An "Indie" seal of approval? Try it on the authors!


Disclaimer:  this is not an anti-indie rant.  Spend a few minutes at my blog and you’ll realise I’m very pro-indie.  This is an anti-indies-who-feel-they-can-treat-people-like-crap rant!

I see a lot of discussions about whether or not there should be a seal of approval for indie books. Something that guarantees that the time, effort and commitment needed to produce a quality book have been lovingly put in. But after some recent events I’ve been wondering if what we actually need is an author seal of approval?

I’ve spoken to numerous people who run book blogs or set up events to promote authors, who commit time and effort to trying to help people progress and in return receive… abuse! Book bloggers who don’t accept independently or self-published books come under criticism but when you delve into why, you very often find out that it’s because they’ve received insulting and derogatory emails. People who give up time with their families or friends to develop events or promotions and just get nastiness in return.

I’d like to say it’s rare but without more than 5 seconds thought I can reel off a string of people who have been subject to this kind of rudeness: myself included. What’s my crime? Because I chose to cancel the Adopt an Indie event due to other commitments (including working a vastly increased number of hours in comparison to when the November event was running) and because I hadn’t been able to generate enough support for the event in terms of volunteering, moderation etc. Many authors had helped out greatly but others had thrown their $5 in and then assumed that everything would be done for them. In the two months between sign ups for Adopt an Indie February 2012 opening and now I have cajoled, wheedled, even practially begged for help but didn’t receive enough to make the event feasible. The low fee was to encourage people who didn’t have much of a budget to sign up and to commit their time and effort, not their money, to get the event working. It didn’t work and on New Year’s Eve I had to make a difficult decision. So, as the bells were chiming midnight and the fireworks were starting I was wrapping up Adopt an Indie. About the most horrible way to bring in the New Year I’ve had.

I spent the next few hours – as the world celebrated – processing refunds, sending emails, fielding queries. I went to bed at 5 a.m.

The next morning, I woke up to some lovely messages of support: people who knew me and knew I wouldn’t have made such a difficult decision without very good reasons. Unfortunately, I also received a very unpleasant email berating the ‘doubts’ I had apparently obviously had since the beginning and saying what an unpleasant way it was to bring in the New Year. Hah! You’re telling me.

When talking to others about this, I’ve heard about some of their horrible experiences. Time and time again people have experienced negativity and rudeness, simply because they tried to do something good. These aren’t isolated incidents: these are growing in number all the time.

I appreciate that every indie author has a lot on their plate and needs to keep those balls in the air but trust me, being rude and condescending is not going to get you very far. Book bloggers and indie supporters are sick of having that support thrown back in their face.

People will say, ‘Oh well, it’s just one person’ and ‘Don’t let it get you down’ and it’s true: we don’t. That’s why I still run my blog and welcome indie authors and traditionally published authors alike. But I understand that everyone has a breaking point, a cut off where you say ‘That’s enough!’. I empathise with those who have chosen to stop reviewing indies. The lure of free books? Trust me, we spend so much on books anyway that even if you didn’t give them to us we’d still have enough books to fill our review blogs for a year!

Your books are your life – we get that – but we’re the people who can help you. When you send that next email, take a step back and ask yourself this question:

If I were traditionally published and my PR company sent that, would I be happy?

Because believe me, if a PR company was sending some of the emails I get, I’d be recommending you fire them and get someone else in.

Your book is YOUR life but we have lives too. In 2012, be glad of all the people who support you but – more than that – help us stamp out the authors who call the integrity (and not just the quality) of the indie author community into question.

Happy New Year and good luck to all authors!

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Donna Brown

Ever developing teacher and learner (online and offline!). Avid reader/audiobook listener, fan of podcasts, prone to the odd Netflix binge. Mum to six crazy and incredible rescue cats. Occasional writer of short stories and poetry.
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  1. Pingback: Donna Brown (
  2. I'm one of those that can back up every one of your assertions and raise you threats to have my website shut down unless I give unconditional five star reviews, fights with friends and those I've worked with in the past because I won't review their books because of bias, my own books coming under the threat of being one starred before they're released (because obviously, if I can dish, I can take, can't I?).
    Indies are turning into the 'hide in the attic' shame of the writing community – and it's only *us* that can change it. I'm proudly behind indies, and will give them everything I've got to let them get to where they want to be – and I'm an indie myself.
    The low barrier of entry is something I've talked about on my own blog (not the one linked from here), and I'll keep talking about. Just because someone *can* write a book doesn't mean they've got the smarts to cope with what happens after. nor the maturity to interact with peers when they've been – up to that point, a minority or unique in their circle. And I think that's part of the problem. Writing is a solitary process – so we're convinced we're the best, because it's the only way to justify writing – some fragile souls just can't take finding out that they're one of thousands. Soon hundreds of thousands. And what's the best way to get your voice heard? Shout along with others – with, not against.
    You did the right thing. And I'm about to put an interesting post together myself that you might like – or not like exactly, but might be interested in :)
    Hugs, and happy New Year!

