When Barbara posted this, a lively discussion ensued, in which I hinted that Mr. Coker's "manifesto" could, and perhaps should, be dissected line by line.
(Note: I have removed all of Mr. Coker's formatting -- font, italics, etc. -- except for his ALL CAPS shouting. My responses are bold. Because I can.)
We indie authors believe
No, we don't. Some of us maybe, but not all of us. I sure as hell don't.
All? All? Every single one? Not likely. Regardless what the issue is, "all" is a very dangerous, and usually inaccurate, word to use.
are created equal,
That's just plain wrong, Mr. Coker. Let's not be disingenuous here. Writers do not have the same talent, the same drive, the same experience, the same accessibility, the same resources, the same time, the same desire, the same likes and dislikes, and certainly not the same ideas. In short, they aren't equal at all.
that all writers
I've already warned you about that "all" business. You're obviously not paying attention. Why am I not surprised?
are endowed with
By whom? By what?
natural creative potential,
Have you read some of the shit, the garbage, the offal that's published on Smashwords? Have you, Mr. Coker? Some people really and truly do not have any natural creative potential, but they've been encouraged by charlatans like you to think they have. What they need is someone to tell them, "Honey, you can have lots of fun writing your stories, and maybe you can share them with your friends, but I just don't think very many people really want to read about your fantasies of riding pink flying unicorns to other planets where you can have three-way orgies with Justin Bieber and Oprah Winfrey."
and that writers have an unalienable right
That's INALIENABLE. If you're going to blatantly steal from Thomas Jefferson, at least steal the correct word.
To exercise? you mean as in practice and practice and work at it until you get it right?
To explore? you mean as in read other people's writing to get some sense of how stories are created, how sentences are structured, how dialogue is punctuated so readers can fucking understand what you've written and not spend their time deciphering and then rewriting it?
and realize their potential
Again, not all of them have potential. No amount of wishin' and hopin' is going to make me an NBA star. It simply isn't going to happen. And no amount of wishin' and hopin' is going to make some of these writers any better than they are. To believe otherwise is to delude yourself, and them, Mr. Coker.
through the freedom of publication.
Publication alone doesn't allow writers to realize their potential. In fact, it's really not involved in that process. The writer herself realizes -- or doesn't realize -- her potential through the writing process. Publication is only a means of transport, taking her idea, her execution of that idea, to the readers.
What too many of the digital publishing platforms have done is to create a false sense of accomplishment in the writers, so that once they complete their book, they believe all they need to do is upload the digital file and they're done. That's not the way it works. Not if the writer hopes to enjoy any success in this business at all. Can she continue to write and publish? Sure. But if she wants to make any money -- and if you hope to make any money off her, Mr. Coker -- then she has to be able to sell her books. Not just give them away as perma-freebies.
Freedom isn't free, and neither is publishing success. It takes more than just stringing together 50,000 or 100,000 or 1,000,000 random words. They have to be the right words and in the right order. Learning how to select those right words and learning the craft of assembling them in the right order is the true realization of potential.
I HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT
1. I AM AN INDIE AUTHOR.
I don't want that to be "self-evident," Mr. Coker. I want the differences between independent, self-publishing authors and traditionally published authors to disappear. I don't want readers to look at cover art, publisher name, first page, and have "INDIE AUTHOR" screamed at them before they've read more than a paragraph. But neither do I want readers criticized, attacked, harassed, stalked, berated, doxxed, or silenced by butthurt "indie" authors for any reason whatsoever, and especially not for pointing out the self-evident fact, "INDIE AUTHOR!"
2. I have experienced the pleasure and satisfaction that comes from self-publication.
Leaving aside the fact that what you've just described could also be called literary masturbation, let's get real, Mr. Coker. The pleasure and satisfaction one derives from publishing one's "book" is all too often converted to disappointment, embarrassment, humiliation, rage, emotional meltdown, and vindictiveness when one discovers that not everyone else on the planet loves it, that people find flaws in it, that people wonder what the hell is the matter with the author for writing it and who in fuckity fuck thought it was publishable. Honesty would demand that you, Mr. Coker, present the rest of the story, which is that few of the books on Smashwords or anywhere else that come from the digital pens of untested, untried, unedited authors ever sell more than a handful of copies. (Unless those books are pornography, in which case see again the first sentence of this paragraph).
3. I HAVE A RIGHT TO PUBLISH.
Actually, Mr. Coker, no you don't. Not even on your own Smashwords platform. If that right is truly inalienable, then you'd have the right to publish works in progress (not allowed), plagiarized or copyright infringed works (not allowed), or those weird "public rights" books (which are emphatically not allowed).
And again, as with your #2, there is much more to the issue of just publishing than what you've implied. There is a responsibility, too, on the part of the writer. Mere publication doesn't make the work readable or likable. Even the Smashwords automated "meat grinder" won't accept anything and everything. Yes, even then, publishing is a privilege that has to be earned; it's not a "right."
