Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Raw Independent

I've been reading a few indie authors recently, having picked up their books cheaply or for free on Amazon, and had a moment of clarity that hit me like a brick. Once I'd wiped the blood off my face I realised just how good many indie authors are.

Take a look at any book published by an independent author and you'll see quite a few spelling mistakes, more than you'd expect in a traditionally published work. Not that trad publishing is immune from it, for despite hours of work from editors, authors, copy editors and proofreaders, they still creep in and can be there 20 years later after several more revisions.

But what trad publishing loses in all its polish is the rawness of good, unfettered writing. Two recent indie books highlight this well. The first one is 'The Laikanist Times' by Dylan Orchard. While reading it I noticed a few mistakes, and areas that could be expanded, but then it hit me: it's much better without all that additional material. The book is pure character and plot, with some worldbuilding, but very little of the exposition and finely detailed scene setting that comes with a traditional book.The author's voice comes through loud and clear without being interfered with by agents and publishers whose minds seem solely to be on money.

There is one argument used by traditional publishers that they provide what the people want, and that people want a high level of detail, pages and pages of description about the length of a field and how to triangulate a phone signal. Do you?

Character insights, yes. Plot details yes. But do we really want to know that one building is sixteen centuries old while the one next door is only twenty years old, followed by a comparison of their architectural merits?

The current trad book I'm reading is In Dark Service by Stephen Hunt. Good story, too much detail. I don't really need to know, over three pages, how much steel had to be mined to build the vast ship the slaves are on and how little the rest of planet has in comparison.

Think back on the last book you read, then consider how many times you wanted to skip a few pages and get back to the people and the story. How much wastage was there in the book that the editor/author/agent etc added in to pad it out to 100k words or more? Then think back to the birth of the paperback and how small those books were, how few words. Kinglsey Amis' Lucky Jim; Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451; PG Wodehouse; Agatha Christie. How many of those books run to the high levels of detail that we read today?

A second indie book, 'Joe Average' by Duncan MacMaster, reinforced my thinking. While reading it, I found myself ignoring the mistakes altogether and concentrating on the story. It was great. No padding, no extraneous detail, just people and plot.

In short, traditional publishing has polished the life out of many writers, adding in bits and pieces that they believe people want in order to make the book sell. But do we, the readers, really want that? Or do we just want a good story, well told.

Here's a tip. I went on Amazon and looked for books that no one had reviewed and downloaded them and have so far been pleasantly surprised. Why don't you take a chance on an indie author and discover if there's something you've been missing. You may be pleasantly surprised.

There are two other indie authors I can recommend, whose books I have enjoyed. Lisa Shafer and Milo Fowler. Their books are also available for download and, if you want, in printed form too. {start shameless plug} Or, could try my two. {end shameless plug}

With that, I'll take my leave of you and see you on Friday.

1 comment:

VEG said...

I agree, sometimes too much extraneous detail exists in writing, mainly, I think, because at school you're taught to dissect everything and to describe everything in excruciating detail. You end up thinking, "Shit, I haven't used nearly enough adjectives to portray this!" when it might actually be a section where detail isn't all that necessary.

I hope this made sense, because, wine.