When I Find Myself In Times of Trouble …

Recent weeks, months even, have brought much controversy and angst to the Indie writers’ world. It has brought a whole new meaning to the term ‘sturm und drang’. Conversations on posts, Facebook, Twitter and other social media abound with laments, anger, anxiety and cries of ‘foul’.

Penguin buys AuthorHouse, proclaiming its intention to offer the services AuthorHouse had always offered, raising the issue of vanity publishing, scams that rip off naïve new writers and questions about the integrity of the parent company.

We discussed the furor over sock puppets and paid reviews from those who never even read the books they claim to review.

Then we discover that reviews, honest ones, written by authors on books other authors have written have been removed by Amazon. Their explanation has raised the ire of most of us. The major thrust of that being that Amazon will not allow posting of reviews by anyone that could be seen as in competition with each other. They will not offer any rationale beyond that, in spite of countless queries and protests. This issue has caused the greatest outcry because we rely on reviews to boost the profile of our books and to give readers an idea of what to expect. This led to a discussion of whether reviews even make a difference – a debate that has no resolution.

We decry the changes to the KDP Select program, and fear that these changes are aimed at holding back self-published authors. We ask each other about conspiracies against Indies.

Another in this onslaught was the announcement that Simon & Schuster will also be offering the ‘self-publishing’ services of AuthorHouse, refueling the outrage against ‘vanity publishers’, a long list among which AuthorHouse ranks among the least trusted.
Just as I write this, we learn that Barnes and Noble has acquired Fictionwise and that operations there are winding down – another blow to Indies who have published and distributed through them.

Who knows where the next piece of bad news will come from?

These events have all arisen within a relatively short, recent span of time. We have not had the opportunity to get over one before the next one hit us. The result has been heightened anxiety, anger and controversy among Indie writers. I daresay some have succumbed to depression and fatalism. The overall mood is dark and full of negativism.

We are left with many questions and no answers. None of us can predict where this trend will lead. We have no idea where the publishing industry is headed. As individuals we have no control over these events.

What do we do with all this negative energy? How do we deal with the anxiety?

Since we cannot affect any influence upon the Big Six or Amazon I believe there are only two positive options open to us. To some they may be obvious, but I believe that in the face of so much uncertainty many of us lose sight of them.

First, we must continue to write. We must write good books, well edited, carefully formatted, with interesting professional-looking covers, titles that grab readers and at prices that we believe readers will agree to pay.

Secondly, we must continue to support each other, to network together, to offer each other opinions, information and leads. We must promote each other and offer tips when we find them. We must find encouragement and strength from that mutual support. Few of us can achieve our dream alone. Together, while it will take time and sustained effort, we can – and we will.

Author: Yvonne Hertzberger

Yvonne Hertzberger is a native of the Netherlands who immigrated to Canada in 1950. She is an alumna of The University of Waterloo, with degrees in psychology and Sociology. Her Fantasy trilogy, ‘Earth’s Pendulum’ has been well received. Learn more about Yvonne at her blog and her Amazon author page.

35 thoughts on “When I Find Myself In Times of Trouble …”

  1. Good Morning Yvonne,

    You have made excellent pointw which ALL Indie Authors need to know. Your suggested solutions are right on point.

    I am an Author who BUYS a lot of books (Print & Kindle) through Amazon and B&N. I REVIEW the books I BUY and READ. I DO NOT do this for any compensation or barter of reviews of my books. I do it because I LIKE the books I buy. If I do not like a book and could honestly award less than 3 Stars, I opt not to post a review. Fortunately for me, I have found the majority of the books to be well worth the price and the time to read and review. I have not seen any of my reviews pulled by Amazon.

    Keep up the good work, Yvonne.

    1. Thank you so much Michael. That is good to hear. I buy more books than I read – not because I don’t want to but because I need 48 hour days to read them all. You know what they say about good intentions …lol

  2. Just the perfect read for a Monday morning when we’re all trying to take advantage of the holiday buying season (and some of us getting nowhere!) Thank you for the reminder, writing is the thing, and the great readers out there.

  3. Good stuff! A little anecdotal story regarding the “Review Thing.” I have helped many author friends, most of whom I’ve never met, with getting their books published. Some I charge a nominal fee, some I don’t charge at all (it all depends upon their circumstances). Anyway, I helped a very ill friend realize his dream of publishing a collection of fly fishing stories, for which I received no renumeration. I did the book design and layout, and designed the cover as well (for which I received credit in the listing). When I published a review initially, it went live and stayed there for several months. Then, when the Amazon “purge” began, the review disappeared. I inquired and was given the stock answer about why certain reviews are removed. I explained that I had not been compensated and was told to re-post the review with a disclaimer that I had not been compensated. I did exactly that…and the review was not accepted. I tried several different versions of disclaimer, but to no avail.
    Last week, I actually purchased a Kindle edition for $3.49 so that I could post the review as a “Amazon Verified Purchaser.” Surprise, surprise; they still wouldn’t accept the review.
    Here is where it gets interesting.
    A few days ago, I received an email from Amazon noting my Kindle purchase of the book that urged me to review my purchase. So, of course, sensing victory, I did just that: posted the review. Fuggeddaboutit! They still wouldn’t post it. So, I ask you: What’s a review writer to do? I give up.

  4. Thanks Yvonne for a great post!
    With what’s happening to Indies, what’s an author to do? Perhaps we should bind together, pull our talents, and become the next Amazon or 7th big publisher? After all many of us (who aren’t computer savvy) pay an accepted fee to have our books published and edited, why can’t we form our own honest, publishing and online company? I know it’s too much to ask for, but didn’t we go it alone as Indies in the first place. Perhaps, it’s time for Indies to move to the next level?

    1. I’m sure you are not the only one with those thoughts. Who knows, someone may take up the torch. The problem is that writers are not strong business people (that’s a generalization but you know what I mean). Is there anyone out there?

  5. Good post, Yvonne. I plan to do exactly what you suggest — just keep writing — while waiting for things to shake out.

    I also like the advice I’ve been seeing elsewhere: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If Amazon is becoming less hospitable to indies, and if KDP Select is played out for us, then we ought to be taking our books elsewhere. Smashwords, B&N’s PubIt (which just became available in the UK, I understand), and Kobo’s Writing Life are other avenues open to us.

  6. Great post, Yvonne! I can’t help but think of Dory in Finding Nemo singing “just keep swimming,” only substituted with “just keep writing,” of course :).

  7. Great post, Yvonne, and right on the mark. The status quo sometimes angers me, sometimes upsets me, but always rallies me: ‘they cannot stop an idea who’s time has come!’

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