4. My creative control is important to me. I decide when, where and how my writing graduates to become a published book.
Creative control is important to most writers: Everything from title to cover art to chapter names to advertising blurb and so on. But control is not license. Too often the self-publishing or "indie" author wants NO restrictions. And when restrictions are imposed -- or even hinted at -- the resulting rampage is evidence of a totally out of control author.
Your selection of "graduates" is really the wrong word, and that serves to illustrate what I've been talking about the process realizing potential. Typically the term applies to one who has completed an approved course of study as determined by the authorities who have set the standards for that course of study. What you're talking about, Mr. Coker, is the equivalent of drawing yourself a diploma and claiming that's all you need to be a graduate . . . of anything.
Words have meaning, Mr. Coker. Really. They do.
5. I shall not bow beholden or subservient to any publisher. In my business relationships, I seek partnerships, fairness, equity and mutually aligned interests.
You might expect that I'd agree with you on this one, Mr. Coker, given my personal loathing for traditional publishers. But every writer who signs a traditional publishing contract does so as a personal choice. No author should be pressured NOT to make that choice, just as no author should be pressured to make it. Many authors see the trade-off as perfectly fair and equitable: They get professional editing, promotion, status, and a stamp of approval when their book is produced by a recognized and reputable publisher. Are they paid less? Yes, they are. Do they give up a measure of creative control? Yes they do. But that is their choice, and they should be allowed to make it free from harassment.
6. I am a PROFESSIONAL. I take pride in my work, and I strive to improve my craft to better serve my readers, myself, my fellow indie authors and the culture of books.
If you really and truly believed this, Mr. Coker, you would not allow people to publish the garbage they do on Smashwords. You can't have it both ways. You can't allow people to upload dreck and then tell us you take pride in your work.
The Smashwords platform takes a raw document that meets certain technical formatting standards and turns it into readable "books" for a variety of e-reading devices. It doesn't do any editing or proofreading. It doesn't correct grammar or spelling or fix plot holes. How can you, even you as the owner of Smashwords, claim that you take pride in that kind of work?
It makes me dizzy. I can't wrap my head around this idea at all.
7. My writing is valuable and important. This value and importance cannot be measured by commercial sales alone.
Then who is it valuable and important to? You? It would have been just as valuable and important, in that case, if it had never been "published."
Look, we're all reasonably intelligent adults here, Mr. Coker. We know that the name of the game is $A£€$. That's why digital self-publishing authors get so uptight about reviews. They need reviews to sell. They need to move up in the ratings to sell. They need visibility to sell. They will do just about anything to sell their books -- and much of what they do is unethical -- because they believe sales alone give them and their writing validity.
Some of them have gone through some kind of vetting process, either through online forums, fanfiction sites, or face-to-face critique groups. But far too many of them haven't, and they see the review/rating process as feedback AND sales promotion. It can't be both. And yet that's what they want, in part because people like you have made them believe it's possible. It's not.
8. I celebrate the success of my fellow indie authors, for their success is mine, and mine theirs. Together we are pioneering a better future for books marked by greater quality, creativity, diversity, choice, availability, affordability and accessibility.
No, by the great good goddess, Mr. Coker, their success is NOT mine, nor yours. It is THEIRS and they worked hard for it. Yes, even if the only hard work they did was posting all those fake reviews on Amazon and GoodReads that got them noticed enough to sell more and more and more beyond the numbers of the fake reviews. Their success is theirs.
MY success, however, is NOT theirs, NOT yours. It is MINE, because I worked hard for it. I wrote and revised and polished. I shared with qualified other readers and got feedback BEFORE publication. I treated my readers with respect BEFORE I published, to make sure that the product they sampled and downloaded and read was the very best I could possibly make it, and if it wasn't, I didn't shove the blame off on anyone else but myself. But I also treated my readers with respect AFTER I published, by leaving them alone. I did not haunt my books' pages to see how many reviews they got or how many stars. It's no longer any of my business. All that matters to me now, as the author, is the sales.
And if my sales are weak and I feel the need to know what my readers (if any) are saying (if anything), then I have the self-respect to read their reviews and keep my damn mouth shut and fingers still. Readers have the right to say whatever they damn well please, and the author has no right to intrude on that. No right at all.
As an independent author, Mr. Coker, I don't have to buy into your manifesto at all. And I find your ham-fisted approach to the many, many problems facing independent authors both ludicrous and insulting. Like far too much of the writing that's uploaded to Smashwords and KDP, it doesn't bear close scrutiny. You violated your own precious guidelines by using silly fonts that detracted from the message. You tried to make it read like something of momentous importance, like the Declaration of Independence. It reads more like an adolescent threat to run away from home.
Frankly, I'm growing tired of this debate. I'm growing tired of the Suzanne Domes and Lauren Pippas and Tony McFaddens and Mandy Baldwins and Diane Harmanns and Melissa Douthits and Rick Carufels. I'm tired of their endless drama, their relentless victimhood, their refusal to accept responsibility and their willingness to shriek bully/troll/jealous hater whenever someone doesn't like their books.
I'm tired of reading that yet another reader has given up on indies because a.) too much of their writing is crap and b.) they go into stage five meltdown at the merest hint of criticism.
I'm tired, Mr. Coker, of grandstanding bullshit.