[UPDATED: See the ETA comment in the second item.]
The Year of the Indie is not going terribly well, as a group of self-published authors continues to infuriate readers and make sensible, grown-up authors look bad by association. The VM would like to remind you that generalizations from an unscientific sample are never a good idea. Support your sane, competent indie author!
First up, the Lendink mess continues to reverberate. Lendink looks as if it’s gone for good, but the damage to small-pub and self-pubbed authors continues, most of it self-inflicted. I think the things I find most depressing are the extent to which authors do not read the contracts they sign and the latent hostility some authors have to any kind of lending, of any book format. There are a boatload of links out there on the topic, but if you start with these two and follow the links, you should get the highlights. Here is A. B. Dada’s takedown of authors who went after Lendink, complete with naming, shaming, and screencaps of bad behavior. Many defamatory, patently untrue comments IN CAPSLOCK. Lots of yelling there. The comments are essential reading, even though they are loooong:
Many Indie Authors feel the same way, that sites like LendInk should not be there. Problem is most of us have no idea to get rid of them. There are TOO MANY FREE books floating around right now, the last thing we need is a pile of “lending” sites. Do you think the people running these sites give a damn about anything other than putting money in their pockets? No. The biggest argument I have heard is that the site owner’s largest income is gone. And? What about the income due to the author? I commend every single author who fought for us and won. WON.
At the other extreme is the always calm and rational Nate the Great at The Digital Reader. Nate posted twice about the Lendink meltdown. The first post has a comment from Dale Porter, who ran Lendink, and the second post has a must-read comment from Mark Coker of Smashwords:
Over the last four years, here at Smashwords we’ve faced probably hundreds if not thousands of mini-panics, many of which might have developed into raving angry mobs as developed around this one had we not taken steps to diffuse them. For example, dozens of times we’ve had authors claim illegal copies of their books were being distributed by our retail partners, simply because the author didn’t realize we were a distributor (!!). Dozens of times authors have accused of us withholding their payments, only to discover their mailing address changed, or the gave us the wrong PayPal address. Dozens of times, our retail partners have been accused of under-reporting sales (“surely, my book couldn’t be selling so poorly” is the common refrain).
As a student of collective action, watching this has been fascinating. As a reader and reviewer, it’s beyond disheartening.
Second, one of my favorite bloggers, jmc, has perfectly expressed my thoughts about bad editing and authorial responsibility for it in her latest post. I’ve written before that customers are not beta-readers, but some authors and and their fans don’t quite seem to believe me. Go read the whole thing, but here’s a snippet:
An author cannot afford an editor? I cannot take that claim seriously. In fact, I call foul on it: even if a wannabe author can’t pony up the cash for a professional editor, he or she can and should have a circle of partners/readers who are capable of catching at minimum problems like punctuation misuse, homophone errors, etc. An aspiring author who has made no effort to acquire something like a critique group or professional support network has bigger problems than a bad review, and probably should be questioning their professional strategy. An author who “cannot afford” an editor is an author who is saying that she is not interested in investing in her work and should not be attempting to publish.
I’m trying to write a post on the distinction between professional and amateur in this context. It’s hard to do without it devolving into a total rant.
ETA: Oh, here we go. A self-published author took offense at jmc’s comments and posted a long self-justification for multiple copies (check the trackbacks to this post). jmc’s futher thoughts on the issue are here.
Third, NPR continues to try and encapsulate the great variety of novels we read and love in another top 100 list, this time YA. Since I don’t read much YA and rarely listen to NPR, I was blissfully unaware of their efforts until I saw some blogs about it. Among the usual disagreements with the choices, this observation at Shakesville stood out:
Voted on by NPR readers/listeners from a list of 1200 nominations, also audience-submitted, the list is loaded with amazing writing—amazing writing about white protagonists. Only two—yes, two—books on the list are written about main characters of color: House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
The next time you wonder why POC readers and authors are angry and cynical about their representation within genre and literary fiction, think about this list. As a teenager in the US decades ago, I didn’t expect most books to have characters that looked like me or shared my background. But today? There’s no excuse.
Finally, to end on a happier note: thanks to London, Great Britain, the athletes, and everyone who made the 2012 Olympics a joy to watch. Even NBC couldn’t ruin the sheer pleasure of seeing young men and women succeed after years of hard work and often obscurity. The finals of the 10-meter diving competition were unbelievable. Every single diver performed at a high level, and to medal they had to dive almost flawlessly. The gold medalist from Beijing, Matt Mitcham, didn’t make the finals this time. But what a terrific athlete and human being he is. Here is a feature NBC did on Mitcham, in which he talks about diving, being gay, depression, and his mum. Go ahead, watch it and then tell me it was just something in your eye. Even NBC can get it right once in a while.