    1. That's….really awful. All the way around. I didn't hear about Adopt an Indie until you'd already cancelled it (I've barely had time to turn on my computer since the holiday retail season began) and I'm sorry to hear about the decision you had to make, but it sounds like you made the right choice. If you can't depend on other people to help you out, it's better to cancel the event than put on one that's not what you wanted it to be.

      Indie authors (myself included) need to really kind of take what we can get, especially when we're just getting started. You take the good with the bad–or at least that's how it SHOULD be. I know it isn't, but it's a hope, right?

      Knock wood, people will screw their heads back on straight and realize what big fat jerks they're being soon.

  3. In my life experience, I have found, unfortunately, that one thing many artists share is thin skin. Them and politicians.

    Hey, maybe you could replace AAI with the "DB Awards"

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  5. It's so sad that it only takes a few bad apples to spoil the bunch. One thing I bemoan about the Internet is it's created a lack of personalization among people. Anyone can sit back at their desk and flame away without having to look someone in the face to do it. Too easy. If that person had had to say whatever they said to you in person, I doubt they would have. Everyone should be forced to read aloud anything they type up before pushing the "send" button.

    Take care and know that the vocal minority is just that: a minority.

    1. Thank you – I think it's easy to hide behind email. The person in question could have posted the same message on the FB group but I suspect the fact they didn't suggests they knew it was a step too far. We have to keep standing up as a community and berating actions like this – hopefully eventually people will realise it isn't acceptable in any capacity. Instead of condemning bloggers who turn away from indie, let's condemn the indies that made them feel that way. That way, the minority will simply lose their voice.

      Happy New Year to you Alan and thanks for your kind words here and on the FB page!

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  7. I see a lot of this in forums and on blogs, though I thankfully haven't run into it personally (yet). I'm sorry that you ran into it, and on new year's day no less! I'm sure that your reasons for canceling Adopt an Indie were solid.

    I've contemplated ways to deal with the negativity, and I can't help but wonder if a "Hall of Shame" would help at all. It would be a page on your blog where people can go to read & comment on the actual emails and comments like this that you've gotten, though the names should probably be omitted (so when the person grows up, it's not permanently hanging over their head).

    I've seen a couple book blogs employ this & it seems like a solid way to communicate the fact that this behavior isn't acceptable, though I don't know how much effect it would have on those who actually threaten 1 star reviews without reading a book. That's just childish.

    What do you think?

    1. Hi – twice in recent months I've shared it online when someone did something very unacceptable – it hasn't been an easy decision either time but I've felt I had to do it to stick up for myself but also to share my anger so others didn't feel they should accept anything similar either. Once was to share a set of very unpleasant emails I'd had from an indie bookstore attacking me for using an Amazon gift card as a prize (and I did include the name because I had asked them to stop contacting me and they'd refused). This is the second and I've been asked to name and shame and refused (though I have quoted the section of the email that really upset me). It's never my intention to run people down on make their life difficult but I'm sick of people feeling they can do and say as they like without consequences.

      These actions have never made me feel very comfortable and I don't know if it's actually made a blind bit of difference to the people who sent the emails. However, it has made other people stand up and condemn them so perhaps that's all you can hope for… that although you can't change the people who do these things, you can prevent others from beginning to believe it's acceptable.

      I love the Hall of Shame suggestion though! I'd love to know what others think.

  8. Personally, I would not classify this blog post as a rant. I found your account to be highly rational and reasonable. It is not about independent authors, but rude people.

  9. I read indies, I read some self pubs, but right now i am not accepting any self-pubs or vanity pubs because I haven't got time. Not that they are all bad and the major presses are perfect, but the ratio is higher. Sometimes a book is not published for a reason. As an artist it is almost impossible to be objective about it.

    Even if a blogger is unprofessional in their review and attacks the author instead of relating the reasons why a book is good, bad or in between, there is no reason for the writer, agent or anyone else to behave in an uncivil manner. We are civilised right?

    I do not 'rate' books I recommend them to varying degrees and people. Or I don't. It is rare for me to give an entirely bad review. Tomorrow I do. I hate to do it, but I would hate even more seeing anyone waste hard-earned money.

    1. Thanks for the great comment Steph.

      I'm always reminded of a comment I heard years ago: "Be careful of who you step on on your way up. You might meet them on your way down."

      You're absolutely right: it doesn't matter how successful we are – or not. Manners cost nothing and we are civilised people.

      Thanks for stopping by – I'll be sure to visit you too!

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