you tripped over on your own journey to authordom.
And finally, let’s all just get along, dear people in group #4. Let’s never become like group #1.
And if you are reading this and recognize you’re currently in group #1 or #2… it’s never too late to join us here in group #4. It’s lovely in here.