Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Disparaging of Indie Authors and Why it is Dead Wrong

Author is a fancy word for storyteller and storytellers have been around since before the written word. In no time in our history as a species have we ever before claimed that storytellers can only be those of the most educated and perfect at their craft. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Stories have been carved into trees, painted on cave walls, printed on bone and bamboo, etched into clay tablets, inked onto skins, and finally written on paper. Even while all this was happening stories were still be told orally in the market, around campfires, around the dinner tables and the family hearths, and in small gatherings after church. In fact, storytellers have been so intrinsically woven into our culture we have developed a multitude of words to describe them; bards, gossips, teachers, historians, singers, preachers, writers, poets, wise men, and even liars.

It is true that until recent modern times, and even now in developing countries, only the most educated were able to write at all, let alone to write proficiently enough to produce novels. Even as publishing came into own in the early 21st century, most people in developed countries were only educated to an eighth grade level. Now almost all people in developed countries are skilled enough to write, or type as you will. Among those who are, there is an entire gambit of skill levels with both the weaving of tales and the elegant usage of grammar and punctuation.

At what point did someone decree that only those most proficient at both the weaving of a tale and the editing of their work should be allowed to tell stories in book form? Is there a new law written that I was unaware of in existence? Did the Angels come down from heaven and sing this truth into human hearts? Perhaps it is simply that some publishers and their contracted authors are upset that their bookstore and internet ranking is being cluttered by independent authors telling their own tales?
Storytellers have never been restricted to the most educated. Even my Great Grandmother with her broken English told stories worth hearing while she crocheted on her back porch. I assure you those stories were worth more than $4.99 and I would have paid that, had she asked. She wasn’t polished, but that doesn’t mean her stories didn’t have flavor and value. It doesn’t mean her stories didn’t entertain and enrich my life.

The only real problem I see with Indie Authors is when a reader expects polish and doesn’t get it. They expect polish because in recent history published books have been screened, revised, and shined up to gleam like gold perfection.

I see two ways to solve this problem. The first is that the reader simply look to see if the author and publisher are one and the same. If so, they should beware. They may get a tale written by a master story weaver, or they may get a folktale written by a common hand. Remember, Indie Author is short for Independent Author, not Unskilled Author. The second way, the option I prefer, is that independent rating agencies come into common existence that will rate an Indie Author’s work against a couple of different aspects; such as plot, character development, voice, grammar and punctuation, formatting, etc. That rating could be displayed on the work when it is sold. The Indie Author would have the opportunity to share their story and the reader would understand what they are getting for their money. This would also be an excellent way for the Indie Author to get an unbiased opinion of their work prior to the market place so they can decide if they are ready to publish or if another revision is necessary.

Just remember, we are all storytellers in our own way.


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